Helping an Au Pair Whose Host Dad Is Acting Inappropriately

by cv harquail on June 26, 2016

(Reposting from its previous place in another thread:)

Writes Host Mom X,

I need some urgent advice on an uncomfortable situation, with a new au pair and her Host Dad:

innocentOne of our au pair’s besties recently ended her year, and our au pair has taken that host family’s new au pair under her wing. We had heard some interesting stories about this family from our au pair and her bestie, including some instances of rule-breaking (e.g. having the au pair do overnights while the parents traveled). We knew the situation wasn’t always ideal for a few other reasons – but the bestie au pair stuck out the year.

The new au pair (I’ll call her M) came to us tonight with a serious problem: her host dad touched her inappropriately (apparently this is the second time this has happened) – sounds like leg and behind touching.  She she of course is in a bit of a tailspin, feels very uncomfortable going back to the house AND the host mom will be traveling out of town tomorrow, leaving her alone in the house with the host dad for a couple of days.

Our au pair asked us to speak with New Au Pair M too, because she was very worried and wanted to bring in another perspective. (Apparently bestie au pair says this never happened to her. New Au Pair M is the family’s second au pair, and they apparently went through many babysitters/nannies before entering the au pair program.)

I’m hoping for help with:

(1) gut check on what New Au Pair M should do:

HD and I and our AP all advised that she should not stay in the house (we’re happy to have her stay with us), should immediately get the LCC involved and document it (in case she is accused of lying later on). We sympathized that rematch was tough (and she also has a vacation planned in two weeks that will get upended if she rematches), and with the personal conflict she is feeling (she is asking herself normal questions of someone put in this terrible kind of situation, like “am I overreacting?”.

New Au Pair M also feels she is a strong woman and should stand up to the HD herself and tell him what’s what; she feels bad about the host mom and also generally because otherwise she felt the family was kind to her and a good fit). We said “if you were our daughter, we’d want you out of there, period,” but also that I understood that if I were in her position it would not be so black and white to me – i.e. I can understand all of the conflicting things she is feeling.

What would you all adviseNew Au Pair M to do? (Both host parent and AP perspectives very welcome.)

(2) au pair policy knowledge:

Is it the policy of the agencies that if an au pair comes to the LCC with complaints of inappropriate sexual advances by a host parent, that the agency must immediately remove the AP from the home, even if the AP is not requesting that? We cautioned the AP that we were not sure, but that she should be prepared for that consequence of talking to the LCC – but that we felt that she should immediately raise this with the LCC no matter the consequence.

New Au Pair M was thinking maybe she should just wait and see, and only do something if this happens again. We and our AP – as you might imagine – did not think she should treat this as a “wait and see” situation. Especially since it seems it already HAS happened before.

Any immediate gut reactions and advice, especially knowledge of agency policy and what typically happens in these situations or personal experience would be helpful

New Au Pair M is staying with us tonight and planning to talk to the LCC with our AP tomorrow (we said we’d talk to LCC as well if needed, or help her call the central office if necessary, since our LCC is not the greatest and isn’t always responsive – though I’d hope at least in this kind of situation she’d take action).

Thank you all —

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

NoVA Twin Mom June 26, 2016 at 3:09 pm

Copied from the other thread so these stay together:

I had this long reply typed out and my computer ate it. Anyway, the summary is:

M needs to get out of this situation ASAP. Particularly if she’ll be “home alone” with HD while HM is on travel. Can you run a “hypothetical” by either your LCC or some of the “higher ups” at your agency before telling them who you’re asking about? That might get you some solid answers.

I’ve found when dealing with some of our …ahem… less than stellar agency people it’s best to go in with a plan for what I want, and they often agree with that rather than having to come up with their own answer. I have two suggestions for M –

1. Rematch immediately. She moves to your house immediately (HM will likely kick her out of the house in any case – although WE believe M, spouses confronted suddenly with these type of accusations generally don’t respond well – and besides, the point of this is to get M away from HD, not have her there even part of the day). She uses the two weeks leading to her vacation to rematch, stating upfront that she has a vacation planned that she would like to take and recognizing that would be one of her weeks of vacation with the new family – they’re in backup childcare right now, so extending that another week may be possible. She may even be able to relocate to them sooner than the two weeks, giving them some care before she departs on vacation.

2. If she doesn’t want immediate rematch (because au pairs often don’t listen to HP advice), she spends as much time as possible at your house and makes sure there’s a good lock on her bedroom door. Maybe one with an actual key instead of one that can be opened with a bobby pin. She surreptitiously starts moving stuff to your house, but works until her vacation. She declares rematch as she leaves for vacation, obtaining a prepaid phone to use to contact new host families while on vacation (as her current host family will likely cut hers off), and moving the remainder of her stuff to your house. I’m thinking this is a one week vacation – if she hasn’t found a new host family by the end of the vacation she moves in with you for the second week (or however long you all agree with the LCC she has to find a new family).

