Is Rachel Canning a Victim of Abuse? [Opinion]

9 Mar

When I read about Rachel Canning the New Jersey teenager suing her parents for child support and her right to remain dependent upon them despite reaching the age of majority, my FIRST reaction was she was 18 years old and needed to get over herself.  Like most, I fell prey to the surface reporting in the media and the sensationalized headlines that influence reader’s perceptions even before they read the article; but, something inside led me to dig a little deeper in an attempt to find the truth because something did not sit right with me.

It is impossible for anyone to really know where the truth lies in this case; however, in my opinion something about this case is not adding up.  We are all left with a he said/she said situation, one that has even left the Judge in a difficult position which involved his ruling against Rachel Canning.  He asked a rhetorical question:  “Do we want to establish a precedent where parents live in basic fear of establishing rules of the house?”  I believe his ruling was proper, even if on some level it fails to protect alleged victims.  I use the word alleged because I am not privy to personal facts, nor have I been witness to any of the allegations from either side; however, in reading court documents there are many unanswered questions.

Rachel Canning alleges she was kicked out of her home and abandoned by her parents for failing to follow house rules and ditch her boyfriend, while her parents allege that she engaged in her own alienation and placed herself in that position by her behavior, rebellion and running away.

The media potrays Rachel Canning as an obnoxious, self entitled, rebellious brat; however, in her certification she makes certain allegations which give rise to concern:

  • My father left the house during the summer in approximately mid-July. There was ongoing discord between my parents.  They reunited AFTER I left the house and jointly decided to cut me off from all support both financially and emotionally.
  • My school advised me not to return home after hearing and observing their abusive conduct towards me.
  • I have been subjected to severe and excessive verbal and physical abuse by my mother and father.  
  • My mother was always demeaning towards me.  She called me “fat” and “porky.”
  • My father demanded I get a basketball scholarship.  My father spent a lot of time with me on weekends while I was in basketball tournaments.
  • My mother seemed angry about this.
  • In my sophomore year I developed an eating disorder and my weight dropped to 105 pounds.  In my junior year I was down to 92 pounds.
  • My mother kept screaming at me saying I was mentally messed up.
  • My father was angry that I wasn’t going to be able to play basketball because I needed to gain weight.
  • During my parent’s separation, my father said that if it went to divorce he was going to say that my mother was mentally abusive towards me.
  • My father gave me a sense that he was inappropriately affectionate with me.  He mentioned frequently that my relationship in his eyes was not one of a daughter but more than that.
  • In the summer before my senior year, he got me drunk at a wedding and said that I was his date.
  • He kept giving me shots and mango martinis.  I blacked out that night and woke up at the toilet bowl in our room and he was passed out on the bed.
  • He constantly put his arm around me in public and would kiss me on the cheek.
  • When we moved out of Hackettstown,  he once woke me up at 2:00 am to come downstairs to drink and play beer pong with him.  The refrigerator was always 75% full of liquor. 

Rachel also shares an incident involving her suspected intoxication at her school’s Homecoming dance where it was later discovered she was not intoxicated; however, the school did require she call her parents who were away in Las Vegas.  She reports the first time she called her father hung up and during the subsequent call, both of her parents screamed obscenities at her, in the presence of a teacher whom she identifies as Kathleen Smith.

The rest of the story we pretty much know, as it’s been played out in the news media.  Her parent’s account of course tells a different story.  A story of a teen gone wild who refuses to follow rules, gets drunk, breaks curfew and fails to perform chores.  It’s an easy sell, what parent isn’t driven mad by teenager rebellion which is a normal aspect in one’s search for identity in the midst of impending adulthood?

Nonetheless, even if Rachel’s parent’s allegations are true, I am concerned about the lack of insight a majority have in terms of what seems to be glaringly abusive behavior towards Rachel and may be what has contributed to the alleged rebellion.  Even if Rachel has conducted herself in a manner that is unbecoming in the Canning’s eyes, I question their version of facts simply because it appears if what they say is true Rachel is troubled and in light of her version of events it seems she’s being used as the scapegoat to deny their accountability for perhaps failing to orchestrate effective interventions. Now that things have spiraled out of control they have elected to point fingers, it appears to be a dysfunctional household with elements of splitting, idealization and discard and Rachel is “IT”.  I suspect there might even be some elements of pathological parenting involved, possibly narcissism which even if her parents are not full blown narcissists, can present as such when under the influence of substance and/or alcohol abuse.  I am not a mental health professional and I do not wish to allude that I have any authority to diagnose; however, in my study of abuse as it pertains to domestic violence, there is something at my gut level that screams Rachel is the victim in this scenario and as usual, the signs are being missed by everyone who does have the ability to protect and defend her.

