Therapist stalked his victim for a month before attacking her.
A 27-year-old mental health counselor, William Skalecki of Cedarburg, has been charged with multiple crimes, including kidnapping, stalking, and sexual assault. The counselor committed these crimes over a month-long period, and on November 9, in Wauwatosa, a Milwaukee County sheriff’s deputy finally arrested Skalecki.
Not only are the defendant’s actions concerning, but Skalecki has essentially made a bad name for all healthcare professionals who patients and clients are supposed to trust with their well-being. Accounts like these make seeking mental health treatment all that more difficult for those who may already be hesitant to discuss their struggles with others.
The criminal complaint detailed that a young woman in her early 20s claimed she was raped at knife point by Skalecki. She told investigators that the counselor had stalked her earlier that day leading up to the incident, after she was leaving her place of work. Without warning, he forced her into the back seat of his SUV and sped away. Skalecki then drove to Wisconsin Avenue Park, where he revealed a large kitchen knife made of wood and held it directly on to the victim’s throat as he committed the act.
The victim also recalled that Skalecki had shown up at several other places she frequented during the month-long period between October 2 and November 6, allegedly having followed her. She noticed and was fearful but chalked it up to coincidence and continued about her routine without immediately reporting her suspicions.
In mid-November, Skalecki appeared in the Milwaukee County court, where a judge deemed it necessary to establish a cash bond of $100,000. The court drove home the gravity of the charges brought against Skalecki, especially considering his occupation and obligation to safeguard the health of others.
In 2021, eerily similar events played out against a Boulder, Colorado mental health counselor and his patient. Jose Yepes, a counselor formerly employed with the city’s Mental Health Partners, an organization designed to addressed substance use disorders, was arrested on suspicion of “unlawful sexual contact, stalking and indecent exposure,” after allegations that he sexually assaulted a patient.
A female patient told police that Yepes “repeatedly contacted her and initiated contacts that were sexual in nature” (again) over a month-long period, which began in November of that year. Police immediately began investigating, and ultimately, Yepes was terminated. Officers said at the time of the arrest that they were concerned there could be additional victims. However, the outcome of the criminal case remains unclear.
It is already difficult for many people to seek mental health treatment with one of the primary reasons people chose not to being the stigma that still surrounds mental illness and substance abuse. Society often views these things as a a sign of weakness or personal failure, leading individuals to feel ashamed or embarrassed. This stigma can also lead to fear of being judged or discriminated against by employers (or in other professional settings) for seeking treatment. Additionally, there is a lack of understanding and education about mental health issues, which can perpetuate these negative attitudes towards mental illness.
All of that being said, the field certainly doesn’t need additional blockages caused by bad characters who people brave enough to seek help place their trust in. These cases draw awareness around the need to ensure there are proper screening measures being put into place during licensing and hiring processes which involve comprehensive background checks and thorough interviews in order to minimize the risk of exposing vulnerable people to predators.