Straight Talk: Dad’s inappropriate touching embitters daughter
Dear Straight Talk: I’m 17 and lucky to have an involved dad who believes in his kids. But he finds a way to pat my bottom or touch me closer to my chest than I am comfortable with any boy doing. Because of this, I avoid standing next to him or touching him at all. I am constantly bitter toward him and have lost respect for him.
My parents think I’m being an immature teenager and hate him for no reason – but it’s because of this. I keep my bedroom door closed because I don’t feel secure about him coming in. Family vacations are ruined because he walks around the hotel room with his hand down his underwear. I see my friends with great relationships with their dads and I want that. But whenever I sit by him or lean against him, he takes it as another opportunity. Am I just being paranoid? I want a relationship with my dad, but only if I can be comfortable.
Katie, 18, Auburn: This man is out of line. That he’s your dad makes it so much worse! Thank God nothing like this happened with my father. Say something, please! Instead of accusing him, say, “Dude, you accidentally touched me – that’s awkward.” If it continues, keep making a stink.
Sarah, 19, Redding: You need to say something. You have the right to set personal boundaries and he needs to respect them. Hopefully, mentioning it will stop it altogether. If it doesn’t, do not earn your dad’s love by compromising yourself! A friend’s father repeatedly put her in dangerous situations. She went along with it in order to have a relationship with him. Finally she had the realization that he wasn’t being a true father at all and severed ties with him. Though painful, she is much happier and healthier. Do what is best for you. Your first responsibility is to yourself.
Justin, 24, Redding: Have you talked to him about it? He may be completely unaware. Communication is what creates strong relationships – maybe that’s why your friends have good ones. Inappropriate touching is never okay, but maybe he doesn’t know he’s being inappropriate.
Katelyn, 17, Huntington Beach: Maybe your dad is being rude unintentionally, or maybe it’s part of an underlying problem. My dad pats my knee sometimes, and most dads probably don’t do that, but I know it’s to show he cares. Figuring out why your dad does this might settle the tension.
Gregg, 20, Los Angeles: Your father finding opportunities to touch you like that is, quite frankly, gross. I know my sister wouldn’t stand for it.
Dear Katie: Whether your father lacks boundaries around love, feels entitled, is a sexual opportunist or simply hasn’t a clue in the world, we may never know. What matters is that he stop. Your discomfort is enough for his touching to be inappropriate, and you have our unanimous support on that. But you owe it to the relationship to give him a chance to change. If he doesn’t correct his behavior immediately after you tell him verbally (with your mother’s help, perhaps), tell him two more times (recoiling abruptly while throwing a withering glare is acceptable follow-up). If he persists after three clear protests, demand family counseling. Regarding his underwear ritual, I would focus on the other issue and let this one drop.
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More from Lauren Forcella
I hope all dads reading this will take note – or moms and other relatives will clue you in. As you can see from Katie’s letter, a father doesn’t have to be an outright groper to cause problems. Subtle sexual attention toward a girl’s developing body can have a big impact. Best for dads: Steer very clear of pubescent features on your daughter. Don’t expect her to speak up. She might be so “weirded out” that she instead starts silently hating you, as Katie has done. I implore Katie to communicate, but it shouldn’t be her responsibility to be the mature one and it’s sad that she is being put in this position.
Regarding walking around with your hand down your pants, dads, of course you have the right to “adjust” yourself in your own castle, but you might consider the effect it is having on your teenage daughter and (hopefully) decide to adjust your behavior – at least until she’s in the other room. Not all girls are bothered by it, but some are, and I would hope that making your daughter feel secure around you would win out over a few seconds of unconscious rearranging.