DEAR ABBY: A number of things in the letter from "Uneasy in Indiana" (Oct. 21) can be red flags for sex abuse. I have worked in child welfare for 35 years. Abusers often start with "playful touching," comment about "cute" body parts, continue after being asked to stop, and make power statements that they can touch the child if they want.
If the incident was innocent, why didn't he recognize that it made his daughter uneasy and immediately stop when asked? "Uneasy" already fears he may accuse her of being a paranoid former victim. Abusers, when confronted, often accuse the other parent of "misunderstanding" or "being crazy." They may also accuse the child of misunderstanding the touches or being provocative.
That "Uneasy" and her husband don't have sex is also of concern -- it can mean her husband finds children, not adult women, sexually desirable.
Even if "Uneasy" isn't sure, she should stop leaving the child alone with him. Take her with her to class, leave her with a friend's parents or a safe relative. Let the husband know the touching and comments stop now -- no excuses -- and if there's anything else of this nature she will report it to the authorities.
The time to protect a child is before something happens. Afterward is too late. Children often tell only one time. If no action is taken, the child won't tell again! -- SEEN IT ALL IN TEXAS
DEAR SEEN IT ALL: My thanks to you and the others who wrote to support my advice to "Uneasy in Indiana." My readers comment:
DEAR ABBY: I'm a clinical social worker who works with sex offenders in a prison. I'm distressed that the husband "truly believed it was OK and didn't mean ..." Yes, he did mean to touch his daughter inappropriately. He has begun to groom her for his own sick pleasure.
The key statement in that letter is the girl asked him to stop and he negated her feelings by telling her she "belonged" to him. Huge red flag! So many offenders I see are infatuated with preteens. "Uneasy" needs to get him to counseling ASAP and never leave her daughter alone with Dad. -- UNEASY THERAPIST IN ILLINOIS
DEAR ABBY: That husband is playing with fire. I know. After my wife died I playfully spanked and patted my daughter's cute little butt. Her school counselor found out, called child protective services, who called the police, and I was arrested. I wound up serving 2 1/2 years in prison. I'm now on parole and will be on the federal Sex Offender Registry for the next 20 years. That man needs to rethink his actions and get professional help before it's too late for him or his daughter. -- C.R.H. IN KENTUCKY
DEAR ABBY: "Uneasy's" letter made me sick to my stomach, having endured the same treatment from my father. If it's not stopped immediately, it will most likely escalate into incest. The issue is boundaries. Every girl needs them in order to maintain her self-worth, control over her own body and her ability to say "no" without being afraid of offending some guy who wants to treat her like a sex object.
It took years of therapy and work to repair the damage my father caused. This father's problem should be addressed immediately by a professional therapist. "Uneasy" needs to put her foot down and let him know his behavior will not be tolerated. The daughter needs her mother's full support. She has a right to feel safe in her own home. -- DISTURBED IN OREGON