Worried about Sexual Abuse of Children

Archived Q&A and Reviews


10yo son's and teacher's affection for each other is getting a little intense

Sept 2009

I have a question about my son's teacher. My son adores him, has a big crush on him, and in some ways I think I should just be overjoyed that my son has such a nice adult male exemplar. (My son is 10, and the teacher a young man.) But I am a little uncomfortable with some things happening between them. When the teacher left his job at my son's school last year, he twice told me that he felt a special bond with my kids, because, ''_____ just gave himself to me.'' That seemed like a kind of weird way of describing a student/teacher relationship. Well, the teacher quit his job, but is back in town and giving music lessons to many former students while he goes to graduate school. Last week, after a lesson, the teacher called me, first leaving a message saying to call him, then calling later to tell me that my son had been feeling low during the lesson and had cried (not unprecedented at all for my sensitive son) and that he had tried to encourage him and had sat and held him for a while. Then he called again a few minutes later to ask me not to mention to my son that he had called. A few days later my son was delighted to receive a card from the teacher that told my son how wonderful he is. Now, I know that both the teacher and my son are unusually expressive, emotionally sensitive people, and I hate to be suspicious. This teacher is beloved in our community. But I also feel like this is getting a little too intense. Is this just me? Has our culture taught us to be suspicious of male relationships? I'd like to hear people's opinions on this. slightly worried mom

Follow your gut instincts. As the parent, it is absolutely appropriate for you to set limits on other people's relationships/interactions with your child -- and you don't have to explain or apologize for it, either. I would worry if any adult, male or female, had that kind of ''bond'' with my child. At best, it shows a certain emotional immaturity on the teacher's part (adults shouldn't need a child to ''give himself'' to them). And it's very inappropriate for the teacher to ask you to conceal his phone call from your child -- he's asking you to basically lie to your own kid, which makes me wonder what he's asking your son not to tell you... anon

Hi, I've been a teacher for 15+ years and what you describe is borderline. I know, it's terrible that we have become so suspicious of males who work with kids. It's incredibly unfair. It harms all of us and our kids, who lose the benefit of great male role models. Yet as a parent and a teacher, I say trust your instincts. Each individual act by this teacher does not necessarily raise a major red flag, but put all together, they seem off. This, and no other, is reason enough to put you and your child on alert. The comment about your son giving himself to the teacher, the unusually close bond, the tears, being held, the phone call and the card put together *imply* the beginnings of an unhealthy closeness in my mind. Key word is ''imply''. But there are inklings. Listen to them. Listen to your gut

Having been sexually abused by a music teacher when I was about 12, I became automatically very worried reading your post. This is a situation I would remove my child from IMMEDIATELY. I'd also attempt to spread the (strange, troubling) word to other parents of children the teacher sees. I also work in the teaching profession and can attest that the behaviors this man has exhibited are both unprofessional and unsettling. Please think more about this and have a serious talk with your son to find out what damage may have already been done. Concerned for your son

My husband had a similar experience with a man that his mother had dated briefly. The adult just 'fell for' my husband. 'such a great child'. It strikes me as so odd, but he truly is a surogate father to my husband. I mean it was the complete wierd scenario. Single mom, stressed out, caring new man who loves the child. I am far too jaded to not think of all the ways that it could have gone wrong.

When I was talking to my 'father in-law' the other day I mentioned to him how that scenario would seem so strange in todays world. He did not get what I was saying. He was totally perplexed. (This is a very well educated man).

I say keep informed, express to the adult that you have some concerns regarding your son having a friendship with an adult. Keep the lines of communication open and stay closely involved.

IT sounds like your son may have gravitated towards the teacher as he needs to express himself. Maybe a teen counselor that has great references. anon

I am sorry to say that the nature of the teacher's communications with you--the exact words and actions that you described in the two examples--troubles me very much. They rubbed me the wrong way too--I would say that they were even inappropriate from a teacher's p.o.v.--and as a parent of a very vulnerable young child, I think you should take the more cautious path and not leave your son unsupervised with this man. Further, I really urge you to diplomatically approach other parents that know this teacher and compare notes regarding this. The best scenario is that no one has felt the same way. On the other hand, there could be other children that need to be protected. anon

You're probably going to get a lot of responses to this, but I read your post and alarms went off. I hope nothing untoward is happening; however, this sounds like you need to do a gut check. You're feeling uncomfortable about this. That's enough. If a teacher, especially a younger person (male or female) said my child had ''given himself to me'' I think I'd run. When I was growing up, I had a ''special teacher.'' He was engaging and the kids loved him. But he was especially fond of the boys, and often took overnight trips with them (which at the time seemed like such an amazing treat). Years later, he was charged with child abuse. The case was never resolved, but what I realized is that there are many levels of abuse. An adult, especially a teacher, can have a lot of power over a child.

I encourage you to follow your instincts and take a break. You don't need to vilify this man. You do, however, need to protect your child. Do not let your son's sensitivity be a reason to stay engaged. My son is sensitive, too. I believe that makes him especially empathetic and will hopefully help him blossom into a wonderful, warm, sensitive man. Good luck. This must be a very difficult decision for you. Anon

I can totally relate to your post. We also know a very friendly man at our local ''Y'' (not in Berkeley or Bay Area, for that matter) who seems to be extra friendly with young boys. He's like a big boy himself, splashing the kids in the pool, picking them up and throwing them, playing with them; needless to say, he is IDOLIZED by all the boys, he is their HERO. I noticed that he pays a lot of attention to the kids who are just dropped off by their parents (if they had a parent who played with them, he would be redundant).

I had my concerns, too. He is married and has a serious job with a lot of responsibility, but no children. I decided not to say anything to my son but just to be alert. I don't think I would ever leave him alone with this man; mainly because I would seriously question why a grown-up would want to spend time alone with a kid not his own.

My son has now doesn't go to the Y as much and I'm glad I didn't say voice any suspicions to him. In the end, he benefited from the fun times at the pool.

