Men and Suspicion of Child Abuse

I'm sitting in a child care center with my daughter, Molly, in my lap. We are reading a book before we go home. Another girl joins us by climbing into my lap. Halfway through the book Molly runs off to find her shoes. The other girl's mother, who I have not met, walks in to find her daughter alone on my lap.

I smile and make eye contact. I am interested in meeting this mother, but I am struck with another priority as well. I feel the need to indirectly reassure her that I am not a child molester. That even though I am a man, her daughter is safe with me. 

I have no idea if she is worried about me or not. My fear that she may hesitate to trust me is a projection. It is based not on my observation of her (she seems calm), but on my awareness of the fact that the fear of sexual abuse is in the back of a lot of people's minds. It's in my mind a lot because I have heard the stories of many sexual abuse survivors, both friends and clients. And I have also counseled people who have sexually abused children and wanted to stop.

The statistics on sexual abuse vary depending on how broadly sexual abuse is defined. By any definition, though, it happens too often. And men are the abusers in the majority, but certainly not all, of the cases. (This is probably a good place to dispel the prejudiced myth that homosexuals are more prone to be sexual abusers of children than heterosexuals. This is NOT true.)

So I understand why I, because I am a man, might not automatically be trusted. And I have met people I would not trust to have unsupervised contact with my daughter. So I consider it my responsibility to help other parents trust me. I try to project relaxed confidence that will say, "No shameful uncontrollable urges to hide here!" I can't work too hard to appear innocent, or my efforting might be cause for suspicion. And I don't think it would work to speak directly about the issue, "Say, by the way, in case you were wondering, I am not a child molester!"

So I just try to be nice. And let trust grow as people get to know me. But inside it hurts to not be trusted. It hurts to have to prove my innocence with each new person. And it hurts that my manhood is something that arouses suspicion.

© 2008 Tim Hartnett

Other Father Issues, Books

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Parents are the bones on which children sharpen their teeth. - Peter Ustinov

Tim Hartnett, MFT is father to Molly at their home in Santa Cruz, CA. Tim also works part time as a writer, psychotherapist and men's group leader. If you have any feedback, or would like to receive the monthly column, "Daddyman Speaks" by Tim Hartnett regularly via email, (free and confidential) send your name and email address to E-Mail Tim Hartnett, 911 Center St. Suite "C", Santa Cruz, CA 95060, 831.464.2922 voice & fax.

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