Karen Anderson suspected that something strange was going on between her ex-husband, Rex Anderson, and their 15-year-old daughter. Prior to the couple's separation in 1998, the girl would sometimes put on high heels and makeup, "visiting" her dad while he worked late at night in the family's basement. It was the same retreat in which he stored the dildos and artificial vaginas he used to stimulate himself sexually.
After the divorce, Rex was given primary custody of his daughter, as well as the couple's 8-year-old son. Karen says this was because he had a full-time job as a facilities engineer at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, while she was unemployed. While staying with her on weekends, her daughter would sometimes say she hated herself and wanted to die.
In 1999, Anderson, a resident of San Jose, decided to take her concerns to Santa Clara County Family Court. Like similar courts across the state, it is charged with adjudicating high-conflict divorces — managing the division of property, child support payments, and the often bitter process of establishing a plan for shared child-rearing. She urged the court to investigate whether her daughter was at risk of sexual molestation, and whether Rex's custody rights should be restricted as a result.
Family Court Judge James Stewart temporarily barred the children from seeing their father while the court looked into the abuse claims. But instead of seeking evidence as to whether molestation was taking place, he hired a Menlo Park–based psychologist, Leslie Packer, to evaluate both parents. Among Packer's tasks was to assess, in light of their psychological profiles, whether the accusations were likely to be true. After a series of interviews and personality tests, such as the Rorschach inkblot test, she delivered her opinion: Karen's fears for her daughter were unfounded.
"Karen's suspiciousness goes to the extent of paranoid thinking, particularly in regard to her husband's actions," Packer wrote in an evaluation delivered to the court. "There is a basis in her concerns with her husband's unusual sexual practices, but it appears that most of her speculations about her husband's possible sexualized attitudes toward their daughter are not based upon documented or reality-based evidence." Rex regained primary custody of his children.
Today, Rex Anderson is serving a 23-year sentence at Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga. In 2003, he pleaded no contest to 25 counts of sex crimes against his daughter, including child molestation, sexual penetration of a child with a foreign object, and use of a minor to create pornography. When she turned 18, his daughter left his care and reported years of abuse to police in El Dorado County, where they were living. (SF Weekly is withholding her name as a victim of child sexual abuse.)