Dad wants to protect his right to 'teach' daughter about pornography
January 22, 2014 10:59 AM   Subscribe

Should I pursue legal action? I've met with my ex and a child psychologist re: his sex toy and porn collection as a means of getting him to agree that he will keep these materials locked up or password protected when she is with him in his home. However, he was vehemently opposed to being 'censored' in what he teaches her about the real world - specifically, he wants to expose her to Playboy, etc. as a way of teaching her. He did not listen to the psychologist's warnings that this is inappropriate behavior for a father to do with his daughter.

I am worried that it might take legal action to get my ex to agree to terms that specify that he is not to expose our daughter to pornographic/erotic images while she is in his care, even as a 'teaching tool' since these images are designed to produce arousal, and that would be a confusing sexual experience for her to share with her father.

I don't have much money, and I hate the idea of having to take him to court, but is this an important enough issue? Is he right to think that it's ok for a dad to hand his young daughter a Playboy and talk about how lots of people enjoy porn?
posted by SarahBellum to Law & Government (128 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: poster's request -- LobsterMitten

How old is your daughter?
posted by oceanjesse at 11:04 AM on January 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

Are we talking about a six year old or a sixteen year old here? Kind of relevant.
posted by ook at 11:05 AM on January 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

No. This is child sexual abuse.
posted by mochapickle at 11:05 AM on January 22, 2014 [70 favorites]

Seems like a pretty clear warning klaxon to me. That's a pretty screwed up approach there.
posted by Carillon at 11:06 AM on January 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

This is an important enough issue to take him to court over.

Do not let him do this to your daughter.
posted by sockermom at 11:06 AM on January 22, 2014 [33 favorites]

He has absolutely no "right" to do this. In my state, showing pornography to a minor is a criminal offense and can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on what the facts are. It is a crime. You can start by going to the police. If the police are not helpful, you can contact a child sexual abuse victim advocacy organization in your area. If you are willing to post your general area or state, we can help you find one. There is legal help for you out there. I would also be more than happy to contribute to your legal fund.
posted by cairdeas at 11:07 AM on January 22, 2014 [36 favorites]

You do realize that exposing minors to pornographic materials arguably constitutes child abuse in most American jurisdictions, yes? I'm not offering any moral or ethical opinion on the subject, just stating the legal fact. If your county's version of Child Protective Services got wind of this, there would be a shitshow to end all shitshows. Possibly criminal charges as well. Like, serious felonies.

This shouldn't really be something you need to push very hard to get. Simply raise the issue in front of any kind of legal authority and you might find that you are awarded sole custody.
posted by valkyryn at 11:07 AM on January 22, 2014 [21 favorites]

Also, the age of the child is ABSOLUTELY NOT RELEVANT in my state, in terms of whether or not it is a crime.
posted by cairdeas at 11:07 AM on January 22, 2014 [16 favorites]

I know that you hate the idea of taking him to court, but you have got to get this before a judge. Please memail me if you want me to help you get started.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 11:07 AM on January 22, 2014 [9 favorites]

I get weird molesty vibes from this. Like, little to no "cool progressive sex positive burner hippie dad" and mostly "weird creepy molester dude"

Like, I'd be concerned that this was just a symptom of a greater problem and not just specifically an issue in and of itself.

Porn is a really weird and gross way to learn about real sex. The fact that most dudes seem to learn about sex that way is part of the reason that most young women seem to have at least initially, shitty experiences with sex when it comes to having it with dudes who think it works like porn. Even ignoring the other issues with this seeming weird and creepy to me(especially when you add in the sex toy part) it seems like it would just be teaching her the wrong things, and a lot of bullshit she'd have to unlearn.

There's so much about this that would make me question this person as a parent in general, and not just locked into the context of this one issue. And I like to think I'm a pretty open minded person who is ok with and understands the logic behind stuff like "you can get drunk with me, parent, for the first time so you know what it's like and don't end up passed out halfway in a laundry basket while some creeper gropes you the first time you get drunk and totally overdo it accidentally". This, on the other hand, is totally buttlogic because there isn't much good to learn about sex from porn, and a lot bad to learn.

It just reads to me as "I want to watch porn, which outside something like an academic setting is extremely hard to remove from its erotic context with my daughter because creepy reasons. Here's a bullshit excuse as to why".
posted by emptythought at 11:09 AM on January 22, 2014 [33 favorites]

SarahBellum: Is he right to think that it's ok for a dad to hand his young daughter a Playboy and talk about how lots of people enjoy porn?

It's OK for a Dad to talk to his teenage daughter about how lots of people enjoy porn. It is NOT OK for him to expose her to porn.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:10 AM on January 22, 2014 [10 favorites]

Oh, and I completely missed the fact that this is almost definitely illegal. Probably because this post actually made me say "Wat" out loud.

But yea, uh, it is.
posted by emptythought at 11:10 AM on January 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

You should also look up telephone conversation recording laws in your state, and see if you can record his insistence on his determination and "right" to make your child look at porn. In most states, it's not illegal to secretly record a conversation held in a public place (like a coffeeshop), so that might be easier.
posted by cairdeas at 11:10 AM on January 22, 2014 [8 favorites]

For him to share pornographic materials with your daughter is wildly inappropriate, potentially abusive and probably illegal. It is worth going to court over, yes.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:11 AM on January 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

yes OP, it IS an appropriate issue to take to court so daddy-perv won't teach your daughter about sex using playboy. lawyers can be expensive (but you might find one pro bono for this), but the police are paid out of your taxes, so they're free, and this guy ought to be investigated, and if he is showing porn to his young daughter, he should be locked up.
posted by bruce at 11:11 AM on January 22, 2014 [13 favorites]

Are you talking about your 7-8 year old daughter? Please get the police to investigate him now and keep her away from him until you can go to court.
posted by discopolo at 11:14 AM on January 22, 2014 [10 favorites]

Absolutely fucking yes this is an important enough issue for court. Actually start with calling a child abuse hotline, or the police.
posted by celtalitha at 11:18 AM on January 22, 2014 [7 favorites]

I agree that your best bet is probably legal action, but I wonder if he can be made to see reason.

I have a dear friend who is in a relationship with a divorced man. The divorce was quite acrimonious and at least one part of the reason for the divorce was that he had come into a new understanding of his sexuality as he reached his mid-30s. My friend turned out to be a better match for him than his wife. Among other things, my friend has an on-line sex toy shop that also does home parties. The ex-wife was very very concerned about the four children being exposed to the sex toys and any paraphernalia (such as bondage items in the bedroom) when they were at the new couple's home.

The ex wife tried to get sole custody of the children based only on the presence of sex toys in the household, which was frustrating to my friend because she was clear that there are appropriate boundaries and everything was hidden away when the children were around.

I wonder whether your ex husband is still, for lack of a better word, "finding himself" and whether, once he settles down and realizes that he doesn't have to proselytize for his views, he'll also see what boundaries are appropriate.

I think when people suddenly think they've invented sex, they often go overboard. Is there a way you can let him know that you do not and will not stigmatize sex and see whether that's his concern? I mean, okay, obviously hard core pornography isn't appropriate for youngsters in any case, but is it possible that there are books or other "teaching tools" that you would find acceptable and age-appropriate, and could you seek a compromise?
posted by janey47 at 11:18 AM on January 22, 2014

Ugh, she's 7.

This may be one of those situations where a person might say, in her mind, "is it really that bad?" or "I couldn't have been married to a pedophile" or "I know him, I'm sure his intentions are good even if they're misguided."

Please do not allow your daughter to be sexually abused by her father. It really is that bad.
posted by cairdeas at 11:19 AM on January 22, 2014 [44 favorites]

Yes, what everyone else said. Often, if you consider these types of questions long enough you can come up with a scenario in which the story isn't as bad as it seems from the questioner's perspective. This is not one of these times.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:19 AM on January 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

From a previous question, your daughter is quite young. This should absolutely be stopped ASAP by any means necessary. I wonder if you could be charged as an accessory if you knew but didn't do anything.
posted by desjardins at 11:19 AM on January 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

Also per this question the daughter was seven last year.

I would be on the phone with the police NOW. This question makes me sick.
posted by celtalitha at 11:20 AM on January 22, 2014 [18 favorites]

Agreed. Your daughter needs you to go to the mat.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:22 AM on January 22, 2014 [15 favorites]

Why does he want to expose her to Playboy? Can he give you an answer to this? "I don't want you censoring me" is his argument for why you shouldn't be allowed to stop him, but what is his argument for why he wants to do it?

There is a frighteningly plausible reason that he wants to do this because is deriving some sense of power and/or pleasure from asserting himself sexually with his daughter. In fact, it is very hard to fit this story to anything other than this, because it is so obviously a gross violation of appropriate boundaries, given the power dynamics between a parent and child, especially a (single) father and daughter.

If he's actually doing this because he thinks it would help her somehow, rather than because he wants this sense of power or pleasure for himself, then his concern for her best interests should make it really obvious why this might not be the best thing for her. Imagine if a male elementary school teacher wanted to expose your daughter to porn during one on one sessions. Any father should be screaming mad and calling the cops on the double. The fact that he does not see something wrong with "porn as teaching tool for young girl in one-on-one power imbalance situation" is... troubling, and maybe forgivable if he was simply clueless. But the fact that he wants this and is advocating it for himself says: do not leave your daughter alone with this man, ever.
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:23 AM on January 22, 2014 [22 favorites]

A friend of mine's father did this to her when she was young, and I think she'd be the first one to say that it fucked her up for a good thirty years. This is child abuse. Do what you need to do to make sure it doesn't happen.
posted by Jairus at 11:24 AM on January 22, 2014 [29 favorites]

I wonder if he can be made to see reason.

