Help! I’m a 23-Year-Old Camp Counselor with a 14-Year-Old Problem

I am 23-year-old, male summer camp counselor. I don't want to say where or for what, but here is my situation: A 14-year-old girl at one of the camps I helped run took an unhealthy (in my opinion) liking to me. At camp we got along well and I knew she respected me and liked me as a person, but toward the end of camp it became apparent that her attachment to me was beyond what any ethical camp counselor would be comfortable with. I told her I was flattered by her interest but that I wasn't interested in her in that way, that it was inappropriate for her to persist, and that the best thing was for us not to interact (inasmuch it was possible) the rest of camp. She continued to come by, and I let the other staff know that it was an issue, and they tried to play it off as a young girl with a crush. Whatever it is, it made me uncomfortable, and I was quite concerned that she might say or do something to get me in trouble (tell lies, etc.). Since camp has ended, she has found me on Facebook and keeps asking why I won't respond to her. She's getting out of hand, and I think she may have mental health issues. I don't want my wife to get any wrong ideas, so I told her about the whole thing, and thankfully she has my back. How do I deal with this? I know the problem is hers, but it's kind of becoming mine. A little help? Thanks! —Not Interested
Dear Not Interested,

It sounds like this young girl might be stalking you. Follow your instincts here—as you say, this is a very difficult situation, and you were right to let your wife and the other camp counselors know about it. Staying away from this young lady, as you are doing, is the best course of action, but I would consider consulting an attorney as well, since the girl is a minor.

You think things are escalating and are worried about her mental health, and you would probably like to help her, just from a humanitarian standpoint. I don’t know the legalities in your state, but since you were her camp counselor, you may also be mandated to report her behavior and your fears about her mental health to her parents. I would check on this with my legal adviser and ask for any further advice, including about your Facebook account, which you might consider closing for a time. It is important not to contact her yourself, directly, as any contact may make things worse. If there is any communication at all between you, the young lady, and her parents, it should be mediated by an attorney.

Recently a memoir about a similar but much worse situation was published—Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked, by James Lasdun. It’s a scary book, and I would not take it to heart as applying to yourself, but you might profit from reading about Mr. Lasdun’s experiences. Stalkers have a love-hate relationship with their victims, whom they see as ideal partners, and who they often believe are in love with them, but there is no real relationship and they in fact torture themselves and their victims with their fantasies and inappropriate behaviors.

Some people hope that, with time, the situation will just fade away and the person doing the stalking will find some other interest, but a decline in interest is not something you can rely on. Better safe than sorry—again, see an attorney.

I have no desire to alarm you any more than you are already. I agree that this situation needs to be brought to a healthy conclusion as swiftly, compassionately, and mindfully as possible.

Thank you very much for writing to Dear for help. I wish for a speedy and positive end to this problem.

Best wishes,

Lynn Somerstein, PhD, NCPsyA, C-IAYT is a Manhattan-based, licensed psychotherapist with more than 30 years in private practice. She is also a yoga teacher and student of Ayuveda—the Indian science of wellness. Her main interest is in helping people find healthy ways of living, loving, and working in the particular combination that works best for them, connecting to their deepest energic source so their full range of abilities can be expressed. Lynn's specialty is understanding and alleviating anxiety and depression.
  • Leave a Comment
  • Josie

    October 17th, 2013 at 4:35 AM

    So what do you do in a situation like this? Go to the police? Go to the parents? I can see this cam counselor’s hesitation because you know that the first instinct is for her to make up some story that could blemish his name.

  • Sandree

    November 9th, 2013 at 1:37 PM

    This is a scary position for you to be in because it would be very easy for her to say that something happened even when it didn’t and anyone with halkf a brain is going to at least have to investigate. I think that I would take down my Facebook page so that it is hard for her to cyber stalk you, and I think that I would at least make the people in charge of the camp aware of the situation. Doesn’t sound like this girl needs to go back to that camp and maybe having the information dissiminated to the parents in this way would be much better than if it is coming from you.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    November 12th, 2013 at 6:23 PM

    Hi Josie and Sandree,
    It’s a tough spot to be in, as you say. and your advice, Sandree, is great.

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