In either case, you offer to be a “character reference” for her in rematch- talking about her pleasantness as a person and any interaction you’ve seen with your kids while she’s been at your house.

Thanks for being “in her corner’ – make sure she knows it (it sounds like you are). If she’s amenable, going to the police would be beneficial to society, as this most likely isn’t the first or last time he’ll do this (the previous AP likely wasn’t his “type” if he didn’t do this to her – which may be why they chose the previous au pair, then weren’t as careful once he managed to “behave” while the previous au pair was there (I’m cringing as I’m typing this)) and creating a paper trail – or validating an existing paper trail from the “many previous babysitters” – will be helpful.

Good luck.

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Frankfurt AP Boy June 26, 2016 at 3:37 pm

Just to be clear.. You are suggesting about the door lock because you think the guy might break into the OP house and use a hair pin to force entry and sexually assault?

What he did is wrong and she should get out of the situation or at least tell him she doesnt appreciate his advances. He has acted towards her in a grossly inappropriate way. I suspect he thought she might reciprocate rather than purposely forcing her into sexual contact he knew she wouldnt like. He is clearly a letch but there is no indication he is what you are suggesting.

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FormerNLaupair June 26, 2016 at 4:02 pm

This is predatory behaviour, and it’s called grooming. This isn’t a creep in a bar who’s an idiot about how to approach women, this is a family man (I.e. Someone with a lot to lose) who’s groping his live-in employee in the same house where his wife and kids live. There’s no good intention behind his actions, he knows exactly what he’s doing and what signals he’s sending, and he’s hoping she gives in. Just because he hasn’t acted in a way you deem violent enough doesn’t mean it’s not leading to that. She deserves to live with a family with whom she feels safe. Until she’s able to move on (and I agree the sooner the better), a lock on the door is a perfectly valid solution, even if it’s just for her own peace of mind.

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FullCircle June 26, 2016 at 9:17 pm

She needs to leave. Period. I would not stay there another day, especially not with HM gone. Waiting until it happens again is putting herself in a way too vulnerable position. The “again” could be more serious. She needs to be safe were she lives.

AP Boy, I believe what NoVa Twin Mom is saying is that if she stays with the family for now, she should have a door (to her room) that actually locks. I don’t think she meant that HD would break into the OP’s house, but into the AP’s room. An actual lock on her door is at a minimum what she needs. He could become more forceful and/or violent once he finds out she’s making a fuss about it or if she declines another one of his advances. With that said, she needs to go. Now. If she stays for a few days, or two weeks, or whatever, she then makes herself less believable as time goes on. Yes, we still very much live in a culture that tends to blame the victim and not believe women in instances of sexual assault, especially when she’s in a position of less power and if a long time elapses before a complaint is made (“Why did she not come forward sooner? It must not have bothered her that bad” is a common theme). So yes, out. Now. Good thing she has people who have her back :)

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NoVA Twin Mom June 26, 2016 at 9:56 pm

He doesn’t have to break into the house – he already lives there. That’s why this is extra icky, for lack of a better way of saying it. She lives in the house of her abuser, which is why she needs to move ASAP.

I’m glad to hear that she’s moved out.

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hOstCDmom June 27, 2016 at 11:42 am

I believe the suggestion was for the AP to have a lock on the door in her original HP home (the one where the inappropriate HD lives). Not that the AP needs a lock in the OP’s home. While I concur that HD is – based on what we have been presented with as “facts” – a predator, I agree that it is very unlikely that he will break into OP’s home to get his former AP. Taking advantage of an AP in a live in situation in his own home is one thing; breaking into another family’s home to assault his former AP sounds like a different kind of predator than the HD as described here.

HOWEVER, the most dangerous time for a woman in an abusive situation is when she is leaving/leaves/right after she leaves. (I work in the domestic violence/sexual assault sphere, in a victim advocate capacity.) Especially when the abuser has a lot to lose. HD likely has a respectable facade, has a family, wife, presumably a job, and a reputation among friends, colleagues, and a community. AP’s allegations threaten all of those. So we should not underestimate that the HD could act impulsively, dangerously, erratically when AP moves out and these allegations come to light.

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Host Mom X June 26, 2016 at 9:47 pm

To update:
M did get in touch with the LCC today, and they are meeting tomorrow (unclear if during her working hours at the home), and M is staying at our house. We have not heard yet if there is any policy of what MUST happen, though I was glad to hear the LCC at least responded quickly!

