Are my husband's behaviors toward his granddaughter a red flag?

Dear Stop It Now!,

My granddaughter is 12 and just starting to mature physically. Recently in 3 different settings, my husband has taken her by the hand and led her away from the group. I felt concerned immediately because it was a new behavior; holding her hand at this age seemed inappropriate and why were they leaving the family group? Is this a red flag for possible abuse? How can I address this? It may be important to know that my husband has viewed pornography and that we are in counseling in part due to that behavior. He has never admitted to viewing child pornography.

Dear Concerned Grandparent,

Thank you for taking that difficult step in questioning a loved one's behavior in order to protect a child.

Adult Warning Signs

Your husband’s behavior could indeed be a warning sign that a child is at-risk. One warning sign does not always mean that a child is at-risk, instead it's important to notice whether there are patterns or repetition, and whether there are additional signs. Please review Behaviors to Watch for When Adults Are With Children and Signs That an Adult May Be At-Risk to Harm a Child to help you think about your observations and whether there may be other potential signs worth noting.

While viewing pornography is not necessarily a precursor to sexually abusing a child, given that you’ve shared your husband is in treatment for this, I am assuming that his pornography viewing is problematic, and therefore may also be considered a warning sign.

Observing and Responding to Children’s Warning Signs

Another place to explore for you is whether your granddaughter is showing any warning signs of possible abuse. Have you noticed any new behaviors or moods in here that are different?  Is she able to talk with you or another safe adult if she is worried about anything? You may want to look this article published by the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (www.rainn.org): “Talking to your child if you suspect that they are being sexually abused” for some helpful tips on how to raise concerns in a supportive way.

Speaking Up

Have you asked your husband about his behavior? Would it be possible to do this in counseling together? It’s important that this concern is shared so that there are no secrets and that accountability is shared with among all adults involved in your grandchildren’s lives. Our guidebook, “Let’s Talk” may help you with raising this concern in a non-confrontational manner.

Safety Planning

This would be a good time to also strengthen your safety plan and family guidelines about safe behavior between children and adults. Identifying healthy and appropriate interactions that are expected for all adults involved with children in your life can help you feel more secure in identifying potential problems. For example, if you have a family rule that prohibits adults from being a child’s room with the door closed and that rule is broken, you can respond more clearly about the broken rule. Please see the following resources for further guidance in setting up safe environments.

I hope this information is helpful and certainly invite you to contact us back with any additional questions or concerns. I hope for the very best for you and your family.

Take care,
Stop It Now!

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Last edited on: July 18th, 2012