If someone doesn't instinctively understand why it's damaging to show a child pornography, it isn't a matter of reason. It has nothing to do with "finding himself" regarding sex and sexuality. Millions of men and women manage to find themselves sexually after ending a marriage without demanding the "right" to show their children porn.
posted by scody at 11:24 AM on January 22, 2014 [37 favorites]

Shit shit shit. You can also cut to the chase a little by re-explaining boundaries to your daughter. Not suggesting that daddy is bad or weird, but that if she feels uncomfortable she has 100% right to say No, tell an adult, if it feels uncomfortable then it is uncomfortable and so on.

This is in addition to getting some legal stuff going.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:27 AM on January 22, 2014 [22 favorites]

You can also contact Child Protective Services, and frankly I'm surprised that the psychologist hasn't already. He/she should be a mandatory reporter in your state, and as others have pointed out, this is legally defined as child abuse. They can investigate and potentially get mandated parent training or more (e.g., supervised visitation).
posted by goggie at 11:27 AM on January 22, 2014 [12 favorites]

Ugh, she's 7.

OK, yeah, file me with the call the police ASAP people then.

With a much more mature child I could make the argument that they're going to find porn on their own eventually, because the internet; so better to have the conversation first, make sure that they understand its tenuous relationship to real sex, The More You Know, etc. But with a seven year old? Not a chance.
posted by ook at 11:27 AM on January 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

In fact, it is very hard to fit this story to anything other than this, because it is so obviously a gross violation of appropriate boundaries.

If your husband has any sort of history of abuse himself, he might genuinely have a completely fucked idea of what appropriate boundaries are with this type of thing. I unfortunately have pretty intimate knowledge of this stuff due to an ex who went through it... the fact is though, no matter what his intentions (creepiness, or simple flat headfucked stupidity) the result IS abuse and it will mess up your child. Do whatever you need to do.
posted by celtalitha at 11:29 AM on January 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

frankly I'm surprised that the psychologist hasn't already. He/she should be a mandatory reporter in your state, and as others have pointed out, this is legally defined as child abuse.

Yeah, this jumped out at me, too. Have you followed up with the psychologist to let them know your ex didn't listen to their warning?
posted by scody at 11:30 AM on January 22, 2014 [25 favorites]

In one of your previous questions, you mentioned that your ex was of the open-love, fee-love bent and that, despite your attempts to work within that construct, that was ultimately a lifestyle that didn't suit you.

I don't want to diminish the real possible danger in his attitude about showing porn to a young child, but is it possible what he has said is more a dig at you and a rather stupid attempt to defend his ideas on sexuality? Somehow what he says, or the way you represent it, sounds ideological to me instead of predatory. I agree he should not be allowed to do this, of course!, and perhaps just pointing out the pure illegality of it would be enough.
posted by megancita at 11:30 AM on January 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

Yeeeeeaaaahhhh, that's not okay.

In a couple of years, an age-appropriate way to help teach the kid about sexuality would be "Changing Bodies, Changing Lives", from the folks who also publish "Our Bodies, Our Selves." Even that's more for a kid 11 or 12. This is, I will note, STILL NOT PORN, DAMMIT!

And push the psychologist to see if s/he has already reported it (hopefully it's that they did so without telling you and not that they haven't done so). If this continues, definitely call CPS yourself. And Nthing doing more to teach the kid about recognizing her boundaries and talking to you about them.

Good luck.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:30 AM on January 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

I am super sex-positive and pro appropriate consumption of porn, and this question is making me physically ill. Your ex is fighting for his right to share pornographic images with your 8 year-old daughter.

Please, for her sake, engage legal assistance immediately.
posted by lalex at 11:30 AM on January 22, 2014 [21 favorites]

Without additional context, your child psychologist may already be mandated to report the situation to Child Protective Services. Court involvement may not be your decision to make.

If his intention is to provide a sex-positive education, it sadly sounds like he is not knowledgable/emotionally mature enough to successfully do so. I'm very pro sex-education and have provided sex ed in the past to teenagers, and I can't imagine using Playboy for anything but a discussion of differences in mass media vs. real life. It's a big Red Flag to me and indicates to me that, under the most favorable interpretation of solely positive intentions on his part, he will still cause some damage.
posted by Benjy at 11:30 AM on January 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

I wonder whether your ex husband is still, for lack of a better word, "finding himself" and whether, once he settles down and realizes that he doesn't have to proselytize for his views, he'll also see what boundaries are appropriate.

Based on the fact that I was once snooping in my parents' room when I was nine and found a stash of Playboys under Dad's bureau, he may indeed have also been through a similar "finding himself" stage. However -he still had the decency and good sense to try to hide that from his kids, rather than being the one to show it to them.

The difference being: my actually finding them was an accidental thing, and seeing them made me go "eek" and realize that I didn't want to know more and get out of the room pronto - it was a thing I could walk away from. Whereas, if Dad had been deliberately showing them to me, I would have felt the pressure to like it because I wanted to please a parent. And that would have fucked me up but good.

OP, as I gather you've understood from us, the issue isn't the Playboy itself, the issue is that he wants to show it to his daughter. This is definitely something you want to talk to someone about. Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:31 AM on January 22, 2014 [11 favorites]

Ew. This is not OK. This is 'call the police' worthy. A father should NOT be teaching his daughter about sex by exposing her to material meant, by law, for adults. It's illegal. Furthermore, what a ridiculous notion - the only thing porn is going to teach your daughter about sex is that women are there to be treated as toys by men. Porn is not real and should not be used to teach a very real subject like sex.
posted by stubbehtail at 11:33 AM on January 22, 2014 [7 favorites]

I'm kind of terrified for you that this guy has done such wonders to your brain that you need to question if him showing porn to a young child is ok.

I do hope you're in therapy for the manipulation and trauma he has clearly inflicted on you.

Please keep him the hell away from your kid. he is completely out of control.

Your first stop after you read this thread is to call the police. After that, just like they teach us in school, keep talking until someone listens.
posted by haplesschild at 11:36 AM on January 22, 2014 [34 favorites]

In response to some questions I asked, my stepmother (who taught sex ed in public schools) gave me a brief talk about menstruation, and then left me with an age-appropriate book for kids entering puberty. She let me know I could talk to her about anything I had questions about and that was it.

What your ex is doing is so not that it's not even in the same universe. Should you pursue legal action? Hell, yes! Your daughter cannot advocate for herself or protect herself. You must do it for her. Call her psych, call your lawyer, call CPS. Could you be considered an accessory after the fact for violating whatever laws there are in your jurisdiction about not providing porn to minors? I don't know. Do you want to find out?
posted by rtha at 11:37 AM on January 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

Telling your age-appropriate child (12ish?) that lots of people like porn and it's okay: fine.
Telling your age-appropriate child that you personally like porn: why?
Showing your age-appropriate child porn: not okay at all.
Showing your much too young child porn: so very, very far from okay.

You're not out of line and you should do whatever steps are needed to prevent this.
posted by jeather at 11:37 AM on January 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Also, one more thing (sorry to keep coming back to this) - based off your previous question, I would gently suggest that perhaps you don't have the best comprehension of appropriate boundaries yourself, and maybe that's why you are questioning yourself here. Please, please listen to what EVERYONE is saying. The previous linked question has the OP's ex-husband unilaterally deciding to open the marriage, and the OP watching him "go to sex parties and pick up women when he goes out of town for a conference" and meanwhile trying to be "supportive" for as long as she could before finally calling it quits. One of the above comments refers back to this previous post and suggests that the husband's behaviors are "ideological" rather than predatory - yeeeeeaah. The same way, probably, that his "we're going to have an open marriage now, because PRINCIPLES!" was ideological? I'm actually quite sure he did, and does, try to frame it as such (they often do) but in actuality it's a thin veneer for "I'm a selfish fuckwit with horrible boundaries and only care about myself." OP, this is NOT normal.
posted by celtalitha at 11:38 AM on January 22, 2014 [92 favorites]


Yea, this sounds exactly like a guy who tried to rape me as a kid, and the kind of weird stuff he'd do with his family and kids.

This is REALLY creepy and plausibly dangerous. I had assumed your daughter was like, late highschool age for some reason. Probably because my brain didn't want to immediately think about a young child in this situation.

This is REALLY fucked up, and REALLY creepy. Seconding get some kind of recording of him saying he wants to do this, but call the goddamn police.
posted by emptythought at 11:40 AM on January 22, 2014 [9 favorites]

This is really not OK and you are right in being concerned. Although, I actually think you should be a bit more concerned. Can you try to get full custody without visitation? I mean, if you get him to "agree" to something when she visits, who is actually enforcing that he follows those rules? Your ex has shown that his No. 1 priority is not your daughter's well-being and that alone should be enough for you to feel no hesitation or guilt about protecting your daughter to the fullest extent of the law. I'd be sure to document everything, although it sounds like the child psychologist is already involved. I would explore all legal options -- family court, child services, the police, etc. This sounds predatory and dangerous, whether your delusional ex thinks so or not.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:45 AM on January 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

if the situation is exactly as you present it - your husband sounds very dangerous. but, i sort of wonder if there's a lot you're not saying here and wrote this in such a way to get a specific answer, because, yeah, it's obvious that a parent using playboy to teach a 7 year old about masturbation is the sort of thing that should automatically get mandatory reporters to tell the authorities.

you say this came up because you wanted him to lock away his toys and computer. is the situation that he wants to sit her down and show her playboys and butt plugs or that he doesn't want you to require him to to have a padlock on his toy chest and computer? is it "let me show you these magazines" or "if she finds them where i've hidden them, it's not the end of the world"? is it just the porn or is it also any hint of the lifestyle that broke you guys up?

if the situation is how you presented it, get lawyers involved. if the situation is more about you guys fighting your value system issues through your daughter, you both need to cut it out and that might still require lawyers to get agreements about parenting in writing.
posted by nadawi at 11:47 AM on January 22, 2014 [14 favorites]

Call the psychologist as soon as you can. This would be an instance where they are required to report. You should not have the burden of pursuing legal action to protect your child from abuse. Your husband has at best, very bad boundaries which are going to harm your daughter.
posted by SassHat at 11:48 AM on January 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Please get the psychologist and your attorney involved now. Your ex has no "right" to teach his daughter in this way... as others have stated above, this is so illegal and so damaging to your daughter.

