Shame on you, Tara Tulley.

I already have a few posts up about Tara Tulley, but the information is scattered, so I thought I would make a final summarizing post.

Tara Workman Tulley has decided that the screencaps of her own words are too embarrassing to leave online- they have been deleted, but I have a copy. When a midwife killed a baby negligently Tara Tulley felt that it was more important to rally behind a serially negligent midwife than the family that lost their child. This is a pattern in her professional life- midwives, the ’cause’ of out of hospital birth, are more important to her than individuals who are hurt by it.

For those just tuning in, Tara Tulley’s friends at Better Birth of Utah used her as an expert witness in the lawsuit I brought against them. In order to qualify as an expert witness she needed to provide truthful testimony about her affiliation with better birth. She said (if memory serves) “The midwifery community in Utah is small. We have seen each other at meetings, that sort of thing.”  She didn’t disclose that she formed a political group with the owner of Better Birth, or that she protested with Ester Werbach (the woman who abused me sexually at Better Birth), or that Better Birth midwives had been to her school (the community midwifery school) for emergency skills training, or that she is good friends with the receptionist at Better Birth.

bb at tara's school 2friends w carrieprotestin w ester oops!

She testified to the court that she believes I have borderline personality disorder, and therefore should not be believed. At first I was extremely offended- I know a lot about personality disorders, I know about the features of borderline personality disorder, and its not me t all. I am dependable and secure in my identity. I readily see shades of grey in other people and in myself, etc etc. I won’t fall for this during my appeal. They can say whatever they want about me, I have evidence. I don’t really care anymore if she (or anyone else) wants to believe that I have BPD, because I’ve realized even if I was borderline, it would not follow that I cannot be believed. Her testimony means that in her world, its impossible to believe a woman with borderline personality disorder about sexual abuse. This is an absolutely ghastly position for a woman who works in the mental health field to take.  It would mean a patient diagnosed as borderline may not be believed by her if they reported having been raped or abused, and being believed is absolutely necessary for healing from trauma.  I’ve looked into it a bit, and the idea that lying is a feature of borderline personality disorder is controversial to begin with. It is not part of the diagnostic criteria, and experts in borderline personality disorder differ in their perceptions of how common lying is in the BPD patient population.  I have found a wealth of material that demonstrates how damaging it is to patients with the diagnosis to be branded liars by mental health practitioners based on their diagnosis instead of their actual patient history.

The judge had the same conclusion that I eventually arrived at-Tara Tulley’s attempt to discredit me was irrelevant to the lawsuit. If a LCSW could show up to a court case and say “hey that person is crazy, don’t believe them” then there would be a very lucrative market for LCSW expert witnesses to say whatever was needed to get a case dismissed. The judge decided that since I had disclosed a history of sexual abuse to the clinic, they should have accommodated me based on that history. So things like continuing an exam while I begged for it to end was negligent in his opinion.

There was a definate “oh shit” moment for Tara Tulley and Suzanne Smith when they realized their plan to discredit me wouldn’t work. That’s when Tara started contradicting herself and trying to say whatever would get her friend off the hook for damages (in my opinion). At the beginning of her testimony she said that sexual abuse victims can be protected from retraumatization by being talked through an examination. By the end of the trial she was saying that there was nothing Better Birth could have done differently, and that the midwife could not have caused my PTSD (unless I was just going to randomly get it anyway). Hm. She knows better, really, but her ethical standards fly out the window when a midwife is being held accountable for their actions. The judge wanted to rule in my favor, but since I did not have a witness and Better Birth did, he was forced to rule in their favor (because he has to rule based on the weight of the evidence, and I did not have comparable evidence to counter her testimony). He advised me to appeal.  Tara Tulley has provided a convenient way for Better Birth, and other midwives, to dismiss the complaints of women about midwives and their services. I have no doubt that ‘unable to correctly perceive the events of labor’ ‘they are just mentally ill its very sad’ will become a mantra of midwives with bad practices and angry ex-patients.

I can see why people would wonder how that is a big deal for someone to testify to help a friend out in court, but for a social worker, it most definitely is. Part of the ethical responsibility of social workers is to work for broader social change, not just on an individual level (see ‘social justice’). They have a professional duty to advocate for disadvantaged people. People who are abused, who use mental health services, people who do not have unlimited financial resources. People like me. So when people like me accuse someone she knows of sexual abuse, its deeply troubling for her to pretend to be an impartial expert witness while defending that friend. It is also a bit rich for her to say that my posting on the internet about abuse is cause to call my credibility into question when she did the exact same thing on her blog.

I am concerned about future patients of hers thinking that they were safe to discuss sexual abuse with her. I found out that it was one of her specialties, and I felt sick. She testified that it was standard practice to continue examinations against the will of a mother, even one with a sexual abuse history. Is this the policy at her work place, or does she need to be trained to follow their policies? I alerted her colleagues at The Community Health Clinic about the ethics violations, and received no response. The Community Health Clinic primarily serves indigent patient populations- people who are less likely to be able to report or fight against any misconduct. In my opinion, she chooses midwives over patients again, it will be difficult to dismiss.

