Oprah’s Childhood Expert May Have Committed Suicide Over Pedophilia Charges

Dr. Melvin Levine apparently committed suicide on Friday, the same day that a class-action suit was brought against him by Carmen Durso. Durso, some may remember, was the lawyer who became famous for bringing the first suit by Boston-area victims of pedophilia against the Catholic Church. That story, first reported in the Boston Globe, ultimately influenced victims around the world to come forward.

“Word of Levine’s death came one day after about 40 of his former patients filed a medical malpractice and sexual abuse suit against him,” reported The New York Times. While a doctor at Children’s Hospital Boston from 1966 to 1985, Levine allegedly “stroked, massaged, and manipulated the genitals of his patients in a manner which was not medically necessary.” The former patients, all now adults, were between the ages of 4 and 17 when abused, according to the lawsuit, which seeks class-action status and unspecified damages for pain and suffering.

Dr. Levine was Professor of Pediatrics at the University of North Carolina Medical School in Chapel Hill and the Director of the University’s Clinical Center for the Study of Development and Learning. He’s also the co-founder of All Kinds of Minds, a nonprofit Institute for the study of differences in learning; and co-chairs the Institute’s Board of Directors with Charles R. Schwab. He is the author of A Mind at a TimeThe Myth of Laziness, and Ready or Not, Here Life Comes.

Charges of pedophilia initially emerged in 2008, but Dr. Levine and his organizations, including Children’s Hospital in Boston, denied all wrongdoing.

We asked a source—one of the very first victims to step forward in the Catholic Church pedophilia scandal, who prefers to remain anonymous—what he thought about the timing of Dr. Levine’s death and the class-action suit. “Pedophiles rarely commit suicide for the same reason they don’t respond well to therapy,” he told us. “They don’t think they did anything wrong.”

“I always tell people that from the moment a kid gets up in the morning until he goes to sleep at night, the central mission of the day is to avoid humiliation at all costs,” Dr. Levine wrote on the home page of his website.

He appeared repeatedly on The Oprah Winfrey Show, most recently in 2006, when he offered some good ideas for parents and educators to help children learn better:

  1. Be realistic; don’t aim to educate a “well-rounded child.” Expecting children to be good at everything puts unhealthy pressure on them. “No adult can do this,” Levine has argued, “so we shouldn’t expect it for our children.”
  2. Figure out what strengths your child has and develop those strengths. Every child has a different learning style.
  3. Build them up with success. “Success is like a vitamin,” Dr. Levine has said. “If you don’t get enough of it growing up, you’ll suffer a very severe deficiency that could have long-term impacts in your life.”
  4. Pay attention to those areas in which your child may have problems, such as sound differentiating, lapses in motor skills, or information processing.

He also appeared on The Today Show in 2008 to talk about why kids are having more trouble becoming independent.

When charges first emerged against Dr. Levine, Carmen Durso approached The Oprah Winfrey Show, according to our source, a close friend of the attorney. The same source told us, “[Durso] was told Oprah had no interest in hearing further from him on the topic of Dr. Levine.”

Why would Oprah invite James Frey on her show a second time after his book A Million Little Pieces turned out to be a lie, but remain quiet when charges emerged that demonstrated that an expert on childhood development, whose credibility she had a hand in solidifying, was accused of molesting the very children he was supposed to be helping? I would have hoped Oprah would want to address the issue directly on behalf of her audience and the children who may have been harmed. I hope Oprah has the guts to address this issue now after the events of the last week.

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About Tom Matlack

Tom Matlack is the co-founder of The Good Men Project. He has a 18-year-old daughter and 16- and 7-year-old sons. His wife, Elena, is the love of his life. Follow him on Twitter @TMatlack.

Comments

  1. I was sexually-abused as a child and have written quite a bit about it and the difficulties caused by it. As an adult, I had a friend in church who was convicted of it. Nothing I know holds a greater grip on the perpetrator or does greater damage to the victim. The most difficult thing of all is the fact that most pedophiles are known or well-suspected long before public revelation. Victims are not the only ones who remains silent for too long. http://www.thomhunter.com

  2. …as well, there’s Dr. Phil

    Dr Phil and Domestic Violence: He Just Doesn’t Get It

    http://www.shrink4men.com/2011/01/24/dr-phil-and-domestic-violence-he-just-doesnt-get-it/

  3. The quote referring to a pedophile being unlikely to commit suicide is a very valid point. However the facts of this case (as reported here) do not suggest that this man was a pedophile. A child molester – seems very likely. But while a pedophile is a child molester not every child molester is a pedophile. A pedophile believes that they are engaging in a mutual, equal relationship with a child. Most sexual offenders know what they are doing is wrong on some level or at least know that they are taking advantage of a power position. Pedophiles are the most difficult type of sexual offenders to treat because as stated above – they don’t perceive themselves as having done anything wrong. Don’t allow the fact that this man committed suicide cloud the facts of this case.