He is not an advocate for her and is only looking out for himself and his sexual predilections. To involve her in that is unconscionable. If you haven't, teach your daughter about bodily autonomy and her right to say no to things she doesn't want (in an age appropriate way). However, your ex is in such a greater position of power over her, she might not say anything if he did something to make her feel uncomfortable, just because she loves him and wants to please him. If I could favorite PercussivePaul's comment a million times, I would.

I am so sorry that this is happening to your family. But you have to act today.
posted by topophilia at 11:56 AM on January 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

If his position is more that he just refuses to lock up his Playboys when she's in the house (say, they're under his bed or whatever, not on the coffee table, for example), that's kind of different. In that case, I would be more concerned that, if she does stumble upon it and has questions, you and he will have already agreed on what the answers to those questions will be. That would be where I would focus my energies. My parents had a couple of their old nudie mags in places where I wound up finding them at about the age your daughter is now, and they did not treat them as dirty or shameful, which I think was the right road to take. But they were just Playboys, which amounted to photos of stiffly-posed naked adult women. I expect hardcore would've been different. Ultimately, my takeaway was, "Huh, some grownups like to look at other naked grownups. Whatever! Time to play Legos."

If, however, he's going to be deliberately handing her porn - however explicit or not - as some sort of educational tool, that's pretty fucked-up.

If that's the situation, I would tell him that you're putting your foot down about this, and that you demand that you and he are on the same page regarding your child's sex education. Seven isn't too young for a "birds and the bees" talk, but porn is not a teaching tool and this is not okay.

That's how I would start. And then...

I am worried that it might take legal action to get my ex to agree to terms that specify that he is not to expose our daughter to pornographic/erotic images while she is in his care

I mean, work with him as best you can for as long as you can, but if that's what it takes, that's what it takes. I would tell him that you feel strongly enough about this that you're willing to go to court over it.

Before doing that, though, I would work closely with the child psychologist, who is likely to have a clearer picture of what your legal options are. There are a lot of heated responses in this thread, and understandably so, but this is a situation where you'd want to avoid calling the cops before you've had a chance to talk to someone who is closer to you and your daughter, knows the situation well, and has a sense of the legal issues surrounding it. But, no matter what, come at it from the starting position of, "No, you are not going to get to have our daughter sit down and look at nudie mags with you and I am willing to do whatever it takes to ensure this."

Good luck.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:09 PM on January 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

Just the title of your question took the breath right out of me, and I am pretty hard to shock.

OP, this is so beyond the realm of not okay that I sincerely urge you to take steps immediately. If your ex has visitation or any kind of custody with your seven year-old, I would be on my way to court right now to ensure he never has unsupervised time with her, period.

He need his own therapy and counseling, in addition to listening to and respecting what his child's therapist says is best for her.

YES, go to court! Find the way to raise the money. I cannot think of anything more important than making sure your child feels safe and her boundaries are respected.
posted by misha at 12:14 PM on January 22, 2014 [12 favorites]

1 million percent what Misha is saying.
posted by discopolo at 12:18 PM on January 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To answer many people's question: she is 8, and I don't know WHEN exactly he thinks this little talk should take place.
posted by SarahBellum at 12:21 PM on January 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

What your ex wants to do is horrifying. I think there is something seriously wrong with him and he should not be able to spend time with your child unsupervised. I am shocked and sickened that the therapist didn't report this. I feel like crying just thinking about your daughter. Basically, he wants to teach her that she's a sex object?! Ugh. Report this immediately to child protective services.
posted by parakeetdog at 12:23 PM on January 22, 2014 [13 favorites]


From a very young age my father -- whom I adored -- would tell me dirty jokes, show me pictures, lots and lots of "tickling." This was all out in the open, my mother didn't object. He was also gradually going further in private. But I wasn't afraid, I accepted it, I adored him. Finally, when I was SIXTEEN YEARS OLD I asked my mother to talk to my Dad about not kissing me so much with his tongue in my mouth. This was many years ago, when nobody talked about this kind of thing, but my mother, God bless her, not only said something to him, but moved me out of the house to my aunt's house for my last year of high school. I truly believe that saved my life.

I'm telling you this because what happened to me was so damaging, and took me so many years to get over -- but even so, reading your post physically slammed into me, panic breathing, tears. Please don't let this happen to your little girl. Don't let Daddy talk dirty to her. He may not be a pedophile, he may honestly be trying to be "free" but it will do awful things to her. That's why there's such a strong reaction in these answers: Daddy's are not supposed to be sexual with their little girls, no matter how old those girls are.
posted by kestralwing at 12:25 PM on January 22, 2014 [88 favorites]

Thank you for acknowledging that you were unsure.
Thank you for asking the question.
Thank you for listening to the answers.
Thank you for favoriting the answer you did.

Please don't let this man, who may think he is well within his rights to do anything he pleases, who may have absolutely no understanding of the damage he will certainly do, be alone with your daughter anymore.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:39 PM on January 22, 2014 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you to everyone. I have learned since posting this that what he's insinuating is illegal, and I have the law on my side, so I feel a LITTLE less freaked out about taking him to court if he insists.

The whole situation is truly fucked up, but he feels strongly that he is in the right. I've left him, and am regaining my own self-respect after being with a womanizer for 10 years, and to answer a few people's questions YES, I am in intensive therapy!!!

I appreciate the perspective. It helps a LOT to know that his views are not the norm.
posted by SarahBellum at 12:43 PM on January 22, 2014 [33 favorites]

I cannot for the life of me, as the father of a seven year old daughter, reconcile the notion of "dad" with a lack of wholehearted dedication to protect a daughter from age-inappropriate exposure to sexual material. Such strident and forward looking anticipation to exactly the opposite makes the hair on my arms stand up with concern and my eyes well with tears at the same time.
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:45 PM on January 22, 2014 [14 favorites]

Trust yourself. If it's a question in YOUR mind, you don't need to the internet to validate, simply go to court.

Your instincts are correct, your ex-husband is a boundary pusher.

Next time, just assume it's too weird for words, and act accordingly.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:51 PM on January 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

I feel a LITTLE less freaked out about taking him to court if he insists.

I mean, seriously, you don't have to do that. If you call the cops, he'll probably be arrested inside of half an hour.

I am absolutely not shitting you here. Cops take this sort of thing unbelievably seriously. So do prosecutors.

IAAL, and though IANYL, this is precisely the kind of thing that sends at least one person a week to jail somewhere in the country.
posted by valkyryn at 12:54 PM on January 22, 2014 [31 favorites]

Please don't let this man, who may think he is well within his rights to do anything he pleases, who may have absolutely no understanding of the damage he will certainly do, be alone with your daughter anymore.

This is it for me. He may honestly believe what he is doing is absolutely fine when it is absolutely not. For the sake of your daughter, do not be convinced by his conviction.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:54 PM on January 22, 2014 [12 favorites]

I worked for an attorney for two years who took court appointed clients in juvenile/family court. The majority of her clients were children who had been removed from their homes by CPS, but she defended some parents or grandparents as well.

"Ex has shown or want to show our child pornography" is exactly the sort of situation that would've shown up in our cases, either for children having been removed by CPS from the home for this sort of charge, or working for parents who wanted to limit visitation rights based on something like this.

While reading your question, my brain immediately said, "Petition for sole custody with supervised visitation only." We did petitions to change visitation rights all the time - the initial agreement worked out in the divorce often needs to be changed or adjusted. If you don't already have formal (legal) custody/visitation agreements, you should get on that fast.

Supervised visitation would mean he can see his daughter only in the presence of a social worker or agreed upon party (like a grandparent.)
posted by Squeak Attack at 1:00 PM on January 22, 2014 [28 favorites]

I think what made the hair stand up on my arms is that this kind of strident and insistent response to a reasonable request for a change of behavior is something that I've seen in people before, and it can be a sign that someone is in the throws of something problematic, like an addiction, or at least a really unhealthy attachment to something. This kind of thing can change a perspective on what is appropriate and normative behavior.

I think we've all seen people like this, where there is such an unhealthy preoccupation with sex that it blurs the lines of social appropriateness, and the person seems oblivious to it. (I mean, what kind of dad, who is interested in custody, wouldn't worry that intentional exposure to pornography might limit those chances? Something is not wired right.) Without saying anything about the morality of porn and sex toys, being so defensive about a very reasonable request is usually a sign of self preservation about a perceived need rather than it being about defending personal liberties as a matter of principle. It's not about censorship per se, but you censoring something that he probably cannot do without.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:09 PM on January 22, 2014 [25 favorites]

Thanks for the update - from the original question, it wasn't clear if he planned to have a chat this week or if he was all puffed up about being ask to protect her and just acting like this was his idea of how to handle birds and bees when the time comes.

