Son-in-law’s behaviors are concerning

Dear Stop It Now!, 

While I was at my 13 year old granddaughter’s home one night, my son- in-law greeted my granddaughter with a big hug and kiss ( normal), then right before my eyes, fondled her breast and then rubbed his body tightly against hers. He appeared to have an erection. I told my granddaughter to go upstairs but did not address him or the situation. This was not the first time I observed similar behavior- inappropriate fondling. I started to call the police but was worried that my daughter would be horrified and I'd ruin my son-in-laws high ranking military career.  I’m concerned for the safety and well-being of my granddaughter but I’m lacking courage to address this with my daughter.

Dear Concerned Grandmother, 

You are right – it is crucial to take action and yes, there will most likely be some difficult conversations and situations afterward.  There are some steps to consider as you think about involving the police.

Talking to your daughter 

Ideally, bringing up these concerns with your daughter would be the next immediate step. Are you able to bring up your observations with her?  I would be curious to know whether she has concerns that she hasn’t known how to bring up.

While these conversations are difficult, often they can lead to families working together to keep the children safe.  If you do decide to talk to her, these communication tips may be able to help:

  • Make sure that you are in a private place – away from her daughter and her husband.
  • Focus on your shared love and commitment for your granddaughter. 
  • Do not “accuse” her husband of anything – rather, describe your observations. Be specific and factual but try (as hard as it can be) to stay calm and neutral. This is about everyone getting support and help so that the children and the family experience the least amount of trauma and stress as possible.
  • Be prepared with accurate information about Warning Signs and other tools available from our website.

She may need some time to process, be understanding…but follow up with her, asking her to think about next steps.

Talking to your son-in-law

I’m not sure of the type of relationship you have with your son-in-law.  In some cases, concerned adults have found it advantageous to speak directly to the adult whose behaviors with children alarm them.  This is absolutely not the approach for every relationship and safety is always the main priority.  And it is always best to have a support person with you if you do decide to have such a conversation.

Many of the tips on talking with your daughter can also be applied to talking to your son-in-law.  The main objective is to focus on his daughter’s safety, and what the adults can do to take responsibility to make sure children are kept safe. To learn more about having this difficult kind of situation, and under what kinds of circumstances it might be helpful, take a look at our guidebook, “Let’s Talk”.

Reporting 

As your son-in-law is in a caregiver position, you could call child protective services and consult with them regarding next steps. Be prepared by writing down all your observations – try to include dates, locations, etc.

When you talk with them, stick to the factual information. At this time, they may not find enough cause to investigate but sometimes this step does bring services into the family.  Our resource guide on Reporting Child Sexual Abuse can help you find your state’s reporting numbers, as well as provide further information on reporting.

Additional Resources 

As you noted your son-in-law’s military involvement, I want to make you aware of Military OneSource (1.800.342.9647), a support and crisis line for all military personnel, including the Guard and Reserves and their family members.

I recognize that these steps may feel very scary or difficult.  Please make sure that you seek out support.  Speaking up is such a big step, and it is natural to be concerned about how to proceed. 

Take care,
Stop It Now!

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Last edited on: April 11th, 2013