NoVA TM: to your point about our family being a reference for M once she is in rematch (assuming that is the result) – unfortunately we do not know M very well at all, but I think we will encourage our AP to hint to M that while she is staying in our home, she might want to help out with the kids a bit or at least make sure to interact with them around me and HD so that we CAN get a sense of her. She seems like a sweet person – but we can’t say anything about her childcare at this point.

HD and I were also a bit worried that we offered up our home so quickly for our own AP’s sake – since M is staying with her in her room! I think our AP likes M just fine, and really wants to help her out and is concerned, but they aren’t best buds or anything. M is just new and my AP had taken her under her wing to show her the ropes, etc. (But M is 18-19, and our AP is 26.) I think we can let our AP know that M can stay in the pull-out bed in the basement, though, if quarters are getting too close in her room!

We are hoping that M contacting the LCC “first” was the right move. I could see that unfortunately many APs in this situation would get accused of lying about an incident like this because the AP saw rematch looming because of poor childcare issues or something.

One last thing – do folks think the agency would be inclined to give longer than the two-week rematch period if necessary, given the circumstances? I would think something like this looks terrible for the agencies, and they would want the APs to have as much opportunity as possible to rematch and have a good experience rather than go home and spread the word about American predator AP families. Our first rematch AP had been given over 4 weeks by the time she came to us, and I have to think it was because the host family she was with was so terrible to her (withholding pay, etc.). Haha, we’ve had so many rematches, at least we could give M comfort that rematch can work!

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NoVA Twin Mom June 26, 2016 at 10:02 pm

We did have a rematch at one point where we were offered an au pair that was in rematch “until she found a new family”. I have no idea how they made that happen, but I agree this would likely be a scenario where an agency would be likely to do so.

I think at some point you could suggest that M move to the MCD’s home rather than yours if all of this gets too uncomfortable, with the vacation maybe being a natural break.

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NoVA Twin Mom June 26, 2016 at 10:02 pm

Ugh, LCC not MCD

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HRHM June 27, 2016 at 11:27 am

As for the longer match period, the SD rules are very specific that if the AP is not working, she has two weeks to start working again or her visa is no longer valid. So if she is not in the home of her current HF and working, she can’t get a longer period to rematch, at least not legally.

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Taking a Computer Lunch June 27, 2016 at 9:33 pm

Not true. As long as the AP is housed, most agencies will extend the rematch period as long as possible. A good LCC will work extra hard to place an AP who is in rematch due to a bad HF placement. I’ve hosted many AP’s friends in the 16 years my family has been hosting, and can attest to that. I will also say, that when an AP’s friend becomes dead weight – meaning it’s clear that the AP is done having the friend in her room and I can see that the friend became an AP for all the wrong reasons, I’ll use my (fantastic) LCC to move the friend’s LCC along. When the friend is in my cluster, then the (wonderful) LCC knows the story, and either moves heaven and earth to find a new placement – or we all acknowledge that the best thing to happen would be for the AP to go home.

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Julie Dye June 27, 2016 at 12:29 pm

I’m an LCC. If an au pair reports something like this, it goes straight to the top and we pull the au pair from the home. In terms of matching, it’s really on a case by case basis. If an au pair has been through something like this, we first want to make sure she is okay and in good mental condition to be with another family. Once we are confident of that, we will give her time to find a family she feels comfortable with. Our goal is to give her all opportunities to be successful in the program and not leave after experiencing something so difficult. If anyone has questions, feel free to write me: julie.dye at lcc.culturalcare.com

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LuckyHM#3 June 27, 2016 at 1:15 pm

I may be naive but really trying to get my head around this situation. Is there even a very remote chance that M made this up because I really cannot fathom how a host dad will try to do something this heinous to a very young girl under your care. She’s apparently only 18.. and just arrived. This girl lives in his home where his wife and children also live. Girls are dime a dozen outside his home that he could have all sorts of relationships with, why would anyone shit where they eat???? How would he want other people to treat his children?
I cant imagine being the wife in this case!

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FormerHM June 27, 2016 at 3:17 pm

Consider yourself very, very lucky that you can’t fathom it. I haven’t posted on here in years because I no longer have an AP but I still get the emails when there is a blog update, and this particular one made my blood go cold. I could easily see my now-ex husband crossing this line. In fact the reason he’s my now-ex husband is because he had an emotional affair followed by a physical one with our of-age-but-much-younger-than-him sitter several months ago.

My children were in the house when it became physical. It’s torment to think of the message that must have sent to them. It’s horrifying that I have to interact with this person for the rest of my life and that I have to live with the knowledge looked the other way/lied to myself several times during our 20 years together while knowing or at least strongly suspecting that he was crossing lines left and right.

And knowing that even where someone is of age, being victimized or abused by an older man in an authority position can have far reaching effects. In my case, the thing with the sitter was among the least egregious of his actions. It’s only after a lot of counseling that I’m even able to admit that he is/was a predator–from the outside he seems perfectly average.

Denial is a very powerful force and I’m glad the AP has moved out. I feel a lot of sympathy for this man’s spouse and children.

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German Au-Pair June 27, 2016 at 6:23 pm

While I can absolutely imagine, a HD can and would do something like this to an AP and would not suggest her making it up, I would want to raise the questio whether she is absolutely sure he intentionally acted inappropriate. Regarding the legand butt touching I immediately thought about how many times I accidentally touched friends butt (or worse! Like a friend’s husband’s crotch worse :D) and actually said “Sorry, didn’t want to touch your butt” because I turned around or didn’t see her or whatever.
I can imagine that in a situation where you are a young girl, just arriving in a foreign country, possibly from one that’s not touchy feely, if a HD did that (by accident) you might be inclined to read something into it. I can imagine scenarios in a tight living space were brushing someone’s body at any part may be unintentional (even more than once). Had this happened between my HD and I, I would have found it awkward but I would not have read anything it it because I knew him well. But some might be less certain about this kind of stuff.
I am not saying that this IS the case but it may be worthy to have her reflect on the possibility. Clearly rematch is happening. The accusation has been made, she doesn’t feel safe, thing would likely be akward after this anways so rematch is happening. But IF he actually did that intentionally, this family needs to be out of the program and the AP needs to be cut every slack possible.

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WarmStateMomma June 28, 2016 at 11:26 pm

German AP: I think it’s one of those things that you just “know” in the moment. It’s hard to define but you know when something isn’t right.

People who take advantage of others are probably drawn to opportunities like hosting APs that provide them with access to someone less powerful. That’s a common theme in most of the bad HP stories I hear: HPs taking advantage of the AP in some capacity.

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Aupair Paris June 29, 2016 at 6:01 am

I think that some people “know” if they’re lucky enough to be able to listen to that, like you say WarmStateMomma. I also think that there’s a HUGE social drive to write this feeling of wrongness off. (I may have read “The Gift of Fear” a few too many times…)

I think that saying to yourself “oh, that was nothing… It was probably just an accident… I’m sure he didn’t mean anything!” is seriously and extremely tempting, even in those situations where your stomach is crawling and tying itself up in knots, and so accidental situations like GermanAP describes are incredibly easy to laugh off. Because it’s such a relief to be able to go “haha how silly” when someone’s apologised, or immediately and pointedly flinched or moved away, or made awkward, mortified eye contact.

I think we do that even when the situation is much more deliberate – much less “brushing past” and more “deliberately feeling up”. That’s why the OP talks about the AP – M – thinking she might be overreacting. I guess this is my PSA to listen to those feelings of “just knowing”?

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German Au-Pair June 29, 2016 at 11:45 am

I’m sure that’s true. That doesn’t change though that accidental touching does happen (quite frequently I would say) and the consequences for the man can be extreme when he is accused of something like this.
Therefore I think it’s only fair to assess the situation as rationally as possibly. If the situation had been the same but with the HM, would it have been equally inappropriate? I think we can agree that having your butt grabbed by any sex is not appropriate. But I do think that we tend to asses things differently based on the sex we are dealing with. What could have been viewed as accidental with a woman tends to be viewed as intentional when it’s a man.
Especially in a new situation, country and culture, the radar can be off a bit. If your culture doesn’t touch at all, being kissed hello can be majorly offputting. Before any accusations are made I think it’s really important to be sure that it’s not just a feeling you have but an actual issue. A feeling would still be grounds for rematch because it’s hard to change feeling awkward around each other but maybe not a reason to tell a man’s family “oh, BTW, HD touched me”.
If he DID though, the family should not remain in the program.

Aupair Paris June 29, 2016 at 12:10 pm

German A-P, I’m sure you don’t mean to, but I’m finding your comments here really uncomfortable. I was being polite before, but frankly, the difference between an accidental brush past and a grope is obvious. I think women don’t report these things because they expect that people will tell them they are overreacting, that it probably wasn’t serious, that it might have been a joke, that it might be cultural difference.

As for the gender differential – I would respond the same either way, but this is a red herring. We are not talking about men being abused by women (or other men). We are talking about a woman who has been abused by a man. Perhaps I would be more sympathetic to a “what about the men” conversation if it wasn’t called upon ONLY in situations when people are talking about women. And actually, I do believe that we should talk about male sexual abuse victims, and why men don’t come forward and what we can do to destigmatise survival of this… But I don’t think a place where a woman has come forward to talk about something that has happened to her is a good place to go “well what if she’s lying or mistaken, and anyway, what about if it had been a male and a woman groping him?!”.

