Last Updated: 5:08 p.m.
Robert Batie, a Palm Coast therapist who describes himself as “a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Certified Addiction Professional with more than a decade in the helping profession,” was arrested at his job Tuesday on a charge of molesting and raping a 16-year-old patient at his office on Hargrove Grade in Palm Coast.
The girl had been a patient of Batie’s for four to five months, with weekly Monday sessions at his office at 1 Hargrove Grade, Unit A.
Batie until last week was one of the counselors at Palm Coast Counseling, a practice that last July signed a memorandum of understanding with Flagler County Schools to provide counseling services at the students’ home, at school or at the practice’s offices. Palm Coast Counseling serves “as a qualified professional provider, providing service(s) on site, and/or off-site, and may serve a caseload for mental health counseling and referrals for psychiatric or more intensive services,” according to the contract between the practice and the district. “The provider will send proof of liability/malpractice insurance to the Executive Director of Student and Community Engagement. The provider will comply with all relevant state statutes regarding professional services.”
A call to Palm Coast Counseling went to voicemail. The district today was not able to get in contact with the practice, nor was it able to establish how many students had been seen by Batie, or whether he had seen any at all. “Still trying to figure that out, trying to work with that vendor,” Jason Wheeler, the district’s chief spokesman, said.
According to the terms of the memorandum of understanding, “they assign whomever, and they have to abide by certain terms of the MOU, so we don’t have a say who they assign these folks to.” He added: “We weren’t notified of an investigation, the first I read of it was what I read this morning in the sheriff’s news release.”
The girl reported to authorities that she was assaulted by Batie during a June 28 session. She had gifted him with a book on body language. After that, Batie, who is 60, allegedly began speaking to the girl in a suggestive manner, making remarks about her own body language and interpreting it as inviting. (It is very common for perpetrators of child abuse to establish a rationale that places the blame for their assaults on their victim. Under Florida law, there is no such thing as consensual sex with a child.)
Batie then allegedly began escalating his advances, positioning himself behind her, touching her, asking her private and inappropriate questions about her sexuality, then allegedly escalating the advances to assaults, first forcing her to touch him, then forcing himself on her orally, and even boasting about his prowess. The Flagler County Sheriff’s report notes Batie was fully aware of the girl’s age.
The girl subsequently preserved her underclothes, which she said bore obvious evidence of Batie’s assault, and turned them over to authorities, which turned them over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s crime lab for analysis. Numerous other items of clothing were also gathered and turned in. It was based on that analysis that sheriff’s detectives secured a warrant on Tuesday and arrested Batie at his new place of work, at AZA Health on Dunn Avenue in Daytona Beach. He had ended his work in Palm Coast that same week.
“This was a remarkable joint effort between our Major Case Unit Detectives and [Daytona Beach Police Department] to get this guy off the street,” said Sheriff Rick Staly. “I want to thank the detectives for their tireless efforts to bring justice to this victim and her family.” The sheriff applauded the girl “for speaking out and hope she gains some closure with his arrest.”
“As part of that MOU,” Wheeler said of the agreement between the school district ad Palm Coast Counseling, “any counselor with Palm Coast Counseling must have a fingerprint-based background investigation in accordance with Florida statutes and School Board policy.” But, he said, if Batie had not had any issues with law enforcement previously, the finger-printing would have shown nothing to that effect.
Since Batie was arrested in Volusia County, he was held at the Volusia County Branch Jail pending transfer to the Flagler County jail. That transfer took place later on Aug. 4. He is being held on $450,000 bond on the second degree felony charges, and on no bond on the first-degree felony charge.
He faces a count of rape of a child while in custodial authority, a charge that, if convicted, exposes Batie to life in prison, two counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor (second degree felonies), and a count of sexual misconduct by a psychotherapist, a third-degree felony.
In an online profile, Batie states: “My experience as a social worker is broad, including helping others with issues such as varied forms of mental health and substance use disorders, legal system involvement, anger management, relationship issues, and learning how to uncover and address what lies beneath unwanted behaviors in order to bring about desired changes in support of recovery.”