I also want this information to be available for voters to examine the next time she runs for city council. They deserve to know that Tara Tulley has politically extreme views- like that litigation of midwives is persecution, its acceptable to ‘unite’ to support negligent midwives, that she was right to practice midwifery when it was illegal in utah, that the hospital system is patriarchal, that her trust in nature prevented patients from going into labor at inconvenient times, etc etc. No one has to take it from me, they can read about it here. 

This fight against direct entry midwives has been very exhausting- every time I think I’ve found the bottom of the barrel, the worst behavior out of someone in the community, I just find something worse. I am sure there are midwives, and patients of midwives, who are reading this and thinking “they aren’t all bad. there are good ones.” But unfortunately the good ones aren’t doing anything to stop the bad ones. If you believe midwives are a good thing then get involved in holding them accountable for their actions. Warn patients about the midwives that you know are dangerous or unethical. Call out unethical behavior in your own community. Leaving it up to people who have been wronged only adds to the pain.

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4 comments

  1. Denise Stephens · ·

    Wow. Reminds me of the recent USA Today article about Houston cancer quack/predator Stan Burzynski. He labeled former patients who saw through him as prostitutes and mafia bosses. It would seem that it is the alt medicine types that are more likely to have the disordered mental processes. The personal nastiness from folks who are supposed to be healing professionals is so sad. You are doing important work shining the spotlight on these people.

    1. Thank you very much. After this is done I am planning on lobbying for a change in direct entry midwifery law in utah. I started the blog safer midwifery in utah if you want more details (though obviously it is taking a back seat to this site for now). stay tuned!

  2. After reading through this blog I have to say that I genuinely hope you find some peace in your life some day. I can’t imagine living with so much anger and self loathing. I don’t know whether you have BPD or not, but it’s obvious you carry around massive amounts of pain. Whether the outcome of this lawsuit is good or bad, I already know in the end that you won’t be satisfied. There is nothing that will get rid of that pain until you face it. Right now you mask everything with anger. To be honest, I’d hate to be on the wrong side of that anger, because whether right or wrong, you are going to burn it all to the ground. It’s a strength and a weakness. I think the first step would be to get honest. This lawsuit is about you and only you. Just because others are enabling you and saying you are doing it for them, doesn’t mean that is the truth. Nobody has asked you to do it for them. Your need to be right is going to destroy everything good in your life. I’m sure these words won’t mean anything right now, but I think some day they might. Good luck.

    1. A few things here-

      I don’t loathe myself. Where are you getting that from?

      What you need to understand is that this entire thing could have been averted with an apology, a partial refund, and a promise to improve things for the next patient. The birth center absolutely refuses to do *any* of those things. I did not automatically become soured on Better Birth, or midwives, it happened slowly as I tried to obtain some level of accountability for what had happened, and everyone in the midwifery community refused. I really, really wish it hadn’t come down to this, but when you tell the owner of a company about patient abuse and their response is “well it didn’t happen, but if it did its your fault for not communicating effectively”, and then you see on yelp! that they did the exact same gaslighting bullshit to a woman whose kid got dropped on their head… what else am I supposed to do exactly?

      It isn’t really your place to tell survivors of sexual abuse how to deal with what happened. You are leaving a long, drawn out version of “just get over it”. How is that helpful? Do you realize that this is exactly what people told survivors of abuse in the catholic church? It really means “shut up, stop talking about it, because it makes me uncomfortable to admit that this happened in my community.” Same thing with the collaborators who tried to cover it up, like Tara Tulley. I’m quite comfortable dealing with this situation in the manner that I have decided is most effective. I don’t need or want anyones approval for doing so. I will talk about it until I’ve said everything that can be said, you know why? Because it helps other people who get abused. It makes them feel less alone. People who were strong enough to share their stories have inspired me and helped me immeasurably.

      Also- “nobody has asked you to do it for them”- I get messages from people thanking me for warning them about this place, and midwifery in general. Just as I can’t speak for everyone, neither can you. I am doing this because it is a moral obligation to the public *as well as* for myself. That is what lawsuits are for- to make you whole again, legally. I have a huge stack of therapy bills because someone decided to hurt me, and you think I deserve to pay them why, exactly? I have a life-long condition that has caused me considerable pain. The law and civil courts exist to compensate people for damages they have suffered. These are my damages. I certainly didn’t abuse myself. I don’t want to have regrets in how I dealt with the cards I’ve been handed in life.

      I have never been a person who was apathetic about the world. I write letters, I protest, I make phone calls, etc. In my world view, this is just what you do when you see something that is wrong. You try something, anything, to fix it so that the world is a better place. If people call you crazy or nothing happens, at least you can say you tried. It is too bad that you don’t understand that wanting midwives to be accountable for their actions has nothing to do with if I am angry or not. I got handed a terrible situation and I could either do something about it, or do nothing and let things continue. There was a fork in the road and I chose action, for better or worse.

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