Psychiatrist denies rape charges
By Werner Menges
July 2, 2019
Dr Pieter van der Westhuizen (62) pleaded not guilty to three counts of rape, a charge of indecent assault, and a charge of attempted murder, alternatively using drugs to overpower a woman so that he could have unlawful intercourse with her, at the start of his trial before acting judge Eileen Rakow.
In a 31-page plea explanation that the leader of his defence team, senior counsel Stephen Farrell, read out in court, Van der Westhuizen stated that he was “devastated and saddened” by the belief of the complainant in the case that he attempted to murder, and had raped and indecently assaulted her on 7 November 2015.
Van der Westhuizen also stated: “However, [the complainant] suffered from and had been diagnosed with significant psychiatric pathologies, some (but not all) of which arose from her tragic history of severe and sustained childhood sexual abuse by a paternal figure over many years.”
According to Van der Westhuizen, the therapeutic process that the complainant went through at his consulting rooms at Swakopmund on 7 November 2015, together with the use of diazepam (Valium) that day, resulted in her acquiring “a false memory of indecent assault and rape”.
The state is alleging that Van der Westhuizen gave the complainant an overdose of the central nervous system stimulant Ritalin and of the tranquillisers Valium and Ativan, and indecently assaulted and raped her while she was alone with him at his practice on the day in question.
In his plea explanation, Van der Westhuizen confirmed that he prescribed Ritalin to the patient with instructions that she had to take it on the morning of 7 November 2015, and also that he later on gave her diazepam as well, but states that this was part of drug-assisted psychotherapy generally called narco-analysis. He is also denying that the dosage of the medication which he prescribed or gave to the patient would constitute an overdose or posed a real possibility of resulting in her death.
In respect to each of the charges of rape and indecent assault, Van der Westhuizen claimed that the complainant’s “false memory” was a result of a combination of her history of childhood sexual abuse, resultant psychiatric illnesses, and the effects of the Valium and “transference”, which is the projection of a patient’s feelings about someone else onto her therapist.
“I deny that I at any time and in any manner either indecently assaulted or raped [the complainant] during the narco-analysis session,” Van der Westhuizen said.
He also denied that he would have been physically able to rape the patient, claiming that he is suffering from erectile dysfunction, and has not been able to have penetrative intercourse since about 2010.
Van der Westhuizen was first charged in November 2016. He has been free on bail of N$10 000 since then. His trial is due to continue today.
The prosecution is being represented by state advocates Palmer Kumalo and Felistas Shikerete.