The immediacy of disbelief in this situation is terrifying. Especially as those who don’t believe, or who want to introduce “caution” or “if this really happened” is quite terrifying. Especially as this is not a courtroom, and there is no consequence at all for the anonymous host dad here in the court of internet opinion where he has not been named and no one knows him – so what is there to risk in believing a young woman who says they’ve been abused?

Frankly, I think the apparent legions of men who have been falsely accused of sexual abuse and harassment are a complete myth, but even if they weren’t, given conviction rates, the stigma and trauma piled upon trauma that victims of sexual assault go through when they report, I would still think it was the morally responsible thing to do to support accusers to the greatest extent possible and not to assume that they’re lying or stupid. This response makes women scared to speak out. It hands weapons to abusers to say “no one will believe you anyway”.

You will think that I am overreacting. That a “maybe she’s mistaken” is the rational response, and that me saying “that response helps abusers” is a dramatisation. But all I got from it was “hey, if you are ever sexually abused, in a minor or a major way, people won’t believe you – and if they want to be nice about it they’ll just say you were mistaken rather than a lying *#@##”.

German Au-Pair June 29, 2016 at 4:49 pm

See this is the issue with this topic every single time it’s being discussed. I realize sexual assult is a traumatic experience for anyone experiencing it which is probably part or maybe the entire reason emotions run this high. I also realize that the whole he-said-she-said dilemma is a huge issue with this most of the time. It’s hard to be sensitive about this topic but still express a different opinion.

I am not talking about male abuse victims, I am saying that it may be a good start to consider if the action perceived as harassment would have been perceived a harassment had the one performing the action been of the same sex. Example: Went to the movies with a fellow AP (heterosexual to my knowledge, but who knows) and she leaned over to ask me something and her hands were uncomfortably high up my legs. Full open hand grab, reall high up, pulling me towards her. Since I had no other reason to believe that she was being inappropriate to her knowledge (I actually think she was trying to comfort me because of the emotional movie scene) but rather found she was kind of awkward and weird in social situations in general, I didn’t think any of it and it remained the only occurance throughout our semi-friendship-AP-relationship. Now imagine the same situation with a man grabbing a young woman in the darkness of the theatre against her will…and the woman telling everyone how he has sexually hararassed her. Imagine that man being your awkard brother or cousin or whatever who absolutely (and that I am convinced of in this case) bad intention (and probably isn’t aware of the whole thing) and being called a predator, losing his family and so on.
I am absolutely not saying that any sexual predator doesn’t deserve that or that anyone being a victim should not speak up. I also don’t doubt the AP in question. But we also don’t have the facts, we don’t know what kind of inappropriate behavior has happened specifically nor do we need to. But because we don’t, I think it is absolutely necessary to mention that before accusing anyone of anything it is worth to reflect on the situation and be sure that the way you perceived it was the way it happened.
And when you are sure of this, OF COURSE you should speak up.

And yes, I cannot imagine what it is like to experience something like this and have to answer all these questions. But it is the only way to do it because what kind of system would it be if someone said something about someone and that would lead to a conviction? How is this that regarding all other topics it is not just okay, but expected that you question a story that someone tells about you but with this topic it is not? How is an angry AP lying about her HF mistreating her very likely but an angry woman lying about a man mistreating her basically impossible? Or in this case: why do we focus on cultural differences, misunderstandings and the emotions involved in the whole adjustment regarding every other topic but in this case it is absolutely impossible that she may have read more into it than actually happened?

I am sorry if this makes you or anyone uncomfortable. I do realize that it is hard to come forward and that convictions are a joke and that there’s a lot of “well if that’s how you dress” etc out there. That is absolutely not what I intend. A victim is a victim and should be protected and heard. But just like in every situation it is worth to at least consider the option of a misunderstanding before assuming intend.
In any case, if you don’t feel comfortable, leave. Maybe I would not have wanted to live with a former teacher of mine who knew absolutely nothing about personal space so I would have left because I would have been uncomfortable. But that doesn’t mean he was a predator!
You talk about the invisible court that is the internet. How is it okay to label someone a predator based on a story with little information, read on the internet, sent by a third party? From where I stand, we know nothing about eiother of them, about the situation, about the issue. So why don’t we give both the befneft of a doubt instead of just the woman in the story?

So regardless what the specifics of this story are, I stick by my point that it is reasonable to offer different perspectives on situations and ask people to reflect on situations before accusing others of a crime. Not more, not less.

