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It involved the unlikeliest of perpetrators: the man in charge. By the time her ordeal ended, Ruth Hinkle wasn't sure whether she should call herself an employee or a patient at The Meadows. Only that she was a victim. Hinkle has spent more than half of her adult life trying to outrun her memories, and she is the first to admit she hasn't gotten far. But Hinkle no longer wants to protect the secret buried in non-disclosure agreements, legal settlements and sealed court records.

Hinkle arrived here inpart of a modern-era gold rush built on medical tourism. Wickenburg, the dusty old mining town an hour northwest of Phoenix, was rebranding itself as a boomtown of rehabilitation centers and self-help retreats. Hinkle came here to pursue a nursing career and took a job at a former dude ranch turned step campus. Even then, The Meadows was exclusive: a high-profile facility where Hollywood A-listers and other celebrities went to confront their inner demons and their addictions.

The Meadows was founded in by James "Pat" Mellody, who ran it for nearly 30 years. His former wife, Pia Mellody, remains a key executive and created the therapeutic methods that are at the core of "The Meadows Model" today. The center now bills itself as the preeminent addiction and psychological trauma treatment center in the country. It has attained mega-star status as a place where self-professed sex addicts can get treated.

Movie producer Harvey Weinstein and actor Kevin Spacey are among those who have gone there seeking rehabilitation, if not redemption. Hinkle recalled her excitement at the prospect of working with Pat Mellody, who had achieved an international reputation as a clinic director. She remembered the challenge of reporting directly to Pia Mellody, and the sense of accomplishment in helping patients retake control of their lives.

And she remembered the day in when Pat Mellody called her into his office, closed the door and asked her to perform oral sex. There's no dispute that Pat Mellody and Hinkle had sex at The Meadows, court records and interviews show. The Mellodys admitted it in a lawsuit sealed from public view for three decades, an investigation by The Arizona Republic found. The Mellodys said in court filings that at least two sexual encounters occurred between Pat Mellody and Hinkle. They contended the sex was consensual. It wasn't the sex that Hinkle said upended her life.

It's what the Mellodys did afterward that she said derailed her career, exposed intimate details of her life to strangers and led her to attempt suicide. She said Pat Mellody was her employer and also had acted as her therapist. She said he forced her to publicly confess details of their sexual encounters, first to several employees and then to her husband and her high-school-aged son in a room full of co-workers.

A lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court accused the Mellodys and The Meadows of sexual harassment, battery, negligence, wrongful termination, invasion of privacy and malpractice. The lawsuit, while 30 years old, calls into question a ature treatment used there today. Hinkle said the method involves a "humiliating" mixture of public shaming and confrontation between families and patients. They also did not respond to a written list of questions about the Hinkle case. The Meadows issued a statement through a New York-based public relations firm dismissing the lawsuit as irrelevant to the treatment center's current operation.

Those methodologies also have been called into question in other lawsuits and complaints against The Meadows, including wrongful-death cases brought by families of people who killed themselves during or after treatment. Over the years, The Meadows has received almost no scrutiny outside of celebrity journals, whose focus rarely strays beyond who, how much and what details can be gleaned about daily routines on the closed campus. Public complaints are mostly limited to online forums. Lawsuits have been settled, court records sealed and public investigations quietly closed.

Pat Mellody died in Pia Mellody, who continues to train staff, lead therapists and counsel patients and families at The Meadows, did not respond to interview requests made by phone, and visits to her offices. Lawyers and therapists who have dealt with sexual harassment cases say even 30 years later, what happened to Hinkle is still shocking. They said the allegations outlined in court records defy the proper handling of workplace sexual harassment allegations then or now.

The case raises ethical issues about whether employees even can give consent to have sex with employers, and legal issues regarding relationships between patients and therapists. Phoenix lawyer Dean O'Connor, who represented the Hinkles, said he is reminded of the case whenever he hears about celebrities checking into The Meadows.

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He admitted that he was," Hinkle said, adding: " Mellody took advantage of me I know that now. I admired him. He was like a father figure to me.

