Is my father-in-law abusing my toddler?

Dear Stop It Now!

I don’t like the way my father-in-law acts with my 3 year old daughter. He frequently asks to diaper her, watches when we do diaper her and is always volunteering to babysit  and take her on outings alone. Yesterday he had her on his lap, tickling her. I took her away from him when I saw him tickling her private parts. He has babysat my daughter and now I’m worried something happened.

Dear Concerned Parent,

The behaviors of your father-in-law do raise red flags. You have identified some behaviors to watch for when an adult is with a child and there are responses that will help you create a safe environment for your daughter and address your father-in-law’s behavior. 

Planning for Safety

Safety planning is the immediate priority. I'd like you to think through your family safety plan, specifically focusing in on supervision whenever your father-in-law is around and the overall plan about the ways in which your daughter can see her grandfather. At this time, your father-in-law should not be spending any time alone with your daughter. Other family members who share your concern should be a part of any safety planning to help support any supervision plan.

Bringing up your concerns

Without being confrontational or accusatory, you could bring up your concerns and let your father in law know that these behaviors must stop immediately.  Please do not have this conversation alone and only have it if you feel safe doing so.  Are there any other adults who share your concerns or you think could offer strong support to you in having this conversation?   Take a look at Stop It Now!'s booklet, "Let's Talk", available in our Guidebooks. The tips in this booklet will help guide this conversation.

Warning signs can be reason to get professional help

If you are observing any warning signs of possible child sex abuse in your daughter, you may want to consult with a therapist who works with children for guidance. One sign does not always mean that abuse is occurring but if a child is being abused, adults responding with love, support and accurate information will help them go on to live totally happy and healthy lives. To find a therapist, talk with your pediatrician or visit our online treatment resources.

Trust your instincts. Your daughter depends on you to keep her safe, and there is lots of support and resources for you. Please let us know if there is more information or support you need. 

Take care,
Stop It Now!

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Last edited on: August 22nd, 2012