DEAR ABBY: My preteen daughter, "Avery," has started developing a more mature figure. She recently told me privately that one night while I was in class, her father smacked her on the bottom and started playing with the back pockets on her jeans. It made her very uncomfortable. When Avery asked him to stop, he told her that she's his "baby girl" and he could smack her "cute little butt" if he wants to.
I think my husband truly believed it was OK and didn't mean (at least consciously) to touch her inappropriately. But if it bothered Avery, it can't continue.
I'm afraid I'll overreact if I try to discuss this with him. I was sexually abused by a relative when I was a young teenager. This relative also said that because he was related to me he could touch me in whatever way he wanted. To further complicate matters, my husband refuses me in bed.
If there's trouble brewing, I want to stop it now, but I don't want to come off as a freaked-out, paranoid former victim seeing abuse where it may be total innocence. Any suggestions? -- UNEASY IN INDIANA
DEAR UNEASY: Yes. Listen to your gut. Tell your daughter you're glad she told you what happened, and you want her to come to you anytime anyone makes her feel uncomfortable. No one has the right to touch her if she doesn't want to be. And because what her father did made her uncomfortable, her "cute little butt" is off limits.
If your husband gives you an argument, insist on professional counseling for the two of you. He may be slow to realize that his little girl is growing up and the rules have changed. A licensed counselor will not come off as a "freaked-out, paranoid former victim" and can help him to understand that his behavior should not be repeated. And while you're at it, raise the issue of your sex life so you will have a clearer understanding of why it is the way it is.
DEAR ABBY: Because ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) affects so many people, my letter may interest many of your readers. An estimated 4.4 million children between the ages of 4 and 17 have this diagnosis. Half of them receive some form of medication for it.
This disorder is also present in adults. According to an April 2006 study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 4.4 percent of adults 18 to 44 experience some symptoms from it.
Thanks to ongoing research and improved treatment, adults with ADHD can live more successful lives. The largest study on childhood ADHD also shows effective treatments are available.
CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), the largest family-based organization advocating for people with the disorder, provides information, advocacy and support. Our website (CHADD.org) and publications contain science-based information. It includes available parent and teacher training programs as well as support groups in 200 locations.
Thank you for printing this and the advice and wisdom you have shared so consistently over the years. -- MARIE S. PAXSON, PAST PRESIDENT, CHADD ORGANIZATION
DEAR MARIE: I'm pleased to spread the word that effective treatment for ADHD -- which can be inherited -- is becoming more accessible to families affected by it. Treatment for this disorder includes parent training, behavioral intervention, educational adaptations, parent-child education on ADHD and medication. If a child you know has been diagnosed with this disorder, CHADD can be a helpful resource.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
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- DEAR ABBY