How can I help my Spanish-speaking neighbor and her granddaughter?
Dear Stop It Now!,
My neighbor says her husband kisses, touches, and spend hours behind locked doors with his granddaughter. At the beginning she thought he was just being affectionate but it was not until she saw for herself they kissed in mouth in a sexual manner. The girl is 14 years old. I am shocked and also have very limited knowledge in how can I help.
Because she asked me for help I feel the need to be informed in the subject. This lady barely knows any English (I do speak Spanish so I clearly understood everything she said). She was also physically and verbally abused by this man in the past and she is clearly scared of him.
Dear Concerned Adult,
I’m so sorry to hear that your neighbor has reason to worry about her granddaughter and that she has been a victim herself. It's a good thing that she has you and asked for help. I imagine this must be very shocking to hear yourself, but know that there are ways you can help both your neighbor and her granddaughter. I’m so glad you’ve reached out to us for additional guidance.
Recgonizing Abusive Behaviors
After witnessing something so concerning, it must have been so hard for this grandmother to know what to do first for her granddaughter. Many people wonder What is Child Sexual Abuse Exactly? What she has described is very concerning, and it is very important that she gets help to protect her granddaughter.
A good next step would be to help her call Child Protective Services (CPS), and file a report with them with the information she has given you about her husband’s abusive behavior, and also about the other concerns she has observed. CPS is an agency that investigates allegations of abuse by a caregiver – including the sexual abuse that she witnessed occurring between her granddaughter and husband. Often, talking to CPS is the best way to get everyone involved the help they need.
As it sounds like you are willing to help in this very worrisome scenario, I would encourage you to help her make that call. She may be struggling with Facing Some of the Practical Difficulties of Speaking Up, but having you there for support will be incredibly helpful. Also, I would encourage her to seek additional support, perhaps through her network of family and friends. You don’t mention whether your neighbor is the guardian for her granddaughter or if there are also parents involved. If the 14 year old’s parents are in her life, they should be made aware of these concerns and warning signs.
When talking to CPS, have all the information ready including dates, names, and places, and any other relevant information like these Warning Signs that you or she has noticed in his behavior, like those you’ve described to me, or even recent mood or behavior changes she may have noticed in her granddaughter. For more information, please see our page on Reporting.
You may also want to help her follow up with her granddaughter’s pediatrician to make sure that this girl is physically okay, and to also help with reporting and finding her additional support. If she doesn’t have a pediatrician, she can be brought to the emergency room.
Please also pass on these Spanish Resources to this loving grandmother. Unfortunately, not all of our tip sheets and guidebooks are currently translated, but this should aid her understanding some of what is explained here in this email apart from your own helpful translation.
I am also very concerned about the grandmother's wellbeing right now. It sounds like she has dealt with violence herself and I want you, this grandmother, and her granddaughter to be safe. She deserves to live a life free of fear or harm. Please give help her reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1.800.799.SAFE). They can refer her to local resources, and help her come up with a plan to keep herself and her granddaughter safe. There is also a Spanish-speaking helpline from RAINN called Linea De Ayuda En Vivo Para Las Víctimas Del Asalto Sexual Y Sus Familias Y Amigos that may also be helpful for her and her granddaughter.
Finally, I want to make sure everyone is able to have resources to heal. Many people after hearing about a disclosure may choose to seek out their own support to help them understand and process something so jarring. I encourage you to reach out to someone close to you: a friend, professional, relative, or even a member of the clergy for support through this difficult time. For this grandmother, please encourage her to get some Professional Help as a violence survivor, and also pass along these Parents of Survivors resources. A specialist who works with Child Survivors will have the best training to work with her granddaughter.
I have given you much information, so please do not hesitate to follow up or contact us again for any further information, clarification, or additional support. I appreciate you reaching out to help this family, and I truly wish the best for everyone involved. If you have any further questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us again.
Stop It Now!
Last edited on: November 26th, 2019