“In a Town This Size”

Dec 01

(No kid music content here.)

I lived in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, until I was 12 and we moved to Minnesota.  Bartlesville was an oil town, the worldwide headquarters of Phillips Petroleum (for which my dad was a research scientist).  It was a relatively well-off town, with strong schools (my dad was on the school board, in fact) and a stronger cultural core than you might expect for an Oklahoma town of 35,000.  It even boasts the only Frank Lloyd Wright designed skyscraper, the Price Tower, and hosts the annual OK Mozart festival (which was launched while we were living there).  It was a good place to grow up.

Like most families who moved to Bartlesville, my parents asked around about the best pediatrician when they got there from Arkansas, and received the consensus advice that the doctor to see was Dr. Bill Dougherty, Jr., who was a young and skilled pediatrician, respected in the community.

And, it turns out, Dr. Dougherty engaged in the consistent sexual abuse of children, patients and otherwise.

I first heard a bit about it maybe five or ten years ago (or perhaps even earlier); at that time, what I heard was that his abuse was solely of kids in a scout troop. It turns out, unsurprisingly, that it was far more extensive.

A new film, In a Town This Size, tells his story and, heartbreakingly, the story of his victims.  I watched the movie (made by one of his victims, Patrick Brown) this morning, and it was chilling.

Neither my siblings nor I were among Dougherty’s victims; my mom never left us in the examination room with him alone.

But it was striking — and rather intense — to see people my own age, people I easily may have been in school with or played on soccer teams with, discussing the abuse.  One talked about the visual that haunted him from his visits, that of one of those cat clocks with the eyes that go back and forth, and it made me remember that same clock in what must have been the same examination room (a room that, like all of Dougherty’s, had doorknobs too high for a child to reach).  The victim speaks of focusing on that clock during the abuse.  To a person, the victims in the film — and there are quite a number who shared their stories — have stories about how intensely Dougherty’s abuse affected their relationships, their professions, their families — their lives.

The film also includes an interview with a person, probably mid-70s, who was close friends with Dougherty and whose kids all went to him as their doctor.  In one of the toughest parts of the movie to watch, he describes his growing realization that this friend of his — a person he trusted entirely — had abused and stolen the childhood of at least three of his six children.  He later discusses his struggles from within his faith to consider forgiving Dougherty.  (The filmmaker speaks frankly about how low on his list of priorities “forgiving Bill Dougherty” is.  I can’t argue with him.)

Sometime in the ’80s, Dougherty’s crimes became slightly known and he retired from medicine.  The local paper published a story about “a local pediatrician” — not naming him — and his victims.  Due to the statute of limitations in Oklahoma, and the lack of recent victims speaking at the time, he was never criminally charged, and evidently still lives in Bartlesville, only leaving at night, in disguise.

The movie was obviously of particular interest to me because of the personal connection.  But it’s also a good reminder that pedophiles don’t come with name tags or signage, and that part of our job as parents is to be aware of everyone who’s around our kids.  That doesn’t mean assuming everyone is wicked, but it does mean being cognizant, speaking with our kids, and listening to our kids.  I am so grateful to my parents for doing that (and that doesn’t mean for a second that I’m blaming victims’ parents, or the victims themselves, for abuse).  I hope we’re doing the same.


  1. I do not know where to begin except to say that my family has been profoundly affected by abuse and this film helped me tremendously.

    Our family’s nightmare began after enrolling our eldest son in a “Citadel” Camp program in 2001. The Citadel is an old esteemed University in Charleston, SC. My son had been identified as a victim of a now known convicted pedophile, Marine Captain, Michael Arpaio, an esteemed Citadel graduate. My son was supplied alcohol and had no recollection of abuse.

    Fast forward, late 2007, another son began tennis lessons with a city recreation dept. Unfortunately, another highly decorated Citadel Graduate with a clean background. Head of their honor council and Algernon Sydney Award for his outstanding public service record.

    In 2011, Skip Reville, the highly decorated Citadel graduate was arrested for child sexual abuse and pled guilty to molesting some 40 pre-pubescent boys. Through the FIA, it was revealed that he had been outed prior to meeting him but was never reported by his alma Mater, the Citadel. They passed him on to the other unsuspecting institutions.

    Bottom line: he pled guilty but the state supported institution that tried to bribe the initial person who reported him…to make a long story short…the Citadel had more than 3 occasions to report his illegal contact with children and they did nothing and said nothing.

    They (the Citadel) passed him off to the rest of the community as an exemplary cadet. Since that time that have thwarted victims and their families from seeking any relief.

    A sad day for victims and their families.

  2. Silvia Beltran /

    I wish i can say a word to make this people feel good, hope all you guys had find the way to treat all this pain. Thank for this documentary

  3. Ihosvany /

    Just literally finished watching your documentary and the first thing i did was google this church that he belongs too, Liberty church in Tulsa, Ok. I told them that they need to help him come forth with everything that he did and to at least give the victims the closure to finally put all this behind them. I hope he can come forward and publicly apologize to every one he has hurt.

  4. Gil Browder /

    Bill Dougherty was my pediatrician and he is a sociopath and a pedophile. Thank you, Patrick V. Brown, for having the courage and tenacity to get our stories told.

