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Father's behavior with his son raises concerns.

Question: 

Dear Stop It Now!

I have concerns about a child. The father posted a naked photo of his 7 yr. old son on Facebook  (the backside from knees up) and he has weird behavior around his son’s bathroom time (the father walked in on me in the bathroom without knocking and his immediate response was "I’m sorry, I thought my son was in here.” The previous day, my kids overheard him say to his son "Come in the bathroom, I have a surprise for you" to which the son replied quietly "oh, no" and walked sadly into the bathroom.

Response: 
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Dear Concerned Adult,

Thank you for contacting Stop It Now! It is great that you are showing your commitment for children’s safety by doing the sometimes uncomfortable thing of questioning another adult’s actions.

 I understand that you have witnessed several events in this boy’s life that are causing you to be concerned. Everyone has a different parenting style, and it’s hard to determine if this father is just having difficulties with healthy boundaries or if there is something more alarming going on.

Warning Signs
Have you observed any signs in this little boy that may indicate he is at-risk for abuse or is being abused? Please look at our Warning Signs in children’s behavior of possible child sexual abuse. When looking at signs in children, it is important to note that you want to look for a cluster or pattern of behaviors, rather than one isolated incident, to consider the possibility of child sexual abuse or that an adult may be at risk to harm a child.

Is there anyone else you know who has expressed a similar concern about this child and his father? Has anyone else observed any concerning signs. Review our Behaviors to Watch for When Adults Are With Children to help you and any other involved adults identify any other warning signs.

Having a conversation
I’m not sure of your relationship to this child and father, but have you raised your concerns with the father? You may want to talk to him directly and share your observations and concerns. You do not need to “accuse” him of abusing his son but rather let him know that his behaviors are ones that could be concerning and could also leave his son vulnerable.

It is possible that this father’s boundaries are not clear. It may be helpful to let him know that loose boundaries make children more vulnerable to abuse because it sets a poor example of where limits should be regarding rules, privacy, and other important topics, for anyone that is in that child’s life. Is there anyone you could talk to who can join you in this conversation or who might be able to broach this topic with him if you are uncomfortable talking about it with this child’s father alone?

It could be helpful for you to talk to the father regarding his internet post on Facebook. It is important for the people in this child’s life to understand how to protect him, and how to keep him from unnecessary risk. Putting pictures on the internet of a naked young child, even if it’s meant to be harmless, is a violation of his privacy. You could bring this up to him as a concern for his child’s safety, and despite it seeming innocuous, it should stay off the internet. Also, you may bring up that later in this boy’s life, as he becomes a tween and teen, he may not want pictures of his bottom on the internet, and he may not want them there now either. Our booklet, “Let’s Talk” may help with this conversation. While you may not find your situation referenced in this book, the communication tips may be helpful.

Reporting to Facebook
Furthermore, if you want to report the Facebook content yourself, you can. To make a report specifically to Facebook, click on the drop down arrow (to the right of the padlock in the upper right hand corner of the Facebook page). At the bottom of the drop down box is “report a problem.”  Click that and then click on the bottom line of the next drop down box, “report abuse, spam or policy violations”.

Additional Resources
You may find the following resources helpful for you, and also you may want to share these with the child’s father to help him plan for his child’s safety:

  • Guidebooks and Tip Sheets to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse – you may want to explore the various tools offered here, but be sure to read “Prevent Child Sexual Abuse”, it is a free download that will walk you through steps on how to set guidelines, model behavior, and talk to children about healthy sexuality, and why all these things are very important to teach kids.
  • Create Your Family Safety Plan – a family safety plan ensures that the children and adults in the family are all on the same page when it comes to respecting boundaries, touch, and other guidelines.

I again want to thank you for playing an active role in keeping the children of your community safe. I hope this information is helpful, and please don’t hesitate to reach out again with any questions or concerns.

Take care,
Stop It Now!

 

 

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Last edited on: August 2nd, 2018