DEAR ABBY: My preteen daughter, "Avery," has started developing a more mature figure. She recently told me privately that one night while I was in class, her father smacked her on the bottom and started playing with the back pockets on her jeans. It made her very uncomfortable. When Avery asked him to stop, he told her that she's his "baby girl" and he could smack her "cute little butt" if he wants to.
I think my husband truly believed it was OK and didn't mean (at least consciously) to touch her inappropriately. But if it bothered Avery, it can't continue.
I'm afraid I'll overreact if I try to discuss this with him. I was sexually abused by a relative when I was a young teenager. This relative also said that because he was related to me he could touch me in whatever way he wanted. To further complicate matters, my husband refuses me in bed.
If there's trouble brewing, I want to stop it now, but I don't want to come off as a freaked-out, paranoid former victim seeing abuse where it may be total innocence. Any suggestions? -- UNEASY IN INDIANA
DEAR UNEASY: Yes. Listen to your gut. Tell your daughter you're glad she told you what happened, and you want her to come to you anytime anyone makes her feel uncomfortable. No one has the right to touch her if she doesn't want to be. And because what her father did made her uncomfortable, her "cute little butt" is off limits.
If your husband gives you an argument, insist on professional counseling for the two of you. He may be slow to realize that his little girl is growing up and the rules have changed. A licensed counselor will not come off as a "freaked-out, paranoid former victim" and can help him to understand that his behavior should not be repeated. And while you're at it, raise the issue of your sex life so you will have a clearer understanding of why it is the way it is.