German Au-Pair June 29, 2016 at 4:56 pm

Oh and to be clear. I’m not suggesting a “Oh I’m sure you were overreacting, don’t be silly” approach.
When a child tells you it has been psuhed and is bleeding, you don’t tell the child it’s wrong and silly and probably lying but you also don’t go and tell the world the other kid is dangerous and violent. Instead you ask the child what exactly happened and if the other child came and did it on purpose or if they both fell or whatever. You ask questions to make sense of the situation, not because the child’s story is wrong -it’s bleeding after all- but because there may be more to the story.

Aupair Paris June 29, 2016 at 4:58 pm

Right, but when the child’s lying there bleeding, saying “someone pushed me” and the pusher is not in sight, you don’t ignore the blood and pain and start going “well, did they really? Maybe you tripped? Maybe you wound them up? Did you say something? It was probably an accident! That poor child! You really shouldn’t accuse someone of that without knowing the facts!”

You clean up the cut and take care of the injured party!

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German Au-Pair June 29, 2016 at 5:18 pm

True. And after I’m done taking care I ask the questions so if the other child actually DID do it on purpose it can face some kind of consequence.
No one is ignoring the wounds. I have said repeatedly that since the AP FEELS uncomfortable now, she should get out of there and receive help. That’s taking care of the wounds. Then comes the “should the other child face consequences” part, which in case of the HD can be losing his childcare and possibly his family.

We on here, are not the mother taking care of the injured child. We are a third party that is told about the incident later, asking the mom “did you ask your child what happened? Maybe that could help all parties involved.”

Aupair Paris June 28, 2016 at 3:27 am

I think the problem with not-believing a lot of criminal and unethical behaviour is that we simply cannot imagine any situation in which we would do it. Because of logic or risk or etc. Thing is, people do, and people in positions of power often have a skewed view of what risk they’re taking (and some people in positions of power have an accurate feeling that they’ll never be called to task for it).

That is to say, I think we have to be careful in this situation by judging the likelihood of an action by saying “how likely would *I* be to do that, in that situation?” Because all of us can imagine wanting a bit of attention, or feeling overlooked, but not all of us can imagine what it feels like to get sexual gratification from predatory behaviour, so it always ends up casting unfair doubt on the victim.

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LuckyHM#3 June 28, 2016 at 1:15 pm

I agree. I dont really think the AP is making this up but its just really difficult for me to fathom why anyone would undertake such risky and stupid actions. AND BAD

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NZ HM June 28, 2016 at 11:29 pm

…and then there is those in a position of power that just DONOT see anything wrong in their behaviour (be in inappropriate/ rude jokes or comments or unwelcome touching – mustn’t even be of a sexual nature in any way). If one does comment or complain it usually earns a ‘don’t be such a …’ or ‘don’t you have a sense of humour’.

The imbalance of power is a real problem and any physical contact is inappropriate if it is unwanted by one party (ear, hair, leg, bum, doesn’t matter – there was a case here a while ago where the prime minister pulled some waitress’s pony tail and ‘excused’ his behaviour by calling her a spoil sport…). Might it be accidental? Not impossible, but as German Au-Pair pointed out herself you would expect an instant apology.

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Mimi June 27, 2016 at 10:10 pm

Physical contact across cultures can be difficult to navigate at times, but I don’t think it’s by accident that this family went through many babysitters/nannies before entering the au pair program.

Our first AP had a friend from training school who was molested by her HD and was kicked out of the house when she said something to the HM, who accused her of alternately making things up and seducing her husband. It was ugly. We later heard that he had apparently made passes at two previous APs and they also had gone through a lot of babysitters and nannies.

Someone living in your home who has a lot to lose by leaving is ideal prey. Although it’s possible that if confronted, this HD would not have repeated any inappropriate behaviors, you can never tell for sure and it’s not a chance that someone should take IMO. Good for her to be out of the house.

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Fortysomething HM June 29, 2016 at 12:26 pm

Hmmmm, AP-Paris (I can’t reply above so am replying here), I’m wondering if perhaps you mis-read German AP’s post. She mentions nothing whatsoever about “what if it had been a male AP groped by a female” or anything like that. Her suggestion was – in an effort to be rational and reasonable and to account for POSSIBLE cultural or other confusion/misconception about what happened (since we don’t really have all the facts here) — to ask “what if the HM had touched the female AP in the manner that the HD did in this scenario.” I read this suggestion as an effort to put some context around the alleged touching that occurred here, and context is always a good idea, no matter what the subject matter.

OP did not, that I saw, use the word “grope.” Obviously, groping and brushing past are not the same. But here, very significantly, we don’t know which of these it was (or if it was somewhere in between). Since we don’t know, it’s appropriate to consider the different possibilities, because while it’s very important not to disbelieve an accuser, it’s also important not to fill in blanks and jump to conclusions based on an incomplete picture. We should never assume from the door an accuser is lying, but it’s always appropriate (in any forum) to ensure you have all the facts before accusing someone of terrible behavior.

