I don't want my dad driving his brother around in my car.
July 28, 2009 7:06 AM   Subscribe

My dad generally drives his brother, a registered child molester, anywhere he needs to go, which amounts to maybe 1 trip a week. My dad and I will soon be (hopefully temporarily) sharing a car. I do not want my uncle in my car. My dad doesn't share my concern.

In the past, my mom drove me so crazy bitching about it that I had to sit my dad down and tell him not to loan his truck out to his brother any more (because if he used it to commit a crime, she would be an accessory since her name was on the truck's title too). Yes I know my mom should have done it, but she didn't, and I did... that's not what this question is about. At one point I said, "but Dad, he's a child molester." My dad said, "so what?"

My uncle, having once been fired from a public school janitorial position for inappropriate conduct with a student, was arrested and served a prison sentence for molesting his grandchildren. He has completed the 10-year probation which required him to avoid being around children. My dad feels he has paid his debt to society.

My mom and I feel differently. Those kids he molested will never be the same. What my dad does not know is that I was molested as a child for over 4 years, though by a cousin on my mom's side of the family, not my uncle. My mom feels that if my dad knew this he would "go ballistic" and call my cousin a scumbag and cause all sorts of trouble. (I think he would too, given his history.) But when it's his family, it's different. (My dad even bailed him out of jail when he was initially arrested, without asking, to my mother's fury.)

My dad knows my mom does not want him driving her car at all (not least because he's a REALLY bad driver and tends break every car he touches, destroying transmissions and drivetrains). So he keeps saying he and I are going to have to share a car. His is near the end of its life and he wants to trade it in on the CARS program, and I just happen to be in need of a car. I don't really want him sharing my car either, but if I must, I certainly do not want a registered sex offender to be recognized in my car, especially since I work in childcare. I feel I am risking my job and potentially any future related careers.

Although the car will be in my name, due to their financial assistance and general family pressures, I really can't refuse to lend my dad my car from time to time (about once a week), especially since when I have been carless, he lent me his.

How do I make my dad "get" that I don't want anything to do with a child molester but especially do not want my car being used to ferry him around? (Yes, I realize my dad could agree with me on the surface and then sneak around driving his brother anyways, but I am hoping he won't.) I would really prefer he keep his still-functioning car so we each have our own, but he is pressuring us to take the Cash For Clunkers deal quickly, fearing the money will run out soon.
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You need to talk to your dad about your experience with molestation.
posted by jerseygirl at 7:10 AM on July 28, 2009 [11 favorites]

And because I have an itchy trigger finger posting...

... I say that you need to share this with your father because that seems to be the root of your issues with all of this. You and your mother need to find some way to handle disclosing this issue to him with kid gloves.
posted by jerseygirl at 7:12 AM on July 28, 2009

Although the car will be in my name, due to their financial assistance and general family pressures, I really can't refuse to lend my dad my car from time to time (about once a week), especially since when I have been carless, he lent me his.

You know what? I really think you can.

Your uncle paying his debt to 'society' has nothing to do with you. You aren't 'society', and if you don't want a child molester in your car, there is no way that due to financial indebtedness you're required to allow him in it. That's essentially putting a price tag on 'how much would you charge to let a child molester drive your car'? And the answer is nothing, because you don't want to let a child molester drive your car.

And I don't blame you.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 7:24 AM on July 28, 2009

"I feel I am risking my job and potentially any future related careers."

I'd make this the point you repeatedly drive home with your dad. Don't let the conversation center around how you feel about your Uncle, to which your dad will get defensive. Let the conversation be about how society judges his crime and how you can't accept consequences of being tied to him. This is the response to your Dad's "so what" from paragraph one "SO, I work with children and could loose my job and potential income if ANYTHING were to happen, even if Uncle is one perfect behavior there could be some misunderstanding and with his record he might not get benefit of the doubt. I can't afford this risk." If your dad can't understand that, he can't use your car.

Generally negotiations go best when you frame it as "our team against the world" rather then "you against me." Make it about the consequences of an unfair legal system, not about how grossed our you are by your uncle, it should go much better.
posted by oblio_one at 7:25 AM on July 28, 2009 [4 favorites]

I see you have a job in child care. I am assuming you are an adult. If you are an adult and don't live with your parents, you need to separate your day-to-day life from theirs. This means purchasing your own car or, if you can't, doing without.

If you are an adult and DO live with your parents, you need to move out.

These problems you're having are all fixed by doing what you think is best for you. You don't need to explain; you don't need to convince anyone; you need to disentangle. Your uncle's problems aren't yours; your dad's problems aren't yours; your mom's problems aren't yours.
posted by fritley at 7:31 AM on July 28, 2009 [22 favorites]

Hm. Well, I'm of two minds on this one. One, it's your car. Simply refuse. You feel very strongly about this so you'll just need to take a stand. There's not magic way around that. Besides, is this your only car? My husband and I share a car but even if it was just me, I need my car and would have a hard time loaning it out. If you want to be passive aggressive about it (which sounds fine in this situation) just make it unavailable.

The other mind I have about this is that you just suck it up and let your Dad borrow the car. This sounds like a lot of drama about something that is not a capital offense. You say you work in childcare... it's not like your uncle has a big red M on his chest for all the world to see. And, unless you have some kind of distinctive car or license plate, no one is going to connect some guy in the passenger seat of a car with you and suspect that you're condoning child molesting.

It sounds like this comes down to a power struggle between you and your Dad. You have two choices -- win or keep the peace with your Dad.

Lastly, try to keep in mind that this uncle is your father's brother. You have no idea what these two may have been through as kids. (Or maybe you do, I don't know.) But, people who molest children were often molested themselves as children. This excuses nothing of your uncle's behavior but there may be a complicated relationship and history that makes your Dad feel like extending this small bit of compassion to his brother. I'm not saying that you should extend the same compassion but you seem angry that your father associates with his brother. Feel free to be angry but know that this may not affect their relationship.
posted by amanda at 7:34 AM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

How do I make my dad "get" that I don't want anything to do with a child molester but especially do not want my car being used to ferry him around?

If his attitude toward his brother being a convicted child molester is "So what," then you can't. You're just going to drive yourself nuts trying to figure out how to do this, while ignoring the real problem which is "How do I get uncle free transportation?" Can you share a car with mom? Use a bike instead? Bus? Carpool? Walk? Taxi?

I'd also caution on feeling to beholden to people in this sort of fucked up situation. It's nice there was financial assistance of some sort, but that's not a guarantee that you're beholden to them forever. It's perfectly ok to say "No, I'm not doing that. I'll help you do X and X, but I want no part of my uncle, don't even want him in my car and thanks final." If dad says he's served his time or he's family or that he gave you financial assistance, reply with "So what?"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:34 AM on July 28, 2009

Let's take a slightly different look at this. If your uncle was a smoker and insisted on smoking in your car (and you didn't want that to happen) then I don't think there would be an issue in telling your dad that your uncle wasn't allowed in the car.

Same deal here. Your uncle can't meet the standards of people you want to be seen in your car. Therefor he shouldn't be allowed in your car.

I don't know what the financial assistance is that you mentioned. If it's help buying the car then either get a cheaper form of transportation or go without your own transportation.
posted by theichibun at 7:36 AM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

is the financial assistance current, or past?

if it's current, then you're hands are pretty tied. consider transferring the title to your father's name so that at least it's not on you directly if anything happens. also, work on cutting that financial lifeline as soon as possible, if it makes you feel obliged to do things that make you this uncomfortable.

it you're talking about financial assistance in the past, then this is the perfect time to stand your ground and let your father know that your life is yours and, much as you might appreciate him and his help, there are lines that you get to draw.
posted by 256 at 7:38 AM on July 28, 2009

Who is going to "own" the car? Who is going to pay for it, insure it, maintain it, fuel it, repair it, etc?

If it's you, just don't give your dad the keys. If he wants a car to do whatever he wants with, he can go out and buy one himself. If he's doing all of the above, then you don't really have a leg to stand on. If he wants the luxury of a car, he should pay for the luxury of a car. Especially if his is still functioning. It seems to me that your dad wants a car that he can wreck, and then disclaim ownership of, and not pay for any repairs on.

If they're loaning you the money to make up the difference to buy the car with, just pay them back. That way you fulfil your obligation to the family, and your dad has no claim on the vehicle.

I feel I am risking my job and potentially any future related careers.

You could well be. All it's going to take is for someone to recognise your uncle in your car, or for, god forbid, your uncle to molest a child while your car is involved, and your career is going to be blown out of the water. Public opinion is far stronger than the law. Get a bank loan if you need to, and buy a car entirely by yourself.
posted by Solomon at 7:38 AM on July 28, 2009

Is he buying you this car, or otherwise funding it? Because if he is, then he's got the right to say that unless you [x], he won't give you the money/car/whatever. You're quite right in not wanting him to take a child molester around in a car that you own, and even more so given your history and chosen career, and if he cannot agree to your terms, then do not take his financial assistance, and keep your car keys where he cannot get at them. (You might want to give him lifts when possible in this case.)
posted by jeather at 7:40 AM on July 28, 2009

I'm assuming he's not only turning in his car for the Car Allowance Rebate System, but also helping you out to buy the new car. If that's the case, and if allowing him to use the car occasionally is a condition of that money, don't take the deal. Find another way to get a car for yourself.
posted by xingcat at 7:43 AM on July 28, 2009

Assuming part of the conflict is that there would be family assistance in purchasing this new car, don't do it. Option C: tiny piece of crap car that still has some legs on it. Used cars without major problems can be purchased for under $2,000. Usually they are entry level compact cars, about 10 years old.

Those kinds of cars won't be pretty, luxurious, or much of anything, really, but tin cans with wheels. But they do the point a to point b thing pretty well, and you can get them without any strings attached.
posted by Nonce at 7:54 AM on July 28, 2009

I would really prefer he keep his still-functioning car so we each have our own, but he is pressuring us to take the Cash For Clunkers deal quickly, fearing the money will run out soon.

Even if the CfC money runs out, there will still be cars out there to buy.
posted by shiny blue object at 7:57 AM on July 28, 2009

I think you might have to let go of your dad 'getting' your perspective (as in, both understanding and agreeing with you, and doing what you want).

Even if you share your molestation with your dad, your uncle didn't do it, so there's a chance that your dad may not come to the conclusion you want. New data rarely changes people's minds - for example is there any information your dad could share with you, say, that your uncle was also molested - would that change your mind about letting him in your car? If not, then, you might have to accept that new info won't change his information either.

For whatever reason, it sounds like your dad feels that he has a relationship and perhaps some sort of obligation to his brother. He's been willing to withstand the approbation of both his wife and his son to maintain that relationship. It might be that, "so what?" means "So what, because no matter what he has done, he is family and you don't desert family". If that's the case, no matter what you say, he won't 'get' it because it directly conflicts with another value that he holds dear.

It sounds like you have a choice, you just don't like the choice you have. Share a car with your dad (and your uncle), or perhaps go it alone with a less nice car or a car all together. (just because your dad helped you earlier isn't compelling enough for you to have to help him now, as it doesn't sound like he didn't have to violate any personal values to help you)

It's not a good choice, but as it stands, it sounds like that's what your facing. Which doesn't sound pleasant at all.
posted by anitanita at 8:41 AM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

'change his mind', not 'change his information'...whoopsie
posted by anitanita at 8:42 AM on July 28, 2009

Your uncle is a creep. Your Dad loves him anyway. The point of the offender registration is mostly not to punish your uncle more, but to keep him from molesting other kids. There's wide understanding that child molesting seems to be incurable and we should warn people about offenders.

If you share a car with your Dad, he gets to choose his passengers. I used to work in child care administration. Your Dad allowing a registered child molester to ride in a car that you own should not affect your job.

Stipulate to your Dad that Uncle Creepy cannot ever spend time alone with children, and that Uncle Creepy cannot be in the car if there are kids in the car. Non-negotiable. Your Dad provides the trade-in, you get the Federal cash, and you get to be nice to your Dad.

Sometime soon, sit down with your Dad and tell him about the abuse. Maybe he'll go postal on Cousin Creepy. But why not call out Cousin Creepy? In terms of child abuse, secrecy is a bad thing.

You're clearly working hard to be a strong, good part of your family. Families are complicated and messy, and they're lucky to have you. Good luck
posted by theora55 at 8:52 AM on July 28, 2009

So, your mom doesn't want him breaking her car, but breaking yours is okay? He doesn't have to trade in his car, but wants to take advantage of the CARS program in a hurry. Your mom is unwilling to tell your dad that you were molested, but doesn't seem to mind you being uncomfortable with your dad driving his brother around? They're both apparently guilting you into this arrangement for everyone's convenience?

AND you work in childcare? No, this arrangement shouldn't affect your job, but I don't think you're crazy for worrying about it. People talk.

I don't mean to sound like I'm harshing on your family -- relationships between parents and kids are messy, and I myself am no stranger to gifts-with-apronstrings. But look, there's some issues, here. It sounds like you're being inserted right into the middle of them.

