Patients of Army doctor accused of sexual abuse describe betrayal of trust, fight to endure

As Army pain doctor Maj. Michael Stockin prepares to be arraigned Friday on charges that he sexually abused dozens of patients at Madigan Army Medical Center, near Tacoma, Washington, two of those former patients described to CBS News what they say was conduct that betrayed their trust. 

“Myself and Dr. Stockin were left alone in the room. He first checked my shoulders and then he asked me to stand up and to pull down my pants and lift up my gown,” said one of the soldiers, who had consulted the Army physician for shoulder pain. “Dr. Stockin, he was face level with my groin, and he started touching my genitals.”

Both men, now retired after more than 20 years in the Army including three combat tours each, spoke exclusively to CBS News, describing alleged misconduct hidden under the guise of medical care. They described visits to a doctor who was supposed to treat their pain, but they say instead inflicted even worse. Both asked to speak anonymously out of fear of retaliation. 

One of the men, a retired sergeant first class who sought the doctor’s help on a referral to manage arthritis in his shoulders, said he was at first “very confused” by Stockin’s thorough examination.

The other, a retired command sergeant major, said he was sexually abused by Stockin on three occasions and described a similar experience of receiving an “alternate assessment,” and he described his own efforts to try and understand why he received what seemed like an overly thorough examination.

Both said the experience has left emotional scars. 

“Even with my wife I couldn’t bring myself to talk through what happened,” said the Command Sergeant Major, adding, “It just felt very uncomfortable.”

The Army has charged Stockin with 48 counts of abusive sexual contact and five counts of indecent viewing under the military code of justice, according to documents reviewed by CBS News. The Army has confirmed that all of the 42 alleged victims who were treated at the clinic at Joint Base Lewis-McChord are men.

The case is being prosecuted by the Army’s Office of Special Trial Counsel (OSTC). 

“Through close collaboration with the criminal investigators, OSTC thoroughly evaluated the evidence and carefully considered all the facts before referring charges in this case,” said Michelle McCaskill, communications director for Army OSTC. “We are confident that the facts and evidence support a conviction and that will be demonstrated when the case goes to court this fall.”

“It is important to acknowledge that the charges are merely allegations and MAJ Stockin is presumed innocent unless proven guilty,” McCaskill added.

Ryan Guilds, a civilian attorney representing seven of Stockin’s accusers, including both men that CBS News spoke with, says he believes there could be hundreds of victims, making the scope of this case “historic.”

“We are aware of cases like the gymnastics case. We’re aware of cases where medical professionals have abused trust. That’s not unique to the military,” Guilds said. “But the scope and scale of it, for a doctor to have been alleged to have abused that trust for so very many victims is unprecedented.”

Stockin has been suspended from seeing patients, but his medical license remains active, according to the Washington State Department of Health database. Robert Capovilla, an attorney for Stockin, has called on the public to withhold judgment until the case is heard. 

“[T]his case will be fought and won in a court of law and the truth will become apparent soon enough,” Capovilla said in a statement to CBS News.

“We understand, without exception — that in today’s political culture — the media will condemn Major Stockin and render judgment before the jury reaches a verdict,” Capovilla said. “We urge everyone to keep an open mind, to remember Major Stockin is presumed innocent, and understand that this legal fight is just getting started.”

The documents include allegations that Stockin attempted to cover up any sexual abuse of patients by falsely representing that it had a “medical purpose.” 

His alleged pattern of behavior is reminiscent of the details in the case of the infamous former USA women’s Olympics gymnastics team doctor, Larry Nassar, who pleaded guilty in 2017 to sexually abusing multiple athletes, disguising his abuse for years under the cloak of medical care. In Stockin’s case, patients who trusted their physician — an Army Major — also tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. 

“Being in the military at the time for 19 years, I trusted the medical doctor I was seeing,” said the SFC. “I trusted Dr. Stockin.”

CBS News has also obtained four taped interviews made by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, which has been investigating Stockin’s behavior for nearly two years.  

In one of the taped interviews, another of the accusers told the special agent, “I’m thinking (to) myself, like, what the hell is this for? And I’m here for my neck, you know”.

Many of the men’s accounts of the alleged misconduct described a similar pattern. During appointments at the military center’s pain management clinic, patients left alone with Stockin would be instructed to undress. Stockin, an anesthesiologist, would then proceed to examine their lower body and touch them inappropriately, a number of the soldiers alleged. 

The number of alleged victims who have come forward could make it one of the largest sexual assault prosecutions by the Army, according to OSTC. 

Male servicemembers are much less likely to report sexual assault than their female counterparts,  the Defense Department has found. However, despite recent policy changes and efforts to curb the prevalence of sexual assault, the most recent Pentagon report shows that the number by all service members continues to grow.

In a 2021 survey, 16,620 male servicemembers said they had experienced unwanted sexual contact; but during that year, just 1,818 male servicemembers reported such assaults to the military. The number of reports by male victims increased by 138 reports in 2022, according to the Pentagon. In total, there were 8,942 reports of sexual assault in 2022 involving servicemembers.  

“I think there are victims out there that might not even know their victims,” the Command Sergeant Major told CBS News. “They could have been [me] during the first visit and they may have walked away trying to convince themself it was medicine.”

Guilds says he is concerned that the lingering stigma throughout the military surrounding sexual assault, in addition to what he says are “failures” by the Army in its support for victims in this case, may keep others from speaking up. 

“It’s the actions that matter, and these unforced errors in failing to care for our survivors undermines the credibility of the army and is a real shame,” Guilds said.

He and the organization Protect Our Defenders have asked the House and Senate Armed Services subcommittees on personnel to investigate what they say have been the lack of communication and support to victims from the outset of the Army’s case. 

“In the military, there’s a term ‘to put what happens to you inside your duffel bag, shove it down and continue to march on.’ So, I was willing to do that. I was willing to shove it into my duffel bag and march on,” the sergeant first class said.

Stockin will be arraigned on the charges in a military courtroom at Joint Base Lewis-McChord on Friday. McCaskill says that prosecutors do not intend to request detention at the hearing, but “will continue to evaluate whether to request pretrial confinement based on the potential for MAJ Stockin to be a flight risk or commit further serious misconduct.”

The court martial is scheduled for October, according to the case docket, and is slated to last over a month. There is no mandatory minimum penalty, according to McCaskill, but if convicted on all counts, Stockin could face a prison sentence of more than 330 years if sentences are to be served consecutively. 

Both of the men who spoke with CBS News intend to testify at Stockin’s court martial.

“It’s emotional, it’s not something I’m used to,” one of them said about his upcoming testimony. “I can deal with a lot of things. I can deal with anger, I can deal with combat, but emotions and things like that — it’s personal.”

By 111 Tech

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