Man says ‘no, absolutely not’ repeatedly from witness stand to accusations of sexual abuse

Robert J. Gould, 56, looks back as members of the jury leave the courtroom Monday, Nov. 14, 2022, at the start of his trial before Judge Michael Coppedge. Gould, who was on McHenry County’s most wanted list when arrested in 2017, is accused of repeatedly sexually abusing two children throughout their childhoods beginning in 2001.

Robert Gould repeatedly responded, “No, absolutely not,” when questioned Wednesday about whether he sexually abused and assaulted two children on multiple occasions over several years.

Gould, 56, who is out of jail after posting 10% of $500,000 bond and living with his mother in Wheeling on an ankle monitor, took the stand Wednesday in his own defense.

He is charged with three counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a child younger than 13, Class 2 felonies; eight counts of criminal sexual assault, Class 1 felonies; and 10 counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, Class X felonies, according to the criminal indictment filed in the McHenry County courthouse.

Class X felonies typically carry sentences of six to 30 years and are not probational. If convicted on all charges, Gould faces life in prison.

Gould on Wednesday denied all of the accusations thrown at him by Assistant State’s Attorney Sharyl Eisenstein, alleging he had assaulted the two women, both of whom testified Tuesday, when they were young children.

The women, now 23 and 25 years old, both said Gould began sexually abusing and assaulting them when they were about 3 years old. Each gave detailed accounts of the abuse and said that as they got older, the encounters became more aggressive, violent and painful, and that Gould had threatened to kill them.

During Gould’s testimony Wednesday, Eisenstein said to Gould that he is a Christian, which he agreed with. She then said that as a Christian he could admit his sins to God, say he was sorry, and then “everything is OK” and he “could sleep at night.”

Gould agreed forgiveness is in the Bible.

“You could sexually assault your children, and you can confess to God,” Eisenstein said, “All you have to do is say you’re sorry.”

To which Gould responded, that he doesn’t know how someone who sexually assaults a child “could sleep at night.”

When asked if God hates liars, Gould said yes. “It’s an abomination.”

The abuse allegedly began in 2001, and the women reported it in 2016 when they lived in Canada, according to court documents and trial testimony.

The women both testified to suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder today and said they had blocked out many details of the assaults. But through counseling, memory recovery and flashbacks, they could now recall the abuse and sexual assaults.

His defense attorney, Dominic Buttitta Jr., has argued the allegations against Gould are based on poorly trained psychotherapists who helped the women piece together tales of violent sexual abuse and has called it “bunk science.”

Some people who suffer trauma and live with PTSD may not remember every detail of the event or events as part of dissociation, a coping mechanism, said Shelley Pier, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist who has worked with patients experiencing trauma and with sexual abuse survivors.

Pier, testifying as an expert for the prosecution, said during a traumatic event, especially in a recurring traumatic event, the brain is flooded with chemicals that may keep the memory hidden, even years later, to protect the person.

During the traumatic event, such as a rape, she said a person may feel they leave their body or are floating above their body. That memory can be triggered “years later” and come back as flashbacks. It can make someone’s body feel like the trauma is happening all over again, Pier said.

“Years later, MRIs see changes in brain chemistry of people raped as children,” Pier said. “Most children [who are sexually assaulted] never say anything.”

She also said that 75% of sexual assault victims know their abuser. They often are hesitant to tell anyone for various reasons, including the fear of disrupting their lives and causing chaos, a reason many also recant stories of abuse. But, she said, the lie is oftentimes in the recantation.

Pier then spoke to the treatments used to treat trauma victims. When Assistant State’s Attorney Tyler Mikan asked if any of the treatments could implant a false memory, Pier said, “No, they cannot, and it would be highly unethical to implant memories. It can’t be done.”

It is “common” for trauma patients who have been sexually assaulted, children and adults, to “compartmentalize” those memories until later in life and then experience “flashbacks” and recall such memories “bit by bit,” Pier said. To retrieve an entire memory all at once “is too traumatic.”

Buttitta asked Pier if she was aware that there are people who make false allegations or have false memories of rape. She said she has never had anyone lie to her or recall a false memory.

Calling it “junk science,” Buttitta said there are trauma therapists who have lost their licenses because they relied on false memories.

She said when she is told of a recovered memory or flashback of rape, she believes “it to be true always.” Buttitta asked if she ever helped a patient “piece together their memories,” to which she said no, that would “be inappropriate.”

“We allow the patient to piece together their memories,” she said.

Buttitta called Robert Christopher Barden as an expert witness on recovered memory.

Barden testified that therapists are not properly trained in memory recovery and that techniques such as hypnosis, psychotherapy, improper and suggestive questions can change one’s memory and create false memories.

Theories of repressed memory and “so-called flashbacks” are “debunked repeatedly” and “not accepted by the science community at all,” he said.

Flashbacks, Barden said, are considered to be more like nightmares where what the people experience is not real. Flashbacks of abuse can develop from improper therapy or be the result of reading books or suggestive therapy.

Barden also referred to the practice of Bessel van der Kolk, whose work and belief in memory recovery in the 1980s he called “junk science.”

“If someone suggests a flashback is memory, that is malpractice,” Barden said. “Telling a patient a flashback is a memory, it’s just false, false information. It’s junk science.”