Beth Mc Larnan McDonald who penned “Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents” shares the following by using the comparison of the story of Narcissus and Echo:

“Narcissus is the self-centered parent who looks for their idealized image to be reflected in everyone and everything around them. Echo symbolizes the child, who is a mirror for the narcissistic parent, and must reflect back their idealized image in order to hear the words “I love you”.  The child never learns to develop a separate “voice” that expresses who they are or what they need. What they do develop, however, is an uncanny ability to know who their narcissistic parent wants to be, and what they need. In a narcissistic family system, the parent-child roles are reversed: if the child can correctly meet the emotional needs of the parent, then maybe, just maybe, they will be loved in return. In a healthy family, parents are able to see their children as separate individuals -they allow them to express their own opinions and feelings; to make mistakes, to grow, and discover who they are as people. John Bradshaw, the author of Healing the Shame that Binds You, writes:  What a child needs most is a firm but understanding caretaker, who needs to be getting his or her own needs met through other adults. Such a caretaker needs to have resolved the issues in their own source relationships, and needs to have a sense of self-responsibility. When this is the case, such a caretaker can be available to the child and provide what the child needs.” (Donaldson-Pressman, & Pressman, 1994, p. 94) A narcissistic parent, however, is incapable of giving their child this understanding and freedom. Just as the echo child needs someone to reflect in order to exist, the narcissist does not exist without a reflection -and that reflection better be flawless or it will make the parent look,and feel, like a failure.The parent’s emotional needs are met by appearing perfect; they will spend their lives striving for superiority in order to mask their deep feelings of inferiority.”

She also asks:

 “What if the narcissist happens to be your mother, father, or primary care giver? A parent who manipulates a child into meeting their own emotional needs is no longer “charismatic, charming, exasperating or downright ludicrous“, but cruel and abusive; the effects of which are rarely diagnosed or treated in the children or adult children of narcissists. The symptoms of a narcissistic family system are exactly what make a diagnosis so difficult -everything seems so “perfect ”. The emotional damage done by a narcissistic parent can, in many ways, be even more devastating to the healthy ego-development of a child than overt abuse, because it is so insidious.  Although many of the same symptoms occur in the client’s life that stem from the incest family, the alcohol troubled family, the physically abusive family, and so forth, none of those issues were present in the narcissistic family. In fact, the family of origin seems to have functioned quite well – at least on the surface. Like “a shiny red apple with a worm inside”, the narcissistic system hides its dysfunction, even from the people who grow up inside of it. This masking is what makes treatment so difficult; you cannot heal what you do not understand.”

The media went into a feeding frenzy over the discovery that Rachel Canning left a rather disturbing voice mail message to her mother:

“Hi Mom just to let you know, you’re a real fucking winner aren’t you?  You think you’re so cool and you caught me throwing up in the bathroom after eating an egg frittatta (Rachel is alleged to have suffered from anorexia and bulimia), yea sorry that you have problems now and you need to harp on mine because I didn’t and I actually took a shit which I really just want to take a shit all over your face right now because it looks like that anyway, anyway I fucking hate you and um I’ve written you off so don’t talk to me, don’t do anything I’m blocking you from just about everything, have a nice life, bye mom.”  (Source:  Court Documents)

This is an example of how media reacted when that information leaked:

There is no denying Rachel’s message to her mother is shocking and most would agree disrespectful; however, no one is asking: WHERE did this anger and alleged ‘vitriol’ coming from?

 In Rachel’s statements to the court, she alleges that her mother’s verbal and emotional abuse was the catalyst to her developing an eating disorder.  Susan Cowden, MS in her article: “The Influence of Abuse & Trauma on Disordered Eating” shared:

“Many people who suffer from eating disorders report that they have experienced physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse prior to developing a disorder. In fact, some studies estimate that as many as 50% of eating disorder sufferers have experienced some type of physical or sexual abuse or assault. While there are certainly many people who experience abuse without developing an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder, it is well-accepted that trauma can place a person at higher risk.

Abuse during childhood is thought to be especially problematic, since children process information in a different way than adults. They are developing their sense of self and their core beliefs about how the world around them works. When someone is told over and over again that they are not loved or that they are a problem, eventually they begin to believe it and take it on as their identity.”

Although it is impossible to determine whether or not the allegations are true, it stands to reason in light of what Rachel shared it’s possible her symptoms including her alleged drinking stems not only from a dysfunctional family dynamic such as splitting as evidenced by her reports of her father’s alleged inappropriate behaviors towards her including violating personal space boundaries, alleged statements about seeing her ‘more than’ just a daughter, encouraging her to drink alcohol to the point she passes out on Mango Martinis but also a mother who allegedly also played a hand in eroding her self esteem by name calling and using words such as “porky.”  I question what exactly led to the temporary separation between her parents and find it interesting Rachel shared that her parents got back together after she left.  Was Rachel used as the scapegoat in the family?

For those who are unfamiliar with the term of scapegoating, Lynne Namka (Scapegoating-An Insidious Family Pattern of Blame and Shame on One Family Member) explains it well:

“Scapegoating is a serious family dysfunctional problem with one member of the family or a social group being blamed for small things, picked on and constantly put down. In scapegoating, one of the authority figures has made a decision that somebody in the family has to be the bad guy. The mother or father makes one child bad and then looks for things (sometimes real, but most often imagined) that are wrong. (Rachel drinks, Rachel breaks curfews, Rachel still throws up in the bathroom, Rachel has a loser boyfriend, Rachel did not get a basketball scholarship, Rachel disrespects her mother etc.) albeit none of the dynamics reported are ‘small’ but we’re dealing with a situation that has come to a head and spiraled out of control.