My only advice would be to be very alert and aware and maybe sit in on a couple of lessons. Now that I think of it, my son's guitar teacher has always apprised of our son's progress and has always invited us to sit in on the lessons. He established a clear boundary between him and my son. anon

I see BIG RED FLAGS! I think this is strange on many levels. First, don't be fooled by ''loved by the community''. A pedophile in Kensington was supported by all sorts of deluded parents who went to his trial offering support. He plea bargained six years but should have been put away forever. Second, it is one thing to have an emotional kid (one of my sons is sensitive) but once you are an adult, it is a sign of immaturity not sensitivity. Because I teach Sunday school, I had to go through an amazing program called ''Safeguarding God's Children''. It is a series of videos with pedophiles and victims talking about the abuse. The pedophiles in these videos are so scary. Why? Because they look like the most clean cut people. They are not creepy, but are articulate and attractive. Some statistics the program has - 60% of abusers are known to the child and children lie about abuse less than 5% of the time. Physical and behavioral boundary violations are big warning signs. What are these? Wrestling, tickling, touching ''games'', hugs with too much contact, staring, LAP SITTING with kids over 3, too many gifts, too many compliments, repeated mention of how ''special'' the child is. Abusers gain access to kids by looking normal and putting themselves in the path of children. You don't become a wall street banker to gain access to kids, you become a teacher, a priest, a youth leader. The program suggests that you: ask your child questions, let this guy know time with your kids is over, call police/child protective services and ask them for advice. I would also inform your friends of your feelings, never slandering, just mentioning. Your piece of the puzzle may make others come forward. My guess is there is a big reason this fellow is not in a classroom anymore. Lastly, kids often don't tell. They say other things, like ''my tummy hurts'', or cover up with clothes, or say they don't like a person but can't say why. That is why parents must ACT. All the best in handling a situation that requires full mama bear mode. Rachelle

I am a teacher with 30 years experience. I am in Who's Who of American Teachers which means a high schooler remembered me as a meaningful influence in their life... in the RIGHT way. I say RUN don't walk away from this nutcase of a teacher. The projection onto his students is WAYYYYY out of line and should be reported to the principal. Get your child out of that class immediately by scheduling a three way conference between you, the principal, and the teacher. If the principal won't back you up, CPS will! I shudder to hear these horror stories. Susan

You can never be too careful. I would suggest staying with your son during his music lesson (if not switching teachers), and generally bringing up conversation about inappropriate touching so as to give him an opportunity to tell you if something is wrong. anon

I am curious about the responses you'll receive. I, too, regret automatically being suspicious of male relationships (especially if the relationship is, in fact, healthy and supportive - I'm sure you'd hate to think of depriving your son of that). But, my reflexive response to your post is that you clearly feel uncomfortable and anxious about this - and I would too! - so go with your gut. The teacher's affections seem focused on your son in an awfully intimate way. I'm not implying that anything untoward or scary has occurred, just that his intensity feels inappropriate to me, at the very least. (Does he interact with all of his students this way?) Even if the guy is on the up and up, it seems to me that he should have clearer boundaries with the kids. And, unfortunately, being 'beloved in our community' doesn't always mean much; sometimes it's a great cover. Listen to your mother's intuition. Slightly Worried, Too

My take would be that generally sexual predators (I think that is what you are worried about) tend to be less open than the teacher you have described about their feelings and actions The general modus operandi is to develop a special relationship that is secret between the adult and child. Instead, you have a teacher who is communicating quite openly with you about a difficult transition period your son is going through, while trying to avoid causing a sense of shame for your son.

At the same time--Because I don't personally know the guy, I can't say, ''yes, I get a weird vibe off him, too,'' or ''no, you're being too paranoid.'' I think (a) any good parent in your place would have some concerns and (b) we do live in an age of excessive paranoia about sexual predators. I don't want to dismiss your concerns--you need to trust your intuition. But it also doesn't seem right to distrust a male teacher just because he is emotional and empathic. Can you do some reality-checking with parents of other kids?

Sensitive people tend to have intense relationships. This man ''gets'' your son. Interfering with this relationship, if it is innocent, could break an important bond your son has formed. IMHO your best bet would be to stay involved and be alert to any weird behavior on your son's part that might indicate that the relationship is inappropriate. The more comfortable your son is with being open with you, the better your chance of protecting him from sexual predators--no matter who they are or how close they are. Good luck

Something sounds weird. You're concerned enough to have posted onto BPN, so I'd listen to that, and completely disregard the fact that this person is highly regarded. The relationship has gone beyond simply one of teacher/student, which in itself is fine. But it seems to have gone to a place that doesn't feel right to you. I found it odd (concerning?) that the teacher asked not to tell your son he called. Secrets? Those can never be good. The relationship may not be a molester one, but there seems to be emotional ''bizarreness'' (for lack of a better word) on the teacher's end.

I'd talk to the teacher. The way in which he responds may address your concerns. Simply watch or listen to his response and how he's response, and to his behavior after the confrontation, and you may glimpse his intentions with your son. I'd also talk to your son. That should also give you clues if anything is going on. Anon

It sounds to me that at best this teacher has really bad boundaries. My daughter is 10, and I can't imagine a scenario in which a teacher, of either gender, would ''hold'' her, even if she was crying. Maybe a quick hug, or patting her back. It sounds very strange to me. The comment he made at the end of the school year also seems too emotional, it's almost romantic. If it was me, I'd probably end the music lessons. There are a lot of good music teachers out there, and the risk you are taking is that this guy has a thing for kids and he is getting close to your son for that reason, ''grooming'' him. A friend of mine ended her son's piano lessons (son was about 11) when the son reported that the teacher was tickling him during the lesson. This was a very well respected and well liked teacher. anonymous

I do think we have become hyper-aware of abuse in this day and age. You mentioned that your son and his teacher are both very sensitive and expressive individuals, so that may be all it is. We are just not used to men expressing such sensitivity so openly. Have you had any talks with your son about inappropriate behavior/touching by adults and what to do if that ever happens? Also maybe having a casual conversation with another parent of a boy that is also under this teacher's instruction? But please be careful. I'm sure you're handling this delicately because even the hint of something improper may be enough to ruin this teacher's repuation. anon

Without more info, I'd say, it depends. How old is your son? Do you have any reason to suspect anything besides a close kinship? Can you find a way to probe for things like, what made him cry? My first thought when you stated that the teacher asked you not to mention that to the kid is that the teacher was pretty sensitive to the kid (who may not want you to know that he was perhaps hypersensitive). Can you talk to the teacher? How does the teacher react when you talk to him? Can you take a self-defense type class with your son? Send him to a KIDPOWER class or something, so that he knows if anything ever happens to him from ANY source that there are things he can do? I think mostly you need to be asking more questions, and you also need to arm your kid so that you know he'd be comfortable telling you whatever he needs to say and/or that he'd go to a safe, respected adult. If you're still queasy about it, and your son is young enough so you can get away with it easily, then just stop the lessons, maybe directing your son to some other activity or teacher. Predators do tend to ''bond'' with kids as a way of opening up for abuse. depending on you & your kid, you can also tell him that something makes you uncomfortable about the guy, or that his schedule is too full, or you wonder if he might like some other teacher or something. You can also discuss this privately w/ a good therapist too, who might give you (or your son) some good tools to figure out what's going on.