Either way, however, it's bad news and authority - like a judge - should make it very clear to him that he was talking crazy and there are real risks to his daughter and to his access to her if he doesn't retreat from this and give a credible explanation of how he actually plans to parent.

His making non-specific threats about the future, btw, is the only way I can explain a competent mental health profession not reporting.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 1:16 PM on January 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm a divorced mom and raised three kids by myself (and I had to go to court for inappropriate things my ex did to/near/with the kids) and another suggestion for you: because he has said that he thinks this is an appropriate thing to do, I wouldn't let my kid be alone with him anymore.

I would get this psychologist to back you up. Or get another one.

Your worst case scenario is that he takes you to court and at that point, you can bring in a psychologist.

But seriously, this is incredibly creepy and unnerving and SOMANYREDFLAGSWAVING about not leaving your daughter alone with him.

Don't leave her alone with him.

Let him try to take you to court. No judge is going to force you to leave your daughter alone with him.

(And while typically I'd suggest divorced parents work out a visitation issue out with a therapist, not in this case. His thinking is sick.)
posted by kinetic at 1:34 PM on January 22, 2014 [11 favorites]

According to Wikipedia, In some states in the US, PhD. psychologist are also exempt from mandatory reporting.

she is 8, and I don't know WHEN exactly he thinks this little talk should take place.

However, it's not clear that someone discussing their desire to do something at an unspecified time in the future would even fall into mandatory reporting.

I frankly have no idea whether calling CPS would do anything. Having CPS question him about if he intends to do this might be what gets him to realize this is far enough outside what others would find appropriate that he might get a clue, tell them he has no plans to do such a thing, and carry out his plans with more secrecy.

SpacemanStix:I mean, what kind of dad, who is interested in custody, wouldn't worry that intentional exposure to pornography might limit those chances? Something is not wired right.

Get a lawyer to help direct your steps. You might want a judge to find out about his porn plans before he gets it through his head that he could lose custody by talking about those plans.

Really, someone making it clear to him how other people would see this as child abuse (alerting him that it's something to hide!) would be the WORST THING for your child.
posted by yohko at 1:35 PM on January 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

I have the law on my side, so I feel a LITTLE less freaked out about taking him to court if he insists.

"If he insists?" Um, whaaat? No! He has already shown he has no boundaries and he has no regard for your child's well-being. For all you know, he will say "fine, whatever" to your face and then do it anyway. Are you really willing to risk your daughter's health and happiness? It's one thing that you let this guy treat you like shit and cross sick sexual boundaries that made you feel bad -- you are an adult woman and you've wised up to the situation by leaving him. But now this is involving your child. And this child can't make these decisions for herself; you need to protect her. Come ON. You need to talk to someone with authority about this now. Good god, have you not been reading all these answers? There is no waiting. This guy shouldn't be around your daughter... period, end of story.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:37 PM on January 22, 2014 [57 favorites]

here's another vote to petition for sole custody with supervised visitation. I'm just a stranger on the internet, of course, but a) the law gives you some weapons here and b) I'm not a mother but I would not date this guy. I would not want him in my house.

If this is one of those things where Legal Aid in your area can help, if money is an issue, please give them a shot. Hang in there.
posted by angrycat at 1:47 PM on January 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

I find your concern as concerning as everyone else but I would be very cautious about making a bad situation worse and caution to tread very carefully here. I wish I had some 'answers' for you.

A couple of things that came to my mind were having in 10 years as a health professional only perhaps one positive experience of taking abuse to children and adolescent social work (sometimes after 4 insistent, extensive referrals). For the most part, (nothing against individuals in the professions who are over-stretched in often crazy, unwieldy systems that have lost sight of themselves) I can put my hand on my heart and say it has made things worse. There is an escalation of the drama and very little (if any benefit) to the kid. Please don't get me wrong people if you think a kid is in danger take stuff to services.. but in your case you are actively involved in your kids life.. so in a prominent position.

This man is not reasonable. You know him more than most. Was he always completely unreasonable? Does she feel at risk? Talk to her very calmly in a safe place about this (cry afterwards). Is he trying to distress you via her? What feeds that? Is he psychopathic? If so.. go straight to work by Dr Liane Leedholm on 'parenting the at risk child'.

Talk to your kid about 'good touch' and 'bad touch' and being able to say 'I don't want to see that' and that that is her right, whoever is trying to get her to do stuff. Use dolls.

What an awful awful situation. She needs a resourceful mum she can turn to. Police may be needed.
posted by tanktop at 1:53 PM on January 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have the law on my side, so I feel a LITTLE less freaked out about taking him to court if he insists.

To echo AppleTurnover, this isn't about whether it comes to him insisting about going to court. It is about you insisting that you will take all steps necessary to protect your child, including going to court.

You must stop thinking he gets to set the terms here. You, and the authorities you are going to contact, are the ones who will set the terms from this point forward. This is because he has demonstrated that he only has his own self-interests at heart (no matter how he might try to frame it). You are the only parent in this equation who has your daughter's interests at heart. You must act decisively, and you must do it before he has a chance to be alone with her again.
posted by scody at 1:56 PM on January 22, 2014 [39 favorites]

Really, someone making it clear to him how other people would see this as child abuse (alerting him that it's something to hide!) would be the WORST THING for your child.

That is, before you are able to get him on the record as saying this to the right people who are able to make sure he isn't able to get the chance to do it in the future, and have assured the safety of your child.

After that people can tell him all about how explaining your plan to sexually abuse your child in the future won't help you get custody, and what sexual abuse is.
posted by yohko at 2:01 PM on January 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Talk to your kid about 'good touch' and 'bad touch' and being able to say 'I don't want to see that' and that that is her right, whoever is trying to get her to do stuff. Use dolls.

This is a good thing to do. Make sure respect her saying she doesn't want to be touched a certain way (even if that's something like not wanting you to brush her hair, or not feeling like hugging someone), so she learns that when she says "no", people who care about her respect that.
posted by yohko at 2:05 PM on January 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Folks, I know this is a super sensitive topic but please try to keep it cool in here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:14 PM on January 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Since your daughter is in the care of a child psychologist, could you ask the psychologist to try to suss out whether she has already been exposed to inappropriate material? His vehement defense of something that is so indefensible raised some red flags for me. I know people who were sexually abused by family members, including parents, and trying to make porn a "normal" thing for a kid to look at was nearly universal amongst their experiences.

Whether anything has happened already or not, in my opinion, you should talk to your lawyer about this and go for sole custody with supervised visitation. I wouldn't want this man alone in a room with anyone's child. This entire situation makes me cringe.
posted by bedhead at 2:22 PM on January 22, 2014 [9 favorites]

Hey, OP. I 100% agree that this is a matter for attorneys (and, very possibly, for the DA). I respectfully suggest, along with many others, that you are underreacting, and I would make sure to contact an attorney, at a minimum, before she goes over to her dad's place again.

By way of counterpoint, I am going to share my own experience of Family Porn Consumption as Teaching Tool.

My closest friends in middle school were old hippies of the pure form. They weren't that old then--this was 1990. Lived out on a compound, Sgt. Pepper, whole deal. My 2 girlfriends, the only children of the family, were 8 and 10 when I was 10. Sex was always a topic of discussion because of course we were interested. We always had free access to Our Bodies, Ourselves and discussed it all with the mom, openly, at the kitchen table. At 11 (sister age 9) we found a neighbor's stash of Playboy and a deck of nudie playing cards that some yahoo had given to their dad. Once again, their mom was right there to explain to us that women do not actually look this way, that this is just something that men masturbate to, look, those are implants, etc. The input of their dad was 100% solely limited to passing through the room and saying, "Oh, God, not the fertility dance again, yes, those ARE implants," and then he was gone again. We all found this entertaining and informative, no biggie.

Further into the gray area--we would have been around 10 and 12--was a very vanilla porno tape of their dad's, just sex and blowjobs, which we watched in secret (like I bet a lot of kids do in the time of the internet). We would never have been allowed to watch this as an educational feature, sitting on the couch with their mom, that would have been a bridge too far, but I am also confident that these seasoned screwers would not have allowed, for example, any kinky material to remain hidden in the house. On plain old fucking they looked the other way, and we were already well into puberty then. We also didn't find the video damaging. But we were all a bunch of girls. No men anywhere around. IF their parents had come across us watching this, they would have immediately taken it and thrown it away, but it wouldn't have been a major disciplinary issue, more like, "wait till you're 15."

The point of these anecdata is to illustrate exactly HOW NOT LIKE THIS is your ex's suggestion. Please protect your any means necessary.
posted by skbw at 2:23 PM on January 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Enough people have said this is child abuse, and I agree with them. But here is another way to look at it too which, on preview, is along skbw's post above. Your ex-husband knows fuck-all about female sexuality. He knows how to use it for his own pleasure, but he knows nothing about the female sexual mind. Your 8 year old daughter currently doesn't have much of a female sexual mind (unless she is entering very early puberty) but even still, your husband is trying to train her to see herself through 'the male gaze'. If he was really interested in teaching her about sexuality for her own benefit he would
1) wait until she asks him for information and only then,
2) discuss sexuality with her in a way that encourages her to view herself as a sexual being for herself, not men.
But it is obvious neither of these things are what he has planned. He wants to corrupt her sexually for the male benefit.

My cousin was in a similar situation to your daughter when she was 9. She is now 25 and doing well but only after years of therapy, the jailing and death of her father, and her mother's extraordinary honesty, fight and caring.