Victims of consistent abuse at a certain point hit rock bottom, and many are found to have suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Oftentimes because the abuse becomes normalized victims lack the insight or even the words to register it as abuse because of the conditioning they received and the chaotic patterns of idealization, devaluing and discarding.  Society has a very rigid view of what constitutes abuse.  There are some covert abusers however, who are able to escape the radar.  Covert and pathological abusers appear normal, loving, and even charming and so people including mental health professionals, educators, child welfare workers and our justice system miss the signals.  For a victim of this form of covert abuse, when the ‘unconditional love’ naturally expected from their parents or caregivers is withheld and they are rejected and abandoned for being ‘bad’, ‘not good enough’ or a ‘failure for meeting expectations’ (such as in this case failing to get a basketball scholarship for not gaining enough weight and failing to follow the ‘rules‘ abuse), victims oftentimes, especially if they cannot register or articulate begin to act out. Their whole world comes undone.  Lacking an ability to articulate also serves to thwart a victim being able to express their plight to others who might be in a position to help.  This is what I believe is at the core of Rachel Canning’s dilemma.  I believe her testimony is valid and she may be a victim of pathological abuse. Most victims at a certain point instinctively engage in a fight or flight response when the abuse has become too much.  PTSD complicates matters and causes victims to engage in many behaviors that involve self harm, such as substance abuse, cutting and they can even develop eating disorders which are a manifestation of feeling a lack of control.   It appears Rachel chose flight (left home) but still had enough in her to fight for her right to ‘survival’.  She reached out, she found a source of support and is defending what she considers a right based on an implied contract with the reasoning that a college education is SURVIVAL.  She was not consistently truant, she attended school on a regular basis and is an honor student with a 3.5 grade average.  No one is focusing on her potential or what Rachel is saying.  The masses are being swayed by the media and not looking at the details.  A college education would allow Rachel to carve out a life for herself.  Rather than playing the victim or spoiled, to the contrary she is choosing to sever ties with abuse.  She is fighting the fact that her parents electing to subsidize her education is conditional upon continuing to co-exist in what appears to be a very dysfunctional if not abusive environment.  I fail to see how that makes Rachel a spoiled brat.  It takes courage to take a stand and to say No-more.

There are many dynamics involved and many layers to this story.  Our legal system does it’s best to uphold the laws and provide justice; however, there are instances where because of the technicalities involved, it’s not always cut and dry.  In this case the law states that the age of 18 is an adult and in light of the evidence presented, Rachel Canning leaving home regardless of the details or the truth of what led to that action, along with damming evidence of a phone message to her mother which is without question disrespectful, it seems that Rachel Canning like many victims is having a difficult time establishing her credibility.  As a survivor of abuse it appears to me that this story has all the elements of pathological abuse, no one is questioning the possibility of her father having a problem with alcohol abuse or the family dynamics.  No one is questioning the appropriateness of his getting his daughter drunk or whether these allegations are false – moreover how can anyone prove it?  It’s a mess all around and a very tragic situation.  As a parent I expect my child will disappoint me at times.  I also understand that my child is not an extension of me and in his quest to find his own identity, my dreams for him may not come to fruition; however, when I was blessed with the honor of being responsible for his journey, I knew that was part of the deal.  Even if the allegations pertaining to Mr. Canning getting his own daughter drunk is a fabrication, there is still the Canning’s disclosing they were aware of the Inglesino’s involvement with teenage alcohol parties.  I question why Rachel Canning’s boyfriend is being targeted as a bad influence and not Rachel’s friend Mr. Inglesino’s daughter.  Again, I don’t have access to facts, nor am I intimately involved, but based on information in media reports, I would think that competent parenting would not pick and choose bad influences but ban any and all of them.  If the Cannings suspected Rachel had a drinking problem that was out of control, what interventions were put in place to help her?  If Rachel is spoiled, who made her that way?

With regard to the Canning’s separation, what was the source of that rift and what brought them back together in the midst of Rachel leaving?  Is this a Karpman Drama Triangle laced with splitting where Rachel is the scapegoat and blamed as the source of the strife?  I note in her father’s response to her when she asks to come back home he states the home is in so many words now problem free.  Something is very wrong with this picture and while Rachel may very well be troubled, there is a reason behind it and that is what is not being explored.

Rachel makes her position very clear:

My therapist indicates I should not return home.  I do not believe it is a viable option.  I am not willingly and voluntarily leaving a reasonable situation at home to make my own decisions. I had to leave to end the abuse.”  She further states she works part time, and of course is an honor student.  This is not a teenager with a profile that screams defiant, but troubled. She shares she is living with the Inglesino’s and without their help she would be homeless and on welfare.  She admits to suffering psychologically and wishes to continue to employ the help of a therapist in order to heal.  While our children may sometimes do things that hurt us, I cannot wrap my head around drawing a line in the sand, especially if I believe my child is in crisis or “mentally messed up” as her mother allegedly puts it.  Something is not right in this picture, and while the law states that her parents are not legally liable to support her, the laws are not always just.  I am struggling with cognitive dissonance on how her parents are, it appears without empathy willing to witness the potential lifelong damage that can be done by denying her the opportunity to continue to pursue her studies without the burden of vasts amounts of debt – especially when they can afford to provide for such accomodation.  While not everyone has the privilege of going to college or a trust fund,  most who have been able to achieve a level of success understand that a degree is usually a part of the package.  It serves as a ticket to entry for a career.  Rachel dreams of being a biomedical engineer.  It would be tragic if that dream is cut short because of the dynamics involved.  I think most parents understand that at the end of the day, our children may rebel; however, a healthy sense of love understands that over time, as they move into adulthood they gain an awareness of the complexities of life and they come around.  Abuse is about control.  Sometimes tuff love is warranted; however, in this case, I have a hard time calling it that.  It seems more like the Cannings are diffusing the situation, painting themselves in a bright light and using Rachel as the sole source of discord.  It seems more like ‘projection’ which is another typical element in pathological relationships.  In healthy situations, all parties rise to the challenge of admitting their part in a breakdown of family dynamics.  I fail to see anyplace in this scenario where the Canning’s have done this.  For that reason I am skeptical and conclude that even if Rachel has done things that were out of order or hurtful, she still is the victim in this scenario.