I have three sons and I have wondered about this too over the years. One thing that came to mind when I read your post was my observation that there is a whole group of very affectionate, new-agey kind of young guys in their 20's and early 30's, and teaching is a logical profession for them. They are unabashedly sweet and empathetic -- very different from the way guys were when I was that age. I always think that they must have been raised by hippies. Or maybe therapists. Anyway, I think it's a good thing, but it is different!

I don't know if your teacher fits that description, but one of my sons had a young tutor in high school like this. My son got a lot out of the tutor relationship, and the tutor solved some academic problems for my son that I hadn't been able to solve. I could see that the tutor was just a very enthusiastic young man who sincerely wanted to reach out to struggling students. On the other hand, when the tutor phoned me about a snowboarding trip he was organizing for some of the teens he was tutoring, I did not feel comfortable with that. Not that I suspected anything, I just wasn't comfortable taking the relationship beyond the bounds of tutoring. So, I consulted with my son, who didn't particularly want to go on the trip, and I made polite excuses to the tutor, and it was fine.

It does not sound to me as if anything untoward has happened between your son and his teacher. The fact that your teacher disclosed what happened, says to me that he is sensitive to parental worries about male teachers and their sons, and wants to be open with you about what happens when you are not there. If he were really a predator, he wouldn't be giving you any information that might make you the least bit suspicious. It wouldn't be in his best interest to do that. So based on what you said, I don't think you should worry about that. But I do also think you should feel OK about drawing the line wherever you need to in order to feel comfortable. Mom of boys

I support you following your gut reaction that something is not quite right in this relationship. Whether or not it's harmful or just odd, you may never know. I wouldn't wait to find out. There are many other great teachers out there. Elisa

I haven't had this experience, but I do want to say one thing. PLease listen to your gut. As a mother you have intuition that no one else can have, and i urge you to not ignore it. You don't have to accuse anyone of anything or alert the authorities! Perhaps look into Big Brother Programs if you need a good male role model, but Listen To Your Gut! Good Luck! Alison

Sad sad sad. That's how so many of these posts make me feel. What makes me sad is our culture of overprotection has become so perverse and anti-male that we positively do harm to our own children by not letting them have anything other than a ''professional interaction'' (read cold, dispassionate, uninteresting, uninformative) with a male role model instead of a human bond.

How many times have I wanted to say something nice to a parent about their child and have stopped myself for fear the parent would think I'm a wierdo? Occassionally I can say something neutral like, ''Wow, Joey really interacts respectfully with the other children on the play structure, doesn't he?'' or ''That Suzy can really drink fake tea well.'' But God forbid I should say, ''Your daughter is soooo pretty.'' Alarm bells go off, the mother submerges with child to a safe depth away from the ''predator''.

I see women saying, oh your little girl/boy is just adorable and giving them a hug and think, never in a million years would i do that even though I would like to be able to because I have raised two wonderful daughters of my own and love to hear people say nice things about them.

When I was a boy a number of men in our neighborhood were an important part of our social landscape and none of them were anything other than nice people. We had ''Uncle'' Bud who walked down the street every day and literally gave candy to the children. He was loved and not feared by children and parents alike. My next door neighbor who had a daughter would take me fishing and duck hunting because maybe he wanted a son. We had a great time although I found fishing pretty boring and duck hunting boring AND freezing cold. He didn't molest me of course, and I got to know an adult male other than my father. I learned many things my father would never teach me like cleaning a fish, boating, duck calls, painting decoy ducks, camoflaging the boat and ourselves, how to build a duck blind. None of this is useful to me now because I abhor hunting and fishing, but still, it was an important part of my growing up.

Sadly, these kinds of healthy relationships are a thing of the past in our culture obssessed with security as if anything can ever be 100 percent safe. Ah, the good old days when each family had 5 or 8 children and mom couldn't spend every waking moment charting the minutiae of little Johnny's life. Sean

Something sounds weird. You're concerned enough to have posted onto BPN, so I'd listen to that, and completely disregard the fact that this person is highly regarded. The relationship has gone beyond simply one of teacher/student, which in itself is fine. But it seems to have gone to a place that doesn't feel right to you. I found it odd (concerning?) that the teacher asked not to tell your son he called. Secrets? Those can never be good. The relationship may not be a molester one, but there seems to be emotional ''bizarreness'' (for lack of a better word) on the teacher's end.

I'd talk to the teacher. The way in which he responds may address your concerns. Simply watch or listen to his response and how he's response, and to his behavior after the confrontation, and you may glimpse his intentions with your son. I'd also talk to your son. That should also give you clues if anything is going on. Anon

Possible sexual abuse of 4yo nephew by grandmas boyfriend?

April 2008

BPNers, My sister called and asked my opinion and my gut reaction to the following situation: She has two sons, age 4 (next week) and almost 2. They live about 5 mi from my mother and she has a live in boyfriend (we'll name him Tom) they've been together for like 10 years or so. Tom is generally a great guy, outdoorsy type, pretty simple, and has a barn and horses, etc. He spends a lot of time over at his barn and enjoys spending time with my 4yo nephew. My mom and Tom take him out to breakfast, and generally hang out watching trucks, etc. Tom recently bought an all terrain tricycle for the barn for the 4yo to ride around on, etc.

There was a period last summer when my nephew didn't want to hang out with Tom and just didn't like him, no explanation, just refused to go with him. My sister said something to my mom and asked her if she thought there was anything unusual that had happened to warrant this. She asked her not to say anything to Tom, but she did anyway which totally made my sister angry. That phase passed and my nephew has hung out with him since.

The other day my sister asked her son to draw a picture for Tom's birthday card and he drew a picture of himself and Tom at the barn and when asked what was in the picture he explained it was them at the barn and ''this is my penis, and this is Tom's penis.'' She told him it was a great picture and then asked if he had seen Tom's penis before. He didn't respond. She has tried to bring it up calmly in conversation asking, but he isn't saying much else. He isn't really a talkative kid. My gut says its creepy and she should keep him away from Tom. My sister showed the picture to my mother and told her what her son said and my mom brushed it off, saying, ''well, they go pee in the bathroom, so maybe he has seen Tom's penis.'' I still think this is totally an unreasonable response. My sister has been hedging invitations to take him out to breakfast, come over to the barn, just saying its not a good time/day, etc. Whats your gut reaction? Curious imaginative 4 year old, or possible abuse? Thanks! not leaving my son at the barn!

Of course your mom doesn't want to believe that her live-in boyfriend would ever hurt her grandson. Why is your sister talking with her about it? Is she an MD or a specialist on child abuse? Sounds like your sister needs to see a child psychiatrist who is trained in detecting child sexual abuse and a doctor who is trained to check for phyiscal evidence of abuse. As a parent, I try to assume my instint is correct and assume what my child is saying is true until some kind of evidence gathering by professionals determines otherwise. In the meantime, keep this boy away from Tom and your sister can make her excuses to your mother. She can fill her in after your sister has seen the specialists with her son. go with your gut

Get him to a therapist asap and do NOT let him get near that guy. Red Flag

Please help your sister take her son's behavior and statements seriously.

