Girl works toward recovery

Teen gets therapy for forced sex that her mother denies

Sun Follow-up

June 14, 2008|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,Sun reporter

With bright blue eyes and lush auburn waves, the teenage girl is both sullen and thoughtful as she describes the times her mother arranged for her to have sex with men for money - on the living room couch, in a car, in a neighbor's bathroom.

"'I know how you can make money. He's only a phone call away,'" her mother would tell her, she said in an interview with The Sun. "She was basically just prostituting me out so she could get money."

Living now in Texas with the grandmother who raised her in Anne Arundel County, the teenager has received outpatient treatment at psychiatric hospitals for depression, family members say.

Some hundreds of miles away in an Annapolis courtroom, her mother was convicted this week on a single count of prostitution, capping a saga that has broken a family and perhaps forever fractured the relationship between mother and daughter.

The mother and daughter sharply disagree on what happened.

Yesterday, the mother called The Sun a day after a judge gave her a five-year suspended sentence and probation. She strongly denied the abuse of her oldest daughter ever took place.

The 34-year-old Annapolis woman, whom the newspaper is not naming to protect the identity of the victim, says she has regained custody of her youngest daughter, 8, and hopes to have her 13-year-old daughter living with her again by September. Then, she hopes, she can move to Texas and reunite with her oldest daughter.

"It's been a nightmare for both of us," the mother said in a phone interview. "I think she took a small thing and made a big thing about it. ... I've cried. She's cried. I'm sorry."

The mother's prosecution is a rarity, said Sidney Ford, the executive director of You Are Never Alone, a support center in Southwest Baltimore that provides services to women involved in prostitution.

"It's very difficult sometimes to catch this at an early age, which fortunately happened in this case, but usually we hear about it much later," Ford said. "You have a situation where someone says, 'I love you, you're my daughter,' but is monstrously abusing that trust, so it's very confusing.

"This kind of thing thrives in isolation," Ford said. "There's this bond, and such a desire to please. It's such a primal kind of relationship, if there's any way to get back in the mother's good graces. ... "

Police learned of the abuse of the girl, who was 16, four months after it began. She was willing to testify against her mother at trial, prosecutors say. But she was spared when her mother was convicted in the plea agreement Thursday that, in addition to the five-year suspended prison sentence, included parenting classes, drug and alcohol counseling and a requirement to register as a sex offender for 10 years.

Her defense attorney, Thomas F. Ellis III, said the sentence would be "of great benefit to her."

In an interview, the mother admitted that she was drinking alcohol and taking marijuana and cocaine when, as a teenager, she became pregnant with her daughter. The young parents never married, but the teenage girl's father has remained involved in her life, paying child support and visiting her.

But relatives say the mother was not equipped to raise a child.

"She would leave [the baby] with baby sitters ... and then she would never go back and get [the baby]," the grandmother said in an interview. "Social services would call. Social services recognized that I had her. She was recognized as being a bad mother."

By the time the baby was 3, she was living with her maternal grandmother in a one-story rancher in Cape St. Claire, a short walk from the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

Fran Klassen, a neighbor, remembers the young girl greeting the family when they first moved to their home next door in 1999.

"Just watching her grow up ... I remember when we moved in, she was just a little girl. She made us a little card and said, 'I'd like to be your friend.' ... I've always felt sorry for her that her mother was not there for her, not more involved."

The grandmother enrolled the girl in dance class, where she quickly flourished. A student at Broadneck High School, just as her mother had been years before, she soon began modeling and acting, appearing in small roles in films produced by Hollywood studios.

Despite her good looks and outgoing manner, the teen said she didn't have many friends at school.

"The school was kind of based on sports, if you weren't good at sports, you weren't good at anything," she said. "I was a dancer, so it was hard for me to keep up. It was kind of hard for me to connect with people. ... I was quiet and kind of goofy and immature, and I would stay to myself."

Her mother says she visited her daughter frequently: "I've been to every birthday party, every dance recital."

But the grandmother said the girl's mother visited only when she needed something - to borrow money or ask for food.

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