Case # 4

In the fourth case, the young woman perpetrator, Ellen, was only 19 years old at the time of the offense.  She was the older of two natural daughters in an intact family in which the father was a minister and the mother also was a trained professional in her field.  Her younger sister was not born until she was seven years old, but by the time she was age four, the parents had taken in foster children.

From Ellen's perspective, her parents' charity extended to the foster children and others outside the home but they did not pay enough attention to her.  Her younger sister was dainty and petite, while Ellen was overweight.  Ellen often felt in competition with others for her parents' favor and attention and she had a great deal of residual anger toward her parents.

There were other problems in her growing up years.  There were a number of relatives living in the home at various times, leading to the father admitting privately that in retrospect he also had a lot of anger and felt his home was never his own.   One of these relatives molested Ellen when she was eight years old.  She had already been a victim of molestation by some teenage neighbor boys when she was six.   Ellen felt that she had actually encouraged and seduced these boys, although clearly with the age differential between them, she was not actually responsible.

Ellen further alleged that her father had been physically abusive to her mother during her childhood, although she denied that he had been abusive to her in any way.  While she could not recall actual incidents in which she had seen him abusing her mother, she claimed that her mother would tell her about these incidents, confiding and complaining to her about their difficulties.

During her childhood and adolescence, she was regarded by her parents retrospectively as a very conforming and suggestible child who would readily absorb the expectations of others around her.  They sent her to a small church-affiliated college some distance from home, and she very quickly experienced interpersonal and other functional difficulties.  While she had been an honor student in high school, she was unable to develop a structure for herself in college.  She was preoccupied with her social life, and soon her difficulties multiplied.

She became enamored with one young man, John, who apparently did not want anything to do with her, but she was completely obsessed and increasingly inappropriate, doing such things as peeping in his windows to find out what he was doing.  She appeared to have a very limited concept of personal boundaries.  Acquaintances who became aware of difficulties advised her to seek counseling which she did.  She eventually was able to let go of John but only by having substituted another young man, Fred, into her preoccupations.

By her own account, she set out to seduce Fred.  She reportedly had her first sexual experience with Fred, and consciously hoped she might become pregnant so that she would have a way to hold on to him.  She alternated in describing this first incident of intercourse as "date rape" or as seduction on her part.  It was uncertain as to whether her vacillating belief that she had been a victim of "date rape" was motivated by a subsequent need to see herself as having been victimized so as to provide mitigation of her offense, or if, in fact, she had actually once again been sexually victimized.  There were additional times that she and Fred had intercourse.   Fred was abusing alcohol and Ellen herself was also drinking heavily during this time frame, even though she had previously never used alcohol.

But, about three weeks prior to the offense, Fred took her for a drive and told her that it was all over between them.  He had transferred to another college and did not want to continue with the relationship.  Ellen was devastated as she considered herself married to Fred.  She evidenced increasing instability, with rage, helplessness, and gross denial.  She had problems functioning in a job, and went through several jobs over several months, while still trying to maintain a pose as a student, even though she was not enrolled in any classes at this point.  On the day of the offense, Fred had been back on campus and she had seem him socializing with other people, which upset her very much.

The victim was a five-year-old girl, Jenny, who was the child of parents employed at the college she had been attending.  She had babysat for the parents on one previous occasion.  On the day in which the offenses occurred, she was caring for Jenny in their apartment.  After playing a game, she alleged that Jenny asked her to take off her blouse.  She closed the living room blinds but then went into the bedroom.

The exact sequence is not clear, but Ellen said she went in the bathroom and Jenny came in and noted her sanitary pad with blood on it and began asking questions.  They ended up in the bedroom where Ellen took off all her clothes and gave the child an anatomy lesson, using her own body to demonstrate.  As they sat on the bed, she indicated that Jenny kissed her twice, reportedly "wet kisses."

It was further alleged that Jenny kissed her on the breast and in the pelvic area over her underwear, but Ellen vacillated across time between admitting that this had or had not occurred.  She first admitted it to the police and to the psychologist.  Then, when seen jointly with her parents after the evaluation had been completed, her mother insisted that this version of the offense was not what her daughter had reported to her.

The mother felt strongly that Ellen should not admit to anything she did not do.   The mother explained that Ellen would give in to the policeman's expectations as well as the psychologist's and bury herself deeper and deeper by making untrue statements just to please them.  The psychologist did not experience this to be the case, but observed definite differences in Ellen when seen alone or with her parents.  She seemed genuinely confused and unable to differentiate her own thoughts about what had transpired from her mother's influence.

It appeared Ellen was jealous of Jenny and the attention the child received from her parents, and, noting that Jenny's bed was located in the parents' bedroom in the tiny apartment, she became angry, feeling that Jenny was perhaps being inappropriately exposed to sexuality.  Ellen described a feeling of rage toward Jenny, as well as a feeling of competition and helplessness.  She alleged that all of the activities had been directed by Jenny and she herself was unable to stop what was transpiring.

Ellen did not actually enjoy babysitting but had felt "railroaded" into providing babysitting services for acquaintances and friends by her mother prior to going to college.  She also did not want to babysit for Jenny, but was having significant financial problems and needed the money.  She resented being paid so little for her time.

There had been at least two other incidents in the past involving babysitting where inappropriate behavior toward young children had occurred.  In one case she was caring for a young boy, Kenny, whose father was actually at home at the time but was doing some work outside.  She spanked Kenny, and he became angry, stating that he was going to tell his father.  When Kenny tried to go outside to tell his dad, Ellen prevented him from doing so.  In another case, she was changing the diaper of an infant boy, and during the process played with his penis to see what his reaction would be.

When these incidents were discussed in the session with her parents, Ellen's mother actively rationalized and minimized any possible significance that could be attributed to them, indicating that in their conservative religious circle, spanking was considered an appropriate response to misbehavior of a child and the parents would probably have wanted her to spank him.  She also said that Ellen was only powdering the baby boy and asked who hadn't touched the private parts of babies in the process of caring for them?   The father sat silently throughout these discussions.

Ellen was given an MMPI-2 twice, but both testings were invalid due to overresponding and exaggerating her problems.  On the Child Abuse Potential Inventory (CAPI), the validity measures were acceptable, and her Abuse Prediction Score indicated a high propensity for physical abuse of children.  On the Rorschach Inkblot Test her personality functioning appeared disturbed but not at a psychotic level.  She was prone to scan her environment haphazardly and to neglect important pieces of information in her decision-making processes and also to oversimplify situations she faced.  She appeared to be unconventional, dependent, narcissistic, and prone to rely upon fantasy for many of her needs.  She was highly prone to rationalize, externalize and deny conflicts.

After review of her history, her testing, and consultation with the therapist, Ellen was diagnosed as a Borderline Personality Disorder.

  [Return to Article]

 
Copyright 1989-2014 by the Institute for Psychological Therapies.
This website last revised on April 15, 2014.
Found a non-working link?  Please notify the Webmaster.