Victimizer or Victim?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Q: My nephew is seven and my daughter is four. We recently moved to the same state as my nephew two years ago. Right away I started noticing him being curious about my daughters “pants”, or always wanting to “check her pants” or go to the bathroom with her. Last year when she was three and he was six I left them alone only for one minute(because I do not trust his behavior)and he had her in the closet. Later when they left I asked her what they were doing. She said he was “checking her pants”. Then again just recently in a restaraunt. the kids were putting money in a juke box. I looked up and my four year old and nephew were nowhere to be seen. I immediately got up and started yelling for my daughter(i only turned away for 30 secs)and he had her in the mens bathroom. Later on the way home I asked her if she told him she had to go or if he asked her to go. She said he asked her if she had to go and because she trusts him she went. She said he told her to pull down her pants, she did(thinking she was going to potty)and heard me yelling her name and pulled them up.
The closet incident last year when I approached my sister, she quickly turned the blame on me and told me I was overreacting. Now, with this recent incident(he is now seven my daughter four)I am completely distraught over what to do. I do not want my newphew anywhere near my daughter and certainly will Never leave them alone, ever. But given my sister’s denial I don’t know what is acceptable behavior or how to approach her about it. I have repremanded my newphew each time(about 5-6 times now)and it seems he has no measure for consequence. Given the age difference it creeps me out even more. My daughter is severly shy and I think he is preying on her in order to control and manipulate her, given he uses statements like”I need to check your pants’ or “do you have to go potty”……It nauseates me and I am completely losing my mind over this.
I really need help in approaching my sister and explaining to her why this in unacceptable and inappropriate given the age of my newphew and several instances or repremanding him. I think he has ADD or Adhd which she refuses to have him diagnosed or examined for.
Help me please determine and have a forum to discuss appropriate vs inappropriate behavior in children and somehow get her to understand that this child needs help.
Thank you.

A: I’m so glad that you aren’t letting your sister convince you that this is normal childhood exploring. It’s not. But it’s also important to remember that your nephew is not an adult sexual predator. He is a little boy of 7 who is in the grip of something he doesn’t understand either. Although he is victimizing your daughter, he is also in serious trouble. The way to approach your sister might be to share this letter with her. I’m very concerned about him. Many children who act this way have been molested themselves and are acting out what happened to them as a way to cope. It’s striking to me that he keeps doing these things in a way that ensures he will be caught. It’s as if he is asking for someone to pay attention. If I were his mom, I’d want to have him evaluated to make sure he hasn’t been sexually traumatized by someone. Meanwhile, you are right to protect your daughter. Explain to her that her cousin is a good kid who is doing some bad things and that she can’t be alone with him until he learns how to play right. There are many books written for children that explain the difference between good touch and bad touch. The best protection, besides a vigilant mom, is information. You might find it helpful to read one of these stories with your daughter and to help her understand how to keep herself safe.
I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Aug 2006

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2006). Victimizer or Victim?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 18, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2006/08/30/victimizer-or-victim/