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Sexual Abuse of Child

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: I feel my daughter isn't telling me something! She is seven and is drawing graphic pictures of men and women naked, touching one another and kissing and licking one another's private parts. Last summer she told friends she did those things to her dad but denied it on police video tape. The year before she told me a boy out at her dad's did things to her but I couldn't do anything about it because the childrens' aid passed it off as exploration. I have talked to police, childrens' aid, counselors who she sees every three weeks, but all say I do not have enough proof to stop visitation and if I do my ex could charge me with breaking contract. What can I possibly do to get through to my child. She has to tell before I can get her the help she needs.

A: Your daughter's accounts of sexual activity with her dad and this boy are deeply disturbing. Her graphic sexual drawings would usually be interpreted as a sign of sexual abuse -- her way of acting out the confusing obsessive sexual thoughts and feelings she has.

Given her problems, seeing a counselor every three weeks is far too infrequent. I believe she needs to see someone who specializes in children's sexuality and abuse. Dr. Toni Cavanagh is such a specialist. I'd encourage you to contact her at her office in Pasadena, California. It would be worth a phone consultation to find out how you should proceed in this matter. It seems the law and these mental health professionals have not helped much. Your daughter is probably caught up in knowing she's been part of something wrong, yet I'd guess she will try to protect your husband based on his telling her not to tell what he's done to her. Please do not accept the present treatment of your daughter as adequate. She is clearly very troubled and this situation demands very skilled specialists to help her.

Keep me posted as to your progress.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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