A short story: I was sexually abused by a neighbor when I was approximately 5 to 7 years of age and I didn't know how to tell my folks even though part of me knew what he was doing to me wasn't right. As a child, I was taught that adults are to be respected and listened to -- further he was a skilled manipulator of young children, including the fact that he crafted wooden toys in his garage (where most of the abuse occurred).

I remember vividly when my parents wanted to buy a present for him (''He's such a great neighbor and it's so nice how much time he spends with you kids'') and I told them VEHEMENTLY that I didn't like him. This was the one time that I almost told them, but by then I was feeling like the abuse was something that I wanted, too, and that they would be mad at me. Still, I spoke up-- and, they totally didn't get it. Instead of asking me why I didn't like him or asking other relevant questions, they gave me a guilt trip about how nice he was and how helpful to our family. A year or so later, when one of the other neighbor girls told her mom about the sexual abuse and her mom told my parents, my parents had the benefit of clear hindsight to recognize that I had tried telling them that something was wrong in the only way I could manage given my age and experience.

Take this child's cry for help seriously. The part about the guy buying her son toys is especially sketchy-- you could construe it as a nice thing to do, but it also could be his way of manipulating things to get the son alone and in an unobserved area and/or gain the boy's trust. Erin

My very strong gut reaction is that it's suspicious enough not to take any chances. I mean, this is her child, your nephew, ANY child for that matter... if there's even a very slim chance that it's sexual abuse, would you or she want to be continually putting him in that same situation over and over? This, especially after the child has actually requested NOT to go there? I know the pain and trouble caused to the relationship with your mom and ''Tom'' may be serious, but not nearly as serious as the pain and trouble caused to the boy if indeed he's being/been abused.

Plus, it's not like it is just ONE factor (like JUST the picture, or JUST the requests not to go there). It's sounds like a few things, which just compound the chances, exponentially, that something foul is going on.

I'd: 1. Keep the kid away; 2. PRONTO, go see a child psychologist (sans kid the first time), and take her or his advice about how to proceed. just my two cents

Ah, this is a difficult one, 'cause 4-yr olds can come up with amazing stories which can be completely fabricated. This is what happened to me a few years ago:

My husband and I visited my family in Europe. I have several brothers and sisters and we're all fairly close. We hadn't been back there for a few years, so most of my nieces and nephews I hadn't met yet. My sister's son was 4 at the time. One night we were hanging out with my sister and her family and my parents. At one point, I was in the family room playing with my sister's son and we had a blast. We laughed, giggled, joked and bonded incredibly well. The living room is next to the family room and is completely open, so the rest of the family saw us playing. After they left, my sister had asked her son if he had had a good time playing with me. He answered that he did, but he didn't like it that I had hit him. My sister had been 20 feet away from us the entire night, so she knew that he was just making this up. But in his most convincing voice he told her that I had hit him hard and that he didn't like that. My sister ended up handling it wonderfully. She said that she'd talk to me about it and left it alone. The next day they came over again (I didn't know that this had occurred, by the way) and her son and I were again having a great time. He sat on my lap and we were laughing when my sister said to him: ''Do you like your aunt?''. He answered enthusiastically ''YES!''. She then said: ''Too bad that she hit you last night!''. He stopped dead in his tracks and knew that he was busted. My sister asked what was going on and with a little bit of coaching he admitted that he had made the whole thing up.

I have always thought: ''What if my bond with my sister wasn't so good and what if she hadn't been right there to know that it wasn't true?'' Things might have been different now. It's so easy to accuse someone of something.

Now I have a 4-yr old son of my own and he comes up with the most amazing stories. Whatever he can imagine and verbalize is ''real'' to him.

Now, I'm not saying that nothing happened here. I think that you can never be safe enough and I wouldn't let my child be alone with him anymore either until I knew for sure that nothing happened (if that is possible.) I just wanted to make sure that you also saw the other side of such a story. JOJ

Sounds to me like your sister should talk to a professional therapist who works with kids. She needs to get more information, and clearly neither your mom nor your nephew is going to give any straight information about this situation. A professional would know what to ask, who to ask, and how to ask. anon.

This would definitely concern me. If I were your sister, I would confront (or have a trusted person confront) Tom with your mom and ask him directly about it, not accusatory but ask him what he thinks about your nephew's comment. His reaction might tell you a lot.

The drawing incident combined with staying away from him for a long period of time would raise a red flag for me. I would also urge your sister to talk to someone with some expertise to get advice on how to bring this up again casually with her son to see if she can get more insight. It could be completely innocent, but I would err on the side of caution. I don't think that just ''keeping him away'' from Tom is the answer either, it just sends a confusing message to your nephew if it's done without any explanation. anon -

tell her to bring her son and his picture to the doctor asap. maybe even ask the doctor for a referral for a therapist or someone who can better determine what may have happened. see what the doc says. and even if it turns out to be nothing no more alone time with ''Tom.'' You can't be too careful. child is always the first priority

Given the scenario that you have outlined, of course it is possible that there has been abuse. It's also totally possible that there has not. Plenty of boys that age who have not been abused are interested in penises and might make a drawing like that. There's no way to know what has gone on if the child is not disclosing any abuse. So, in my opinion, you have to err on the side of believing that something has happened and never, ever leave him alone with Tom. The regret and pain and damage that could occur if these signs are ignored and there IS abuse is just too great. If the child wants to hang out at the barn or anywhere else with Tom, he must do so with another adult present. Period. Continue to observe and gently inquire, teach about bodies and privacy, and so on. It is the parents' job to protect this child. It is not the child's responsibility to make the parent protect them by disclosing, etc. . ..

I can't imagine you'll get any responses saying that this 4 year old is just curious and imaginative! The little guy needs to see a child psychologist or therapist who can help him to be able to voice what has happened (asap!).

My mom was sexually abused as a baby and toddler (her own mother had suspicions and did nothing about it). A child's mind is a pretty amazing thing- in my mom's case it blocked out memories of the abuse and instead created multiple personalities to deal with it. It wasn't until my mom was in her thirties that she was diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder and it was then that she began having memories of the abuse. She has dealt with putting her life back together ever since- it ruined relationships (she and my dad are divorced).