  5. Cherie Morrissey /

    Thank you Patrick and for all who participated in this amazing, yet tragic documentary. I too was sexually abused as a child by an Uncle for years. Ironically, my Grandmother had the same Cat Clock in her kitchen as the doctor did in the examination room. Unfortunately, my parents, sister or extended family did not support me when I finally revealed the truth to the family when I was 32. It has been a long and painful journey but getting help, surrounding yourself with people who believe and love you is key. I commend the parents in this movie for their courage to believe their kids, express their anger and to participate in this documentary.

  6. Masuma Akter /

    Truth is truth. You don’t need anyone when you are in the path of truth. You are brave that you spoke out loud. I know it’s very hard.

  7. Due to the Dr. Kyle Stewart (pyschiatrist) sexually molesting female patients, I was
    searching for any updates – I ran across this article. I’ve lived in Bartlesville, OK for years and have never heard of this story. Molested as a young child, I always read anything I see regarding LAWS, STATUTE of LIMITATIONS, etc., Why have other states allowed Catholic Priests to be prosecuted, sued decades after their sex crimes and Physicians STILL are protected by two years in Oklahoma? There are other Kyle
    Stewart victims – their two years are up! Their pain will live on forever as Grace Community Church preaches they must forgive Dr. Stewart or they will go to hell themselves! I pray someone will make a documentary about the victims of Dr. Stewart. According to The Atlanta Constitution Journal, those women had been molested as children. I need to order the documentary, thank you in advance for making public the horrendous sexual crimes against children (Bartlesville always tries to hide). Parents never dismiss a story your child relays to you. Never let a physician be alone with your child. Now, beware of Pyschiatrists (Elders of churches), just beware and aware.

  8. I too was molested by the executive editor of a scandalous rag out of fla. he molested me for years starting at age 7 and ending at 16. It has had serious effects on me and my ability to trust all people. Mostly men. I din’t do years of therapy and it has helped but the damage is life long. I don’t walk around thinking about it and believe I have forgiven him but watching this In a town this size and Boys Town really stirs um emotion that muse be buried very deep. My molester molested 4 out of 5 of his step children and then was busted by the family only to move in with his secretary and have children with her who I can only assume he molested as well since they were under 7 years old while he still lived with Tish their mother. He is dead now so the need to hold him accountable is in Gods hands.

  9. I just recently found out about this movie and cannot thank the filmmaker enough for making it. I visited Dr. Dougherty ONE TIME as a child and he took advantage because my mom was across the hall with my younger brother with a different doctor. It was supposed to be a routine physical so we could participate in Little League.

    I was young enough to not immediately understand that what happened was completely inappropriate and didn’t fully figure things out until years later – plus, I didn’t even know the man’s name. As soon as I saw the cover art for the documentary I was frozen – because I recognized his face. THAT WAS THE FACE. We moved away from Bartlesville in the early 80s and I never knew about the other children. I wasn’t even positive I remembered things correctly… but I did. And I thank you for giving me that piece of mind back and helping me find true peace of mind.

  10. Thank you for this documentary. What the Psychologist had to say about sexual abuse in this film made a huge impact on me. I have never heard anyone articulate so well the depths and layers of destruction it causes. To hear it layed out so clearly helped me process some things that I’ve needed to deal with for a long time. Same goes for the victim’s statements… the brutal honesty of every emotion that goes along with this is difficult to come to terms with. I identified with so much of what was said, it’s like I’ve had an epiphany in understanding some of my own behaviors.

  11. Matilda /

    God Bless you for the courage to expose this sick, evil Man. He destroyed many lives. He is Evil and should be in Jail..Praise God…you exposed this evil man…and he’s goes to Church? Give me a break…The devil goes to Church too.
    We must never leave our children alone with anyone.

  12. I am not sure anyone will see this message. However, i feel i must make my story available. I grew up in a town in Oklahoma about the sane size. I remember well thw pediatrician office i went to when I was ill or needed vaccinations etc. I remember I was never left alone in the exam room. My mother or my aunt were always there. However I also recall one visit in particular. This clinic had several doctors at the time and i cannot recall the name of this particular Dr. I do remember his face. I remember what he was wearing. I remember how strange I felt when he was rubbing something hard inside his plaid pants against my knee as he examined me without my shirt on. I was around seven or eight and quite naive. It was many years before I realized what had happened was wrong and inappropriate. I still have issues today. Issues with trust. Issues with anxiety and panic attacks when i need to see a doctor for any reason. Issues with my personal relationships. I have spoken about it once or twice but i feel as though no one believes me anyway.

  13. William Dougherty has finally died Saturday Dec 30th, 2017.

  14. Congratulations on creating such a powerful and meaningful work. I am coming from the other side of the table in one important aspect.

    Given the removal of statute of limitations in my state combined with the growing tactic of using false allegations in child custody battles, I am the victim of one family member’s deliberately false allegations meant to provide leverage over me in a dispute.

    As I have studied the current laws, especially rape shield law, I have discusovered the pendulum has swung so far in the opposite direction one is guilty unless proven innocent. Prior false allegations are inadmissible, anything I say or do is considered evidence of guilt and especially troubling is the child protective services ethos of believing every accusation unless irrefutable evidence proves otherwise. Of course, our justice system in no other area of law requires the defendant to prove a negative since it is a logical impossibility.

    Being new to the entire topic, I couldn’t understand why advocates for children had gone so far in corrupting our justice system against the innocent. This documentary, at minimum, provides an excellent case study as to how frustrating and damaging the lack of enforcement was to the lives of many true victims of child sexual abuse.

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