Two-Year Toilet Update

There are new details in the story Petulant mentioned this morning, and about which I wrote earlier this afternoon, of a woman spent two years sitting on her boyfriend's toilet until she became literally attached to the seat.

The woman, 35-year-old Pam Babcock, had become phobic, according to her boyfriend, 36-year-old Kory McFarren, largely as a result of a physically and emotionally abusive childhood during which she was kept inside the house after her mother died.

"It just kind of happened one day; she went in and had been in there a little while, the next time it was a little longer. Then she got it in her head she was going to stay -- like it was a safe place for her," McFarren said.

But McFarren said she moved around in the bathroom during that time, bathed and changed into the clothes he brought her. He brought food and water to her. They had conversations and had an otherwise normal relationship -- except it all happened in the bathroom.

…McFarren, who works at an antique store, said he has been taking care of Babcock for the 16 years they have lived together. He insisted that he tried to coax her out of the bathroom every day.

"And her reply would be, 'Maybe tomorrow,"' [Ness County Sheriff Bryan Whipple] said. "According to him, she did not want to leave the bathroom."

…"She is an adult; she made her own decision," said her boyfriend, Kory McFarren. "I should have gotten help for her sooner; I admit that. But after a while, you kind of get used to it."
Provided McFarren is telling the truth, or something very close to it, it's possible that he thought he was doing the right thing for her. It can be difficult for the partners of traumatized people, for whom trauma has left them feeling unsafe, to know the right thing to do; often, indulging whatever routines they develop as coping mechanisms seems loving—and what starts out a minor indulgence of a fairly harmless idiosyncrasy can, slowly and incrementally, turn into a crippling enablement. What once looked like support twists into a fun-house mirror version, resembling nothing so much as abuse. After awhile, you kind of get used to it.

Possibly the boyfriend was abusive, but I'm willing to bet he was inured by small degrees to how bizarre and unhealthy the situation had become, which was once not so.

If that's the case, the worst thing that either he or Babcock ever did was have the terrible foresight of being born into a country where mental illness and trauma are more likely to be the butt of a joke than a topic someone knows, or cares, anything about.

UPDATE: Sheriff Whipple has recommended that McFarren be charged for mistreatment of a dependent adult.
The sheriff said that judging by the woman's condition - she had open sores on which the toilet seat would stick - it appeared she likely sat on the toilet continually for at least a month.

"She would have to be sleeping on the toilet," the sheriff said.

..."The unfortunate thing is this truly is a case of two people, in my opinion, with diminished mental capacity," Whipple said.
It looks like the sheriff is trying to find some middle ground between throwing the book at the guy, who doesn't sound like he was capable of making the best decisions, and doing nothing, which risks communicating that it wasn't necessary to seek help on Babcock's behalf. I'd be grateful if any of our Shakers with legal backgrounds could provide some thoughts on how serious a charge "mistreatment of a dependent adult" might be. [H/T for update to Shaker Not A Morning Person, in comments.]

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