Please don't let the same thing happen to you nephew. If someone had just stuck up for my mom as a small child she would have had a much easier life. Sarah

There is no question in my mind. I am sorry. Please understand that I am highly ''reactive'' to stories like yours, as my two older kids were sexually abused by a relative. From all the reading I have done, all the participating in support groups, all the conversations with therapists, all the interviews I have listened to..... I would say that, yes, it has happened to your nephew. I would start with quietly instituting a ''no-contact'' of any kind with Tom. I would find a local child therapist who specializes in treating sexually abused kids and make an appointment to discuss my concerns and why they are there. My gut is wrenched as I think about this. Sorry, but I go beyond ''possible abuse'' and into ''probable.'' Feel free to give my email to your sister if she is local and wants some therapists names or just a person to talk to about this. I would love to help. the_missus

As an early childhood teacher, I can tell you what we are trained to look for if we suspect any type of abuse. We note any changes in a child's behavior (acting out, aggression, seclusion, overt sexual expression) which is out of the ordinary for them. It is normal for four year old boys to be aware of their anatomy and mention it so that alone isn't a sign particularly if the boyfriend is the only male role model currently in his life. He is aware now of sex differences in adults. BUT definately pay attention if he still continues to bring up the boyfriend in this way OR if he reacts stressfully when the uncle is around or mentioned. When children experience trauma, they tend to 'act out' rather then verbalize it, especially in very young children. And drawing pictures is an excellent means of finding out what may be going on with a child's feelings. Hope this helps. Laurie G.

Yes, listen to your gut. There is something going wrong here and those who don't see it are in denial. scared for the 4 year old

Hi, I'm a social worker and would absolutely be concerned and not leave your nephew alone with your mom's boyfriend. You should probably have your sister get him into some play therapy with a specialist who can assess the situation.

Hi. I have to say I too am a little concerned about what might be happening ''at the barn''. I am not an alarmist but spent 8 years of my social work career assessing child abuse and neglect and sexual abuse cases at a Children's Hospital out of state and was clinical coordinator of the child abuse team for most of that time. If your sister has had some concerns in the past and if the dialogue you report per your sister and her son happened totally spontaneously, without for example your sister saying ''is that your penis, and Tom's penis'', that heightens my concern. Have you or your sister seen any behavioral changes since your nephew has been hanging out with Tom?

I would strongly encourage your sister to talk with her pediatrician and I would not ask the child anymore questions. Even with our best of intentions we can lead children and the interview should be done by someone trained to do this. Your pediatrician will know what to do. There are child advocacy centers which are set up specifically to interview children but often the system doesn't get initiated until there is a report to child protective services or police. (In the state I use to live in, there was a way to get a forensic interview if referred from a medical professional or other specialists, but not sure where you live or if they still do that). If a physician, social worker etc is suspicious that your nephew has been sexually abused, they are mandated by law to report this to child protective services and the police also get involved. I hope this information is helpful. Take care, anon

I still have this yucky feeling in my stomach from reading your posting and what it comes down to is that better safe than sorry. Doubting a young child who is telling the truth can not only cause obvious trauma to the child regarding adults/men/strangers, but also cause major damage in your nephew's trust in his mom and grandmother. As a survivor, I know that I have a distrust over middle age men and most importantly, I still hold a very strong grudge towards my mother for not believing me and not protecting me, even when the truth was apparent. I believe that kids have an instinct that should not be questioned and that we should never force a child to hang out with someone they do not like--being cordial and polite is one thing, giving affection and such is another. The story you told is definitely one that needs professional attention. Good luck. Visakha

Lot's of advice already. My son was acting out severely from 3-6 yo in school/ home. His dad and I were going through a divorce. He was awakening to his sexuality and would display his penis to me, gyrate, hump, etc., starting at age 3. I gently would redirect him, and experienced it as normal awakening to his sexuality. For years he was fixated on potty jokes, and elimination processes. Snuck away in a secret corner with a child in kindergarten to ''explore'' and would want to pee in cups, put on diapers, see others pee, etc. Often would poke kids in their behinds. This behavior was alarming to his teacher in combination with the acting out. I contacted a pediatrician who advised me on how this behavior can be normal and how to redirect him w/o shaming. I was also very firm w/him about not doing this to others and/or to me. Then I took him to a child psych who helped me to evaluate whether anything additional was going on. He read a book to us about a seal (Penguin book) who had been abused by his uncle. He had me observe my son's reactions as he was reading the story, and asked me to follow my intuition based on my son's reactions during and after the telling of the story. My son was uncomfortable when the part came in the book that outlined the abuse. My gut told me that regardless, he would know this wasn't right, feel uncomfortable, and that probably any child would have a similar reaction, and that he probably hadn't been abused. I was at home f/t w/him, and those he spent any unsupervised time with were limited to his preschool teacher (woman/friend), his dad, possibly father-in law, and my boyfriend. I made it very clear to both his father and my boyfriend I was concerned and was investigating this rigorously (ie: if it was them, I'd find out). Still I was terrified/suspicious. Ultimately, I was very clear w/my son that some people did this sort of thing, it was WRONG under any circumstances, that they often frightened children not to tell, that it had HAPPENED TO ME, that I would always advocate for him NO MATTER WHAT, and that he MUST tell if something like this is going on. Likewise, I said he needed to tell because they are ILL (someone he loved), NEED help, and that he would help them in doing so. Sad for me as a parent to have this conversation w/him, and a lot for a 5 yo to process, nonetheless, I feel confident that he has the right info now to protect himself. PART 1 anon -

PART 2 Re: your sister, I don't understand why any parent would have their child be with someone whom their child doesn't want to be with, unless for childcare reasons- which is a different story. This is a no brainer, and really doesn't require any explanation IMO. In my own situation re: father/boyfriend, I told them directly that I was investigating, and am wondering what it would be like for your sister to tell your mom and Tom jointly, that she has noticed something unusual, and that SHE is investigating. She could do this in a way that does not implicate or suspect them, but rather says I'm concerned, and seeks to enlist their help, while maintaining her stance and advocacy for her son. (Ie: ''I don't care if you don't think I'm crazy''- I'm investigating w/professionals anyway.) My thought: this would put any guilty parties on alert and get them to reconsider what they are doing, while at the same time not damaging the relationship by accusing them if they are innocent. Your mom, as my mom was, IMO, is guilty by association/denial if there is abuse.

I'm curious from those who have experienced this first hand, whether this sort of thing is advisable. In my experience of trying to deal w/my son's behavioral issues I have gotten very little answers/guidance/relief from even the best of professionals and have sought out MANY. As a result, I've simply had to take matters into my own hands for the interim, and communicate directly to my son and others that I trust my gut and I won't stop advocating him.

