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How Do I Keep My Conduct Disordered Step-son From Molesting My Children?

Question:

Hello. I am the proud momma of 3 children, ages 5, 2, and 1. I also have a stepson and stepdaughter ages 8 and 9, I have never had a problem with my stepdaughter and I have tried to be the best step mom I know how, but my fear is that my stepson may literally be a sociopath. At the young age of 8 he has been diagnosed with many different things, bipolar, conduct disorder, a narcissistic personality, he hears voices destroys property and he has molested two of my small children. I am scared to death and I need to know how to keep him away from my kids permanently. My husband keeps fighting me on keeping him away from them even after the advice from 2 mental health facilities that he should not be around other children. Even if I leave my husband to protect my children I am afraid that when he has visitation that the babies would be vulnerable to their step-brother. How do I protect my babies? One last thing He has a history from the age of 4 of inappropriate behavior and assaulting other children when is enough, enough? I do feel bad for him in the fact that he was molested when he was 2, by one of his mother’s babysitters. He is dangerous. Can I take legal action? Please give me some advice

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Answer:

The situation you’re in is complicated. No one can blame you for wanting to keep your children safe from abuse. Unfortunately, the source of the abuse is coming from within your family: your step-son. Your husband, who is the boy’s father and protector, has apparently a stronger alliance with his son than with you or the other children. You have not said it directly, but I gather by the fact that you’re worried that your husband would have visitation were you to separate from him that he is the natural father of your three children. He is downplaying the very real danger the boy appears to present to the other children based on the history you’ve offered. In order to keep the children separated, then, you have to fight your husband’s defensive reaction and denial.

If the diagnoses that your step-son have received are accurately made at all, this boy has some serious problems, and not simply things that have occurred as a result of his molestation. There are basically two classes of diagnosis being made here: a psychiatric illness (e.g., bipolar disorder, probably made as an attempt to explain the auditory hallucinations the boy is apparently experiencing), and one or more personality disorders. Conduct disorder is technically not a personality disorder, but it is essentially the juvenile expression of antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). A disproportionate number of kids diagnosed with conduct disorder will go on to be diagnosed with ASPD. The narcissistic diagnosis may be an alternate way of talking about the conduct disorder. Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and ASPD are closely allied diagnoses; both being part of what has been thought of as the "dramatic/erratic" personality disorder cluster. Add to the mix that the child was sexually abused and acting out that abuse and you have quite the volatile cocktail.

There isn’t any good way to keep your children safe from abuse by their step-brother short of keeping him physically separated from the children or providing 24/7 supervision of all interactions that the children have with their step-brother. As providing such supervision is impractical, the most workable solution would seem to be to keep them separated if at all possible.

At least with respect to domestic violence incidents, there is a legal concept known as a restraining order. A judge can order one relationship partner to maintain a physical distance from the other partner. Whether a restraining order is appropriate or even possible in your situation is a purely legal question and you will need to get the advice of a lawyer in your area who practices family law for a useful opinion. In my limited experience, such orders usually follow in the wake of serious domestic disputes which the police are called upon to break up. Because the police are involved there is a paper trail documenting that abuse occurred. My guess is that similar public/police documentation of your children being molested by your step-son would be important to have on record before requesting a restraining order from the court. Without it, it would be your word against your husband’s and the court would not know who to trust. If you don’t have formal third party documentation of your children’s abuse, make sure to get it (e.g., by taking your children to the hospital for a rape assessment and/or involving the police.

It’s important to keep in mind that your step-son has real problems and will require love and support and careful parenting himself if he is to have the best chance to grow up healthy. It’s easy to make him the problem but the problem is really larger than he is. The fact that your husband and you cannot see eye to eye on the reality of the danger the boy poses and the need to do something about it is also a serious contributing issue to your problems and one which has nothing to do with the boy. The practical and financial problem of how to make an effective separation occur or to provide effective supervision is also substantial and nobody’s fault. Try to keep this in mind when butting heads with your husband over this. This is just a complex and difficult problem to solve. Good luck.

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