The Secret World of Case Beukenkamp
By Jamie Talan and Richard C. Firstman
August 18, 1992
FOR THREE MONTHS in the 1960s, a young woman from Roslyn named Sandy Schlager sat mute in a corner of her Manhattan psychiatrist’s office, outside the circle of her twice-a-week therapy group. The doctor, a pioneer of group therapy, had banished Schlager for talking too much.
One night, as a session was about to begin, the psychiatrist, a charismatic, authoritative man with black-rimmed glasses and a black goatee, turned to Schlager and said there was only one way she could return to the group: She would have to have sex with him, in front of her fellow patients.
“They sat there and watched,” said Schlager, telling the story with amazement at her own submission and the group’s casual acceptance. But she said that wasn’t the first time she had sex with the psychiatrist. And it was not to be the last.
“I was so dependent on him,” said Schlager, who now lives in Washington, D.C., and asked to appear in this story under her maiden name. “He convinced us that if we left, our worlds would fall apart.” And so, says Schlager, who was then a married social worker, twice a week for 15 years she commuted into the city for therapy with a doctor with whom she was sexually involved – a man she now describes as “brutal.”
Shirley Bing says her involvement with the psychiatrist lasted even longer. For 28 years, Bing, a New Yorker who now lives on the West Coast, was what she describes as her psychiatrist’s “patient, lover and private secretary.” The doctor, she said, first convinced her that having sex with him would “feminize” her and later persuaded her to leave her husband and teenage children, who also were his patients. Eventually, she said, she moved overseas with her psychiatrist and gave him most of her assets.
“He used me,” Bing said. “He so easily could have helped me with my problems, but he used them to control me.”
Sandy Schlager and Shirley Bing are among more than a dozen people who have told Newsday they feel they were sexually or emotionally abused by Dr. Cornelius Beukenkamp Jr., a Dutch-born psychiatrist who lived in Great Neck and practiced on Park Avenue for more than 20 years before moving abroad, most recently to the British West Indies.
Some female patients said they had sexual relations with Beukenkamp, ostensibly as part of therapy; in addition, several men and women said they witnessed or knew about sexual acts between the doctor and female patients. If these accounts are accurate, several in the field said, it would make Beukenkamp, who turns 74 next week, an extreme example of professional misconduct by a psychiatrist.
“This is among the worst cases I have ever heard,” said Gary Schoener, a clinical psychologist in Minneapolis who is regarded as the leading authority on the issue of sexual misconduct by doctors. Based on what patients told Newsday, Schoener said, “People were sucked in over a long period of time, and the longer he holds them captive the worse it is, simply because they miss their life . . . He has left a trail of agony.” …