Still not sure whether there's been abuse, but feel like I did my best to lay the groundwork for my son for the future. Good news is that when kids are in the bathroom at school together (same stall), which is against the school rules, he knows why this is against the rules, and tells on them! anon

I don't have anything to add about the possible molestation of this child, but I was stunned to see that apparently this 4 year old has been put on an ''all terrain vehicle''! That in itself would be endangering the child. Berkeley Mom

Does tickling a child lead to child abuse?

Oct 2005

Can anyone recommend some good books or offer guidance to help answer this question: At what point, assuming there is such a point, is it advisable to teach a preschool girl (age 3 or 4) that tickling is no longer appropriate, insofar as we as adults recognize the possibility that a practice of innocent, playful tickling may lead a child to accept more readily or be more vulnerable to all tickling/touching, even that which may be rooted in subversive motivation? Concerned Mother

Recently saw a relevant kids' book at a book store: ''My Body is Private'' by Linda Walvoord Girard and Rodney Pate. It does address issues of a child feeling uncomfortable in a tickling situation. (Reviews on Amazon suggest that you might need to skip parts for a preschool child.) As for my own thoughts--I think that banning tickling altogether would be tricky and could lead to your child feeling uncomfortable in truly innocent situations. I do think it's important to teach kids that age that they can always ask for tickling to end--and be sure that others around them respect that. Also, talk about private parts, which aren't for others to touch (with rare exceptions such as supervised doctors, etc.). anon

From Diapers to Dating is a great resource about parenting and sexual health. The book doesn't tell you what to do but guides you through thinking about your family's values. Does a great job of making sure you decide how you're going to handle things--as opposed to reacting on the spot... hope it helps

i read an article against tickling on the ''Parent Leadership Institute'' website. you can read it online at: http://www.parentleaders.org/csArticles/articles/000000/000023.htm jolie

I might not have understood your post, so please forgive me if I misconstrued you. I understood from your post you're saying that you don't want your child to accept any tickling; you say ''insofar as we as adults recognize the possibility that a practice of innocent, playful tickling may lead a child to accept more readily or be more vulnerable to all tickling/touching.'' Are you worried about someone in the family accidentally developing a perversion? If you have these fears, you should see a professional. And no child is any way responsible for adult perverted behavior, so I don't even understand why feeding your child fears about tickling leading to abuse is appropriate. Most parents talk to kids about good and bad touch. If it feels bad to the child, it's bad and the adult must stop when asked to stop. To give the child the message that she should not be tickled or touched can be very damaging. Touch is one of her five senses, and children explore and learn through all their senses. It's an adult responsibility to protect children from sexual abuse AND FROM INORDINATE FEAR OF BEING ABUSED. I really wish you and your child the best. sara

I don't think you need to dwell on tickling specifically. For any behavior, your child is old enough to understand that if there's something that somebody's doing to her that she doesn't like, she has the right to say NO or STOP or I DON'T LIKE IT...and NO means NO and STOP means STOP. Likewise, teach her that if someone says NO (or STOP) to her because of something she's doing (tickling, pushing, etc.), she should comply. If you feel you need to hammer this into her, she might be old enough for a Kidpower workshop, which is pretty good at addressing these issues. CC

I think that maybe the message should be not that tickling becomes inappropriate at a certain age, but that we all, at any age, are able to say 'stop' when anything-- hugging, kissing, tickling--feels uncomfortable. Ticklish

When I was a child, my older sister would torture me by tickling, and for me, at least, it was IMPOSSIBLE to say NO or STOP while being tickled. I could only writhe and struggle while ''giggling'' (not inside, though). That made me wary of tickling when my kids were born, even though I know that it can be very pleasurable for many kids. I always taught my kids (and husband) that some people don't like to be tickled (though many do), to ask permission first, and to stop often to give the ''victim'' a chance to say STOP! when they've had enough. As for its connection with abuse - I'm with those who say you should teach that ANY uncomfortable touch is wrong (though again, saying STOP may not always be possible). R.K.

My sister says there's a high incidence of sexual abuse in preschool

February 2004

I have recently begun the process of finding a preschool for my child who will be three in the fall. My sister has instilled some serious fear in me by asking me to wait to put my child in preschool for another year because of the high incidences of sexual abuse in preschool (she apparently knows someone who's daughter was molested by a preschool teacher, and the child is not considered a credable witness b/c she is not yet 4 y.o., the age determined to be when a child can determine the difference b/w the truth and a lie...and therefore nothing can be done about or to the teacher) and the incidences she is referring to are in a nearby city, not ours, which is Berkeley, I should add. She has made me very nervous now, and I wonder if there is anyone out there who has had similar fears and was able to find out more about such situations? How does one do a background check on teachers? Do you ask the school? Do you go to the Better Business Bureau? I am at a loss as to where to start. I told my sister that I cannot live my life in fear of every person that comes into contact with my child, but I don't want to be naive either. Does anyone have any advice about how to deal with this?

Hmmm. I know someone who was molested by her uncle. Does this make ALL uncles child molesters? It is crazy to suggest that children in preschool are molested more or less than any other child. In fact, most child-molestation happens from a family member. Most preschool rooms have more than one teacher (at least two or more at all times), are open areas, and any official preschool does a background check on their teachers anyway. I worry much less about my children who are in preschool than I do about my one child who is still with a babysitter. Shame on your sister for sharing her ignorance about molestation with you, and scaring you. Preschool is a wonderful experience for children. Mom of four

I don't mean to invalidate your concerns, but you may be overreacting. Of course there are rare incidents when stuff like that happens, but there are SO many reputable pre-schools in this area.

I'd suggest asking parents of kids already in pre-school or slightly older which schools they like. Go check out the schools, talk to the teachers, ask to talk to some of the parents with kids attending the schools. Personally I don't think 3 is too young for pre-school (on the average...depends on the kid) and it's good socialization for them.

My boys, now 8 1/2 and 13 went to Arlington pre-school on the Arlington in Kensington. They were very happy there and I always felt my kids were absolutely safe and taken care of there. Good luck to you....I say, talk to lots of parents about their pre-schoolers experiences.