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Aupair Paris June 29, 2016 at 12:54 pm

I see what you’re saying, and in some ways I did misread German A-P’s post – in that her comment about the gender difference wasn’t what I initially read it as, but I think the gender differential is a red herring, I really do. I think people automatically jump to doubt anyone making accusations about sexual behaviour in a way they don’t about other problems. I have to say, I have been brushed against, shoved in crowded metro carriages, have had people accidentally thrown against my chest as trains have stopped. I have never ever reacted to any of those things except to laugh and help people up.

I have also had experiences of being groped, having people sit WAY too close and put their hand on my thigh, wandering upwards, while making sexual comments and other sexually inappropriate behaviour. I have had people stroking different parts of my body, while keeping hold of my arm so I can’t get away, to the point that I am bruised. I have had people standing close on crowded metro carriages shoving erections against my bum. In most of these latter situations, when I called it out I was laughed at and told that “France is very tactile… The English are just repressed”. But you know, I know the difference. I think everyone knows the difference. It concerns me that describing the latter set of occurrences would bring the same kind of doubt as the former. It concerns me that I never have or would tell anyone about them in real life because I know no one would take it seriously. It concerns me that my younger sister who is less confident than me, wouldn’t even call it out in the moment because of this fear.

It really, really, really concerns me, that if I ever feel sexually threatened by someone physically bigger than me, and in a position of power over me, the first concern for a lot of people is going to be HIS happiness, and HIS reputation and HIS relationships (and for those in the US HIS swimming scholarships and HIS bright future as an athlete).

I think that’s a reasonable concern.

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Fortysomething HM June 29, 2016 at 1:45 pm

I think all women (or anyone) who feels threatened should speak up, certainly. I totally agree that nobody should ever put a male’s interests above the female’s interests in such a situation. And there is no question that regardless of what the HD’s intentions were in this situation (and what the “touching” was that happened), the AP should be removed from the home and given the benefit of the doubt for her safety. And generally, when faced with a scenario that makes us uncomfortable, we should all listen to our inside voices that set off alarm bells — instinct is a wonderful thing, indeed (which I think is what you, AP Paris, were saying originally).

I think where lines might be getting crossed in this dialogue (where I think we are pretty much ALL on the same page) is a procedural question of sorts.

The light sentence for the Stanford rape student you reference (which was insane) is a different question — procedurally, he had been found guilty. His happiness/rights/well being etc had no place in that discussion or sentencing process and I think the judge (and probation officer who recommended a light sentence) deserve the ire that was aimed at them.

Procedurally, though, after an allegation is made (and before any jury or other final determination is made as to what happened) it’s always appropriate when someone is accusing (and on the flipside someone(s) stands accused), to investigate what happened. This inevitably means asking questions of each party, and witnesses (if any). Just by asking these questions in no way minimizes the concerns of the accuser. It’s just a necessary part of the process. And I think folks were inclined to do that here in an effort to be helpful, because we don’t really know what the nature of the touching was, and sometimes cultural differences impact a lot of what we face as HFs/APs.

I sometimes need to investigate claims of workplace sexual harassment for my job. Sometimes the claims are substantiated, and sometimes they are not (and in fact, sometimes we can determine that the claims were made in bad faith, for example, to avoid a bad performance review from a manager). Indeed, the Duke Lacross rape allegations come to mind as an example of male lives ruined due to false allegations. This may be the exception (though I don’t really know that for sure), but it happens.

As I mentioned, there is no question that this AP should be removed from the home for safety reasons. Hopefully, if the agency considers anything further against the HD (i.e. removal from the program), questions would be asked just to ensure that this is not a misunderstanding . That’s always appropriate, I think. It’s not a court of law, of course, so the agency can (and probably should) err on the side of caution with what it does with the HF after the AP is removed — but not before asking appropriate questions and coming to some conclusion as to whether this was actually inappropriate behavior, or something more innocent.

Anyway, I didn’t think German AP (or anyone else) was minimizing the concerns of the AP here (or any female accuser) but was suggesting that it’s appropriate ask questions about what happened before making conclusions about the HD.

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Aupair Paris June 29, 2016 at 1:55 pm

I think there’s a different standard for people addressing accusations in a courtroom, or in human resources than for people on the internet. While I would never suggest changing the innocent til proven guilty stance in a courtroom or other official environment, I do believe that outside of that environment it is important to believe that the accuser/victim/survivor until proven otherwise. This is because of the difficulty in coming forward. I think this goes double for situations of absolute anonymity, where not only will the accused not face any repercussions based on our judgements, he won’t even know they exist.

