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Groping stepdad vs. little kid
February 11, 2011 11:14 AM   Subscribe

How do I resolve this awkward family situation involving a groping stepdad? More info after the break.

My stepdad has been with my mum for more than 10 years now. He is well liked in the family and usually everybody gets along just fine. There is one thing though, he likes being close to girls and young women (age 2 to 30) just a little bit too much, which has earned him some kind of reputation. He often provokes situations that make it easy for him to grope or otherwise apply a "bad touch" (usually in a joking manner). A few years ago this became too much for some family members and friends to bear and we raised the issue with my mum. She claimed not to see anything wrong and defended him. In any case, the groping has all but stopped since then.

My daughter is 18 months old now and it is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid situations of her being alone with him. There aren't many people who can babysit for us on a regular basis and my mum would love to do it, but I just can't bring myself to let them take care of my little girl if there is any chance of him being alone with her for even just a few minutes.

I'm usually very open and direct towards others and I don't have a problem talking about sensitive issues, but if I confront him directly, it basically means accusing him of child molestation, which is a little tough even for me. And what's more, it's not even going to change anything. Whatever his response is, the situation will stay the same. Of course I will still not be able to trust him with my kid.

I'm thinking about asking a family counselor for advice but I'm sure some of you have something to say as well. Throwaway email is totally.random.user at t3h gmails. Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (52 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Inappropriate touching of an eighteen month old? Excuse my infix, but unfuckingacceptable!

Please keep your child far away from this guy. Finding a neighborhood teen to babysit would be a better idea. Be frank with your mother about why, and be unapologetic. And if he ever touches your baby, don't be afraid to press charges. Groping a 2-year-old is child molestation.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:19 AM on February 11, 2011 [28 favorites]


Yeah, you just can't ever leave your kid without protection with this guy. Especially since your mom won't do a darned thing about it if anything is said.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:23 AM on February 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do you think that he's a child molester? That's a very serious charge, and if you have any evidence, probably a charge for the justice system to deal with.

If you think he's a potential child molester, you're still in deep water, and should almost certainly speak to your mother and family about it before things get bad.

If you think he's just kind of a creep, but not a threat to anyone, then all that matters is what you are or are not comfortable with, and at most I'd take him aside and talk to him about boundaries. If you do think it's just a boundary problem, you can make that abundantly clear to him when talking to him (or your mother, if he isn't changing on his own), but reinforce that it's still important to you.

I think that it's really important that you decide which of those three categories he falls into.

...I am not an expert in any pertinent field, but you're dealing with a very heavy accusation with very serious repercussions.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:24 AM on February 11, 2011


Wait, has he actually inappropriately touched children (even in a joking manner), or has he only done it with adults and you're afraid it'll extend to children as well?
posted by scarykarrey at 11:24 AM on February 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


Don't ever leave your child alone with this man, or anywhere that she might accidentally be alone with this man. Ask other family members who might occasionally child sit to give you their word that under no circumstances would they ever leave your child alone with your stepdad, and anyone who feels uncomfortable giving you such a promise, don't leave your daughter with them. Molestation can leave wounds that persist for years, even (especially?) in the very young.

My sister was molested in kindergarten and it is something that though she still doesn't remember the event clearly, has continued to impact her life decades later.

Your Mom doesn't need an excuse. If she asks why, explain clearly why she doesn't get to babysit.
posted by arnicae at 11:25 AM on February 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


It might have helped if you had been more descriptive than "bad touch", but my advice is that you don't allow any situation where he could be alone with your daughter. You say this will be difficult, but I don't see how difficulty has anything to do with it.
posted by neuron at 11:26 AM on February 11, 2011


I'm a criminal defense attorney, and I have defended people accused of sex offenses against minors. I am not giving legal advice, but practical advice: listen to your internal alarm. It will make childcare difficult. You will feel bad missing some activities. But you will not feel half as bad as you will if anything happens to your child. (Neither will your mum, but that's a different question.)

It might be impossible to convince your mum that stepdad has a problem, but I'm sure you can appreciate the psychological barriers to acceptance in the absence of proof. I'm not sure how you can deal with that, and to that end, you should consult an expert.

The Force is strong with PhoBWan: don't leave your daughter alone with this guy, ever.
posted by Hylas at 11:27 AM on February 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


He IS a child molester. Even if he thinks it's funny and harmless, it is not. I don't know what you should do with regard to the rest of your family but you cannot let your child alone with this man ever. If your mom can come to your house, alone, to sit then fine but you just cannot leave her in the same place as your stepdad. I feel that even if you have to sacrifice your relationship with your mother you must protect your daughter. I have a sympathies for pedophiles. They have been dealt a bad hand and I cannot imagine what it would be like, but they absolutely cannot be left to hurt children.
posted by d4nj450n at 11:27 AM on February 11, 2011


On preview: you don't need evidence or proof of any kind to not feel comfortable leaving your child with your stepdad. If you *do* have evidence or proof, you might think over whether you feel an obligation to report him to the authorities, but you don't need any proof to choose not to leave your child with an adult you feel uncomfortable about.

That is called being a good Mom/Dad, which is exactly what you're doing.
posted by arnicae at 11:28 AM on February 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


There aren't many people who can babysit for us on a regular basis

I notice you didn't say there's no one else who can babysit. In other words, you're saying there are some other people who can babysit on a regular basis? Sounds pretty good.

it's not even going to change anything. Whatever his response is, the situation will stay the same. Of course I will still not be able to trust him with my kid.

Then haven't you pretty much made your decision already?

Most child molestation is done not by strangers, but by family members. Leaving a child with a family member who's likely to do this, with no one else around but an acquiescent spouse, would be an effective way to maximize the chances of your child being molested, if that were your goal.

I don't see how this is even an issue.
posted by John Cohen at 11:29 AM on February 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


Of course I will still not be able to trust him with my kid.

Then you don't trust him with your kid, PERIOD. It doesn't matter what mom wants, she lives with someone of questionable behavior, so she doesn't get to babysit the kid, period, full stop, end of story. Everyone in the family should be plainly aware of this.

In any case, the groping has all but stopped since then.

It probably hasn't stopped, it's just lying dormant and wanting for a chance.

I'm usually very open and direct towards others and I don't have a problem talking about sensitive issues, but if I confront him directly, it basically means accusing him of child molestation, which is a little tough even for me

Your job, as a parent, is to keep your child from harm. There is a very obvious threat to your kid. Therefore, you don't your kid in that situation, ever. This includes allowing mom to come over by herself and watch the kid. More than likely, he'll find a way to show up anyway, if not now, then later when your daughter starts physically developing. And of course by that point, it'll be "harder" to say no, because hey, he's been stopping be for years and nothing has occurred, so what's there to worry about?

Please, do not be quiet about this, it's exactly what predators rely on. Call a family meeting, personally call everyone yourself, put it in a letter and email, whatever, but you should not be quiet about this and your wishes should be plainly and explicitly known to any and everyone in the family. I'm deadly serious about this, as the stepdad has show a history of being manipulative and testing boundaries (the joking manner) to see how much he get away with. This is not someone who should be allowed to be around a child, especially with someone who doesn't see his behavior as problem. This is a clear warning sign, please heed it.

You need to do this now, while she's young, so that you establish a pattern and boundaries with him and your daughter, ones the world knows about. Trying to do this later will be difficult, you need to be firm about ithis now.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:30 AM on February 11, 2011 [26 favorites]


Well, I have no patience with men who have boundary problems with women (no matter their age). I think you'd be worried the whole time if you left your daughter with this guy so why do it? It really doesn't matter why. Don't trade your daughter's well-being for easy babysitting. If you want your mom to watch her then you'll need to be up front about the rules and also have her only watch the kid in your house.

I get that this is tough but you've got to trust your gut. Work on finding some childcare options that don't involve your mom.
posted by amanda at 11:32 AM on February 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


a "bad touch" (usually in a joking manner)

These two things are contradictory. Bad touches are never funny, they are not a joke.
posted by jbickers at 11:36 AM on February 11, 2011 [22 favorites]


He often provokes situations that make it easy for him to grope or otherwise apply a "bad touch" (usually in a joking manner).

...it basically means accusing him of child molestation, which is a little tough even for me.


In the first quoted sentence, you have stated he molests people and/or children (you are a little unclear on the ages there). So it is not a little tough even for you. A "joking manner" doesn't make it not molestation. That's just his cover that lets him get away with it (in your family) and come across as not totally evil to some people (you mom, you).

Just because he is not kidnapping kids or doing extreme acts on them in the basement doesn't make him not a molester. You have described a molester, that is what you have. You know you can't leave your kid alone with him. Why? Because you know he is a molester, even if you don't want to confront him with it.

and it is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid situations of her being alone with him


No, it isn't. He hasn't gained any superpowers to separate you from your child. You just never, ever leave your child alone when he is around or there is a remote chance of him being around. If he goes to Japan for two weeks, ok maybe then you can drop off the kid at Mom's but I'd still be calling three times a day to make sure he is not coming back early.

You have no choice about this as it pertains to letting your kid be alone there. If you feel like confronting him maybe he'll get angry enough and leave your family, but that's a whole other question.

In any case, the groping has all but stopped since then

That you know of. Your family put him on notice. Maybe he is just going somewhere else to molest kids.
posted by mikepop at 11:37 AM on February 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think you know what to do, but want to gather some courage from us. So I'll add to the chorus: Your child's safety is not something you negotiate over, even if it is uncomfortable or inconvenient, and even if the guy is otherwise rather nice. Trust your gut feelings.
posted by Houstonian at 11:39 AM on February 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I will pile on to the obvious and say that you should not leave your child in this man's presence.

Maybe your mother would come babysit alone at your house for a few hours once in a while?
posted by AugustWest at 11:40 AM on February 11, 2011


There is one thing though, he likes being close to girls and young women (age 2 to 30) just a little bit too much, which has earned him some kind of reputation. He often provokes situations that make it easy for him to grope or otherwise apply a "bad touch" (usually in a joking manner).

There's no "joking" here, sorry. If an adult doesn't like it, they're free to respond how they want (whether they feel safe to do so is another story, apparently), but a child incapable of pushing back or anyone else with a problem defying that kind of authority figure--especially a 2 year-old? Not just no, but FUCK no. That's the kind of thing that gets reported up the chain if someone is witnessing it or telling it others. First the child's parents, then your mother, and failing that (as appears to be the case), the authorities. IANAL, but it's worth pointing out to your mother at this point that if it continues to happen and she doesn't step in, she can likely be found guilty of accessory.

In the meantime, keep the child away from your stepdad entirely. If your mother complains, don't make any excuses. State flat-out that she can make the choice to either be with her grandchild without your stepdad anywhere nearby, or not see her at all. If she chooses the latter, then perhaps no contact at all from the affected parties is best. And of course, if she chooses the former but breaks the agreement, pursue legal action.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:46 AM on February 11, 2011


Is the awkward situation that you don't know how to tell your mother she will not be allowed to babysit?

I feel a little confused by the wording of the question.

This guy has a rep with females from 2 years old to 30 years old. WOW. That's pretty bad.

Maybe you just tell your Mom, "That won't be possible." without elaborating until she stops asking to babysit?

And if she presses the issue, don't hesitate to talk openly about the uncomfortable truth regarding her husband. I'm not saying you should be mean if your Mom presses the issue, but don't be afraid to tell her that his past behavior makes it impossible for you to feel comfortable when he is around your daughter. Once your position is stated, you are no longer required to debate the issue with her or anyone. Really.
posted by jbenben at 11:46 AM on February 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, unfortunately, you don't "resolve" this dynamic. You trust your instinct and put your child's safety and well-being above family harmony. Your only choice is whether you're going to make a public declaration of it or not.
posted by KathrynT at 11:46 AM on February 11, 2011


BTW, considering her past actions, I wouldn't trust your mother to keep her word that your stepdad isn't around. Saying she couldn't do anything because of retribution or other power her husband has over her is one thing, but actively defending him by saying she doesn't see anything wrong is, to me, barely different than engaging in it herself.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:49 AM on February 11, 2011 [10 favorites]


There aren't many people who can babysit for us on a regular basis

There are an (effectively) infinite number of people you could have watch your child. You would have to pay them to do so, but there are more baby-sitters out there than you could ever possibly need. You just don't want to pay them, for the moment. That's a totally reasonable position, when you have free and safe child care options. You do not have a free and safe option available to you. But, if you reframe the problem from "I can't/won't spend $x an hour for child care" to "it is worth $x an hour to me to ensure that my daughter will never have to deal with traumatic abuse at the hands of a sexual predator," the cost of childcare will suddenly seem much more reasonable. Because that is what you are paying for: your daughter's happiness or misery for the rest of her life.

As an aside, the confrontation you need to have is not with your stepfather. You're right, it won't accomplish anything to tell him what he is to his face. The person you need to be confronting is your mother, and you need to use this chance to give her the choice between getting her husband to address his problem (or DTMFA), and her never seeing her grandchild. The gentle approach didn't work, and you are absolutely correct: you cannot risk your daughter being left alone with this man for even five minutes, which is a constraint you can't meet if you are taking her to your mother's house, even if you are there with her. I can't even begin to wrap my head around why this confrontation hasn't happened before, if you and other family members all feel the same way. I don't even have kids, and this raises my hackles to the point that I'm rehearsing the ultimatum I'd be delivering in your place.
posted by Mayor West at 11:50 AM on February 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


If your mother asks if she can babysit, you don't have to persuade her that you're right about her husband, you just have to assert that it's your right to decide what is best for your kid: "Mom, that won't work for me." If she asks why, you can state, "We disagree about Frank's behavior. I need to be on the same page with the person taking care of my kid when it comes to what is and isn't appropriate behavior."

For babysitters, you can ask friends for reliable references, you can look into some kind of nanny-share with another family, if you are anywhere near a university you can find students interested in nannying/babysitting jobs. There may also be stay-at-home moms in your neighborhood who babysit.
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:55 AM on February 11, 2011 [10 favorites]


Seconding that you should tell all of your child's caregivers and potential caregivers explicitly that while you're not accusing the stepfather of molestation, you have seen him touch young children in ways that make it intolerable for him to ever be alone with your child. Say this explicitly. Say the why explicitly, not just the what.

Because people are dense sometimes and feel like they are capable of judging whether or not another's concern is valid. Without the explicit information of what and why you fear, they might think your preference is just a quirk, or that you have a problem with his personality or whatever that's really no big deal as long as you don't find out about it. Fortunately, child molestation is serious enough that it should get through to everyone that it actually is an important rule to follow, not just appear to follow.

If it comes down to losing your job or letting your mom & stepfather take care of your kid while you're at work, lose the job. Expect that it is quite possible for your stepfather to, at some distant point years from now, actively work to manufacture a way to be alone with your child. Console yourself during any difficult times this causes with the knowledge that it really is worth it.
posted by jsturgill at 12:01 PM on February 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yeah, nthing everything here. Steal, beg, or borrow, charge it on the credit card, put up with infinite hassle - do whatever it takes to keep your kid away from this guy.

I feel like you're posting this, without a specific articulated question, because your Parent Alarm is going off and because of the various delicate interpersonal situations involved, you're seeking reassurance that it's okay to make things awkward in order to keep your daughter away from him based on a feeling. Let me put your mind at ease - it is always, always, always go okay to heed the Parent Alarm. The worst case scenario of keeping her out of your mom & stepdad's house is that you end up with some hurt feelings and bad blood where they're concerned. The worst case scenario of leaving her with them over your misgivings is far, far worse.

Good on you for looking out for your daughter. She's lucky to have you on her side.
posted by superfluousm at 12:04 PM on February 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


If you play this delicately and let your mom babysit without a direct confrontation, your stepdad will find a way to make sure he's around when she does babysit, and you won't be there.

You need to say something like, "Mom, I saw your husband touch a baby's crotch (or whatever he did to the 2-year old) and he is NOT ALLOWED to be in the room with my kid unless I am there. If you EVER go against my wishes on this, I will also have to keep YOU away from my kid, permanently. I mean this 100%. I love you very much but I do not trust your husband. We can keep this rule quiet, but you need to know that if you break it and EVER have him come by when you babysit and I'm not there, I will take my kid out of your life."

There was a male family friend who I was not allowed to ever be alone with as a kid for reasons that were never explained to me. When I was maybe 10, I was in another country when he was there, and he persistently tried to get me to go for drives with him. Another relative was in charge of me and she didn't know I had been warned never to be alone with him, so she said I had to go with him and she herself made other plans, so I couldn't say no. I was terrified. Thankfully, he didn't do anything at all- he was really nice and didn't even hug me. But I'm telling you this to warn you that if you do put a rule on your stepdad, make sure a few discreet other primary relatives know about it, and remind them occasionally, or your kid may still end up alone with stepdad.

I would really be inclined to trust your instincts on this guy, and shrug off any worries that you may be overreacting. It would only take a few minutes to potentially wreck your daughter's childhood.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:08 PM on February 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I need to be on the same page with the person taking care of my kid when it comes to what is and isn't appropriate behavior."

I'm not in the OP's shoes, but I think this is a great way to phrase this.

I had a high school friend whose stepdad was gropy and my friend ridiculed him openly and frequently about it, which I appreciated very much.

Were I in the OP's shoes, I'd announce it every time I saw it happening. "Frank's doing that disgusting groping thing again. Look, now he'll pretend it's a joke. I know! He ruins everything!" YMMV, but I really believe sunlight is the best disinfectant.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:10 PM on February 11, 2011 [15 favorites]


Seconding that you should tell all of your child's caregivers and potential caregivers explicitly that while you're not accusing the stepfather of molestation, you have seen him touch young children in ways that make it intolerable for him to ever be alone with your child. Say this explicitly. Say the why explicitly, not just the what.

I agree with this 100%. Regardless of what he's done, or how, or why, or whatever, if you feel it is inappropriate, it is inappropriate.

Though, calling someone a child molester is a very strong accusation, and should not be thrown around lightly.
posted by TheBones at 12:16 PM on February 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


it is always, always, always go okay to heed the Parent Alarm.

Ok, but if it goes off perpetually, please get it checked. We all know parents who don't let their kids go on school field trips to the museum because they watched Nancy Grace or had a bad dream.

This does not seem to be the case in this instance, though. I would keep my kid far away from the step dad AND the mom, and would be hard pressed not to slap the mom for being willfully obtuse about the damage this guy is causing.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:18 PM on February 11, 2011


nthing everybody above, plus consider: at your daughter's age, if something happens that upsets her, she may not be able to tell you about it... so you would always be wondering if any random negative behavior was caused by this... nightmares, aggression, crying, etc.

Also-- do not let him give her any gifts. It's a common tactic for these predators to gain the child's affection or loyalty.
posted by tuesdayschild at 12:19 PM on February 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


From creep to downright proof positive molestor, abuser, etc. No f'in way would I ever let my child be exposed to that supervised or unsupervised.

We have jack crap of anyone to watch our child. Care/sittercity.com was our resort.

I leave my child alone (now the relationshiop is over a year) with this "stranger" 23 year old as opposed to my parents who abused me (verbally, mentally, etc). Never sexually.

But the protection of my son outweighs any "we don't have a sitter" excuse.

F this jokester and the sensitivities. Your 18 month old will love you for it.
posted by stormpooper at 12:29 PM on February 11, 2011


if something happens that upsets her, she may not be able to tell you about it

Even if she's not particularly upset by anything, she won't get a good concept of what normal boundaries are, which will put her at risk of boundary pushing/people pleasing as she gets older. It's just a terrible precedent all around.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:32 PM on February 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I cannot be objective about this, because I was sexually abused as a child, but if my perspective is worth anything to you, PLEASE NEVER EVER LET YOUR CHILD BE ALONE WITH YOUR MOTHER AND HER HUSBAND.

A loving grandmother is awesome, but a grandmother who doesn't protect you from her sexually molesting husband (and yes, "joking" molestation feels just like actual molestation, especially to young children--a toddler doesn't know that Grampa Joe is groping her crotch "as a joke") will fuck you up in the head so hard because it's a classic double-bind situation.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:35 PM on February 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


In any case, the groping has all but stopped since then

Sorry, I was so caught up in all the other stuff in my first response that I missed this part. "All but" stopped? In other words, after some of the family called him out on his behavior he still continued it to some degree. Yeah, stay far, far away.

if there is any chance of him being alone with her for even just a few minutes.

"A few minutes"? How long does a grope take? One or two seconds. Get a stopwatch, set it for twenty seconds, then start imagining all the bad things that can be happening in that short time if he gets her alone. It will seem like the longest twenty seconds of your life.
posted by mikepop at 12:42 PM on February 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


It hasn't even stopped completely? And he's maneuvering to be alone with her?

(And yes, it's maneuvering, by him or by your mother or whomever, because there's no actual need for them to be alone together, ever, and you're actively avoiding it, and people are STILL trying to make it happen)

No. That is absolutely fucked up. He is fucked up. He is molesting people and the fact that he does it in front of other people and gets their tacit approval that way is even MORE fucked up.

The few memories I have of being hit that were etched in my mind the strongest were the times it was done in front of other people who watched and acted like it was NORMAL. It reinforced even more the idea that it was totally okay and no one would care how my parents treated me.

Don't do that to your daughter.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:03 PM on February 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


A few years ago, he was told to stop "joking". Your mom defended him in public, but may or may not have had her own private discussion with him. He seems to have stopped. I can see why the OP is concerned about how to handle this situation, especially if it might be seen by the rest of the family as dragging up the past when everyone else has moved on.
I will not pile on to the "don't let him even look at her" camp without knowing how the OP's mom genuinely feels. He is for all intents and purposes like an ex-alcoholic who must not drink a drop of it ever ever again. I know some ex-al's who will avoid everyone who's not teetotalers and won't go out to eat in a place that serves, much less sit at the same dinner table as a glass of wine. I know another who genuinely seems not to mind if we have wine at Thanksgiving dinner and beer with football, he just won't drink it. And then there's the guy who doesn't know he has a massive problem, he just knows that his kids told him to cut back and nobody brings a 6-pack when they come over any more... Basically, there are almost no situations I would trust this guy with your daughter - but I don't know him and I do believe in reform, so I won't say absolutely none. It's more likely I'd trust your mom with her, if both she and your stepdad were taking your the issue very seriously, a high awareness of the reality and wrongness of the possible outcomes. However, if he maintains that there is no problem, never was a problem, and he can spend all sorts of time with your daughter and won't do anything creepy, that means he doesn't know what creepy is and should be kept far far away.
posted by aimedwander at 1:05 PM on February 11, 2011


Yeah, this isn't paranoia. This is a guy who's so blatant about what he does that it apparently prompted a full-blown intervention. Obviously you should do whatever it takes to keep him the fuck away from your daughter.

You don't have to confront him. If your mother offers to babysit, politely decline. If she pushes it, quote Meg_Murry word-for-word. You need to be on the same page re: your daughter's safety, and you're not. Case closed.

And I don't care if he's out of the house or out of the country or visiting the goddamned moon—I'd just as soon drop my kid off at a methadone clinic as with someone who willfully enables a serial sex offender, regardless of where said sex offender is at the moment. Your mother is not a safe person for your daughter to be around, either.

(I'm really sorry. What a shitty situation for you and your [nuclear] family.)
posted by Zozo at 1:10 PM on February 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd not leave a child in that situation, even if it caused family stress and even if I wasn't certain. Pay attention to the creep alarm.
posted by zippy at 1:18 PM on February 11, 2011


I wouldn't let your mom take care of him ever, even if you think that stepdad isn't around.
posted by grouse at 1:18 PM on February 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Most people with children view their parents as an unlimited free/cheap source of babysitting. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. This is one falls into the latter category. The money you spend on a trustworthy babysitter so you are assured your daughter is safe from harm's way is small peanuts for a trauma-free childhood.
posted by mlo at 1:30 PM on February 11, 2011


Here's a thought-experiment. Assume, hypothetically, that you do leave your daughter with your stepdad, and he does grope her. Later on, when she's 18 years old, she asks you, "How could you have left me with him alone when you knew about his history?" What would you tell her?
posted by John Cohen at 1:38 PM on February 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


A good friend of mine has a parent who is an alcoholic. When my friend was pregnant, she told her mom, point blank, that unless she stopped drinking entirely that the upcoming grandkid would not be allowed to hang out with his grandparents unsupervised. She gave her mother the choice, and her mother chose alcohol. Despite living in the same town, this is a kid who has not spent the night at his grandparents house even once, because my friend could not be guaranteed that her mother was not going to drive drunk - which was a very regular occurrence - with her baby in the car.
Since she could not control her mother's behavior she chose to control her baby's access to that behavior, keeping him safe from harm. Please do not allow this man any access to your child. Nothing is worth that risk.
posted by 8dot3 at 1:41 PM on February 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is me, anonymously and painfully answering a very similar previous question, about a brother in law, rather than a stepfather.

And I'd like to add some information to my thoughts there, because it kills me that your family is putting you in a position where you feel, for even a millisecond, that you have to choose between their feelings and the safety of your daughter. I am not exaggerating when I say that I have been editing this all afternoon in hopes that it doesn't sound hysterical and harpy.