This is a question for BANANAS. Not only do they know the preschool and daycare licensing process very, very well, but they can give you information about the actual incidence of abuse in preschool and daycare settings. The number is 658-7353. Jennifer

I don't believe you can check the background of individual teachers since that would require personal information you wouldn't have, like their ssn, address ect. However, to be licenced a preschool must have all their teachers pass fingerprint clearance. You should check the licencing, because even if all their teachers have clean records, it will tell you if they have other citations, such as not meeting teacher to student ratios, safety, cleanliness ect. Those problems are much more common than sexual abuse. I have walked into my child's former preschool and found them out of compliance on teacher ratios several times. Contact Banana's they can give y! ou the number to call to check the preschool's licencing. It should also be in the phone book bev

I am a public school teacher of 17 years, and prior to that I worked in Pre Schools and Daycares during college. I do know that Bananas Childcare Referral Service in Oakland can give you a number to call to check up on almost any childcare institution in the Bay Area, including Montessori's etc.. I checked up on my daughter's daycare. What they can tell you is whether or not any complaints, suspensions, or legal actions have been filed/taken against the said pre school. I can't remember the name of the agency and cant call to get it because I am online, but call BANANAS Childcare Referral in Oakland. But let me just take a moment to put your mind at ease... In order for someone to get away with molesting a child in daycare, everyone has to be involved, b! ecause otherwise the other adults present would see or know something. I guarantee you, your child is safer in a pre school than in most places, because there are so many people around(children and adults.) Also, I believe that any liscensed PreSchool is bound to disclose whether or not their teachers have been fingerprinted at the Police Department. Hope that helps. Olive

I am a former preschool teacher, so please feel free to contact me with any further questions... Preschool directors, teachers and assisitant teachers are all required to have a live-scan done, which is to be fingerprinted. That covers state background checks but not FBI records. Trustline, which is the typically the nanny background check, checks FBI records too. Once an individual has been fingerprinted, it only costs like $40 more to be trustlined. If you are really concerned, I dont think it would be too outrageous to ask the staff of your child's preschool to be trustlined (but you should probably offer to pay for it). As a teacher, I would have respected and honored that request. That said, I do not know the statistics on sexual molestation in preschools. But I do know that there are many great preschools in this area. Schools with loving, respectful people who care deeply about teaming with parents to raise children in an intentional and caring manner. Good luck with your search, and do not hesitate to ask for what you need to be comfortable with a preschool. Helene

From a professional point of view one could do the following: Obtain the names of all people who might have contact with your child from the school. Ask the school director if, and what type of, background checks have been done on these people. Do your own background on them: 1) Ask other parents who have children there if they've had any concerns; 2) check their criminal/civil records.

As to the frequency of crime against children read the Juvenile Justice Bulletin, Sept. 2001, Crimes Against Children by Babysitters. (http://www.ncjrs.org/html/ojjdp/jjbul2001_9_4/contents.html) Here is a summary statement: ''The fact that babysitters account for approximately 4 percent of crimes committed against children less than 6 years old\x97a rate below that of complete strangers\x97helps put the matter in perspective. ''
Tamara Thompson, Tamara Thompson Investigations

hi, I completely understand your need to keep your child(ren) safe without being in a constant panic or so overprotective that nobody and nothing seems safe. By thinking about this before sending your child out into the world, and by realizing that any child is at risk for abuse to some extent, you are giving your child a huge gift. I am not really sure how helpful this response will be, but I hope it will be of some use to you. I know that there is no easy way to recognize a child molester; to my horror, I found out (after the relationship ended) that someone I was involved with for years is a child molester. I had no idea; there were no warning signs I was able to pick up on; this person, like so many child molesters, had no criminal backgrounds, had a resume that indicated a great interest in children and the ability to work positively in settings including children, and most parents of the children he worked with were happy with the way he interacted with their children. I know now that he fits quite a few characteristics of the ''profile'' of a child molester (do a search online--it will tell you there's no ''true'' profile, but there's a generally agreed-on set of characteristics that, with any reason for suspicion present, would reinforce the suspicion--but please don't start thinking that everyone who fits some of these charac! teristics should be suspect). In this person's case, the ''red flag'' would have been excessive interest in children, accompanied by extreme identification with children, as well as working relentlessly to earn trust and respect of parents in order to gain one-on-one access to children, some of whom he molested. These people usually gravitate towards kids who are needy in some way or another and identify and fill the need, ensuring secrecy and a sense in the child that she or he is partially responsible for the abuse that has taken place. Most offenders molest a great number of children before they get caught. Most victims never tell. Most adults to whom children disclose abuse never report. Most offenders, even if investigated, are never convicted, and even if suspected of the crime, there is nothing in the offender's record to show that he or she was suspected of the crime. Most abuse ! leaves no physical evidence. Most offenders are male.

I personally wouldn't be very panicked about having my child in a daycare setting. Most licensed daycare centers are well supervised and there is usually more than one adult with the children at all times, in addition to a policy of allowing parents to come in anytime without advance notice. If you're worried, choose a daycare with a low teacher-child ratio and with more than one teacher in the room at once. Choose a daycare with open spaces and very few doors, where children and adults can be watched from inside as well as from outside. And, though I feel a need for apologizing to all the male readers out there, it is important to remember that almost all child molesters out there are male (more and more documented cases are recognizing female offenders, but the fact remains that most are men), and if you're really concerned, then choose a daycare in which there are no male teachers, though this ! seems like a bit of an extreme move. Remember, a huge proportion of abuse occurs within the family, in the family residence. You are doing a lot by providing your child with a safe home in which nobody would dream of molesting your child.

Talk to your child about good touches and bad touches and have him or her practice saying ''no'' loudly and tell the child that if touching by anyone, even a close friend or a family member, doesn't feel good, they can scream and get help from an adult. Tell your child that ''we don't keep secrets.'' You will be empowering your child. (I'm sure there's no need to make your child paranoid. Just be straightforward about it) anon

In order to teach in a legally licensed care center in California, all teachers need to be fingerprinted before being hired. They are then checked for any criminal activity and child abuse. If there are any counts of abuse or any major criminal records, they are not able to be hired by centers. However, there are sometimes criminal counts that can be counted as minor and will still allow people to be hired -- things such as petty thefts that happened years ago. These are, however, public information. For any of the centers, you can call the State of California Department of Social Services Childcare Licensing at 510.622.2602 to ask if there is anyone working at specific centers who might have any ''strikes'' against them. While they are not able to reveal who has the record, they have to tell you if anyone there does. In any case, you can call Licensing for more information on the details. -- Learning the details

How are teachers screened for sexual abuse background?

November 2003


Given the recent sexual abuse allegations made against a former student teacher at Mills College, I want to learn more about how teachers and staff are screened for this and other harmful behavior. Do public and private schools need to adhere to the same standards? Is there a state or federal law that must be met? During tours of schools I've asked each school what their procedures are but being new to this whole process I'm not really sure if what they are doing is enough. Is there a way to check on if a school has had complaints or litigation? Does anyone have any information, comments, advice? Thank you

I am a credentialed teacher. In order to receive my credential I had to be fingerprinted. My fingerprints were sent by the university to the state and they did a background check on me. Conviction for sex crimes is one of the things they look for. I can't remember well now, but I think they also check for other criminal convictions as well.

Additionally, when hired by a public school district I was again finger printed. The district refingerprinted me because if they do the check then they will automatically receive updates from the state upon any future conviction.