  4. Ms know the facts says:

    My husband was a victim of Dr. Levine….none of you know the facts! He’s ruined my families life in ways no one can begin to understand. Ding-dong the evil witch is dead!

  5. Damn, dude. Looking at your commenters, you get a lot of apologists and deniers here. Let me extend my sympathies and my appreciation for your efforts.

  6. I seriously hope that Oprah will openly investigate and discuss this very disturbing news on her show. A person whom she trusted as an expert, who’s advice so many of her viewers trusted being involved in such serious allegations is horrific, not investigating this situation and not discussing it openly with her viewers will compound the damage.

  7. She needs to distance herself and her brand name from this doctor and this scandal. She has affiliations with multiple children’s groups, she donates to many child centered charities….child abuse has been a big part of her personal story that has helped endear her to the public, its part of her rags to riches story.

    The author actually answers his own question here:
    “Why would Oprah invite James Frey on her show a second time after his book A Million Little Pieces turned out to be a lie, but remain quiet when charges emerged that demonstrated that an expert on childhood development, whose credibility she had a hand in solidifying, was accused of molesting the very children he was supposed to be helping”

    She can’t afford to invite him back on her show…even if it’s to ‘scold’ him for what he’s accused of or to try and hold him accountable for lying to her and the public— if she does either she’s going to be accused of placing self interest over abuse victims.

    She could, however, show some class and make some kind of statement to the press and the public that both withdraws her previous endorsement of him as well as extends sympathy and compassion to his victims….I guess we’ll have to see.

    • Tom Matlack says:

      I have to say Natasha I have been extremely disappointed over the years with Oprah’s hypocritical behavior around addiction and abuse. In the end it is about her brand rather than doing good. That is truly sad since her brand would be stronger if she had the courage to do the right thing rather than hiding from the truth. Why not run towards the controversy around Dr. Levine and use it as a platform to talk about how horribly damaging pedophilia is rather than running away to protect her ass? Why line up literary experts to shoot James Frey in the head for lying rather than using it as an opportunity to talk about the brutal fact that addiction is a disease of lying that some never recover from? It’s all a question of ego vs. altruism pure and simple. And integrity.

      • True, it IS about integrity….something I think she is lacking in spades. I lost the first have of my post where I essentially said the same thing.

        That being said, and firmly identifying myself as not being a fan of “The Oprah” —

        What do you think the reaction would be if she did have Dr. Levine on?

        She would have some experts on child abuse (let’s hope they aren’t closet pedos too) and pediatricians on the panel discussing how doubly gruesome it is to have your abuser also be your healthcare provider. How people in positions of trust and respect within the community that abuse children are doubly disgusting. How they betray not only the children, but the community as well. Okay, fair enough, I’m on board so far.

        Then she would have to have Levine on. She would HAVE to publicly shame him in some way. She would HAVE to bring up and play up his betrayal of her personally and to the public via her show. She would HAVE to address the feelings of him making her complicit in his deception. All that would do a couple fo things:

        1) it would inexorably link her to the scandal even more firmly

        2) it would seem like she was forgetting about the victims

        3) it would take the public focus off the actual victims and put it on Oprah

        She would get mileage out of it as she would undoubtedly recount her own abuse and how she feels ‘doubly victimized’, thus throwing her into the victim ring with this particular case….somethinging that I think most would find morally reprehensible.

        So while it may SEEM like the thing to do would be to get in front of it and deal with it head on, I don’t think that it would be beneficial for the victims. I don’t give a shit about how it effects Oprah, but there’s no way that any action by her (regardless of motive) wouldn’t be construed as the bigger story, and pushing the actual victims to the side.

        In fact, she already seems to be the bigger story…look what we’re talking about here.

