VAPO – Vulnerable Adult Protection Order – Part One

This past year was met with several new and “interesting” issues that needed attention.  One such issue was our adult my adult son being stalked by a predator.  As with most situations like this, there is a “honeymoon” phase of grooming before the predator pounces on the victim.

Adult grooming is correspondent to child grooming and applies to any situation where an adult is primed to allow him or herself to be exploited or abused. While it is a common assumption that grooming is only practiced on the very young, identical emotional and psychological processes are commonly used to abuse or exploit adults the elderly, and those with compromised mental facilities.

An predator will identify and engage a victim and work to gain the target’s trust, break down defenses, and manipulate the victim until they get whatever it is they are after. Overt attention, verbal seduction (flattery / ego stroking), recruitment, physical isolation, charm, gift-giving, normalizing, gaslighting, secrecy, and threats are all hallmarks of grooming.

Looking back on what all transpired, we can see how this grooming occurred – given that Kathy also lives with schizophrenia (we did not know this beforehand – not that it would have changed anything except knowing that it is not uncommon for people to stop taking their medications  we would have watched for changes in behavior sooner) Unbeknownst to us at the time too, Kathy has a history of stopping her medications and decompensating quickly – as happened in this situation too.

Kathy is a woman that we have known of for many years (maybe 20 years or so).  She and her family were parishioners at our church when we first met them.  We really didn’t have much personal contact with the family other than saying “hi” when we ran into them on occasions and then it seemed as if the whole family disappeared for several years.  Periodically over the years, Kathy would show up alone at various events but we never saw her consistently.  The most common place would be walking around
Greenlake since members of our family make that a daily habit and maybe Kathy does too.  Then again, the contact would mostly just be a quick greeting as each person continued on their way in opposite directions.

February 2018, we were at a family dinner at church and Kathy was also there and joined us.  It was actually the most that we had talked with her for about 20 years.  We updated each other on our various children and what they were all up to.  Thomas, our son with IDD was with my husband and me.  Thomas is extremely engaging and interested in people.  He tends to draw people to him with his constant questions and interest.

Kathy picked up on this and realized that she and Thomas had some common interests – Catholic Church, going to Mass, music (especially “classic rock” music) and driving around Seattle looking at sites and listening to music in the car.  Kathy approached us to see if it would be okay for her to visit Thomas and take him the eucharist (communion) at his home.  We thought it would be a great idea and Thomas would love it.  It would increase his “natural supports” which is typically a good thing.  There would be Thomas’ support staff there if any issues came up.  This took a couple of months for everything to be arranged and “instructions” gone over and all was good!

The first visits were a success and Thomas really enjoyed meeting with Kathy and sending her emails.  We were glad that he had a new friend and someone to share interests with.  After about 4 visits, Kathy asked about taking Thomas out and to a mass at church.  This opened up a whole new area and anxiety but we reviewed specifics about safety and behaviours, specific instructions regarding issues in the community and knowing that it would be our church they would be going to, we agreed.

Kathy followed all the instructions and she and Thomas had a great time – out for dinner, picnic in the park, mass and then driving around listening to music.  We were all feeling good about this and that it had been successful.

Unfortunately, that did not last long – within a week things got very, very crazy – something that I would never had suspected.  Kathy then began to want to see Thomas every day, take him out to mass even when he had already gone to mass,  began writing very odd messages to him and other odd behaviours.

There were plans to take him out again and she did not follow the instructions and this caused an extreme crisis in Thomas’ life.  I was informed by his staff that evening and quickly followed up with Kathy that I needed to meet with her to discuss the issues and again wrote out issues of concern and “instructions” that anyone working with Thomas needed to follow hoping that she would see that I was not singling her out but that these were “rules” that we all followed to keep Thomas safe.

I was totally unprepared for the response I received from her –

“Let’s discuss Thomas living with me for a trial. I need to discuss with my other son yet I think we could make it work for a trial or 2. He’s very calm with me and I understand his disorders very well.”

Luckily, she had gone out of town for that weekend and I knew I had a little time to compose a message which was very short and to the point –

Because of the enormous disruption triggered by your extremely late arrival with no communication on Thursday (May 3, 2018) we have decided to stop all visits between you and Thomas. Under no circumstances are you to visit or communicate with him

Her response – “For Now” and then continued to email Thomas.  Things just got more strange from there.

Kathy returned to Seattle and tried to enter Thomas’ home while I was there.  She was told to leave and staff chased her out and we called the police.  Kathy pointed her finger at me (like she was shooting and said “bang, bang”) as she left the house.  I was totally shaking but trying not to show it because I didn’t want to scare Thomas.

After about 30 minutes I felt it was safe to leave and before I got home (10 minutes away) I received a call that Kathy had returned.  She also texted a message to my husband

“Jim please call me. Tommy is my son as you know and I want him back. I AM God and I want to see him now. I’m very concerned about his welfare. Please help me. I’m sitting outside of his house.”

This message and her actions sent us into crisis mode with police activity and court – we obtained an emergency restraining order (which she violated several times) and lived on pins and needles while also trying to remain calm for Thomas’ sake.

She began to stake out Thomas’ house, drive up and down the street, park in neighbor’s driveway and walk around Thomas’ house trying to see in his window.

Cheryl & James – Bruce and I are preparing legal action to restore custody of our son Tommy. Let us know if you choose to settle peaceably. You may receive more mercy.

We had police presence at our house and at Thomas’ house with extra staff funded through DSHS, alarms and motion sensor lights installed all around his house.

Hi James,

Are you willing to testify at Thomas’s hearing so that I can continue to visit with him? As you know, I am his biological Mother and Bruce Springsteen is his biological Father. We want him back and are aware of the voodoo problem…we can handle any complications.

We need your involvement and want Thomas to be present at the hearing. Let me know where you stand on this. We plan further legal action if I cannot visit with him. He can live with me rather than whatever Cheryl is intent upon. I love Tommy.

to be continued –

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