Recently I left public school employment and began teaching in a private school. They did not require refingerprinting since I hold a current credential. I suppose they can run a check on me through my credential, but I presume they won't get automatic updates.

I don't know if that eases your mind at all. Based on the fact that most abusers work their way through numerous victims before being caught, and then most are not convicted, the system isn't very effective, but it is better than not doing any check at all. teacher mom

This is in response to the parent who asked a broad question a while back about issues to be aware of (or look into) in approaching potential schools, in light of the recent guilty plea of sexual molestation by a former student teacher at Mills College Elementary School (you can find articles about it online at oaklandtribune.com).

As a teacher subsequently posted on this network, background checks are done on potential staff who work with children, but obviously this can go only so far, as first time offenders-to-be are not picked up this way. I guess trying to stay safe in this regard is a bit like trying to guess where lightning will strike next on a mountain, so I'm not sure if I have a good prophylactic solution. I'm sure a molestation is the last thing any school administrator wants to deal with.

Nevertheless, I think sharing my experience as a former parent at the Mills Children's School may be of benefit here. My child was in the very class the student teacher mentioned above trained in '97. Unbeknownst to me (and some other parents), there were several parents who had complained about this man's objectionable behavior to various school officials, some more than once (I've found out about this more recently). They were left with the impression that their complaints would be dealt with. I knew nothing of these complaints and even allowed this student teacher to be alone with my child to collect information for a paper he was writing late in the semester.

Recently, I talked to one of the parents who had complained back then and she told me she wished she had been more persistent and vocal about it. Perhaps, she said, she could have prevented a tragedy.

Now, obviously paranoia could have ill consequences, but I suggest that whichever school your child attends, if you find an official's behavior objectionable, if it rubs you the wrong way, even if you feel it's subtle (it was not so subtle in this case), complain about it. Follow up on your complaint--ask what exactly was done to address your concerns. Even though school officials generally don't want parents to ''talk amongst themselves'', I suggest that you compare notes with other parents. Don't assume that those in charge will always do the right thing. Don't let anybody make you feel guilty about honest dialogue with other parents. anon

Fears about toddler molestation - am I overreacting?

April 2003

Help. I need advise. I am in a nightmare that I don't know how to get out of. I need to hear from others that may have gone through this. I have a 1 -1/5 year old. Sometimes I have fears about my child's father being a molester. I have had two periods of great streess about this but in between have felt like I was making it all up. All I have to go on is my gut and two tiny little incidence where I left the room to take a shower and came back to find my babies diaper off or his overalls off and his father saying he did it himself. Feats that have never happened in my presence before but that are not inconcievable. That I even question him has sent me reeling because I love this man--though obviously trust is an issue for me. When I was a teenager I had an intuition about a man who was molesting my sister and it ended up being true. If I'd done something, my sister and 13 other girls would not have been raped as well. How do I know if I'm over reacting based on my past?

I don't know whether or not the father is molesting your son based on the information you gave. I have spent many years working with children who have been sexually abused, and the repercussions of even the slightest transgression can have a very negative lifelong impact on the child. Even a child as young as your may have difficulty later on with issues of sexual development, self esteem, trust, etc. Children act out in many different ways if they are being molested, and it may be almost impossible to tell if your child is being molested. You may want to have your pediatrician check your son. He/she could recommend you to a more specialized sexual abuse treatment facility if necessary. You may also want to work with a therapist to help you identify some of the signs and symptoms of abuse and help you and your son deal with the after effects of the trauma. Lastly------if you have even the slightest suspicion, trust your gut. This is your son's life you are risking. jesse

First I would like to say that it was very brave of you to post about your fears and that I\x92m glad for you and your son that you chose to do so. I haven\x92t gone through a situation like this, but as a child my father abused me. Through dealing with that I have learned to take my gut instincts and fears very seriously. They are almost always very accurate and if they aren\x92t I at least know that I was trying to protect myself or others. I can not give you very specific advice as to what to do next except to say that your son relies on you for his safety and well being and it is your responsibility to provide that to him. Perhaps confront your husband and seek therapy. I hope that was at least a bit helpful and I also hope that there are other people who can give you advice about what to do from here. Lump in my throat for you

I wanted to respond to your post because I can relate to your Concerns. But first I wanted to let you know that I am very sorry to hear about what happened to your sister and the other girls. But you are in *no way* responsible for what happened to them! The molester and thier caretakers are responsible! You don't know what would have happened if you had spoken up. Children, even teenagers, are all too often ignored when they speak up. It is the responsibility of adults to protect children not other children. So try to let go of this guilt.

I can relate to your fears. I was molested as a child and since I have had my first child all these old fear I thought I'd dealt with have come up for me. Being molested has really distorted my perspective. I think I am more able to recognize molesters but also suspicious of everybody. I have been worried about almost everyone I have left my son with, my husband, other family members and caregivers. In reality I know that not all these people are dangerous but I still worry because I am responsible for my son's safety. In reality, there are some real possiblities for danger in my extended family. I talk to my friends and some trusted family members about my fears and use them as a litmus test. If there is any real evidence that makes me suspicious I keep my son out of those situations. I've been thinking about re-entering therapy to help me sort out my fears from reality. You might consider this, too. But find a therapists who is open to considering all possibilities. Don't see anyone who dismisses your concerns. Good luck. You will figure it out! Anon

I, too, come from a ''molested'' family and I, too, have problems trusting any men including my husband. My father cheated on my mom and molested my sister. I never knew until my sister told me when I was about 14. So, now this experience is part of who I am. I have read a great deal about incest and seductive fathers and the most helpful book was by Judith Herman, I believe, called ''father daughter incest''. Two things I remember from the book: 1. Have your partner read a book about incest or abuse 2. Make it clear to him that if anybody, really ANYBODY touches your child, you are going to the police. You are going to protect your child at whatever cost Most men think they are kind of immune because you love them and educating them on the subject might alleviate the problem. I don't know if you are overreacting, I hope so but keep your eyes open. good luck

Is this baby your partner's son? If so, isn't he changing diapers at least on occasion? If he was going to molest I would think he would contrive time to be alone with the baby for more than a brief period while you are in the home. With the understandable trauma you have experienced (wanting to protect your sister, and feeling you weren't careful enough) I can understand trusting men would be very difficult. If you love this man you have to face your trust issues- something has to change if you are afraid of leaving him alone with toddler for even a short time. If the man is completely innocent, he deserves to be free of suspicion, too. I don't think I would tell him about your worries yet- it could destroy the relationship. I would seek counseling for yourself and be very observant, but try to control suspicion at home. I wish you a life free from fears like this... Anon