This was the Justice system’s conclusion in spite of Rachel Canning’s raising serious allegations in her petition:

Bonnie Sludikoff of Liberty Voice sums it up well:

“It may very well be that New Jersey teen Rachel Canning is as spoiled and rebellious as she is being painted by the media. However, it may also turn out that Rachel’s accusations against her parents are true. If this turns out to be the case, what is perhaps most disturbing about Canning’s story is that it displays a serious problem running rampant in the way U.S. journalists depict young women. The media is constantly calling out teenagers as “rebellious” in lieu of taking a closer look at the realities they are living in. In cases where there are claims of abuse, the practice of the media labeling teens as “bratty” or “spoiled” is an absolute disgrace.  This is a dangerous narrative for society to write.”

NOTE:  I don’t think Rachel’s parents are on the spectrum, I think there are problems, I think we learn patterns, and I think we sometimes parent based upon how we were raised.  No doubt in my mind teenagers can also manipulate.  Clearly everyone has a hand in this situation.  There is a learning curve to overcome in terms of education as it pertains to abuse.  Sometimes abuse is unintentional in that one may not even be aware of how their actions may be interpreted and/or experienced as abusive.  Ultimately I hope that justice prevails.  By justice I mean that the truth comes out whatever that may be, even if the truth is discovered to be that the Cannings are model parents and Rachel is a spoiled brat…but like others have shared and I agree…the truth is somewhere in the middle.


Adult Children Of Psychopaths, Narcissists and Sociopaths- Living In A World Of Secrecy

Narcissistic Father :  Narcissistic parents often damage their children. For example, they may disregard boundaries, manipulate their children by withholding affection (until they perform), and neglect to meet their children’s needs because their needs come first. Because image is so important to narcissists, they may demand perfection from their children. The child of a narcissist father can, in turn, feel a pressure ramp up their talents, looks, smarts or charisma. It can cost them if they fulfill their Dad’s wishes – and it can cost them if they fail. No winning here.

Eating Disorders and Child Abuse 

Narcissistic Parent

Teach Through Love

Is Education a Human Right or a Privilege for the Wealthy



UPDATE:  Rachel Canning’s Lawyer:  Why She Sued Her Parents [Opinion]

Final Note 3/24/14:  The aforementioned article “Is Rachel Canning a Victim of Abuse?” was written in the midst of media frenzy and it was the opinion of the author that perhaps other elements were at play.  Rachel Canning has returned home and the Cannings have requested they be allowed their privacy and time to heal.  It is the author’s hope that the family is able to resolve their differences.  Whether or not abuse has taken place is anyone’s guess, even the media have admitted it is a case of “He Said/She Said.”  With that in mind, perhaps this event served as the catalyst for change, and it is with hope and prayer the Cannings are able to find competent, compassionate and knowledgeable sources of help along their journey as they travel the path ahead in search of peace and family unity.

26 Responses to “Is Rachel Canning a Victim of Abuse? [Opinion]”

  1. Nancy March 14, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

    If you were to examine behavior in the court room, it is more reasonable to say that it is Rachel that seems to be narcissistic not her parents. She shows very little emotion, her parents are in tears. The anger and rage can and does come from this diagnoses. If you have these tendencies to the point of a disorder, borderline personality disorder for one….. You do not emotionally mature beyond childhood, and are so ego-centric that you view parent’s establishment of rules as something against you. There is also not much evidence to connect this disorder with abuse, but much evidence that people who suffer from it claim abuse from almost everyone. When they want something and you don’t give it, it is because you don’t care of love them. If you try and set consequences for poor grades then you are putting them down as idiots. They do not connect their own behavior with any life consequences, and everyone is supposed to serve their needs….classic signs, actually.

    I do not know the facts of this case, and can’t say for sure, but she DOES NOT act as if she has been abused, but acts more along the lines of a mental health disorder, if not just going through a rough patch. Going as far as to claim that a kiss on the cheek or arm over the shoulder is sexually abusive…… It can be, but to me it seems like she is reaching for straws and throwing what she can out there. If truly abused, and to the degree you are claiming, she would have much more to go on….. It isn’t unreasonable for parents to take a trip when you are almost 18, and put you in charge of your siblings, and then get mad at you when they receive a phone call from you about misbehavior.

    I’m sorry, I just do not see her list of “abuse” as abusive. In her message to her mother she makes mention of her mother thinking she had been throwing up, then speaks to her in disgusting terms. Seems like her parents were trying to hold her accountable for her bulimia, not that they were calling her fat….

    Can’t say for sure, but the picture of her in court does not back her story, her parents reactions; however, does back theirs…..

    I’m not a psychologist, but have had several psych classes in college…..but again, with all the “he said” “she said”… one can know for sure.

