SUSAN ALLEN IS STILL ANGRY. VERY angry.
Allen, the Fairfax homemaker and child-care provider who kept Richard Berendzen talking long enough during a series of telephone calls for the police to catch him, believes that Berendzen got off easy. So she has slapped him -- and AU -- with a $15 million lawsuit.
The suit charges that Berendzen's "intentional infliction of emotional distress" caused Allen to suffer "severe and permanent psychological injuries." It also alleges that American University knowingly acted to "facilitate the causing of emotional distress" by informing Berendzen that Allen had reported him to the police. That information, she claims, led to Berendzen's making a "final, menacing call" to her.
Both Berendzen and AU decline comment on the suit.
"I decided to file the suit," she says, "because great damages were done that are pretty irreparable -- emotional damages, financial damages -- to both me and my family." Obscene phone calls are not a joke or a nuisance, she says: "It's not a lot different than being raped."
Why, then, didn't she just hang up? "If everybody keeps hanging up on these people," she says, "nobody's ever gonna catch them and they'll keep on victimizing other people."
The episode has left Allen in therapy and unable to work, she says. She and her husband and three children have moved because she fears that Berendzen will seek revenge on her, she says, and she cut her hair and changed her appearance so that he won't recognize her.
"When I wake up, the first person I think about is Richard Berendzen," Allen says. ". . . I think about it probably 20 times a day."
Allen believes Berendzen was actually involved in the perverse and violent sexual activities he discussed in the calls. "The police think it was a fantasy," she says. "I don't." She expresses contempt for the Johns Hopkins psychiatric report on Berendzen. "It gave him a good excuse for doing a horrible, horrible thing. That's all it was."
In the first few weeks after Berendzen was caught, Allen appeared on several television and radio interview shows, sometimes disguised and using a pseudonym, sometimes undisguised and using her own name. At that time, she announced that she was forming an organization she called GETCHA -- Group Engaged to Terminate Caller Harassment and Abuse -- to crusade against obscene phone calls. She even set up an 800 telephone line and encouraged people to call her to talk about their problems with obscene callers. About 500 people took her up on the offer, Allen says.
Lately, however, she has put
GETCHA on hold. "I'm just trying to keep myself on an even keel right now," she says.