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After knowing her for three months and talking to her many times about her very difficult situation at home, Carmen suddenly revealed that her father had been sexually molesting her not too long after his last girlfriend had left. In her home country, she had always lived with her mom, her stepdad, brothers and sisters, in a life that appeared quietly happy and surrounded by the support of extended family.  She was a very good student in her home school. When her father invited her and her older sister to come live and study in the United States, she had mixed feelings. She had no memory of her dad, but had always fantasized about him being a perfect dad to her.  She felt excited about getting to know him at last, but, of course sad also, as she would have to leave her mom behind and a stepdad who had raised her. At home they encouraged her to do it. There was no future for her in their little town.  They could never give her a high school education as it meant for her to transfer to a larger town, which was impossible. When she arrived here, her father was at the end of cohabitating with girlfriend number three and when she left, he was alone with his daughters. He seemed so nice and so much fun.

One day her older sister revealed to her that the father had been touching her inappropriately at night. She had decided to leave and go live with her new boyfriend who  would take care of her and the baby she had left back home.  Carmen could not believe this; her father seemed so nice and caring.  She felt for sure her sister was lying just so that she could run away with her boyfriend.  She was very upset and felt bad for her father, still believing in his innocence.  She was now alone with him and taking care of the house, cooking, and doing all the chores. At school, she was having severe headaches, which didn’t seem to have a medical basis except for stress and that is how our relationship begun. There were enough stresses at home for sure:  Her father was about to get a new girlfriend to come and live with them, and she hated Carmen.  Carmen could not stand her either and they fought over her dad’s time and attention.

Once the new girlfriend left too, things started to change with him. As she talked about her father’s abuse, she seemed so puzzled.  “I don’t know how I put up with it and never stopped it”  “I keep asking myself over and over why, but I don’t seem to be able to find the answer.”  “All I know is that it was so confusing! He said things like he was teaching me things and helping me feel things I would find useful when I’d get married.” My answer to her was: “Carmen, you are a girl who came here dreaming of finding a loving father.  When he offered you love in the form of sex, you probably accepted it because you needed so much for him to love you.” “He has totally violated your trust and the trust everybody put in him placing you, his daughter, under his care!”  She nodded and added sadly:” You know, my stepfather always treated me with such respect. He would have never done anything like this.” “That is how fathers are supposed to be, Carmen” was my reply. Child Protective Services placed Carmen in foster care and I felt invaded by a deep sadness, wondering how perhaps she would have been much better off just staying back home with her family, in spite of the lack of opportunities,  instead of going through all this pain.

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