Putting aside all concerns about intimacy and ownership over bodies, and the fact that people are not things that can be owned, it’s the difference between someone going into a forum and going “my best friend is stealing from me” and actually proving that person guilty in court. How many people in the former instance are going to go “hmmmm, maybe she thought you wanted her to have your belongings? Are you sure your money didn’t slip out of your purse into her pocket? I know you’re saying you were there at the time and you can rely on your senses to know what happened, but probably, culturally, she just expects that friends should be allowed to take money from friends…”
None of that means the person has been convicted – it means that when faced with a story online that doesn’t have obvious massive gaping holes, we tend to take it on that basis, in the context we’re in. Unless it’s about sexual harassment or abuse, when we suddenly doff our wigs (I’m British) and start playing counsel for the defence…

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Fortysomething HM June 29, 2016 at 7:08 pm

Agree completely, German AP. I don’t want to see anyone’s feelings hurt, and also felt an obligation to ensure that anyone reading this now or in the future didn’t misinterpret anything that was said to their own detriment.

German Au-Pair June 29, 2016 at 5:12 pm

Oh, I didn’t read this reply before I responded on my initial comment.
Yes, I think we agree on this FourtysomethingHM and I am glad my comment can be read this way.

The internet surely is different than a courtroom but so is real, everyday life. If a friend came to be saying “XY stole from me” I would absolutely say “are you sure you haven’t misplaced it/lent it to someone etc.” Not because my opinion matters but because maybe helping my friend reassess the situation could help her resolve it and save XY’s reputation. And that sentiment, of asking people to self-reflect, reassess and think as rational as possible before throwing accusations is something that should be lived on the internet as well.
That’s what keeps you from jumping on the bandwagon of death threats and name calling when a woman is being burned at the internet stake for letting her child climb into a gorilla habitat for example.

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Aupair Paris June 29, 2016 at 5:18 pm

Ok. You know what? We are not going to agree on this. If I had a friend who saw me being upset for any reason and responded with “are you sure you’re not totally wrong about this and all your feelings are unjustified?” I would not be friends with her anymore.

I cannot “prove” that I am right and you are wrong, and the fact that I work in this area cannot prove it either, but I’m fighting this from an emotional place, so I’m just going to end my contributions on solid and unemotional grounds by saying, quite apart from what I feel, that in my area of work, with children and vulnerable adults, we have training on how to deal with disclosures of abuse. That training includes not EVER questioning or doubting the story – because if there is investigation, it comes later, and a vulnerable person who has once started to disclose and been disbelieved will never ever disclose again. Also, often in cases of ongoing abuse, psychologists report that being disbelieved is as much an issue for trauma victims as the initial trauma.

But please do go on believing that you are on the side of the angels for “objectively” casting doubt on a story that no one is here to dispute, to defend someone who will never see the discussion anyway.

German Au-Pair June 29, 2016 at 5:28 pm

Suggesting someone should consider several options is not even remotely the same as telling them they are wrong or disbelieving them. A story can be true -AP feels uncomfortable, child has been pushed and is bleeding- and there can be more to it -accident/misunderstanding whatever- at the same time. One does not exclude the other.
And yes, after comforting my friend and taking care of the initial emotional response I would always help her consider reasons/circumstances/other view point before casting judgement on someone else. Especially if there’s no one there to defend or distupe.
I guess we’re are just different then and should definitely agree to disagree.

Aupair Paris June 29, 2016 at 5:38 pm

I hope none of your friends or relatives ever experience any kind of trauma. Or that if they do they know better than to come to you for a calm and reasoned discussion of how they’re probably not really traumatised at all.

German Au-Pair June 29, 2016 at 5:53 pm

It seems like you are not reading most of what I say but get hung up on certain things.
I happen to have personal experience with phobias so I know that a situation can be really really terrible FOR YOU but rationally it is really not. I know the object of my phobia is not actually something to be feared and yet I can’t breathe or move and am terrified and feel like crying long after it is gone. And in that moment, comments like “oh it’s really not that bad” don’t help, I agree with you. But that doesn’t mean I cannot still reflect on it, realize that really my fear is more MY problem and then go on fearing it and seeking comfort from friends again later. People with real arachnophobia for example go through hell ever time they see a spider, yet upon reflecting on it, they don’t actually want every single spider in the world burned to the ground. They still have real, actual fear and yet all the spiders get to live.
So if there’s a chance that the issue is more in someone’s head than in real life, it is absolutely worth exploring the idea before ruining someone’s life. If one is sure about the whole thing, the other one’s life deserves to be ruined.

Fortysomething HM June 29, 2016 at 5:55 pm

Wow, AP Paris. I get that this is a topic close to your heart and respect your perspective and dedication to your work in this space.

But your most recent reply to German AP is blatantly hostile and uncalled for. