Katie’s mom and dad were so proud of her. She’d gotten her own apartment, and was really happy about it. Of course, it’d only been a day or two since they finished moving her in. She was 24, and had collected a bunch of furniture over the past couple of years, so she was ready to make the big step of moving to her own place. Tommy and Rick, two other residents helped Katie and her dad carry in the furniture.
Katie’s favorite thing was to go out shopping to find the little toys that were her hobby and obsession. She was anxious and focused on getting to go shopping all the time. After just a day at the apartment complex, Katie, who had autism and tends to be too friendly, asked Tommy to take her to a nearby resale shop. Tommy took her to the shop and a nearby garden store, and then out to Wendy’s. Katie said later that she’d offered to pay for their lunches at Wendy’s, but Tommy insisted on buying.
Katie’s mom, Maggie, was a little surprised that Katie wasn’t home when she arrived at the apartment that afternoon. An older gent sitting outside the building said that Katie had gone off with Tommy for a while. They must be back, the gent said, because, “there’s Tommy’s truck. I imagine your daughter is up sitting with Tommy.”
Just a minute later, Katie came down from Tommy’s apartment, and he followed, carrying two plastic totes. Katie had told Tommy that she needed a couple of those totes for her toys and other things in the apartment. Katie’s dad wanted his totes back, the ones Katie had used to transport her things to the apartment.
Katie would sometimes feel like everyone was correcting her and scolding her. She tended to overreact when corrected by family members, so Maggie talked very gently with Katie after Tommy left to go back up to his place.
“Katie, how did that happen that you went out with Tommy? How did you know if it would be OK?”
And Katie replied, with her characteristic naivete, “I asked him to take me to the resale shop. When I got in his truck, I asked Tommy if he was the kind of person who might hurt me or try to make out with me. And he said no, he is not that kind of person and wouldn’t do that.”
“But Katie,” Maggie asked, “What if he were that kind of person and you asked that question, I mean, not Tommy, but someone else?”
Katie was a bit naïve, but she understood. She replied, “Well, I guess a person who wanted to hurt me might say the same thing Tommy said.”
“Not Tommy,” Maggie said, “But someone else. You’re right, a person who intended to hurt you might say the same thing, that he wasn’t going to hurt you. It’s hard to know when it’s the truth.”
Maggie didn’t want to keep Katie from meeting new people, and didn’t want Katie to get frightened of the mostly very kind people around her, including Tommy. “With someone else,” Maggie said, “not Tommy, of course, but with anyone else, you need to be very careful. And your dad and I want to have the phone numbers of your friends. And we want you to have your phone with you.”
Still, Maggie was a bit worried about Tommy. Although she said “not Tommy”, she was thinking, “maybe Tommy.”
“Not Tommy”: Smart and Safe, Part 2
Katie was visiting Tommy at least once a day most days. Maggie and Katie’s dad worried a little, but didn’t want Katie to worry. After all, this was her first time having her own place away from her parents. Maggie and Jim, Katie’s dad, were also enjoying the time with Katie’s younger siblings. Everyone was breathing a little easier, having some space from each other.
One evening, Katie called, sounding upset. “Mom, he insulted me so much. I mean, he was trying to get me to stay in his apartment when I decided I better leave. He was kissing me and touching me on my bottom and on my breasts and saying silly things.”
“Who?” asked Maggie.
It was Tommy. He’d been drinking, and with his self-control impaired, he decided to try to take advantage of Katie’s somewhat diminished capacity to make decisions. But, when she tried to leave, he hugged her to make her stay. She was determined to leave, and he insulted her by trying to make her stay, Katie said later.
Maggie went over to Katie’s apartment and talked it all out. Maggie knew that whatever else had happened, Tommy had committed assault when he tried to keep her from leaving against her will.
“I even went back up there after I called you, Mom, just to yell at him and tell him he couldn’t do stuff like that and that he insulted me.”
By now, Katie had told her mom a lot of details, and Katie’s mom had called Katie’s dad to tell him the details. They all agreed that Maggie would stay over at Katie’s place, just in case. In the morning, Katie told her story to the management of the apartment complex, who called the police.
Katie was very open with the police officer, who was quite respectful to her. This surprised Maggie, because Katie is naive and seems younger than her 26 years. Still, the officer treated her like an adult. Maggie had a chance to thank him later.
The case was turned over to the prosecutor’s office, who decided not to press charges. Of course, Tommy had his own version of the events.
Grown-up kids have grown-up problems. No parent would wish this situation on a young adult child, but Maggie was reassured that Katie could manage herself in a tight situation, could recognize when it was time to get out, and could communicate clearly when asked to relate what happened. This was just about the best thing Maggie could ask for…no one can protect their kids from every problem, but all parents can help kids learn to speak up for themselves and take charge to leave a bad situation.