Worried that daughter’s father will get custody

Dear Stop It Now!, 

I have a 3 year old daughter who has told me and her psychologist that her daddy has touched her in the wrong way. I am so worried.  When she had visits with him, she acted out sexually with her stuffed animals and had agitated outbursts. Her daddy is now after full custody and I have not a clue on the law. I am worried for her safety and don't know what to do. Is there any help?  Tips or advice that can be passed along? Please, I just want her kept safe.
 

Dear Concerned Mom, 

I’m so sorry to hear about the concern for your daughter’s safety. We, unfortunately, hear from many parents, particularly moms, in similar situations. It is a challenging situation and requires you to be very thoughtful, planful and also calm and in control.  Difficult when your emotions are being turned upside down.

Get Professional Support 

It is vital that you work with a team to help provide you and your daughter with both emotional and legal support. Please consult with an attorney as soon as you can. An attorney can best advise you on how to proceed in a way that is focused on protecting your child and working with the legal system in the most effective manner possible. 

For help in finding legal aid, please see our Legal and Advocacy Resources. This listing includes victim assistance and advocacy resources. You may also be interested in our online information on Custody Cases Involving Child Sexual Abuse, under Legal issues.

It’s important to keep up any mental health support she is receiving.  You mentioned a psychologist working with her and I strongly recommend that you partner with this professional to identify what the treatment goals are, what is expected from your own involvement and what is needed overall for your daughter. You should also feel comfortable with this professional, as they can hopefully guide you as well in seeking out resources for your daughter, if needed.

Safety planning in the home 

While you are working with professionals, please do not forget to pay attention to safety planning in your home, which I hope will include healthy and age-appropriate sexuality education for your daughter.  Yes, she is young but you can start now to establish routines with open conversations involving her naturally developing curiosity regarding her body and her relationships with other adults and children in her life.

To further support her well-being, refrain from conversations that are more adult oriented, such as any involvement you may have with courts, custody battles, etc. Let her be a child whenever possible, limiting her exposure to the challenges you’re facing in keeping her safe. 

Help her experience safety and a healthy childhood when she is with you.  In these ways, you can impart to her that she does have a safe place in her life where she is loved and cherished. Never underestimate the power of your loving support on your daughter life.

Please see the links below this response for prevention and safety planning tip sheets

Getting support 

It can be very helpful for you to have support and alliesi during this process. Having your own counselor may help you navigate through this scary time. Talking with trusted friends and family members, who can help you think of safety plans and action steps as you proceed will help you feel less isolated and better prepared. Please consider who you can turn to during this time who can help you and your daughter.

Our Child Survivor Resources can help you find resources for you as well as direct to any additional needs for your daughter. You may also be interested in an active online discussion board for support at Daily Strength

Further disclosures and filing reports  

Please know that any time a child provides a new disclosure of abuse, a new report can be made. Always document in your own notes what she said, when she said it, what the situation was that prompted her disclosure and any other relevant information such as returning from a recent visit with her dad. 

When you contact your local Child Protection Service, report only what you know for sure refraining from adding personal opinions about your daughter’s father. To find your states CPS reporting number, you can search the Directory of Child Abuse Reporting Numbers.  For further information regarding filing reports of abuse, read our online information: Consider Filing Reports and Filing Reports.

I wish for the very best outcome for you both. I hope this information is helpful and invite you to please contact us with any further concerns or questions.

Take care,
Stop It Now!

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Last edited on: February 8th, 2013