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Sex and The City: The paedophile father-in-law

09:56 AM Nov 28, 2021 |

Q: My father-in-law inappropriately touched my five-year-old daughter but my husband refuses to stay away from him as he is getting old and has no one else to look after him. Moreover, he can’t afford another house and a helper for his father. I am upset with this situation. My husband warned his father and also consulted a psychiatrist for him. Yet I just can’t live in peace and can’t leave my daughter unguarded even for a second at home. My husband thinks the problem is solved but I am unable to let go of it. I hate doing anything for my father-in-law and it’s a tense atmosphere at home. Please advise.

Ans: Understandably, this peculiar and unfortunate situation is far from ideal for you emotionally and also when it comes to the safety of your five-year-old daughter. It’s unlikely to resolve itself unless some proactive action is taken on your part. It is worth remembering that the trespasses of the old and frail stand judgement before other human beings in exactly the same manner as the mistakes made by the young and active since moral turpitude and selfishness has no expiry date.

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Your father-in-law’s behaviour is both perverse and exploitative of the innocence and vulnerability of a young child. There is also the added risk of this emotionally affecting your child in ways that years of therapy may not be able to undo.

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A child grows into an adult and brings with her/ him the scars of a childhood that largely stung and sneaked upon them. Exposure to a paedophile brings with it a sense of shame, anguish and anger in children. This is where a parent must step in to protect the interests and boundaries of their child.

It is crucial for you to take swift remedial measures to protect your child from threats, both inside and outside your home. A child may not be able to process reality or emotional upheavals with the efficiency and clarity of an adult. This is why it is important to teach them to protect themselves with age-appropriate sex education and to build a relationship of trust with the child. I understand that your husband can neither afford another house nor desert his father at his tender age.

This is a catch-22 situation. However, you may opt to portion a small amount of your personal income or savings to alter your living arrangement for the interim period to buy you and your daughter peace and safety. This will serve to illustrate the seriousness of the problem to your husband and you will have to discuss the matter with him so as to keep him abreast of any such developments. The onus well and truly is on the couple to build a happy, healthy and safe life together and for each other.

It isn’t just a man’s responsibility to single-handedly provide a home and stability in that home. A home and lifestyle have to be co-built by borrowing liberally from each other’s strengths. Despite your husband’s many warnings, if your father-in-law still has trouble altering his ways, you are well within your right to opt to resort to radical steps that are geared at ensuring the well-being of your child.

The split between a wife’s mandate to support her partner and a mother’s instinct to protect her child can be a difficult pickle to find oneself in. Your husband is an adult and fully capable of taking care of his needs, communication and relationship challenges while the same cannot be said about your child who is still rather young. If home ownership is impossible due to a financial crunch, a rental or service apartment may be sought out as a stop-gap measure.

Additionally, this is a good time to teach your daughter about how to say ‘no’ to any untoward advances from men. It’s your right to maintain a well thought out and planned distance from a man who makes you uncomfortable irrespective of how he’s connected to your life.

Also Read: Sex and The City: Worried about sexual performance

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