Thinking Twice About Shower Time

It is not uncommon to shower with your young children. It’s efficient and it teaches them how to properly clean themselves.  But what happens when it is the stepparent who takes a shower with the child? Unfortunately, allegations are a result, and the situation quickly turns from ‘a hygiene lesson’ to crimes that could involve lengthy prison sentences.  Consider the following:

Jeff and Molly divorced when their son, Joey was almost 4 years old.  They have joint legal custody and share parenting time between their homes in Arizona. Joey has a room at his father’s house in Chandler and one at his mother’s townhome in Scottsdale.  Shortly after the divorce, Molly married Stewart. Stewart, a high-school history teacher, is also divorced and has a daughter, Jenni, who is a few months older than Joey. Joey and Jenni get along well as stepsiblings.  They have separate bedrooms at Molly and Stewart’s house, but often share the bunk beds in Joey’s room. 

One afternoon, Joey and Jenni are playing in the backyard sandbox while Stewart is fixing a few broken sprinkler heads.  Afterwards, Stewart and both kids get into the walk-in shower located in the master bathroom and clean up for dinner. Altogether uneventful, the kids emerged clean and happy, chatting about their mud fight earlier. 

When Joey visits his father’s house the next day, he says “I showered with daddy-Stewart.”  Jeff promptly calls the Chandler Police Department and Child Protective Services. As a result, Stewart now stands accused of molesting his step-son.  The school where Stewart has worked for 10 years learns of the allegations and puts him on administrative leave during the investigation.  Stewart is questioned by the Chandler Police Department and Joey is forensically interviewed at Child Help in Phoenix.

Even after the police determine that there is insufficient cause to press charges and Child Protective Services “unsubstantiated” the allegation, Stewart’s reputation has been tarnished.  As a teacher, he still wears the ‘scarlet letter’ of the teacher who was accused of molesting a child.  Even his neighbors are aware of the allegations, as they saw the police cars and CPS at the home.

Certainly there are legitimate situations where stepparents abuse their stepchildren, and when the allegations are true, we want the police, CPS, and Courts to prosecute and incarcerate those offenders. However, there are also many instances were something innocent is turned into a serious and costly legal matter.