This man is someone that you have seen in action. You know you do not trust him. Your information is not second hand. He scares you. These are all objective things. There are no grey areas here. You have no doubts.

Given that, please do not allow your daughter to be near him, at the very least wait until she can speak and has an understanding that anything which makes her uncomfortable will not be tolerated. (This is a good time to direct you to the concept of Agency, which I strongly believe is something that all parents are responsible for instilling in their children. No saying hello to creepy firemen just because they're wearing uniforms. No obeying authority just because that's what we do. and I think it's something you can develop for yourself, given that keeping your daughter safe is butting heads with the less important ideal of keeping peace within your family and not insulting the creepy molester.)

For the time being, your most precious creation is unable to speak, unable to get away, and unable to even know that such situations are wrong. Do not put her in a position for your stepfather and his known behaviors to become her "new normal."

Not in his house. Not in your house. Not at restaurants. Not with a thousand armed snipers guarding your daughter. If he is determined to touch her inappropriately, he will find a way, a moment, an excuse.

Sure. That sounds harsh. I don't care.

Some folks will say, "a child should know her grandfather." Your mother will accuse you of excluding her husband, the love of her life, her partner, a good, honest man. Your siblings may resent your absence. Tough shit.

Your childcare costs are going to increase. I get it.

And I don't fucking care. The exact situation you are describing led to my repeated gropings which quickly evolved into rapes by adult male family members. This shit started when I was in kindergarten and continued for years, and I will be damned if I will stand by and allow a parent to make excuses for another child being subjected to any of it. I cannot even begin to describe the horror of knowing that I was going to a house where something horrible might happen to me. Or might not. It just depended on how many quiet moments there were, or if I went to the bathroom at the wrong time, or if I happened to be drying dishes, or seemingly, what the phase of the moon was.

What sucks most of all is that people knew that those men had been inappropriately touching other girls. I could have been protected.

I wasn't.
posted by bilabial at 2:13 PM on February 11, 2011 [46 favorites]


Basically, there are almost no situations I would trust this guy with your daughter - but I don't know him and I do believe in reform

He can still enjoy his step-grandchildren in the presence of other adults, so by not letting the mom and step-dad babysit you're not cutting off all access. Just cutting off the risk that he hasn't really understood that what he was doing was wrong.

The potential downsides (you will have to pay money for babysitters, his feelings and your mom's might be hurt) are so minimal compared to the potential downside of his engaging in this behavior with your child.

Again, I know I am not objective about this, and I also know that no parent can guarantee that their children will be free from sexual abuse or exploitation or even boundary violations that don't escalate to the level of abuse (I was abused by someone in a position of trust in my local school system, which was hardly something my parents could have protected me against), but if there's anything you can do to keep your child from being alone with someone you know has, at best, a poor record of respecting the boundaries of physical integrity with children, I would encourage you to do those things.

I've shared a lot (perhaps way too much) here about some of the struggles I have faced in my life, and although I am not on Team Louise Hay by any means, I do think that being sexually abused or even having one's physical integrity disrespected as a child has the capacity to throw off one's self-protection compass for years. If there was one thing from my life I could magically change with a time machine, it would be that set of experiences.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:40 PM on February 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Forget all this talk of accusations and evidence and confrontations.

You don't need to prove that he's a child molester to anyone, in order to exhibit some basic and reasonable caution of your own when it comes to your own daughter.

Keep her away from him and apologize to nobody for it.
posted by rokusan at 2:50 PM on February 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


You know your stepfather isn't trustworthy. Proceed from there.

The silence around abuse, being in denial about someone's actions because they are family, and trying to spare the feelings of someone you care about by not confronting them with a tough truth, are, in my experience, patterns of behaviour which allow childhood sexual abuse to continue within families.

The litmus test is to consider how you would feel if this person were not a relative, but someone who worked in the school system, or a complete stranger. I bet you wouldn't leave your child with him. Family relationships are not unconditional ties, and groping young girls is one of the things which effectively breaks the contract, imho. At this stage, don't worry about stepping on people's toes, or hurting your mother's feelings. Your priority is your daughter's safety.

