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Stepfather Fondled Stepdaughter?

Hi Mark,

I just joined your program, but I am wondering if this is right. My daughter is now 20 years old; she does not live at home anymore. She is at college and living with her boyfriend. The reason I felt that I should join is that so many of the things you have written and said sound so much like her behavior as she was growing up and I just always attributed it to being from a divorced family and living in a "step" family. But just very recently after 15 years in the house with my husband, she comes to me and tells me that he had been fondling her from the time she was 12 to 18. Several questions arose from me by this allegation. My head tells me I should believe my daughter but I am finding it so hard to believe that my husband would be capable of this. I have spoke to a few of the people she has "told" that he has done this to her, but so far these people are saying she NEVER said anything specific just that you have to watch him. Then I heard she threw his son into the mix. His son is 3 years older than her and they have ALWAYS been very close, she has always confided in him, he has always helped her, etc. So without getting so deep into this whole thing through an email I’m just wondering if this is going to help me find out if my daughter DOES have a problem. In the 6 years this was going on she NEVER told me, her biological father (who she did/does see), we have 2 friends that are police (one local one state), she never took this information to them, 2 of the people she said she told were adults and NEVER told me that she told them this. There are just several things that are concerning to me. This is my husband’s life on the line, but on the other hand if he did this to my child, HOW HORRIBLE!!!!! I have asked my husband to move out to give me the space I feel I need to sort all of this out and he did, his family is very upset by it, but that can ONLY be natural. He has also agreed to go to a counselor as well as take a polygraph to prove his innocence. I have asked my daughter to go to counseling because if he HAS done this to her, she needs help to deal with it.

Any advise, any help, any suggestions? Will this program help and lead me in the right direction?

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Hi R.,

Whether or not it is occurring more often or being reported more often, the incidence of reported sexual abuse of children has increased in America. Studies have shown 1 out of 4 women - and 1 out of 10 men - state they were sexually abused as children.

A member of their own family or someone known to the family has molested most sexually abused children. Only 15 to 20 percent of child molesters are unknown to their victims.

Force is not commonly used in child molestation. Since the offender is often a close family member, the victim usually has a trusting relationship with him. The fact that trust is deliberately violated by the offender is what makes child sexual abuse so damaging.

Any sexualized behavior (e.g., sexual acting out, talking about sex at a young age) is a sign that the child or adolescent may be abused.

Most victims - over 90 percent according to research - are telling the truth when they reveal what has been happening to them. Usually the victim has no reason to lie about so serious a matter while the alleged offender has every reason to deny it. Since there is so much embarrassment and shame associated with it, young ladies (and men) tend not to mention past sexual abuse if it had not happened?

Because of the realistic fears of disclosure - the shame, criminal prosecution and possible break-up of the family - sexual abuse can go on for years before it is discovered. The pressures on the victim not to disclose are enormous. Often, she has been repeatedly warned by the offender not to tell and she is afraid of what might happen to him - and her family if she does.

If the disclosure of the sexual abuse is handled calmly and properly and if treatment is provided, the abuse will not necessarily permanently traumatize a victim. But without proper handling and treatment, the effects to the victim can include life-long depression, guilt, self-concept problems, unresolved anger, sexual dysfunctions or hyper-sexuality and difficulty trusting other people.

Whenever a youth says she has been sexually victimized, the best strategy is to believe her. She must also be reassured that she has done the right thing by disclosing and that she is in no way responsible for the abuse. Her chances of recovering from the molestation are much greater if she is supported in these ways.

If you suspect that sexual abuse has occurred, you must report it.

Polygraphs are much more reliable today than in times past. Thus, if he passes, you will need to consider putting the whole thing in the past. If he does not pass, then …well, you know the truth about what went on.

Re: Will this program help and lead me in the right direction?

I think it will help you make sense of some of your daughter’s “dysfunctional” behavior – behavior that would be much more related to an “over-indulgent” parenting style rather than the after-effects of divorce or molestation.

Mark

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