  8. Levine Insider says:

    A very dear friend’s son was abused by Dr. Levine as a little child. We knew about this creep and his proclivity for little boys for almost 10 years. It seems the doctor was a homosexual pedophile, as most all of his vicitms were boys. Sadly, this young man became a homosexual as well — and readily admits that it was the years of abuse by the doctor that led him down this path. He lacked a father in his life, Levine saw an opportunity and abused him.

    Gee, I wonder if Oprah will do a show about Levine the monster, featuring all of his vicitms?

    • a concerned homosexual says:

      I am sorry to hear that your friend’s son was a victim of a criminal. Your description of the victims sexual orientation causes me to think that perhaps you have a problem separating homosexual and pedophile. This distresses me and leads me to believe that you are merely furthering an agenda. The vast majority of pedophiles are heterosexual. This is a fact. Look it up. I also tend to think folks like you shoot off at the mouth before thinking, like the vast majority of the American population. Your hurtful, abusive talk does not further the conversation.

  9. I don’t know anything about abuse by Dr. Levine and I’m not saying that I don’t believe the allegations. My son was treated by Dr. Levine and our family received great support through his programs at All Kinds of Minds. We were allowed in the room with our son during his examination and when being tested for learning difficulties we were provided a room where we could watch and hear everything that was going on in the room with our son. Our family will be forever grateful to him and his work. My son had tough bouts of depression and contemplated suicide because so many people didn’t understand that he was smart but just learned differently than others. A lot of children have been helped by him through his programs and education to our teachers as well as parents across the country in identifying how children learn differently. My son is now in college and wants to be a teacher some day.

    I don’t see any good in Oprah putting more information on her show. I believe this is a private matter between the victims and their attorney. I hope that his work will still live on to educate people regarding disabilities in learning and the development of our children.

  10. I would have hoped Oprah would want to address the issue directly on behalf of her audience and the children who may have been harmed. I hope Oprah has the guts to address this issue now after the events of the last week.

    right on, Tom.

  11. I’m not convinced that you aren’t simply using Oprah to promote your own enterprises. Oprah has done much good. Maybe you should lay off criticizing her and take a positive approach rather than being negative.

  12. Oprah was one of the first people to introduce me to the concept of child abuse. Her show was an initial catalyst for my going to work for child protective services.

    I imagine she researched the guy, and his quotes sound nurturing and anti-abuse. I am sure she was troubled when he later became accused. But she probably wanted to abstain from getting involved until the facts were out.

    He’s dead now. So it’s moot.

    And she’s still championing children.

  13. Mel Levine IS EVIL says:

    I am overwhelmed at how much blame Oprah is getting for Mel Levine being a homosexual child molester. She had no idea and neither did I until he blew his head off and my husband told me horrific stories of how he was molested by him. I’ve been with my husband for 14 years and never had a clue. I knew many things were “off” with my husband, but chalked it up to his ADD. Then, he accounted in detail how he was molested by his “father figure” as he called him, once the NYT story broke. I met the creep by accident one day when he was in town by bumping into him on the streets with my husband. He made my skin crawl and could feel he wanted nothing more than to run away from my husband as fast as possible. He had a specific “type” of boy he was attracted to. So all of you who DON’T believe he did this need a smack upside the head! HE IS GUILTY! My husband has so many mixed feelings about everything that went one, but I am grateful he blew off his head and only wished he did it sooner. One less sick, twisted bastard to ruin the lives of men and their loved ones who end up married to them. Does anyone else get creepy feelings just by watching his videos? Pay attention to your gut parents and don’t be swooned by someone with published books and appears on Oprah. Molesters come in all packages and usually it’s someone you know and trust. Mel made my husband and his mother feel “lucky” to be patients…classic grooming of a molester. Done.

  14. I decided to research the video that Dr. Levine made with my son in 1999 and was surprised and shocked that he was charged as a pedophile and that he committed suicide. I’m so sorry for those unfortunate to be involved.
    With that said, he was a brilliant man who taught me and thousands of others how to deal with learning disabilities. That not all children are wired the same. He was hired to bring to our school a whole new way of teaching at a time when no one knew how to deal with ADHD. If these allegations are true, I am so sorry for all that we’re involved. We, fortunately, were not!

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  2. […] long recognized this common choice. Some of the self-enders were themselves famous experts, like Dr. Melvin Levine who was caught in a CSA lawsuit filed by 40 former […]

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