Consider turning them down. Buy your own car, or go carless.
posted by desuetude at 9:11 AM on July 28, 2009 [5 favorites]

Just don't do any car sharing with your father. There has to be another way.
posted by orange swan at 9:12 AM on July 28, 2009

If you take the cash for clunkers deal based on his clunker car, and that makes your car affordable for you, then no, I don't think you can refuse to lend it to him, since in essence, he will have helped pay for it. If you can afford the car without his financial contribution, then do that, and tell him he should hang on to his own car. But you can't let him buy you half a car and then tell him he can't drive it. And once he's allowed to drive it, telling him where and with whom to drive it will just make him hide the truth from you, something that your family has big enough problems with already.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:17 AM on July 28, 2009

I think you need to get your head straight on this and talk with your father afterwards. Because not letting your uncle sit in your car, after he's done time and completed probation, with no sign that he'd reoffend...that is vindictive and shows that you aren't healed from what happened in your childhood.

You need to focus on yourself, not on your family (and I say this as someone who survived 10+ years of molestation as a child and who has friends who are sexual offenders who did their time and are taking active steps to never reoffend).
posted by QIbHom at 10:53 AM on July 28, 2009

Because not letting your uncle sit in your car, after he's done time and completed probation, with no sign that he'd reoffend...that is vindictive and shows that you aren't healed from what happened in your childhood.

I wouldn't describe that as "vindictive".

The poster's concern that people might connect him or her with the offender if the offender is frequently seen in the car he or she drives to work at the child-care center or whatever may or may not be misplaced, but it's not irrational.

Nor is it "vindictive" or "shows that you aren't healed" for someone who has experienced a criminal assault to have continuing distaste for convicted perpetrators of that kind of assault. It would be "vindictive" to deny him a job or housing; it is not "vindictive" not to want him in your car.

Here's the thing, OP. Your dad is going to give your uncle rides. If that doesn't work for you, you need to not share a car with him. Full stop. He's not going to stop giving your uncle rides, and you're not going to start wanting to have your uncle in your car.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:48 AM on July 28, 2009

If you don't want to disclose your own abuse, and you know your dad is willing to go behind loved ones' backs to help his brother, I would leave the brother out entirely and tell Dad the deal is off and you can't share a car with him. You need a reliably functioning car, not a car that will work until your father happens to destroy it.

"I don't want Uncle Molester in my car" is an understandable preference, but it's emotional (your Uncle's criminal behavior is unlikely to damage your car, and your father giving the uncle a ride is unlikely to have consequences for your life). "I can't share a car with an unsafe driver whose track record indicates he'll wreck it," on the other hand, is a practical precaution. Given your feelings and your dad's, I don't think making this about your uncle is the way to avoid having your uncle in your car: you need to keep your dad out of the driver's seat.
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:11 PM on July 28, 2009

Oh--in case I spent too much time moralizing and not enough time explaining, here's what I really meant to say: even if someone has lent you their car in the past, you don't owe them the opportunity to destroy yours. You should probably let your dad know that your car won't be available to him before he goes through with getting rid of his old one, because right now he thinks he'll be able to borrow yours--but that's all you owe him ("Dad, I want to be sure you know--you've been hinting that you'll borrow my car occasionally once yours is gone, but that just won't be possible"). If he argues, objects, brings up past instances of lending you his car--"Dad, I've appreciated the use of your car in the past, but it just won't be possible for us to share my car going forward."
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:21 PM on July 28, 2009

How about Zipcar, CarShare, or another car sharing service? If it "amounts to maybe 1 trip a week" that might be an affordable option and avoiding the family drama would be worth the probably modest cost.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:25 PM on July 28, 2009

Ok, this might sound horrible to some people but . . . I think you may need to disentangle yourself from your family as much as you can. Not sharing the car with your dad is a good place to start. It sounds like there is some seriously unhealthy stuff going on in your extended family that you, as a survivor of sexual abuse, need to separate yourself from. If I were a victim of abuse I sure as hell would (especially) not want a convicted child molester in my car. I think I would also be very bitter that my father was sticking up for a child molester, even if he didn't know that I had been a victim.

Get a therapist. Talk this stuff out. Please. They would be able to help you work through the practical issues about the car as well as some of the stuff going on that no one is really talking about. Sigh.

But I do think you should try to put some distance between yourself and your family -- emotionally, physically and financially. Especially if you ever plan to have kids. I'm sure there are great people in your family, but there seems to be high levels of denial and avoidance -- not to mention child abuse -- in your family that a child should be protected from.
posted by imalaowai at 9:32 PM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

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