Editor's Note: Hundreds of Ann Landers' loyal readers have requested that newspapers continue to publish her columns. These letters originally appeared in 1999.
Dear Ann Landers: I am writing about the letter from the woman who was concerned about her 11-year-old step-grandchild, Caitlin. It seems the girl dresses like an adult, often provocatively, and flaunts her body "inappropriately." Her stepfather showed her photos of well-endowed males in an underwear catalog and asked, "What do you think of this?" Caitlin looked bored. It was obvious that it was nothing new to her. She also kisses her 3-year-old brother on the mouth. The child's grandfather sees her as "caring." The astute, observant grandmother, however, sees something else.
You said Caitlin should not be left alone with her 3-year-old brother. I agree with you, but it seems to me the greater danger is her stepfather. She should not be left alone with him, either. Please, Ann, revisit this subject. It's one of those hush-hush topics that nobody wants to talk about, and a lot more needs to be said. — Anonymous in Redding, Calif.
Dear Redding: Thanks for an insightful letter. I received several from readers who had walked in that girl's shoes, and they, too, had plenty to say on the subject.
A common thread that ran through all the letters was how innocent and trusting the young girls were, and how long it took them to "catch on" to what was really happening to them. Here's another one:
From San Jose, Calif.: I was especially interested in the letter from the step-grandmother who was concerned about the 11-year-old grandchild's inappropriate behavior with her 3-year-old brother. That was exactly the routine used on me by my divorced mother's trusted friend. I was also 11 years old. It took me three years before I found the courage to say to my molester, "Stop, or I'll tell." It took another 10 years before I was able to tell my husband what had happened to me as a child. He then understood why I was such a "cold bed partner."
A City in Michigan: I'm a sixth-grade teacher who regards your column as my bible. Oh, the many ways you have helped me in my attempts to get across the facts of life to my young students. The letter about the 11-year-old girl whose stepfather showed her pictures of a man in his jockey shorts was the subject of a long and frank discussion when it appeared in the Detroit Free Press. Three children brought that column to the classroom and told me that something very similar had happened to them. I'm sure the ability to talk about it openly was liberating for those children. Not one of them had discussed it at home.
Raleigh, N.C.: I am sure everyone who reads your column sees him- or herself sooner or later. Well, I saw myself when the letter appeared about the 11-year-old girl whose stepfather showed her the picture of the man in his underwear. My uncle pulled the same thing on me. First, he showed me the men's underwear ad in the newspaper, and then he asked if I would like to see "the real thing." I told him I wasn't interested in men's underwear, but I was sure my father might be, and that I would go and ask him. His face turned red as a tomato, and he said, "I'll give you $5 if you promise you won't mention this to your father." I took the $5 and kept my word, but I never had any respect for my uncle after that. To this day, whenever I see him, I think of it. I have a hunch that my uncle does, too.
To find out more about Ann Landers and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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