    • bettylaluna March 16, 2014 at 5:43 am #

      Thank you for weighing in Nancy…I agree there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer here, my hope is that with the recent reconciliation the family is able to heal and put this behind them. I don’t in my heart believe that any of them are afflicted. I believe there is dysfunction and everyone on this planet has narcissistic traits – some more than others. I am in my mid forties. I observe that parents today in many cases are trying to make up for those childhood slights which they carry in their hearts, and by default sometimes indulge a bit too much and sometimes when you pull the plug you end up with a backlash. A natural response I suppose if you were never given limits; however on the flip side, Rachel did have a job and maintained her grades, which to their credit is evidence of their having certain expectations I presume, as the apple rarely falls far from the tree. This is not a black or white situation I realize that which is why I asked a question in an attempt to present a ‘possible’ alternative scenario – because I truly can see both sides of this coin. I don’t think Rachel is spoiled. I think the issue with the boyfriend was probably where the communication glitch was amplified. While 18 is legally an adult, in today’s society it’s very hard for most to just up and make a life for oneself, the cost of living is astronomical for someone with just a H.S. education and not many prospects for a decent living wage even if they just raised it. Nonetheless, her claims were worthy of scrutiny, and all to often victims are re-victimized. There is no profile of a victim, and many abusers escape the radar. There are even those with the best intentions who abuse and don’t even realize that what they are doing constitutes abuse. Society has a very cookie cutter impression of what abuse is, and that is why there are many victims who can say – the abuser never laid a hand on me but my mind was torn to shreds. Passive aggression, intermittent reinforcement, gas lighting…to name just a few tactics leave no evidence. I am not suggesting this is what her parents were engaged in. Invalidation is another tactic and most of us without realizing it are guilty…Platitudes – totally useless but very invalidating. I simply wanted to present another side with this article, not necessarily accuse her parents. Given the amount of discussion on this thread I am very pleased with the participation from those who think it’s a far out suggestion and from those who think it’s a possibility. The fact that dialogue has taken place is where I feel I’ve met the objective of this piece and so I thank you so very much for participating and offering your opinion. Wishing you all the best!

      • czbz March 16, 2014 at 4:51 pm #

        I’ve enjoyed the differences of opinion expressed on your blog! You wanted to “present another side with this article” and you’ve done that well! Far too many children are disbelieved when accusing parents of abuse, although I’m beginning to think the “Tide Has Turned-eth”. People are more educated about abuse than they were when families started speaking up in the 1980’s! This could be a history lesson for a blog one day, haha…since some of us have been around longer than we care to admit.

        I appreciate your desire to shake things up and get people thinking beyond the Media Hostility and “polarization” which is kinda what our news stories do today. They don’t report the news. They present a “stance”. Any young woman who has been raised in wealthier circumstances than most, will be a prime target for mockery and “self-righteousness”. I think that’s why it was irksome when the family she stayed with pursued litigation. Surely adults could have found alternatives that would have been less harmful to Rachel and her family. I don’t know how Rachel will ever live this down and my big opinion is that the attorney should be forced to wear a “S-N” on his forehead: Short-sighted and Narcissistic.

        If Rachel’s demands/allegations had come to light in a more prosperous time, how might people have reacted? At this point, college is a pipe-dream for a lot of young people; teens are forced to earn paychecks in order for their families to survive; adults are moving in with parents because they’ve lost their homes. It’s not the right time to engage in litigation for a weekly allowance exceeding some families entire budget!! I recognized my own feelings of anger towards Rachel for demanding a lifestyle WAY too many Americans will never achieve—even working two and three jobs in order to buy macaroni and shoes. Surely Mr. Attorney was smart enough to realize the “economic climate” would result in people turning a cold shoulder towards any teenager making demands for private high school, college and a ridiculous living allowance!

        All of these dynamics “silence” Rachel—which is what you were trying to correct when writing her story. I very much appreciate your willingness to offer an alternative view AND host this discussion!

      • bettylaluna March 17, 2014 at 12:58 am #

        CZBZ, Thank you so very much for that. I am especially flattered coming from you. You raise many legitimate points and I wholeheartedly agree with everything you’ve said. I’d like to take this opportunity to also share your blog with others. You have such a flair with writing and you have done justice to the NPD arena – so if anyone is interested, I recommend you visit CZBZ’s blog. She speaks truth and provides a balance and an approach that I believe most will find not only informative and validating but comforting…

  2. E March 11, 2014 at 9:31 pm #

    I quit high school my senior year and left home. I just couldn’t take the emotional abuse from my father anymore and having to be responsible for the emotional needs of both my parents (alcoholism and mental illness issues). When I left, my father told me he’d pay for all my college if I stayed in the house. He told me I’d never make it on my own, I’d never be able to support myself, that I’d just have to go “home” anyway. He carried on a strong mental war on me, attempted to sabotage me, while my mother understood my need to go and was even supportive (though sad). I was (am still?) also the family scapegoat.

    Run, Rachel, run. Run fast, run far.

    • bettylaluna March 12, 2014 at 3:14 am #


      Very sorry to hear you had such an experience; however I am glad that you gained the clarity to understand what was needed to save your own sanity and well being. I wish you all the best. Thank you for weighing in and having the courage to share.

