Over the next three months Erin gradually confided her family troubles to Michael in frequent email exchanges and phone conversations. According to her she was two years younger than stated in her ad, only about to turn seventeen on March 31 of 1991. Erin also informed Michael that she had lived in the United States over five years, arriving from China with her mother in 1985 to join her father Min Zhu, then a graduate student at Stanford since 1983.
Erin further informed Michael that three years after her arrival in the United States, in July of 1988, her mother went back to China for eye treatment. According to Erin, while her mother was away, her father Min Zhu came to her bedroom and raped her. Erin added that at the time of her sexual assault by Min Zhu, her brother Lei Zhu, two years her senior, remained in his bedroom next door and heard her struggle and cry out, but did nothing. At the time of this sexual assault, Erin was fourteen years old.
Edvard Munch, Puberty, 1894-1895
Erin additionally informed Michael that owing to these outbreaks of violence, she had run away from her family home in December of 1989. At that time Erin made a police report complaining about sexual abuse and beatings by Min Zhu. Erin further informed Michael that the police placed her in a foster home in San Mateo for two weeks following her escape from home. According to Erin, her parents then persuaded her to drop her criminal charges against Min Zhu and come back home. As an incentive for her to comply with their request, they pledged to cease their old family ways. However, Min Zhu resumed physical and verbal abuse of his family members shortly thereafter.
Michael first met Erin in San Francisco in June of 1991. On the occasion of their meeting, Erin informed Michael that she reported her rape by Min Zhu to her school counselor in Los Altos in early 1991. Erin also informed Michael that owing to the increasingly intolerable nature of abuse visited upon them by Min Zhu, she was conspiring with her mother and her brother to kill Min Zhu and assert the battered family defense. In response, Michael counseled Erin against the use of violence, except in self-defense against clear and present danger. Michael further recommended that Erin leave her family residence as soon as possible for the sake of her safety, sanity, and survival.
In July of 1991, Erin moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts. Erin reported to Michael that she had been sexually assaulted by her brother Lei Zhu on a trip to San Diego a year earlier. Erin also supplied numerous details of her abuse and intimidation by Min Zhu. Michael advised Erin to limit communication with her family and to make a new life for herself on the East Coast. Michael pledged his personal and financial support to that end.
In the Fall of 1992, after visiting her parents in California, Erin complained to Michael about recurring outbreaks of violent abuse perpetrated against her by Min Zhu. In response, Michael once again advised Erin to curtail her relations with her parents. Erin thanked Michael for supporting her in standing up to her parents. Erin also informed Michael that Min Zhu hated him, blaming him for the alienation of her filial affection. Erin additionally informed Michael that her parents resented him as a consequence of their embarrassment by his detailed knowledge of Min Zhu’s rape of his daughter.