Psychologist Says Photographs Traumatized Boy

By Gary V. Murray
Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)
January 25, 1996



A psychologist told a Worcester Superior Court jury yesterday that a Barre boy suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of being photographed in his underwear by a priest in 1992.

The testimony of Dr. Robert M. Barresi, a Worcester psychologist, came during the fourth day of the trial of a civil lawsuit filed on behalf of the boy against the priest, the Rev. Ronald D. Provost; retired Bishop Timothy J. Harrington and the Worcester Diocese.

Some of the photographs taken Jan. 11, 1992, in the locker room of a Gardner pool, depicted the then 10-year-old boy exposing part of his buttocks. Provost was convicted of soliciting a child to pose in a state of nudity in connection with the taking of the photographs.

The civil lawsuit, filed in May of 1993, accuses Provost of inflicting emotional distress on the boy. It also seeks monetary damages under negligent supervision claims against Harrington and the diocese.

Barresi, who said he has been treating the boy for more than a year, testified yesterday that he diagnosed the youth as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that he said was directly related to the 1992 incident. In explaining post-traumatic stress disorder, Barresi said the boy suffered psychological damage as a result of having been traumatized by what he described as the "abusive photography session. "

Barresi said symptoms exhibited by the boy included clinical depression, denial, anxiety, emotional "numbing," distrust of others, poor self-image, increased irritability, repeated intrusive thoughts, loss of social relationships and recreational activities, diminished energy, loss of religious convictions, over-vigilance, difficulty concentrating and sleeping and immaturity.

Barresi said the boy has shown some improvement in the last six months or so, but is in need of another several months of therapy and possibly additional treatment in the future.

At his hourly rate of $ 125, Barresi said he expected the initial evaluation and treatment of the youth to cost his family about $ 15,000.

Another $ 5,000 to $ 10,000 worth of treatment may be needed in the future, he said. Barresi said it was his understanding that his fees would be paid out of any judgment that might be awarded in the case or that the payments would be extended over a period of time.

Under cross-examination by Provost's lawyer, Louis P. Aloise, Barresi said he spent 30 to 40 hours preparing the initial evaluation that included his diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. A total of four to six hours of that time were spent interviewing the boy, he said.

Barresi rejected Aloise' s suggestion that the boy's grades in school remained "essentially consistent" in the years immediately before and after the taking of the photographs. According to Barresi, the youth's grades suffered and he began getting more Cs after Jan. 11, 1992.

Barresi said he was aware that the youth told a medical doctor during a 1993 physical examination that he was having no difficulties in school and was having no trouble eating or sleeping. He said he was also aware that the boy's mother had expressed concerns during a 1991 doctor's visit that her son was watching too much television and spending little time outside playing with his friends.

Barresi acknowledged that he never saw the photographs that were taken of the boy. "I had enough information without the photographs," he said.

Testimony was scheduled to resume today.


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