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Hinkle is She talks in short bursts, drawing air through a plastic tube attached to an oxygen tank. She lives with her husband and their two dogs in a modest mobile home park on an unmarked road off Highway It is less than 2 miles from The Meadows. Hinkle was 41 when the sex occurred. She was married, the mother of two teenagers. Mellody was He was on his second marriage and enjoying acclaim and financial success for his work at The Meadows.

Hinkle settled her lawsuit against the Mellodys and The Meadows for an undisclosed amount inand the case was dismissed. The settlement included a non-disclosure agreement and the records were sealed by the court, which typically prevents the public from seeing the allegations.

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The bulk of the lawsuit remains under seal. But nearly two dozen individual records are available for public review at the Maricopa County Superior Court Clerk's Office. Hinkle claimed in her lawsuit that Pia Mellody took no immediate action on Hinkle's claim that she was having sex with her supervisor and her therapist. The Mellodys confirmed in court documents that Hinkle reported the sex but denied any wrongdoing on their part.

They said any injuries or damages Hinkle suffered resulted from her own conduct. They said her "consent to the touching and contact" barred her from making specific claims. O'Connor said Hinkle had her own issues, including a history of having sexual relationships with past employers. As her therapist, Mellody knew all about her background and still initiated a sexual relationship with her, O'Connor said. The Meadows maintains it has helped tens of thousands of patients recover from a tabloid tell-all of disorders since Mellody took over the former Slash Bar K Ranch overlooking the Hassayampa River Valley.

The Meadows has its roots in the same step program that began with Alcoholics Anonymous in and remains the cornerstone of addiction treatment programs worldwide. In a interview with the New York TimesPat Mellody said step programs were part of his makeup from childhood. I knew Dr. Bob and Bill W. Mellody came to Arizona with military sensibility and a mission. A former navigator in the U. Air Force, he had deed drug- and alcohol-treatment programs for veterans coming out of the Vietnam war.

But he saw opportunity in the burgeoning medical tourism industry transforming Wickenburg, which had once been nicknamed the dude-ranch capital of the world. He wasn't just selling substance-abuse detox. Mellody soon expanded The Meadows to treat PTSD, codependency, depression, anxiety, bipolar and eating disorders, and gambling and sex addictions.

We treat the patients with respect. We don't assume the patient is wrong. If a patient comes into my office, I listen to them. I have an absolute open-door policy. The Meadows not only became one of Wickenburg's biggest employers; it was also one of the city's most exclusive destinations. Models, musicians, actors and athletes all checked in. The Meadows protects the privacy of its patients, and its client list is a closely guarded secret. But over the years, the names and faces of stars who have sought treatment there have become fodder for celebrity news sites.

Those seeking treatment for sex addiction, such as Weinstein and Spacey, spend 45 days at The Gentle Path at The Meadows, a bed facility for men, according to literature from The Meadows. The Meadows isn't just for the rich and famous.

Insurance and specialized finance plans have made treatment accessible for many others. It struggled financially in its early days and in was sold to a Minnesota businessman specializing in health care. The Meadows has since been sold three more times, changing hands from private investors to publicly traded equity firms. The ownership chain is partially documented in stock reports, corporation records, court filings and trade journals, which indicate the Mellodys maintained a 9.

American Capital, the publicly traded private-equity firm, owned The Meadows from until The firm boasted making 2. Seems unfair that their many victims probably don't have access to this kind of multi-layered, peaceful therapy pic. These days, Hinkle is something of a recluse. Even before the ventilator tube and chronic breathing problems kept her confined indoors, Hinkle said she mostly kept to herself, fearing recognition and recrimination by her former colleagues.

She agreed to talk about what happened only after being shown copies of the lawsuit, which she believed were inaccessible to the public. Hinkle initially limited her responses to direct questions, then later agreed to sit down for an interview.

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Hinkle said part of what motivated her to talk was the recent attention The Meadows has garnered for its treatment of celebrity sex addicts. She said Pia and Pat Mellody got wealthy and famous while she was forced to live with their secrets. Hinkle acknowledged settling the case.

But had she realized her lawsuit could have served as a warning to people about The Meadows, she said she wouldn't have given up so easily.

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Shamed and humiliated at sex-addiction clinic, nurse saw her life fall apart