  3. Ashley March 11, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

    All I have to say is that II worked a part time job since I was 14 to pay for the things I wanted and guess what? I am also paying for every single penny of my college education and I have loving and supportive parents. last time I checked college is a privelege not a right and parents are not required to pay for any of it. As far as I am concerned parents should not be required to financially care for their children once they are done high school, obviously some choose to. That would be cripalling the parents for life as well as not teaching your child any life lessons and I can tell you right now it does not cost me $2600/month to live on my own as she is trying to get, she is so far out of line here. Even if she was abused, which I highly doubt is as sever as she says it is because of how smug she was in court and like someone said abused children do not act this aggressive they are timid and quiet. For all I know she could be telling the truth but if she is why do her siblings not have any complaints? and why is it just now at 18 when she has a problem? And as for her therapist standing up for her, well the therapist hears what she tells her not what actually happens and I know a lot of mentally messed up people who make up some very alloborate stories so I don’t think we should just assume her story is true, nor should we just assume it is not but either way I am not sure the parents should be forced to pay for her. I do agree that is she is actually just a spoiled brat then the parents are partially to blame for that but as far as I am concerned a child should not be able to refuse to listen to their parents, go out on their own and then expect their parents to continue paying for them. that is literally the worst life lesson you could ever teach your child and like the judge said this case could probably set a very dangerous precedent of kids suing their parents over not wanting to follow rules or wanting an XBox that their parents won’t let them have. I also believe that the biggest problem in this whole situation is her friends father for encouraging this and probably suggesting it in the first place, shame on him! And btw my dad also tries to hug me a lot in public and put his arm around me and similar things and yes I acted like most teenagers where I squirm away because its slightly embarrassing but I would in no way call that inappropriate and if those allegations are untrue that is a disgusting thing to claim about her own father.

    • bettylaluna March 11, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

      Thank you for weighing in Ashley, your contribution is appreciated. Wishing you the best in your continued endeavors.

  4. AT March 10, 2014 at 7:56 pm #

    Thank you so much. You just summed up everything that I’ve been thinking but aren’t articulate enough to get into words. It’s shocking to me that more people haven’t questioned the situation and just gone with the “spoiled brat” scenario.

  5. Annie Chace March 9, 2014 at 9:34 pm #

    Something to think about that i really hadn’t, so thank you.

    • bettylaluna March 9, 2014 at 11:05 pm #

      Thank you for considering a not so popular point of view…and re-posting. Change starts with a seed and so I am extremely appreciative for the share…all the best to you Annie, I look forward to reading more of your blog!

  6. StrongerSoulSurvivor March 9, 2014 at 8:27 pm #

    Being British, I know little about this case. However, reading your illuminating analysis I’d just echo your point: WHERE is the anger coming from? Few people would take such an action against their parents without legitimate motivation. You can’t prosecute or sue a parent for emotional abuse (unfortunately).

    • bettylaluna March 9, 2014 at 8:43 pm #

      Apparently technically you CAN sue your parents for Emotional Distress…whether the court would side with your or not, whether society could possibly get past the cognitive dissonance is yet still another story; however, what about the damage victims of child abuse endure?…Should they not be compensated for lifelong damages (in the event that the abuse was SO bad that there is PTSD amongst other issues?) I see very clearly HOW even entertaining the thought would set a GOD AWFUL precedent, and tie every parent’s hands behind their backs because we all know that children have this uncanny ability to manipulate in order to get their needs met…(lil narcs – hehe) BUT simply from a ‘philosophical’ angle…why shouldn’t children be able to sue their parents if they’ve caused irrepable harm and damage? On the flip side, maybe opening the doors to that kind of possibility might get people who are UNfit to parent to think long and hard about bringing a life into the world…maybe…I understand in the real world how and why this would be an insane and ill advised move on the legal system’s part…BUT strictly speaking from an analytical point of view…what is the difference between psychological damage at the hands of say a corporation vs. your own family?…FYI…it’s been tried before… BUT I do find it interesting that FRANCE does have DV laws that do provide for lawsuits for emotional harm…Very old blog post I wrote on the topic…”According to the above referenced article, “Politicians in France from the left and right supported the passing of a law which singles out “repeated” verbal actions intended to hurt the victim’s rights and dignity or their physical or mental health. As well as a jail sentence, offenders could be ordered to pay a fine of up to €75,000 (£66,600).” – Thanks for stopping by Stronger Soul Survivor…I think this is going to turn into a pretty interesting discussion in general…Hugs to you!

  7. vetteljus March 9, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

    The laws here are clear, the parents are legaly bound to support her, while she still studies, up until she’s 20 (I Think it’s 20, but I’m nor sure). That even if the education here is free, they are bound to support her with a shelter and food, cloths and other items she needs. If a Child stop their education the parents still are bound to provide shelter until 20, while social wellfare might help out with the rest, till the adult Child can support themselves through a job. Very clear cut and no escape by pretending the fairy godmother dumped the Child on you one morning, buhu, no guilt of your own. We make a descision having a Child, and raising them to adulthood, setting them free to fly on their own wings. It’s not the Childs fault we got pregnant, and they are not a “burden” we have no take in. If we raise childen as brats, it’s our own fault, but I don’t feel she is a brat, just hurt by abusive parents. She has a witness who testified about the parents poor behaviour towards her. And the judge seems to Think a Child should behave any different, when upset, then what she’s been raised with? Common, they do as we do, not as we tell them. Of course she’ll use the same language, and just cause she still has some “fight” left in her to tell her mother off, does not mean all she’s said must be untrue. People thinking those who stand up for themselves are the abusers, and adding pain upon pain. Survivors must be able to speach without hearing “if you were a true ‘victim’ you’d be quite”. Would you be? Who says? It’s time to realize lots of people don’t want to be victims, and they wont shut up. Enough is enough, the abusers been running around doing crazy things long enough, the line in the sand is drawn. It must stop now. That is what I see in this case and her friends family has taken her in to help her. I admire that in people, when they help others Children, whom they have no reason to help, other then that it’s human and it’s loving to help all Children in need. And they are painted as “bad”, the tales by her parents they are letting the teens drink, while their own daughter tells that it’s her own father who did that. I Think her parents are overexaggerating and shifting their blame onto her “helpers”. Thanks for sharing and I loved the way you could see through the media hype! Vetteljus.

