DEAR ABBY: "Quaking in California," the 15-year-old girl who was bothered by her father's friend, must talk immediately to her school counselor or a caring, sympathetic teacher. And she must not be afraid to tell the truth if police interview her.
Four years ago, the sister of one of my students became unusually quiet and withdrawn, so I made a point of befriending her. She told me a shocking story about "the man who sleeps in my bed," her father's boyhood friend who came to the family's trailer in the evenings, slept in her bed and made sexual advances. Her parents did not interfere! She told me how scared she was, and that she couldn't sleep, think or do her school work.
I told her to tell her parents that I said they must "make him leave tonight, or by law they could be held responsible." That empowered the parents. He left that night. I also contacted her school principal, who summoned a deputy because we are legally required to report such incidents. I was away from school the day they questioned her. The poor girl was so intimidated she denied everything. She was sure the man would kill her if she reported him.
Later, the deputy called me to say that apparently the girl had lied to me. I was shocked. I was often in her home because of their distress and poverty. I knew her well enough to know she was telling me the truth. The family believes the man murdered his pregnant wife in his hometown in another country and fled here illegally. They also believed that he delivered narcotics across the state, hidden among the heavy equipment he transported. The parents were terrified of him.
Abby, I wrote a letter and sent it to the Sheriff's Department, the INS, the DEA, our SANE (Substance Abuse Narcotics Education) officer, the student's principal, and a newspaper reporter who had befriended the family. The "man who sleeps in my bed" disappeared in days and hasn't been seen since. We could get rid of those who would harm our children, if we persist. -- A CALIFORNIA TEACHER
DEAR TEACHER: You handled the problem very well. I hope others will learn from your example. Please read on for more input from a caring professional:
DEAR ABBY: I am a clinical social worker in Los Angeles who is very disturbed about the letter in your column from the 15-year-old girl who is being stalked and harassed by her father's 34-year-old male friend.
You were absolutely correct when you told her to save and photocopy the notes and show them to a responsible adult, such as a school counselor or clergyperson. I would strongly urge this young woman to go even further than this. The behavior of these irresponsible parents is unconscionable. They cannot be relied upon to take action when the school authorities contact them about this.
She can, and should, report this man's behavior both to the police and to her local Department of Children's Services. Her school counselor can help her contact them. These two entities have the power to protect her from further harassment and stalking (and he is indeed stalking her), to provide education and counseling to the family, to educate her mother and father about responsible parenting, and to monitor them to ensure that they provide it. She should also ask her school counselor to provide her with ongoing counseling for herself.
Urge her to do this without delay, before the man becomes more bold in his actions. -- CONCERNED ADULT IN L.A.