Mental health worker accused of sexual assault on underage patient

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BRATTLEBORO — A mental health worker at the Brattleboro Retreat has been charged by police with sexually assaulting a minor while the victim was a patient at the Retreat.

Robert Havens, 48, of Brattleboro, is being charged with sexual assault of a victim under the age of 16; lewd and lascivious conduct with a child; knowingly restraining a person with the intent of sexually assaulting the person; kidnapping a victim under the age of 16; and with taking, enticing or harboring a person without consent of the person's custodian.

"In August, the Brattleboro Retreat learned of a serious allegation against an employee of our adolescent inpatient program," Konstantin von Krusenstiern, vice president of Development and Communications, stated in an email. "The retreat immediately placed the accused employee on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation conducted by the appropriate authorities. The Retreat has fully cooperated with that investigation. We are aware that the Windham County State's Attorney has now brought charges based on these allegations and we are monitoring that case closely. We consider this to be an extremely serious matter and are also conducting an internal investigation. To ensure the integrity of the investigation we cannot provide additional details at this time. The Retreat remains committed to ensuring our campus environment is safe for all."

On Wednesday, Havens was in Windham Superior Court, Criminal Division, for a bail hearing.

The alleged victim's mother gave a sworn statement to police on Aug. 21. She said that Havens had told the victim that he loved her.

The victim had been staying at the Retreat from December 2016 to April 2017. The victim told investigators that the relationship started in March. She had spent the night at Havens' house in July and August. Havens picked her up at her residence in northern Vermont, telling her mother that he was the father of a fictional friend the victim had made at the Retreat. On two occasions, he transported the victim two hours to his home in Brattleboro.

Some of the evidence presented to the court on Wednesday included pictures and videos on the victim's phone. A Facebook conversation, in which Havens tells the victim he loves her, also was recovered from the victim's Facebook account, according to court documents.

Deputy State's Attorney David Gartenstein asked that Havens be held without bail because of the severity of his alleged crimes. However, the court released Havens, with conditions including that he not have contact with children not his own under the age of 16, after his attorney, Bettina Buehler, explained, "He's friends with both of the mothers of his children. They're both here." Havens has two biological daughters and a stepdaughter.

"He's very close to that child," Buehler said of Havens' stepdaughter, "and enjoys contact." She asked that the court consider the stepdaughter to be family under these conditions.

But Gartenstein maintained that Havens shouldn't have any contact with children, including his own. He said the only way he'd reconsider that condition was if someone close to the family were to receive training that would allow them to supervise visits between Havens and his children.

"The evidence of guilt is, in fact, great," said Windham County Judge Michael Kainen. "The nature of the circumstances is indeed troubling."

Kainen pointed out that the victim was younger than one of Havens' biological daughters, and that she was almost the same age as his stepdaughter. He granted Havens the ability to see his biological children, but not his stepchild.

"I'm just not comfortable with a stepchild that's roughly the same age as this child," Kainen said. He also granted Havens the ability to leave the county to attend a birthday party in Connecticut. He will be in his parents' custody during that time.

Havens was a former preschool teacher at the Winston Prouty Center and a former voice teacher at the Brattleboro Music Center, according to his Facebook page.

Harmony Birch can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 153. Or follow her @birchharmony.


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