    • bettylaluna March 9, 2014 at 8:25 pm #

      Welcome and thank you for your comment!

  8. vwoopvwoop March 9, 2014 at 7:57 am #

    thank you for writing this. it has given me a lot to think about, and brought up a lot of feelings about my own NPD parent(s). you ask the right questions and i’m glad to be hearing about this story first from you rather than seeing it on the news which is clearly painting rachel as a brat (and would surely have brought up a lot of subconscious feelings of gaslighting). i’m not sure what i believe because none of us know what went on but i certainly think there is a lot of evidence to suggest these parents were abusive. i’m interested that she has chosen to go to court to be compensated, and a part of me (the very loyal, abused part) thinks that is out of line and she shouldn’t bring this shame on her parents so publiclly because that is the ultimate disrespect. i also recognize that is dysfunctional thinking/feeling on my part. i am so upset for her too, getting such a bad rap in the press, it’s like my worst nightmare, speaking up and having the world call me a liar and a spoiled brat and entirely misrepresent my story and believe my parents. augh i can’t even imagine how awful that would be. :(

    • bettylaluna March 9, 2014 at 8:28 pm #

      Welcome and thank you for having the courage to share not only your opinion but how on some level Rachel’s story resonates with some of your own personal experiences. I am sorry to learn you struggled in childhood with NPD parents. I send vibes of serenity, clarity, peace and love as you continue along the path…

  9. theabilitytolove March 9, 2014 at 5:56 am #

    Reblogged this on The Ability To Love- Recovery From Psychopathic Abuse and commented:
    What do you think?

    Written my my friend Betty LaLuna…writer extraordinaire!

    Enjoy and please visit the Narc Raider’s blog for further mind blowing info about narcs!

    • bettylaluna March 9, 2014 at 8:29 pm #

      Thanks for the re-blog!…I too so appreciate your work!

  10. czbz March 9, 2014 at 4:02 am #

    Very interesting story! I didn’t know about this case and it’s fascinating for people who study narcissistic families. I wonder how viewers will choose ‘sides’ because we obviously can’t know what it was like in the Canning home, especially after Rachel had people coming to her defense. That includes her therapist.

    What I can say as a mother is that abused teenagers usually don’t talk to their parents like that. Real abuse victims defend their mothers (most of the time), reluctant to accuse their family of being abusive. I can’t imagine a teen saying such things about her parents and then believing herself entitled to financial support. Entitlement, much?

    She may be a psychologically troubled young woman and while her parents may not have been able to cope with her “psychological issues”, they may not be the SOURCE of those issues. It’s just too easy to blame parents for the mess our society has created.

    I’ll spend a little more time reading about this story but wanted to thank you for the links before I forgot. ha!


    • bettylaluna March 9, 2014 at 5:43 am #

      I don’t see a difference between a victim of NPD abuse in a love relationship vs.a parental one. When you wake up out of the fog and realize you’ve been fucked with in a real bad way…manipulated, used, scapegoated, smeared and all you did was jump through hoops, which I might add, her basketball team participation may have been the key to daddy’s heart, until upon information and belief according to Rachel’s statements mommie called her porky enough times she started binging and purging…oh hell yea I could buy the hate, and I’m not selling mom is a victim either…sometimes teams play in twos…like you said none of us know the facts; however, I’m disturbed by the details she shared, and even ‘creative’ writing is inspired by something…thanks for your response. I realize my view is not popular…but abuse doesn’t discriminate and we know rule number one with these types is image…of course Rachel looks like the bad guy…it’s a very easy sell…I’d like to add CZ, I have read your blog, and I admire your work. If I sound passionate it’s not towards you but rather this situation is unsettling because it’s like watching the beginning of the script so to speak. Even if we say Rachel was overindulged, and everything is a complete fabrication…spoiling is also a form of abuse especially when one decides the jig is up. It sets a child up for failure and it is cruel. If I saw some hint of accountability on the parents part I might take a different tone, but all I saw were two parents who did a great job at pointing fingers as if Rachel fell from the sky and who they are looking at today they had no hand in. That to me is the worst kind of parent. Most days when I look in the mirror I find at least ONE thing I did that was a screw up…and I try to make amends. Only God knows the ones I’ve missed or failed to see…but I see none of that in their presentation. That is a red flag to me…

      • czbz March 9, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

        A couple hours on the web reading articles and comments is almost traumatic, the animosity towards Rachel is shocking! People love taking potshots at young women. I daresay there’s a streak of misogyny in many of the comment streams when Rachel is subjected to a variety of “sexual” insults. But, that is how it is with ‘free speech’ media today—lots of sadistic people hiding behind anonymity. Which is why reading your comment last night struck me so powerfully (enough to post a comment!). A case like Rachel’s was doomed for the tabloids–a true media frenzy and whether she was aware of what might happen if she pursued legal action or not, her attorneys surely did.

