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Child Abuse

Being Wary of Abusive Behaviors



A nephew of mine likes to play with my son who is quite a few years younger when his family visits my house (my nephew is 15 and my son is 7). My nephew also has a slight developmental disorder. Now, I can remember playing with younger cousins in my early adolescent years and no one ever kept an eye on me. However, I feel a level of discomfort when my nephew and son go up to my son`s room and close the door, which I can`t quite explain. I find myself making excuses to pass by and open the door. My son has never complained about any inappropriate behavior from my nephew. Whenever my nephew is over, his mother is also in the house and I don`t want her to think that I don`t trust her son. I think that his developmental handicap makes her especially sensitive about him. Is this a situation I should watch closely? Am I being overprotective? Is there a "best" way to handle it?


It is reasonable for you to feel uncomfortable. The 8-year difference in ages between the two boys is significant and understandably makes you wonder what is going on behind the closed door. My advice is to employ an "open door" policy that is in effect for all visitors. Whenever friends or relatives visit, the door will remain open. Tell your nephew`s mother that the rule applies to all visitors. If you haven`t already, I would encourage you to educate your son about sexual abuse prevention, such as good touch - bad touch. Be sure he knows that he can tell you about any contacts that makes him feel uncomfortable. If your son is manifesting behaviors that would suggest abusive behavior you should contact your child`s physician for help. You can read about the signs and symptoms of sexual abuse on our website. Look in the "Frequently asked questions" section.

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Child Abuse and Neglect

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Response by:

Patricia A Myers, LISW
Formerly, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati