Rachel Canning says she moved out of her parents' home Oct. 29 after she turned 18, and went to live with her friend; the friend's father, former Morris County Freeholder John Inglesino, is funding the lawsuit.
A cheerleader and lacrosse player who hopes to become a biomedical engineer, Canning had sought immediate financial support and wants to force her parents to pay for her college education. She also wants a judge to declare she's non-emancipated and dependent as a student on her parents for support, and to order them to pay her therapy bills and child support to the family she's been living with.
Canning outlines a litany of alleged abuse that involved demeaning comments about her weight, as well as inappropriate encounters with her father. She says her mother called her "fat" and "porky" as she was growing up, and she developed an eating disorder her sophomore year of high school. By her junior year, she says she weighed 92 pounds and was no longer healthy enough to play basketball, which she says angered her father.
Canning alleges her father was "inappropriately affectionate" toward her for much of her life, and claims he fed her so much alcohol that she blacked out on occasion. Once, she alleges, he woke her up in the middle of the night to drink and play beer pong. Frequently, she says, he told her that he didn't view her as a daughter, but as "more than that."
Shortly before she moved out of her parents' house, Canning says she was wrongly accused of being drunk at a homecoming dance and had to call her parents. She says her mother and father, who were in Las Vegas at the time, "began screaming obscenities" and the teacher in the room with her heard the curses. When Canning complained to the school about the alleged longtime abuse she had endured, the school called child services and her parents, in retaliation, then cut her off and directed her college funds elsewhere.
Rachel Canning says she doesn't think returning home is a viable option, nor does her therapist.
"I am not willingly and voluntarily leaving a reasonable situation at home to make my own decisions," Canning wrote in a statement to the court. "I had to leave to end the abuse. My parents simply will not help me any longer. They want nothing to do with me and refuse to even help me financially outside the home although they certainly have the ability to do so."
The court brief filed by attorney Lauris Rush-Masuret on behalf of Canning's parents says she should move back home if she believes herself "non-emancipated," but her behavior -- cutting school, drinking under age, ignoring curfew -- makes that challenging.
The brief also claims Canning has no contact with her parents, nor does she consult with them about the college applications she's submitted, her academic progress or her athletics. It says her parents provided a "stable, loving and nurturing environment" and that she wasn't deprived of anything.
It outright dismisses allegations of inappropriate sexual interactions between her and her father, and says that while their daughter's eating disorders were extremely difficult and sad to cope with, both parents tried to help her as best they could -- through therapy, medical treatment and emotional support.
To force them to financially support her would not only be unfair, it would set poor precedent, according to Rush-Masuret.
According to court documents filed by the defense, children's services authorities investigated Rachel Canning's claims of abuse after she complained to her high school and found no evidence of abuse.