        I cannot possibly know if Rachel has a psychological disorder/illness or if her parents were abusive. What I do think today is that Rachel Canning’s story is a failure of our system. That means the psychologist failed to help Rachel and her parents through counseling such as a “Family Connection programs”. A failure of our legal system that polarizes people and focuses on proving the other side is reprehensible. And I’m not too keen on the family Rachel moved in with because if their intentions were pure and healthy (maybe they have a stake in the game, proving they’re better parents than the Cannings!!), they’d have looked for ways to assist Rachel’s reconciliation…not the humiliation that’s been inflicted on a family in trouble. But, that is how the American legal system works and it’s how the American imagination functions, too—a polarized position of right OR wrong; good OR evil; bad parents OR saints.

        However, it also seems to me that another issue being captured in this story is the changing roles of parenting. Boomers were raised with paddles and whipping sticks (authoritarianism) which we’ve hopefully learned is abusive. We’ve tried to correct traditional parenting styles and sometimes go the opposite direction towards permissive parenting. Then when our children have problems, the advice parents are given by “experts” is Tough Love. That means locking the kid out of the house if they won’t conform. Cutting off the kid’s money if they won’t obey. Parents today need better support and advice today than the “old school wisdom” that simply won’t work for children who weren’t beaten into subservience the way many of us were. We’ve raised our children to respect themselves, to know it’s not okay when parents abuse them—that is healthy narcissism. But how do we deal with troubled teenagers when their “unhealthy narcissism” is fed by outside influences towards a entitlement and blame–not self-responsibility?

        Teenagers cannot possibly sort through a situation as complicated as Rachel’s because they do not have the psychological development to do that. Other people with vested interests (or maybe issues of their own) should be focused on keeping the family together, not making a media circus of a family’s pain.

        That’s a long comment but this topic is complex and my prior comment might lead people to believe I think Rachel is lying. Well, I don’t know if she’s lying or not. She might not even know the answer to that until she’s older. I know how easy it is for teens to be influenced by outsiders and so I empathize with Rachel’s situation. I think she’s been given some lousy advice—even IF her parents are total jerks and she prefers living on her own.

      • bettylaluna March 9, 2014 at 7:46 pm #

        Thank you so much for your contribution CZ…no comment is ever too long and I appreciate your commenting. You eloquently summed up all of the angles much more concisely then I was able to. I agree, it’s very difficult to get to the ‘truth’ in a situation like this as we are limited by what we read or hear in the media, nonetheless it is my feeling that media has acted irresponsibly. In the old days when we studied journalism, there were a set of ethics attached and they mandated that not only do we tell the story, but we search for truth as best we can. The manner in which this story has been reported it is sensationalism rather than serving a societal purpose which is to give rise to thought and awareness as well as allow the masses to weigh the facts as best as can be gathered and arrive at individual conclusions. When I witness Nancy Grace open with the words “BRAT” I cringe, she of all people ought to understand the damming position she contributes to by jumping on the msygony bandwagon. Media in general makes hard earned degrees in the field a farce. It’s a sad state of affairs. Thankfully the internet provides a platform for more in-depth exploration of issues – now if only more would understand this and help get the word out, perhaps we’d see more changes in conditions that are in dire need of improvement…this is especially important in the Domestic Violence arena…

  11. JJ March 9, 2014 at 2:20 am #

    All of what you say may be true – and good for her for getting away from the abuse if so. I think the problem is with the entitlement she feels to have her college education paid for and living expenses. From what I’ve seen this family who she is staying with is now influencing her greatly. If she wants to go be an adult then go, but the circus of suing for the college funding etc. is what really puts her in a bad light. IMHO

    • bettylaluna March 9, 2014 at 2:49 am #

      It’s not entitlement if you were molded and promised something, expected to do something and because you take a stand against abuse, the carpet is pulled from underneath you. That in itself is part of the abuse. It’s a tool being used. The dangling carrot. They call it rules and discipline but her allegations are chilling. Are some stories worse than others? Sure…I’ve heard horrible stories. Nonetheless, this is a young lady that was in a sense molded to achieve something, this is not a family who is financially struggling, I doubt highly this dream is all Rachel’s. Parents often plant the college seed in their children’s minds. This borders cruel and unusual punishment to build someone up (enable?) then rip the carpet from underneath them. If she’s been abused, they definitely owe her something. Can they see their actions if what she alleges is true are abusive? That remains to be seen. I have seen ZERO accountability in her parent’s testimony as per media reports and court documents and let’s face it, no parent is perfect. To the contrary, I have noted in the same sources Rachel did reach out and admit she needs to change, wants to continue therapy and that change takes time but she’s working on it. She is admitting her part and being accountable. Spoiled brats can’t see any part they play in familial breakdowns. Victims are often cast as liars and abusers when in fact the covert abusers are the ones who know exactly how to pull their campaigns off and appear to be the victims. It’s a classic skill for most narcissists although I cannot say with certainty one or both parents are afflicted, I am not a mental health professional. On the flip side, if at minimal we agree that Rachel is the end result of over indulgence at the hands of her parents, that too is a form of abuse – so either way the parents ought to be held accountable for their actions and mandated to counseling and parenting classes if even for the sake of the other two children. No one is perfect, we all make mistakes, but I can’t find myself slamming Rachel for taking a stand.

      • JJ March 9, 2014 at 12:07 pm #

        We will have to agree to disagree on Rachel’s’ part – I still say just walk away and be glad you’re gone. I don’t have any kids so of course I know how to raise them perfectly LOL. I am reading more about the father in the family she’s staying with now, an attorney, who may be exerting even more bad influence over her. Not a good situation anyway you look at it. And not good for Rachel, certainly, as the publicity from this will haunt her in all her future endeavors.

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