At the end of this post is the scanned copy of a report written by Australian forensic psychiatrist Dr. Robert Kaplan on the systematic abuse of patients, personnel, gays and lesbians by the psychiatrist Aubrey Levin during his time at the South African Defense Force.
What is incredibly damaging and baffling, is that even after knowing all this, the Canadian government continued to cover up and made excuses for his presence and safe existence in Canada. Albeit, truth be told, and as the UK Guardian had written, whenever anyone tried to bring up Levin’s South African past in Canada, he would swiftly silence them and even silence media personnel by threatening lawsuits or threatening to report them to the police.
Will the CBC Fifth Estate (documentary series) ever do a feature on how or why this criminal was allowed in Canada in the first place, and not only not punished, but “rewarded” with a medical license, a teaching position at the University of Calgary and worked as a court-appointed forensic psychiatrist? Or will the acknowledgement of brutal truth that many institutions, individuals and systems allowed this to occur and those responsible are as corrupt/apathetic/don’t-give-a-damn/complicit with evil, be something too introspective to acknowledge, and therefore everything simply smoothed over, as though nothing had happened. (Never mind, that a man who was threatening to shut this very site down by threatening to contact the server administrator and get the police to silence a commentator- due to his own skeletons getting exposed – was a South Africa-born “consulting forensic psychiatrist” for a current ongoing CBC prime-time entertainment show and a former graduate of the same University of Calgary psychiatry department currently working in a prominent hospital.)
I sometimes ponder on the narcissistic self-centredness of the above-mentioned forensic psychiatrist, who only thought of his own reputation, without one iota of empathy for the victims of Levin’s abuse, and that this site was for them and for those who have faced abuse from others who are seen as authority figures in their field of work. It was his colleague that he got to write in, that sent a second mail to say he had a great deal of empathy for the victims and supported this site.The shrink – who probably dictated his first mail to the colleague, did not even once say that he felt bad for Levin’s atrocities, but just how great and reputed and blameless he was (which of course, got completely overturned when several people sent me substantiated proof of his skeletons. Not just them, even the therapists of two of those people, indisputably agreed that what those two had experienced at the hands of the Toronto shrink was termed as Narcissistic Abuse, or abuse by someone with a Cluster B personality disorder.) But no, at the height of Levin’s conviction, this shrink’s own skeletons mattered more than having a platform that systematically covered news stories from valid sources outlining Levin’s atrocities. Very, very telling. Red flags like these do not escape my attention and analysis.
Systematic abuse of power in factions of authority and institutions continue, and somehow in Canada, smoothing over ruffled feathers and looking the other way, or worse, silencing the whistle-blower is the norm, not the exception. Only when the truth is blatantly out there – like in this case – a video by a patient, only then the tiniest acknowledgement was made, i.e., yes, Levin is a criminal. A sentence of 5 years now; which is minuscule to a lifetime of crime, which again will be appealed, citing various judicial technicalities and so forth. Goodness, do these people know how to play the system! I strongly suggest people read Barbara Oakley’s excellent book Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed and… which looks into why entire systems often shield evil leaders and the quiet or docile among them are too afraid to speak up, even when they know what is going on. Her follow-up book Pathological Altruism shows how people’s optimism or faith make them continue showing misplaced compassion to and enable those who are irreparable in their evil.
Today, as the Pope steps down, is a perfect day to post this. Just as the Catholic Church for centuries hid their abuses, so do many systems in power. Even when those higher up in the church knew that young boys were sodomized, raped and abused by priests, they looked the other way, and rather than think of the victims, thought first of saving their own skin and reputation. They would send off these predatory priests to other dioceses as though nothing had happened. The lives of the boys were damaged and no one, no one cared. Occasionally they would be brought up by the media – sometimes by well-meaning journalists, and sometimes by some media-people more focused on cashing in or showing themselves as some great hero/story-reporter, rather than focusing on the lives of the victims.
You will notice that people who want to cash in on others’ victimhood often ask for cash or money for their own “causes.” Therefore, there are “professional victims”, and the real victims. True empathizers want the victims to heal, to have their side told, to have the peace of retribution of seeing the criminal brought to justice, or to just have their own peace. Rarely does this occur. The victim is left in the puddle of his own wounds, blood,devastation and tears; often just another pawn in the system. Those who are evil – be it an evil psychiatrist, priest, leader, authority figure or even relationship partner attribute all the victims’ misery to being their “own fault,” as though they deserved it. In their warped existence they themselves are blameless. They are not out to get others, others are out to get them. This is called DARVO (Deny, Attack, Reverse (role of) Victim and Offender.) The Cluster B’s and the sociopath’s crutch. Evil. To.The.Core. Irreparably. Irreversibly. Pathologically. Pure. Evil.
Jerry Sandusky. Sir Jimmy Savile. Col. Russell Williams. “Dr.” Aubrey Levin. and every single one of those in power who knew about them but did not expose them out of apathy and opportunism.
It is because of these injustices that whistle-blowers exist. For when systems we are supposed to trust turn their faces away, the only way justice is served are through activists who prefer to remain anonymous, but know how to effectively hit the abuser where it hurts them the most: at their own black hole, which covers their masked, narcissistic exteriors, for they certainly have neither a heart nor a conscience. Perhaps, that’s why Abusers, Machiavellians, Narcissists seek out work in complex systems even more – where they can hide and which will protect them, beneath all the bureaucracy, and layers of papers, legal jargon and levels of personnel. The abuser’s only fear is of being exposed for the monsters they truly are. Yes, the abuser’s greatest fear is of being exposed. Of being seen. Of having their fake facades ripped away to expose the black hole of a lack of conscience underneath. Of facing REALITY.
Click on the image to view it in enlarged print
Click on the image to view it in enlarged print
The text in the above file (pardon the formatting – it was copy/pasted from the original PDF):
THE AVERSION PROJECT PSYCHIATRIC ABUSES IN THE SOUTH AFRICAN DEFENCE FORCE DURING THE APARTHEID ERA
- Robert Kaplan
Dr Robert KapLan is aforensic psychiatrist and medicaL writer based in WoLLongong, NSW, AustraLia. March 2001
During the long years of apartheid in South Africa, doctors
were part of a system of systematic state abuse of prisoners.’ In
the most notorious example, doctors claimed that Steve Biko
was shamming when suffering from extensive brain damage as
a result of severe beating while in custody.’ There were
allegations of abuse of black patients in mental hospitals. Now
a report has revealed bizarre psychiatric abuse in the South
African Defence Force (SADF) over several decades.
The Aversion Project’ claims that there was extensive
psychiatric abuse directed at homosexual and, to a lesser
extent, drug-abusing conscripts in the SADF. The report was
publicised in a series of articles in the Mail & Guardian.’ The
revelations have cast a pall on a profession trying to establish
credibility after the apartheid era.
According to the report, over a period of close to 2 decades,
homosexual conscripts of both sexes were culled from the
military ranks and subjected to crude electric shock therapy
based on rudimentary behaviour therapy principles. Male
subjects were shown pictures of men to arouse them, then
given electric shocks followed by colour pictures of nude
women in Playboy magazines.s When – predictably – this
failed to change sexual preference, some of the subjects had sex
change operations. It appears that most female subjects were
spared the shock treatment but still went through the sex
According to the MaiL & Guardian article, possibly 900 sexchange
operations were carried out (a rate of about 50 a year
for 18 years) under the auspices of the SADF. In the half
century since sex reassignment surgery was first performed, it
must be unique for such operations to be done under the
auspices of the military, with many, possibly all, of the
procedures performed in military hospitals. Once the
operations were completed, subjects were discharged from
military service; their birth certificates were chmged and they
were given new identity papers. Some were discharged before
the sex-change had been completed, leaving them in an uneasy
state of limbo; they are now trying to get the military to pay the
cost of completing the procedure. Others are petitioning for
subsidisation of the expensive hormone treatments which are
required for maintenance of female or male characteristics.
Investigation of the claims is difficult in view of the passage
of time. In many cases records have been lost. Tracing the
doctors involved in the treatment has proved contentious. A
central figure in the allegations has been psychiatrist Aubrey
Levin, who had the rank of Colonel in the SADF. Dr Levin is
believed to be one of 24 doctors who have been warned by the
Truth and Reconciliation Commission that they may be named
as perpetrators of human rights abuses. From 1969 to 1974, Dr
Levin ran the notorious Ward 22 at 1 Military Hospital in
Voortrekkerhoogte, where most of the subjects were treated.
After he left the military, Dr Levin continued treatment of
conscripts in Bloernfontein while professor of psychiatry at the
University of the Orange Free State.
Dr Levin, now based in Calgary, Canada, has strenuously
denied that any abuse occurred with conscripts under his care
in the military and threatened to sue for defamation. Dr Levin
said the Health and Human Rights Project’s submission was
‘based on distortions of the fads, and raises doubts about not
only my credibility but also about several other doctors who
worked with me’.’ He claims he only used drugs and a ‘batteryoperated
device’ on patients, and denied that electric shock
treatment or gender reassignment surgery was conducted by
The approach followed by the SADF to homosexuals has
shocking overtones of coercive and punitive treatment.
Homosexuality was officially regarded as subversive and
unacceptable by the SADF but, in practice, attitudes were
ambiguous and inconsistent. Some homosexuals in the SADF
established relationships and were accepted by their
heterosexual counterparts. An all-homosexual unit operating
from Upington was regarded as highly efficient and was
praised for its combat record. Yet many other homosexuals
were mercilessly persecuted and professional soldiers denied
At the time the aversive treatments were used,
homosexuality was no longer regarded as a psychiatric illness
in European or American psychiatry. And, while aversive
therapy had a brief vogue to assist homosexuals who wanted to
change orientation (without success) or reduce potentially risky
behaviour such as cruising (often helpful), it was only
performed with consenting adults.’ Furthermore, the electrical
shocks used in treatment were of pinprick intensity; by
contrast, an intern psychologist, Trudi Grobler, described the
shocks administered to a female subject at 1 Military Hospital
as so intense that the shoes came off her feet.
The approach followed in the SADF appears to have
developed in complete ignorance of the scientific literature on
homosexuality and transsexualism, going back at least a
century if one uses Krafft-Ebing or Havelock Ellis as a guide.
The attitude was simplistic, crude and stereotypical to an
extreme: male homosexuals were perceived as effeminate and
passive, inadequate males who wanted to be female; female
homosexuals were the reverse – butch women who aspired to
be male. Considering that the first sex change operation
occurred in the 1950s and that there has been a flood of
literature on the topic since then, the only conclusion that can
be reached is that the psychiatrists involved were not only
woefully and balefully ignorant, but functioned as an extension
of the military ethos.
The requirement for transsexuals going through gender
reassignment surgery, in addition to involvement with
disciplines such as endocrinology, is to have extensive
psychiatric assessment and a period of supervision lasting 2
years to show that they can successfully adapt to their new
identity. This is in marked contrast to the procedure reportedly
followed in the SADF, where counselling was minimal or nonexistent
and no follow-up was provided. Whether subjects
selected for the operation were even given a choice is unclear.
According to the report, it is doubtful that the sex-change
operations proceeded with consent that would be regarded as
fully informed on an ethical or legal basis; some conscripts
were below the legal age of consent. By any standards, to
advise a subject that a sex change operation will change their
sexual preference is so egregiously misguided that it must
constitute gross medical negligence.
The belief that sex-changes would alter homosexuality is a
profound misinterpretation. Homosexuality is a matter of
sexual preference; transsexualism is a disorder of gender identity.
While some homosexuals (and heterosexuals) may engage in
cross-dressing, chiefly for sexual purposes, the vast majority
are comfortable and do not wish to change their gender.
Transsexuals, by contrast, have a sustained unease with their
biological gender and see cross-dressing and reassignment
surgery as facilitating their desired identity.
Drug abusers were also subjected to unethical psychiatric
treatment in the SADF.’ With homosexuals, political and
conscientious objectors and the seriously mentally ill, they
were regarded as ‘deviants’ in need of psychiatric cure,
shOWing ominous similarity with psychiatric ‘re-education’ in
the Soviet Union. arco-analysis was a favoured treatment in
addition to electric shock therapy. Drug users (the majority
were using cannabis or Mandrax) were incarcerated in the
notorious Greefswald camp, located in ~e far north and
unapproachable except by air. Here they were subjected to
extreme discipline, amounting to hard labour, the logic
apparently being that this would cure them of their drug
problem. Once again, there was an issue of informed consent,
resulting in complaints to the then-South African Medical and
Were the allegations confirmed, they would rank among the
worst psychiatric abuse since the azi era, exceeded only by
the systematic state abuse of dissidents in the Soviet Union. A
more recent and comparable event is the Chelmsford Deep
Sleep scandal in Australia. From 1963 to 1979, several hundred
patients were subjected to a discredited, dubious and
dangerous treatment, Deep Sleep therapy, in a private Sydney
suburban hospital. Flattened by huge doses of sedatives, with
little or no supervision, patients were left to wallow in their
excretions, resulting in severe morbidity and numerous deaths.
It took at least a decade before the media revelations and
public uproar led to a Royal Commission. By then, the chief
proponent, Dr Harry Bailey, had committed suicide.
In 1995, the Medical Association of South Africa issued a
public apology for past wrongdoings.1O As recent television
footage of police setting attack dogs on illegal migrants
showed, torture continues to be used by some elements of the
police in criminal cases. The South African medical profession
needs to demonstrate unambiguously that there will never
again be medical complicity in torture or other human rights
abuses. Until there is a comprehensive and public investigation
of medical abuses in the SADF, psychiatry in the new South
Africa will remain deeply compromised. To maintain
credibility there must be a full and open inquiry, the offenders
brought to justice and a regulatory system established to
ensure that such atrocities do not occur again. Anything less
will be a serious injustice.
1. Human Rights Commission Fact Paper FP’7. Deaths in Detention. Braamiontein: HRC, August
2. SiJove D. Doctors and the state: lessons from the Biko case. 50c Sd Med 1990; 30:. 417-429.
3. Van Zyl M, de Gruchy 1, Lapinsky S, Lewin S, Reid C. The Aversion Project: Human Rig1lts
Abuses a/Gays and Lesbians iT! the SADF by Health Workers During the Apartheid Era. Published
by Simply Said and Done on behaH of Gay and Lesbian Archives Health and Human Rights
Project, Medical Research Council, National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality. Cape
Town. October 1999.
4. Kirk P. Mutilation by the Military. Mail & Guardian 2000; 28 July· 3 August.
5. SAPA report. SADF used playboy centrefolds 10 ‘reprogramme’ gay recruits. 16 June 2000.
6. Thiel G. It wasn’t torture, says ‘Or Shock’. EIectronic MDil & Guardian 1997; June.
7. McConaghy . Saual Behoriour: Problems and MJznagement. New York: Plenum Press, 1993:
Kirk P. Mutilation by the Milita,ry [and related articles). Mail & Guardian 2000; 4 August ·10
9. Barrel! H. Levine used drugs and electric shocks to ‘cure’ gay men. Mail & Guardian 2000; 28
July· 3 August.
10. Van der Linde I. Sometimes having to say you’re sorry ews). SAMjl995; 85: 715-716.