Please petition for full custody.
posted by Kerasia at 2:27 PM on January 22, 2014 [19 favorites]

Please find a good lawyer, for the sake of your daughter's safety. My dad was a lawyer, and his life's work was all about protecting kids. There are plenty of lawyers out there like him who would take this on for you. Furthermore, any sane judge would give your ex a stern talking to about how inappropriate this is for your daughter. It may also prove necessary, if he pushes back against this, that your daughter have her own lawyer, who would argue solely in her best interests, independent of you and your interests. This is something that my father did often, and, at least in Massachusetts, the expense was borne by the state.
posted by SobaFett at 2:35 PM on January 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

What an awful situation, I'm sorry you and your daughter are dealing with this. You mentioned you're in intensive therapy - surely you've discussed this situation with your therapist? What course of action do they recommend?
posted by Space Kitty at 2:50 PM on January 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

PLEASE take this more seriously than you currently are. Your child is at real risk for sexual abuse here and you are seriously underreacting to it.

You need to clarify exactly what he means and record the conversation before the next time he spends time with her (check your laws to make sure you follow them here), and unless it is 100% clear at the end of the conversation that he will never show pornography to his daughter AND your intuitions say everything is fine, you need to call the authorities.
posted by zug at 2:51 PM on January 22, 2014 [7 favorites]

I am not a parent. At the same time I would NEVER let a kid near someone like this.

From what you describe, it seems like he is pushing the boundaries. There's no way to know for sure whether or not he has already shown your 8 year old daughter a playboy magazine. But even if he hasn't, let's walk through this together:

< 1 minute is the time it would take your ex to retrieve one of his playboy magazines
< 5 minutes is the time it might take him to go through the magazine with her
2 seconds is the time it takes to say the words "Would you like to try that?" or "Would you like to see one?"

In less than ten minutes, your ex could seriously mess up your daughter.

If he is the kind of person who so vehemently believes it's ok to show his daughter porn as a teaching tool, it's not a stretch of the imagination to guess what he might next convince himself is his right.

Talk to your social worker now. Find a lawyer now. Effective immediately, do not leave your daughter alone with her father.
posted by donut_princess at 2:52 PM on January 22, 2014 [14 favorites]

Just another voice to add that a guy who already shows little regard for his wife (the sex parties, opening the marriage without authentic consent, then refusal to respect your reasonable requests) and her boundaries will probably show little regard for your daughter's boundaries.

Growing up is hard enough; don't add to it by letting her father do what he's planning. Do what it takes to get a lawyer and cut off unsupervised visitation. Good luck - it sounds like you have come SO far already, and I am so impressed with how strong you are for leaving the situation and now continuing to fight to protect your daughter. That takes A LOT of strength.
posted by guster4lovers at 3:17 PM on January 22, 2014 [7 favorites]

YOU NEED TO ACT NOW. Do not wait.

Your child may have already been illegally exposed to pornography. Have you talked to your daughter?

Do not wait and hope this won't happen. This is a man who doesn't care for you or your child at all if it gets in the way of what he wants to do. This is serious red flag behavior. If he doesn't get why this is wrong, there may be plenty of other things he doesn't understand are wrong. He will lie to you and do what he wants anyway.

Call the police. Call CPS. Call the court. NOW. Don't let her near him without supervision. DO NOT.
posted by Arrrgyle at 3:47 PM on January 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

To help you get some context: this book, It's Not the Stork!, is appropriate for a kid of your daughter's age. Here's a few more pages from inside it. This is what girls of this age -- and I have one myself -- should be seeing to get healthy information. Naked bodies are fine and appropriate, but the context matters.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:18 PM on January 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

You may not have noticed this, but there are at least TWO lawyers in this thread telling you your husband can go to jail for this.

This is someone who should never ever have unsupervised visits with your daughter. Wow.

I also think you are gravely under-reacting and I'm wondering where the psychologist is on all of this in terms of mandatory reporting?

You desperately require support, because it seems you think this is a "wait and see" type thing.

" Waiting" for what, exactly?

Get someone (your therapist? a fellow MeFite?) to hold your hand while you start making phone calls.

Good luck. Stay safe.
posted by jbenben at 4:24 PM on January 22, 2014 [11 favorites]

Like pretty much everyone else in this thread I have been deeply disturbed by your question. What your ex is wanting to do is not a sign of potential abuse, it already is abuse. This man must not be allowed to be alone with your daughter.

It strikes me that you yourself have been a victim of his abuse, manipulation and control in the past. That is why one of the most important things you can do in this situation is to no longer let him be the one who makes the rules. That's what abusers do: they warp reality and make you feel like the crazy one. You do not have to ask his permission not to show pornography to your daughter; it doesn't matter what he 'insists' is normal; you must not negotiate with him about what he can and cannot do with her. The good news is, I think you are already starting to do that. I think you came to metafilter because there was a little voice inside you, which has been suppressed throughout your relationship, and it's saying, "This is crazy, right? Somebody tell me this is crazy?"

Well your little voice is right. He is abusive and dangerous. Gather evidence, talk to your psychologist, your lawyer, and if you have doubts come back here and talk to almost anyone who contributed to this thread. Your duty is to protect your daughter; the very last person whose advice you should take on how to do that is the man who wants to show Playboy to a seven-year-old child. If he did that to my daughter the next magazine he read would be written in Braille.
posted by matthew.alexander at 4:33 PM on January 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

You may not have noticed this, but there are at least TWO lawyers in this thread telling you your husband can go to jail for this.

Yeah, this is the most direct and, well, direct I have ever seen lawyers (mefi or otherwise) be on the internet. Your instincts here are correct. I can't add anything new to the good advice that's already been given above, but good luck, stay strong, and come back here if you need more emotional support!
posted by eviemath at 4:57 PM on January 22, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you to everyone.

After a VERY difficult interaction involving telling her that I could not allow him to visit with her again until I had an agreement in writing, I have a signed document from him saying he will not show her porn.

He even admitted that - perhaps - his views on this issue need to change. That is amazing.
posted by SarahBellum at 5:13 PM on January 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: And I will continue to involve the child psychologist as a mediator in our divorce judgment.
posted by SarahBellum at 5:14 PM on January 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Does the document define "porn" in any way? This guy, I worry about him edge-casing and loopholing his way around the playboy scenario.
posted by KathrynT at 5:20 PM on January 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

Forgive me, but that document isn't worth the paper it's written on. The problem isn't securing his agreement to behave in a certain way, the problem is his judgement is so poor that this is a thing he needs to be instructed not to do.

Seriously - what does your therapist say about this? Because I promise you, if a mandated reporter is involved and not taking immediate action, there's more going on than a website can help you with.
posted by Space Kitty at 5:23 PM on January 22, 2014 [52 favorites]

What Space Kitty just said!!!

Fuck his document. He's manipulating you.

You need to follow the advice you've been given above re: protecting her from him. Please!
posted by Salamander at 5:26 PM on January 22, 2014 [13 favorites]

After a VERY difficult interaction involving telling her that I could not allow him to visit with her again until I had an agreement in writing, I have a signed document from him saying he will not show her porn.

He even admitted that - perhaps - his views on this issue need to change. That is amazing.

And this is the part where he straightens up for a spell to get you off his back. Do not fall for this. Your ex is a skilled manipulator.
posted by futureisunwritten at 5:27 PM on January 22, 2014 [13 favorites]

Response by poster: The child psychologist I've hired works as a guardian ad litem - one of the main reasons I was referred to him. I am well aware that more than this document is needed, and will continue to be a hard-ass with the backing of the psychologist and my attorney. He knows I am not going to bend on this issue now.
posted by SarahBellum at 5:35 PM on January 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: And - because some are suggesting that I am under-reacting: the psychologist thinks he needs a bit of a wake-up call about what is appropriate when teaching a child about sex, but is not concerned for her immediate safety.
posted by SarahBellum at 5:41 PM on January 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm afraid that he is just saying what you want to hear and has no real interest in respecting the boundary that you're trying to set. I'm also afraid that you are not seeing the entirety of the danger that this man presents to you and your daughter. He is a psychopath. You need to talk to a family law specialist and you need to change the visitation rules to "supervised" STAT.
posted by echolalia67 at 5:41 PM on January 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

I just wanted to add to what's been said previously that acting as if they have no idea something is at all inappropriate, and bringing it somewhat out in the open is something molesters sometimes do to cover their tracks (like the person above who said her dad did some of the tickling/slightly inappropriate stuff in front of her mom). I firmly believe people like this do this consciously to throw people off the scent and to test the boundaries of the child and the adults that witness it. Then they escalate it once they get a sense that they can push further without consequences.

That may not be what's going on here, but just in case, I wanted to mention that, and reiterate that his reaction that it's totally normal is irrelevant. Don't use that as your guide -- use your gut, and it sounds like your gut has already told you something isn't right about this scenario. While it sounds more speculative/ideological at this point, rather than something he's already done, the fact that he is ignoring the psychologist's warning that it is inappropriate is deeply, deeply disturbing. That in itself is the biggest red flag of all.
posted by ravioli at 5:47 PM on January 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

and will continue to be a hard-ass with the backing of the psychologist and my attorney.

Does this mean you've reported this to both of them? Because your daughter's safety calls for far more than just you "being a hard-ass" -- it calls for the swift intervention of the legal system. Your ex announced his intention to sexually abuse your child. You need to take actual, concrete steps to protect your daughter, and a signed piece of paper from him doesn't come close.

I can't imagine how terrible it must be to confront the reality of what your ex is capable of. But for your child's well-being, you have to look at this squarely. When you say "He even admitted that - perhaps - his views on this issue need to change," what he's really saying is that maybe he'll reconsider sexually abusing your daughter. That is not "amazing" -- that is chilling.

Your daughter is in profound danger. Anything short of going to court to get sole custody and supervised visitations is fiddling while Rome burns.
posted by scody at 6:00 PM on January 22, 2014 [25 favorites]

Mod note: Folks, OP is not anon and if you have stuff you need to send to her privately, please feel free. Haranguing her here is not helpful and it's not question-answering. Please be mindful of that with your responses.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:08 PM on January 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

It sounds like he told you exactly what you wanted to hear. H even put the proviso "perhaps" in there: "He even admitted that - perhaps - his views on this issue need to change." Of course he doesn't think that, and now he's got you in a position where you're going to hand over your 7 year old daughter to him, relieved that this whole sordid drama is over.

I understand this is a terrible situation and I truly sympathise, but given everything you've written here you are doing a complete disservice to your daughter. Don't be the mother whose child comes to her later on in life and asks "You had a chance to help me, to stop him. Why didn't you?"

Because this - now - is your chance to help and protect her. Please reread all the great advice you've been given, and don't believe anything your ex says about anything from this point on.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 6:09 PM on January 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: She does NOT know. I find it interesting that this thread started because I wanted to get some reassurance that I should take legal action. Now that I have decided to do so, and am set in my intention to involve the team of professionals (who I have been discussing all of this along the way - and have brought him into the discussion with the child psychologist) - now that I am taking the first steps - getting it in writing from him that he intends to lock up all his porn and not expose her to adult materials on penalty of losing custody. I am fully intending to keep this issue at the forefront of all future negotiations, and now I am being told that I am a bad mother and under-reacting to this?

I am not going to call the police just because he's an idiot. I AM calling my lawyer and the child psychologist for their advice first thing in the AM. My mother works with child protective services. The psychologist is a guardian ad litem. I have a strong team of support, and I appreciate the constructive ideas, but the shouts to call the police and have him locked up are, I believe, an over-reaction.
posted by SarahBellum at 6:11 PM on January 22, 2014 [21 favorites]

This is a serious situation. However her waiting until the morning to talk to her lawyer and child psychologist who has evaluated the child, been in contact with the father and has heard these concerns is a valid step to take. Especially if the child is currently in OP's care. Nothing is going to change in the next 12 hours. I think the police do need to be involved but waiting until morning to inform her support team and ask for advice is not a bad decision.
posted by AlexiaSky at 6:25 PM on January 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

I am so proud of the steps you have already taken. However, in my opinion this person is not someone who should have access to your child.
posted by windykites at 6:39 PM on January 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

From a MeFite who would prefer to remain anon:
I am so happy to hear that you have a team of people working with you on this, but I have to concur with the people saying that the signed agreement means very little, and that the important thing to take away from this situation is the breathtaking level of poor judgment exhibited by your ex. In my young life, I first had a parent and later a step-parent figure who continually pushed the envelope with this kind of thing and, while it never escalated to anything physical, it was still inappropriate and damaging, and I have often wished there had been adults around me who were willing to make a fuss in the name of protecting me rather than believing that the questionable judgment would fix itself. I know you are working hard to do the best you can by your daughter, but I do not believe that your ex's judgment can be trusted, even if he says now that he understands the problem.

I do not write this with judgment in my heart, and wish only the best for you and your family.
posted by jessamyn at 6:44 PM on January 22, 2014 [15 favorites]

The signed agreement is a worthless piece of paper, if you are not at his residence when he changes his mind about it and decides to act. Please don't allow any unsupervised visits if you possibly can manage it.
posted by antiquated at 6:55 PM on January 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm not judging you or your parental care of your daughter at all - the fact that you asked about this situation is proof enough of your concern and desire to do the right thing. I think the emphatic responses you've received are more a reflection of what most of us feel as a clear urgency to avoid leaving your ex and your daughter alone - and that's a reasonable reaction to the situation you describe.

You are surrounded by well-qualified people and they're not reacting the way we are. You see that as evidence that those who actually know the individuals involved have better instincts than a bunch of strangers, but I personally see it as evidence of just how smooth a true sociopath can be - they're experts at fooling others - experts, and proud of it.

Now, wait - just two small things I haven't seen mentioned in the comments above:

1) What about the sex toys? Those don't technically fall under the term "porn," and, for that matter, neither does Playboy - that's an over-the-counter men's magazine, isn't it? To me, "porn" is something much stronger than Playboy, so the agreement to not expose your daughter to "porn" completely dances around the sex toys you mentioned and written or video material that is still totally inappropriate for a 7-year-old.

2) My other point is this: It only takes once - one exposure, one molestation or even the suggestion, one quick glimpse/video/website of how "other kids" are "really enjoying" this "private time," this "special kind of loving" with their Dad - or with each other, or ... whatever. He's her father and she's going to cooperate with him without making a fuss. She's also going to listen to what he says about Mom being "silly" when she thinks "private time" should be a no-no.

One thing that made the hell I was in as a child (which did NOT include sexual behavior) so very hard to get past even years later was the helpless position you're in as a child - you cannot, absolutely cannot refuse your parents or fight back against them - that's just not right and every 7-year-old "knows" that.

Here's where you "err on the side of caution," Mom. You never would have asked the question in the first place if you didn't already know the answer, regardless of what your experts say. Please protect your little girl first, even if you're just "being silly."
posted by aryma at 7:18 PM on January 22, 2014 [14 favorites]

I say this with a whole lot of compassion, as I'm personally aware of some of the issues that you may be living with. But there are two things that come to mind for me immediately, in terms of trust: 1) You cannot trust someone who has potential issues with sexual compulsions such that they are prioritized over the well being of his daughter. There is something deeply and fundamentally broken there that cannot be resolved quickly or with a signed piece of paper. 2) Your husband has already shown that he will choose his sexual life over the concerns and needs of his family, and it's created a lot of brokenness for you and your family. I think you need to think that no matter what happens -- and until things are resolved in very compelling ways with a lot of blood, sweat, tears, repentance, and boundaries -- he cannot be trusted in a situation in which you do not know for sure what is happening in private.

I know you've been through a lot, and I know it's hard to hear things like this from strangers who seems to be making a judgment call without walking in your shoes. I would encourage you, though, not to think of it as judgment on you, but a deep concern for your daughter. The best of us have blinders at times that are created by difficult life circumstances as we are forced to cope. I'm not sure most responses here are saying that people know better than you, but that no one here (you, us, your daughter) can afford to be wrong, even for a minute. What does it require to have an adequate level of certainty in the face of some big red flags? I believe the advice you are getting is more towards providing an adequate standard of safety and certainty, and without it, not feeling as if it's remotely worth the gamble. You know your husband. His choices have caused a lot of pain over the last year. If you ask yourself, at what point is it worth gambling with the well-being of my daughter?, I'm guessing that you'll say not ever. How then do you make sure that it is no longer a gamble? I think you don't rest until that question is answered.

I feel horrible because I feel as if this sounds harsh. I hope there's a path for you through all of this that brings you and your daughter some peace.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:20 PM on January 22, 2014 [31 favorites]

the psychologist thinks he needs a bit of a wake-up call about what is appropriate when teaching a child about sex, but is not concerned for her immediate safety.

The Guardian Ad Litem from my daughter's custody case never graduated from college, and this didn't come out until we were all hunkered down in a trial, for chrissakes. The other psychologists that I've seen with my daughter's father have also been useless, unable to grasp subtle or not subtle issues. I was a disenfranchised chick with a megaphone. I've been through this kind of thing and it pays to have a clear head and some good outside perspective, like what's going on here. I'm so glad that you posted this question! And while I believe that you have a ways to go yet as far as understanding how serious this issue really is (he must be a charming dude), please know that it is serious, life-changing stuff.

The whole Family Services/mediator loop is generally a fat load of bullshit. You have to bring your concerns to them, it's not the other way around. Yes, it's confounding, and yes, they get paid a lot more than you do, and yes, court is a big scary expensive thing, but there comes a time in life where you are going to need to get serious. Anything less is not going to cut it. There is probably lots of stuff that you aren't telling us here.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 7:35 PM on January 22, 2014 [13 favorites]

All I can say is it's better for you to overreact than underreact when it comes to your daughter's safety. None of us knows this man and none of us knows what he would or wouldn't do regarding your daughter.

But I will say that sexual abuse is way way way more common than most people have any idea, and that if you even think there is a one percent chance he could show her pornography-or worse-please do not be afraid to escalate this to the moon.

And hugs to you, because I cannot imagine how hard it must be to deal with all of this.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:37 PM on January 22, 2014 [14 favorites]

This is a really hard thing.

I know you're in a massively tough spot here. I really do. You're supposed to be the arbiter of all that is right and good, and you're supposed to protect your child, and you're supposed to "educate" your ex-husband about what is an "appropriate" sexual teaching tool (whatever the hell that means) while coping with the implosion of your marriage and the new raft of burdens that got plopped exclusively on your doorstep because your husband decided that fucking was more important than accepting his responsibilities and working through his shit while minimizing the collateral damage. I get it; you're trying. You're doing your damnedest. You love your kid and you want to protect her. And that's why you're here.

But here is where I'm getting derailed. I'll tell you a story. Several years ago I had to go to court to get a temporary restraining order against a boyfriend who broke into my house and assaulted me. I showed up in court at the crack of dawn, I sat for hours and hours in a room with lots of other women who'd been involved in domestic violence situations. I sat there for over 8 hours before going before a judge, in fact. While I was there, I sat very near a woman who looked to be in her 40's who was wearing an electric blue taffeta prom dress. Her hair was a tangled mess, bags under her eyes down to her chin, shoeless, wearing a prom dress. I overheard her say that her boyfriend had kicked her out of her apartment, naked, and set fire to her bed and closet. She'd then gone to her neighbor's apartment and the neighbor's teenaged daughter was the only one home. And this teenaged girl had given this woman her best dress - her prom dress - to wear. And the woman thought this was kind of sweet, that this girl wanted her to look good. And I thought, "Wow. Now THAT is fucked up. Her boyfriend set all her clothes on fire. Now THAT'S abuse! That's the real thing. That's what they're talking about in the Movie of the Week."

Of course, I was there to hear that story, and I was there seeking a temporary restraining order because my boyfriend at the time had broken into my apartment and whipped me with the antenna to a television set and ripped my phone out of the wall so I couldn't call the cops, but I still had it in my head that my situation wasn't like people who end up 40 years old in a shocking blue prom dress in the advocate's office at domestic violence court.

You're a good person in a shitty situation. But you are not different than people who are in "real" sexual abuse situations. This is how it begins. It begins with a person who doesn't believe that morality applies to them. They feel entitled to what they want, and they take it. Or they tell themselves a story that it's about "teaching" a kid something. Or they frame it as being about love. Whatever they do, it helps them to have accomplices. It helps them when people think that their situation is different, or not as bad, or not as serious. I mean, didn't your marriage dissolve because of your husband's newly-realized sexual proclivities? Didn't you find it unacceptable? Why, then, are you willing to work with him on this issue at the potential cost to your child? If anything, this would seem to me the last. Fucking. Straw.

Perhaps your husband can get help. Perhaps this psychologist is right. Perhaps lots of people here overreacted. The thing is, you cannot take the chance with your child's spirit, body, soul, mind. You're her parent and your job is to protect her. Your husband is talking some seriously twisted shit here. To my mind - as a parent, yes - goal number one would be to get my child as far away from him as possible. And I say that knowing what losing her father could do to her emotionally.

And that is why I think you should file for sole custody first thing in the morning, and that you should consider going no-contact with him a gift you are giving to your kid.

(And, yep, sexual abuse survivor here and would have given anything if anybody had taken my part before the damage was already done.)
posted by TryTheTilapia at 7:38 PM on January 22, 2014 [82 favorites]

This whole thread is so crazy triggering.... For the record, the psychologist I saw (for years!!) as a child didn't think I was at any risk either. Boy was he wrong. Please protect your child- that innocence cannot be replaced. Supervised visits only.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 8:20 PM on January 22, 2014 [19 favorites]

OP, you say "the shouts to call the police and have him locked up are, I believe, an over-reaction." But what about the advice to not allow your daughter to ever be alone with this man, to allow only supervised visits? Do you think that is an over-reaction?
posted by merejane at 8:23 PM on January 22, 2014

I think that you sound like a great mom. I think most of us feel this way - you've escaped a screwed up marriage, you want what's best for your daughter, and you came here asking for help.

The vehemence of the responses you're getting isn't because we think you're a bad person - it's because this question is throwing up red flags on the level of the human trafficking askme.

This is one of the most scary askme questions I've ever encountered, and your first responses didn't sound like you were as alarmed as the rest of us were. I think as this has developed, it's become more clear that you do intend to take immediate action, which is great and absolutely the right thing to do. So kudos for that, and keep up the good work! I just don't want you to feel attacked when really our concern is for your daughter and the incredibly scary situation you described.
posted by zug at 9:40 PM on January 22, 2014 [9 favorites]

OP, I am now in the middle of deciding on one family member being cut off because they cannot be trusted around another minor child. I do not allow one of my relatives to be alone with some of my children because they say incredibly cruel things, including sexual comments. We have had counselling and a written agreement, but it was broken this week (physical abuse) and we have to decide whether to continue or limit to reduced and supervised contact. We're leaning to that choice because the alternative is living in fear.

Every time your daughter is in your ex's custody without you there, some part of you will be knotted up in fear. I'm living with this right now - I was home sick, waiting for my partner to come home with an unhappy child and I couldn't risk going to the bathroom because the abusive family member was in the house at that time, without bringing the child with me. It would have been easier to be alone with the small child than to have to keep some part of me on alert for the other person's actions. It is exhausting and depressing.

You can co-parent with an ex if you trust them for the basics. You might differ over details, but you trust them not to hurt your child. Your ex can't be trusted.

It is heartbreaking to hurt the family member who you have to cut contact with, to fight in court - it's brutal. But it's better than spending the next decade in fear every time your daughter is with her father, dreading the day you find out that he abused her.

I've been on the other side - distant relatives abusing my child - and I would give anything to be able to go back and prevent it. I promise you that fighting this now is better than living with the pain.
posted by kittypaw at 10:15 PM on January 22, 2014 [9 favorites]

For future reference - when someone tells you who they are, believe them. Don't give them the benefit of the doubt, don't rationalise their behaviour, don't downplay what they've said, don't try to change their mind - just believe them and act accordingly.
posted by heyjude at 11:02 PM on January 22, 2014 [19 favorites]

Not sure I have much to add here, but maybe imagine that your ex husband had said he felt it was fine for him to drive your child when he was drinking. Would you be okay with that? No? Is a signed document assurance that he wouldn't? No, it's not. All a signed document is proof of is that he realized that he needed to assuage your fears so he could keep seeing his child... People are getting upset here because his attitude is so off the mark of healthy that it makes you wonder what's going on in his head that he didn't dare say. You got the edited version. That's scary!

Would you let a teacher continue being alone with your child if they wanted to show porn as sex Ed? Would a signed document be enough then?

It's great that you have a strong support team and yes, you should use them. But you're going to have to rely on your own judgement here because you and you alone are responsible for your daughters safety.

It seems like you see this as an "unfenced swimming pool" situation... Like dad has shown you his new pool and has refused to put a fence around it, but you played hard ball and now he agrees to reconsider fencing it. This is nothing like that- there is no fence for you to visually see. No way for you to ensure her safety if you're not there and they are alone.

In terms of not wanting to damage their relationship if you over react? Well, when you say to a child's mother that you want to show them porn- you don't get to be alone with that kid anymore. He did that, he made that choice. That's they way it works when you are protecting your kid.
posted by misspony at 1:59 AM on January 23, 2014 [12 favorites]

On top of all the previous comments about how utterly squicky and inappropriate his plan is, I can't imagine that exposing a young girl to Playboy will do wonders for her body image and self esteem. Girls have enough challenges with unrealistic Photoshopped images of women in popular media -- and I speak as the father of two adolescent daughters -- without this guy piling Playboy on top of it.
posted by Gelatin at 4:00 AM on January 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

And also, if in your mind you're thinking that "he might not be an abuser" well, maybe he's not- but every other molester wasn't either, until they were. Just like he wasn't a swinger, until he was... And your input and signed documents (ie marriage papers signed that he would forsake all others) didn't matter there... They were totally up for revision. Don't let your child be his first.
posted by misspony at 5:08 AM on January 23, 2014 [10 favorites]

The child psychologist I've hired works as a guardian ad litem - one of the main reasons I was referred to him. I am well aware that more than this document is needed, and will continue to be a hard-ass with the backing of the psychologist and my attorney. He knows I am not going to bend on this issue now.

With all due respect. . . why the fuck are you messing around with this? Go for all the fucking marbles. Full custody, no visitation. You've got all the ammunition you need. Lawyer up and curb stomp this asshole.
posted by valkyryn at 7:20 AM on January 23, 2014 [18 favorites]

SarahBellum: "I am not going to call the police just because he's an idiot. I AM calling my lawyer and the child psychologist for their advice first thing in the AM. My mother works with child protective services. The psychologist is a guardian ad litem. I have a strong team of support, and I appreciate the constructive ideas, but the shouts to call the police and have him locked up are, I believe, an over-reaction."

Your husband is threatening to emotionally abuse your daughter as legally defined by the Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). What he's threatening her with would undoubtedly be considered sexual abuse in many state jurisdictions.

You are your daughter's only defense against that happening.

If an outsider had threatened to abuse your daughter -- someone who is not your husband -- how would you react? Because my daughter's five, and in your place I'd do whatever I could to keep them the hell away from her.

There are times when it's okay to take someone at their word. This is not one of them. Threatening her in this way should be a HUGE red flag. An instant trust deal-breaker. And make no mistake, this is a threat. Even if he doesn't see it that way, you definitely should.

This is not the time to worry about his feelings or whether he's an "idiot." Your daughter has been threatened with abuse.
* Negotiating with the person threatening her is an under-reaction.
* Going to the police is not an over-reaction.
* Suing for sole custody is not an over-reaction.
* Taking steps to prevent your young, vulnerable daughter from seeing him without adult supervision present at all times is not an over-reaction.

The consequences if you're wrong or an investigating authority under-reacts could be quite devastating to your daughter if he goes through with his plan. Your husband is going to have the ability to abuse your daughter in the future no matter what he writes on a piece of paper, no matter what promises he makes, simply because you will share custody and he will have unfettered access to her. And you will not be able to control that. Just respond after the damage is done.

And let's face it, to date he hasn't proven to be particularly trustworthy or shown he cares about respecting your wishes.

There was a comment made above that 'Daddies are not supposed to be sexual with their little girls, no matter how old those girls are.' Please keep this in mind and take it to heart. Fathers are supposed to protect their children, and in particular act as appropriate, non-sexual, protective role models for their daughters. By threatening her in this way, he's revealing to you that he is incapable of being a safe parent.

