Un diván de pesadilla
Below is the excerpt from my book A Dance to Freedom: Your Guide to Liberation from Lies and Illusions, where I talk about my experience with Dr. Julio Machado Vaz.
From the Chapter Repression
I had just turned 17 and my sisters thought they had finally found someone who could tame me. His name was Dr. Julio Machado Vaz. At the time he was young and unknown, but today he’s Portugal’s most famous sexologist. He has several best-selling books and a TV show that’s a lot like Dr. Phil’s. To get so popular all Julio talked about was sex. Sex was his obsession, and he got all of Portugal to enable his addiction. He became a high-profile celebrity advisor. But before he hit the big time, his methods were unprofessional to say the least. From my personal experience, he was extremely abusive. My sister Laura worked at the public clinic where Julio was building his reputation. Back then he was a dashing 27-year-old doctor. His mother, Maria Clara, was a famous singer, and his father, Julio Machado Vaz de Sousa, was a respected faculty member at the University of Porto’s medical school. Given Laura’s connections, it was easy for me to get an appointment to see this rising young star. And he was more than willing to take me on as a patient. When we met, the first question he asked me was whether or not I had a boyfriend. When I said no, he asked if I’d ever had one. Once again, I said no. Then he told me that my sister brought me to see him because she was afraid that I was sexually active. He explained to me that sex is normal, that most people are sexually repressed and that what I needed was a boyfriend. After just one visit in the clinic he moved our sessions to his private office. He pressed his advantage and manipulated me into having oral sex with him. I knew he was just using me and that he didn’t have a clue about how to really help me, but I kept seeing him to spite Laura and the others. Our little arrangement went on for months, and the whole time I was thinking, “What would my sisters think of their charming doctor now, the one man they thought could solve all my problems?” Looking back I almost can’t believe how despicable this so-called doctor was. One time, he took me to his house while his wife was at the hospital having his second baby. Obviously, part of me was aware that what we were doing was wrong, but I was so focused on somehow harming my sisters that I let him get away with it.
When he was tired of his latest conquest, Julio ended our sessions. I imagine that he found another patient to fool around with. In an interview many years later a reporter asked him, “Is a psychiatrist also a seducer?” “Maybe the reverse is more true,” was my doctor’s smug response. 31 Such a reply should have exposed him. But people in Portugal, and everywhere else in the world for that matter, are too emotionally blind to recognize even the most obvious red flags. Julio revealed just how sick he really was, but by then he was all but glorified for being an outlet for the whole country’s sexual repression. The people of Portugal still live vicariously through the escapades of this bold doctor who talks so openly about sex. And no doubt he continues to take full advantage of the collective repression for his own pleasure. In my opinion, it’s absolutely disgraceful. Interestingly, Alice Miller has a few words to say about the seduction dramas that are reenacted by men like Julio who are compelled to use women. “The seducer is loved, admired, and sought after by many women because his attitude awakens their hopes and expectations,” she writes. “They hope that their need for mirroring, echoing, respect, attention and mutual understanding, which has been stored up inside them since early childhood, will finally be fulfilled by this man. But these women not only love the seducer, they also hate him, for he turns out to … be unable to fulfill their needs and soon abandons them. They feel hurt by the demeaning way he treats them because they cannot understand him. Indeed, he does not understand himself.”32 All I really knew at the time was that I was more confused than ever. Dr. Julio Machado Vaz’s “treatment” made me a lot worse off. And my sexual encounters with him opened the door to exactly what my sisters feared most. …The chain of harm done by doctors, therapists and gurus under the guise of help is endless. Alice Miller believed that most people with a “Dr.” in front of their name or a “Ph.D.” at the end of it weren’t in any kind of position to help or guide anyone, especially if they were repressing their own traumas and creating their own illusions. For many years I blamed myself for what happened with Dr. Julio Machado Vaz. It took me more than two decades to see the truth and speak about the fact that this doctor had exploited my anger at my family to feed his sexual perversions and abuse me sexually, instead of helping me work through and resolve my anger.
In the book Boundaries: Where You End And I Begin, Anne Katherine states, “A therapist is entrusted with his or her clients’ deepest secrets. A minister bestows sanctions from the highest power in the universe. The potential for harm is overwhelming. For a person in such a role, essentially that of a guardian, to cross sexual boundaries is a grave violation. A child, a client, a patient, a follower or a worshiper are vulnerable and usually approach authority out of need. A sexual action by a guardian is very confusing, even to a very strong and healthy individual. For someone vulnerable and in need, such an action can be devastating. When a parent is sexual toward a child, the violation reverberates for decades. Trust is broken, the child takes on responsibility for the act, sexuality is affected, and the bond is damaged. When a therapist, physician, attorney or clergy person is sexual with a client or worshiper, it is also incest. A trust is broken, a bond is perverted. The person who sought care was used to meet the needs of the caregiver.”33
I didn’t need sex or a boyfriend when I saw Dr. Julio Machado Vaz. What I needed was an enlightened witness to help me feel my repressed pain and give me a better way to deal with my self-righteous, overbearing, domineering, invasive and authoritarian sisters and brothers.
Page, 67, 68, and 69
Quote of the day Posted by Melissa McEwan
"It is not who Cosby is that accounts for our long silence. It is who we are: a culture that does not believe people who share stories of surviving sexual violence. Were Cosby an unremarkable man of modest means, we would still doubt allegations like these, because that is what we do. The rationales we offer for why we doubt survivors are varied: the accused is a legend, or religious, or has been nice to us. The survivors have any number of real or perceived flaws. What doesn't change is that when someone alleges rape, we immediately begin to grasp for reasons why that person is unbelievable."—Tope Fadiran, in a terrific piece for RH Reality Check.