DEAR ABBY: I have never written you before, but after reading the letter from the woman who said her 11-year-old daughter "sometimes gets scared at night and thinks she hears voices and someone walking near her room," I had to write. When my younger sister was her age, she, too, would get scared at night and hear people walking/talking outside her room when there weren't. It became so bad she could hardly get to sleep at night.
Our mother took her to the doctor to be examined, and he discovered that her thyroid gland was severely overactive. Once her thyroid hormone was returned to normal levels (not a quick or easy process), her hallucinations stopped and have not returned. We were lucky she was diagnosed before she suffered any long-term effects. Please urge that mother to have her daughter evaluated by a medical professional ASAP to rule out any physical or psychological causes. -- R.N. IN OKLAHOMA
DEAR R.N.: I agree that if the girl's symptoms persist she should be evaluated by a doctor, but not necessarily for the reason you stated. Several readers wrote to point out that the girl, whose father was fanning her fears, may be being molested by him. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: For three years straight, the "technique" described by the mother of that young girl was identical to the concealment of incest perpetrated by my former husband.
Such behavior is the last thing a wife or mother ever suspects, even when she should. I was lucky; I walked in on it. I agree that the writer's husband is playing a mind game with his wife and daughter.
I noticed my former husband's absence from our bed and failure to return, and one night I went looking for him. I found him lifting our 12-year-old from her bed while touching her inappropriately. My daughter was whimpering, not fully conscious, and he was apparently talking to himself.
I wordlessly lifted her from his arms, placed her back in bed and remained with her for the rest of the night -- while checking on the other girls and my husband's whereabouts.
There may, indeed, BE a nighttime intruder, Abby -- the husband. Such men, if the child is awake enough, will not hesitate to threaten to kill the mother if the child "tells." Same old script, not much variation. -- WISER NOW IN HAWAII
DEAR WISER NOW: Your letter is chilling. Thank you for sharing your experience.
DEAR ABBY: Please tell that woman if her husband insists on scaring her by implying there might be an intruder in the house, to ask him ONCE to do a walk-through to see if the house is secure. If he refuses and says he's going to sleep, tell him OK -- that you'll just call the police and tell them your husband said there might be an intruder on the premises and ask THEM to go through the house.
I guarantee the first time she has to do it, it will be the last time he pulls that stunt. What he's doing is a power play. He's trying to control them. But if she takes the ball out of his court, then he won't be able to play! -- A COP'S SISTER