I wish you luck.
posted by zarq at 9:15 AM on January 23, 2014 [26 favorites]

Yeah, don't count on the shrink to know what's best. They are human and make errors too. When I was a kid, Children's Aid visited us and didn't do anything, when they should have taken us away. I had to talk to counsellors and convinced them that I was a healthy, well-adjusted young girl that didn't need help shortly before I started self-injuring and sleeping on park benches to get away from my father. Don't trust him with her. Don't assume that the "authorities" are always right.
posted by windykites at 9:29 AM on January 23, 2014 [8 favorites]

Gah. SarahBellum, I feel for you. And this thread is making me feel really uncomfortable. There is a *ton* of judgement happening here, both of you and your former husband. I don't know if there's backstory in your posting history that warrants it, or not.

But your saying your former husband is an idiot resonates for me. I know a ton of people with unconventional ideas about sex who might say something like he said, and I don't think any of them would deliberately hurt a child. That said, some of them definitely have a "freak out the squares" thing going on, and they might deliberately aim to shock someone like you, the mom.

That said, you're right to be concerned. And as the girl's mother, you are the person with primary responsibility for protecting her. That's not the lawyer's job or the psychologist's or anyone else's. I think you know that. And you know your former husband, and your daughter, better than we do.

If I were you, I'd talk frankly about this with your former husband. I'd tell him that what he said scared you, and I'd want to supervise their visits for a while. I'd read books on child molestation and be alert for indicators that anything bad is happening to your daughter. I'd talk with her too, and listen carefully, and I would have her talk with the psychologist. I'd try to develop relationships with a few people with real expertise in this area, and I'd follow their advice.

But I do think it's possible your former husband was just being a dork, maybe with an edge of wanting to shock you. I'd be very reluctant to entirely pull his visitation rights, because this is his daughter, and presumably they love each other and should be able to see each other. I think the commenter upthread who voiced skepticism about child protection services is correct: I have not seen them do much good, and they frequently do harm. I think it will be better for your daughter if you don't overreact. If her father is not hurting her, she deserves to have a relationship with him, and taking it away would hurt her.

My qualifications for writing this answer aren't great. I'm not a mother. I have a friend who lost access to his much-loved son because the son's former wife was angry with him and vengeful over money issues. I have friends who were abused as children. I'm a journalist who did a lot of work in the nineties on satanic panic and ritual abuse scares. I don't know your situation, and I don't know your family.
posted by Susan PG at 9:40 AM on January 23, 2014 [8 favorites]

She CANNOT, repeat, CANNOT unilaterally start denying visitation. That could lead to her losing custody (seriously).

Please stop yelling at her. She didn't create this guy or the local family court.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:12 AM on January 23, 2014 [29 favorites]

Also, to be clear, I would also talk to a lawyer about how to limit his visitation. I think this is a really bad sign, terrifying, actually.

You should know what steps you need to take so that you can make a good case to the family court judges in your jurisdiction, when it comes time to do that. A family lawyer who is local to you can be the best advisor about that, but someone who works as a guardian ad litem is possibly helpful too.

Ask your daughter's psychologist what you should look for and what would cause her to report. Get the lay of the land.

Without anyone else who knows this child in real life sharing our concern, it is really, really easy for it to look like you're "out to get" your ex. Then when something happens that you can actually use to start getting his rights reduced or removed, his lawyers can use the reasonable concern you have about this to paint you as unstable, vindictive, etc. They then claim that your accusations are unfounded and part of a pattern of attempted parental alienation.

Like I said. Get local advice. Think long term.

Good luck.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:23 AM on January 23, 2014 [13 favorites]

Just an extra note:
It can be very hard to leave a partner (the parent of your child would), because in acknowledging that they are wrong for you, and sometimes just plain wrong, it doesn't feel like you are judging them, but judging yourself.
Because you chose them, you stayed with them, you know they have their good points, and it all gets caught up with an ego thing that you just don't want to have been wrong about them. It's a bit of a sunk costs thing, and also just wanting to believe that you have good judgement. Even after a breakup, you feel invested in them, and like what they do or might do, reflects on you.

The thing is, that's not necessarily true. We all make mistakes. For any of the people who have contributed their own heartbreaking stories on this thread, if the adults around them had thought there was anything to really worry about, maybe they wouldn't have happened. I'm sure every one of those adults believed they had good judgement.

People are worried about him, not you, and that is not a personal attack.
posted by Elysum at 3:00 PM on January 23, 2014 [13 favorites]

SarahBellum, this must be a horrible time for you. I'm very sorry that you're going through it.

It's possible that your husband merely has bad judgment. That's the very best scenario, because as other posters have said: this was not normal or acceptable behavior, and it is very likely illegal. I'm concerned that this isn't the case: your husband may trying to desensitise her to sexualised interaction as a process of "grooming" her. If so, his written commitment is worthless: he has already breached his duty as a parent and the norms of society.

Sexual attraction to children is, from what I've read, as strong as any other form of sexual attraction. I'm not saying that he is necessarily a paedophile: people do and say strange things when they're angry or troubled. None the less, deliberately exposing a child to pornography is more consistent with grooming behavior than, say, odd ideas about sexual education. If he is a paedophile then it's probably naive to think he could repress it without intensive therapy and monitoring. I know you're concerned about the costs, but you need to be talking to a lawyer about this.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:04 PM on January 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Mod note: One comment deleted. Feel free to leave helpful advice, but if you have a personal message for the OP, please Mefi mail them. If you are commenting to scold other people in the thread, that's not the purpose of Ask Metafilter.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:19 AM on January 24, 2014

The fellow has bad boundaries and obviously does not know that they are or why they are. His judgement is seriously compromised. And while he may not yet have committed an illegal act, he certainly has expressed a desire to do so for some undefinable reason.
Yes, I would also advise based on what you wrote, to seek sole custody. Start talking to the appropriate people how to build a strong case for this. Based on his past, and his ongoing decision making/boundary crossing habits I would hazard a totally non legal guess you stand a decent shot at prevailing.
posted by edgeways at 12:59 PM on January 24, 2014

My advice is that when you talk to your lawyer in the morning, you don't sugar-coat anything or make any effort to try to give your ex the benefit of the doubt or try to write anything off as him "just being an idiot." Lay out the bare facts and don't leave a single detail out, even if you think it's irrelevant at the time.

Your ex has shown you that his word doesn't mean anything, so I'm pretty sure your lawyer will tell you that the written agreement doesn't, either. I'm not sure what your reasons are for wanting to stay out of court, or for wanting the visits to continue if you can stop them, but I think your lawyer will tell you that court is where you need to be.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:20 PM on January 24, 2014

I would suggest that you request a legal advice session with multiple lawyers to get a feel for various ideas and techniques each lawyer has about the situation you're in (as well as pricing.) I would take the info you get from these interviews (which may cost money but some lawyers will do these initial sessions for free or low cost and possibly by phone).

I would also suggest calling a domestic violence support center and scheduling an appointment with their legal aid (almost always for free!) who can specifically give you some tips specific to dealing with abusive behavior in your partner and your best techniques for handling this in a court situation.

I would also suggest doing some sessions at the domestic violence center in which you ask for crisis intervention and safety planning- where those who work with these situations on a regular basis (as opposed to your therapist who may not have been trained in best practice for these situations and gained daily experience working with these situations on a daily basis.) You can often do a number of sessions like this--where the goal is not your emotional wellness or recovery but assessing the situation and creating a strategy including all available resources and techniques to keep your child and your self safe.

You need to be prepared for the fact that any action you take can have consequences, any statement you make can have consequences, any letter you write or accusation you make can have consequences. Essentially say and do as little as possible until you create a long term plan for how to deal with his retaliation and your certainty you have a legal case built up to protect your child and your welfare.

Being on the defense right now includes making the best decisions you can in your own life because a court situation will mean exposing any of your own faults as well. (Naturally making good decisions for yourself and child is good for other reasons as well and I recommend it for those reasons too!)

This is the time to find out if you can take out a loan, work some extra hours, sell a car, borrow from that friend you once did a favor for... getting the resources together for a good defense is extremely important if there is any possible way you can get the resources together for this.

If you're extremely certain that you want your ex to get visitation, seek supervised visitation and see if you can find a facility in your area that provides this service. Choosing to seek to remove custody from someone else is actually a traumatic process in itself- knowing how much pain it can cause the other person-- even if you know it's the right thing. Continue getting whatever support you can get with your thoughts on the process, weighing the morality of the situation with your own values, validating your feelings, and continuing to prioritize your child over your positive feelings toward your ex, your self doubt about your own worth as a parent (who really has the right to remove anothers child from them on grounds of being such a perfect parent themselves? This isn't about perfection or even faults, this is about abuse, which IS different than having faults and unfortunately needs to be handled differently.) Continue to prioritize your child over your ex's feelings or even welfare if doing so is a danger to your child.

This is seriously hard stuff, and it sounds like you've been taking a lot of good steps and doing the work to make this right and keep your child safe. Solutions are often not clear and professionals themselves don't always have the best advice. Keep your head up and keep seeking solutions and support.
posted by xarnop at 9:48 AM on January 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

I forgot to mention- when you talk with the domestic violence shelter ask specifically for help navigating CPS in the event you plan to make a report or decide that should be part of your plan. There are things you should know about reporting and how it can be used against you both by CPS or in a court situation. It could be the right thing but you need to have your ducks in a row and be prepared for a not fun situation that may not have an actual resulting action geared toward protecting your child and could be used against you if you do it wrong.

A lawyer can advise you about this properly.
posted by xarnop at 9:53 AM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Please be aware that in most states, therapists and counselors (including those at DV shelters) are mandated reporters, which means they may need to file a report to CPS if you disclose to them what your husband said.
posted by jaguar at 10:23 PM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

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