My daughter told me her dad abused her.
Dear Stop It Now!,
My 6 year old daughter told me that her dad brought her in the bathroom to show her his "weenie." I feel like I’m going to throw up and don't know what to do. He sees our 2 girls on the weekends, at our house, and it has been an on and off relationship with us and the girls for 8 years. Help!!!!!
Dear Concerned Mom,
I can fully understand your concern upon hearing what your daughter said. There is no question that this behavior should not be occurring between an adult and a child. Sexual abuse takes many forms and includes exposing children to adult sexuality, not just physical contact.
When a Child Discloses
First, let’s acknowledge how wonderful it is that your daughter let you know what happened. I’m sure you let her know that you are very proud of her for being able to tell you what happened.
Now you have the opportunity to help her become safe, and to plan for safety overall in your home and with your family. It’s important that she knows that you believe her and don’t blame her. Here is some more information from our Online Help Center about some ways to respond when a child tells about abuse that will support the child: When a child tells about sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse is not often something that a parent can protect against on his or her own; it does require outside help. What your daughter said to you is most likely reportable to Child Protective Services (CPS), as her dad's behavior is considered sex abuse. It is hard to know at this point if any other inappropriate behaviors may have happened in the past or could happen in the future, but CPS can help you with this assessment.
Although the idea of filing a report on a family member can seem daunting, it is really the best way get support and resources for your whole family. CPS can investigate and make recommendations on what is needed to provide the safest environment possible. For more information about filing, please see our resource page: Reporting Child Sexual Abuse, which includes a Directory of Child Abuse Reporting Numbers.
You want to think about safety planning as well. It is very important that you make sure your daughters will not be alone with their father while this is getting sorted out. As the visits happen in your home only, I would recommend that you keep all visits confined to common areas, keeping the children and their father in view at all times.
If you haven’t thought about safety rules in your home, now would be time to think of that. Rules such as "Anytime two people are in a room, the door is open" and "All adults and children keep their clothes on during any playtime", can help every family member know what is expected - and therefore, know when a rule has been broken.
Although your other daughter has not disclosed any inappropriate behavior it would be a good idea to have a general discussion about house safety rules and boundaries with both of them. It is important to create a culture in the household where they will continue to feel safe talking to you about any concerns they may have.
Warning Signs and Speaking Up
It may be helpful to list out any other observations you've made about the childrens' father's behaviors that concern you. Have you or anyone else ever seen any of these Behaviors to Watch for When Adults Are with Children or Signs That an Adult May Be At-Risk to Harm a Child? Have you or anyone else ever had concerns about his relationship or his behaviors with his daughter or other children?
I’m not sure what kind of relationship you have with him, and it is most important that you keep you and your family safe, but sometimes people decide to talk to the adult whose sexual behaviors are worrisome or even illegal. If this is at all a possibility, I encourage you to take a look at our booklet called “Let’s Talk”. I want to emphasize that your safety is priority and I would strongly suggest that you have an ally to join you in this conversation if you do decide to talk to your daughters' father.
You may find it helpful for your daughter to see a therapist for some support around these issues with her father and likely changes in visitation. Therapists are trained to work with younger children when family issues may be confusing for them. Here are some resource pages you may find helpful: Treatment Resources for Children.
This may be preliminary but you do also want to consider consulting with your attorney regarding safety during visitation. You may also want to read Custody Cases: Protecting your Child from Sexual Abuse by Atty. Arlaine Rockey, an excellent article with information and guidance for parents in custody cases involving sexual abuse.
I am sorry that your family is now facing this difficult and complex situation. I hope this information is helpful, and please do not hesitate to contact us back with further concerns or questions.
Stop It Now!
Last edited on: November 13th, 2018