My advice would be to do whatever you have to keep your daughter away from this man. Childcare may be expensive, your mother may complain, people may think you are weird, the teacher may look at you funny when you say that you don't want your daughter's grandparents picking her up from school, under any circumstances, ever -- this is irrelevant. If you bow to these concerns, you are walking into a world in which sexual abuse is an acceptable possibility, and your daughter's safety matters less than other people's feelings. It is a shitty place to be.
posted by the cat's pyjamas at 5:36 PM on February 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Trust your instincts. Don't let other people convince you to relax on this one. This isn't "a random old dude is at the park, should I call the SWAT team," this is "my stepfather gropes toddlers, should I let my mom babysit anyway?"

I mean, come on.
posted by SMPA at 5:46 PM on February 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Genuine question, something of a derail, but ... does everyone answering this question think they know exactly what the OP meant by 'grope or otherwise apply a "bad touch"'? I felt it was ambiguous. My first reaction was to ask them to be specific. Not one person would have liked them to be less euphemistic? It's a tough subject, but it's important to be clear about these things, especially when they're posting anonymously.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 3:45 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


it's not possible to agree more strongly with about 99% of the comments here; please take them to heart, let them encourage you and stiffen your resolve.

I also want to point out that your mother has chosen this man over everyone else. Everyone else he hurts by his actions. She has chosen this man over her granddaughter. So there's very little sympathy on my part if she complains over losing access to her. Do not, do not not NOT let her babysit. Period. Not in your house, not when the grandfather is supposedly out of town or at whatever activity that is promised to you to keep him away. Do not allow her to babysit at your home without him. Do not trust her. If you hired a babysitter who blew off your specific and stated concerns about this man and had a clear determination to do what THEY thought was right rather than what you instructed, you'd fire them. Do the same with your mother. Maybe not verbally, but in your mind. Of course, family get togethers, visits, where you or the husband are there with your child, yay, that's great. But you can't leave your child alone with either of them. Alone with her means alone with him; it may not happen the first time, but it WILL happen.
posted by lemniskate at 5:44 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


AmbroseChapel: "does everyone answering this question think they know exactly what the OP meant by 'grope or otherwise apply a "bad touch"'? I felt it was ambiguous."

I agree that the OPs language covers a spectrum of behaviours, but I feel comfortable defining a bad touch as something that is unwanted and inappropriate, regardless of how publicly it takes place or what body parts are involved.

I can't tell from the question whether the stepdad is a predator or just socially inept, but my advice is still to keep her away from him. Grown-ups should not be touching kids in ways that are unwanted and innapropriate. Nobody should be touching anybody in ways that are unwanted and innapropriate. And the OP's kid deserves better than to be raised thinking that's normal behaviour.
posted by the latin mouse at 5:50 AM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was wondering about the extent of it too. I wanted to tell the OP they should use much stronger language with their mother than most people had been suggesting. For instance: "Understand, I would have no trouble accusing X of child molestation if it got to that point." People have noted that such an accusation is extreme, but if he is doing things that warrant it, his wife needs to know it's a real possibility.

I am figuring what the guy is doing is fairly serious because it was bad enough that a number of family members confronted him. Is it clear that he's doing something he could be prosecuted for? Not from what he know. I would still not be leaving the child within a mile of this guy nor letting my mother babysit, period.

And a personal note: when I think of the two abusive parental figures in my family, I am almost more angry with the people who enabled them than with the individuals themselves. To my mind, those two men were like sick cattle who needed to be cut off from the herd. I'm angry with the people who didn't see that or didn't do that.
posted by BibiRose at 7:48 AM on February 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


There aren't many people who can babysit for us on a regular basis and my mum would love to do it

Given that your mum's married to a known sexual predator (and refuses to admit his behaviour is wrong), your kid would probably be safer with a complete stranger chosen at random from the telephone book.
posted by hot soup girl at 1:29 PM on February 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'll echo hot soup girl: your chances of pulling some random guy off the street for baby sitting and not getting someone with a history of sexual assault on children is way better odds for your kid's wellbeing than letting her along with your mother and/or stepfather unsupervised. I wouldn't recommend it, but it's safer.

Your mother has been told before that people are unhappy with your stepfather's behaviour? Well, she's made her choice. She prefers your stepfather to your daughter. That's OK, but you shouldn't let it stop you from protecting your daughter.
posted by rodgerd at 11:29 PM on February 12, 2011


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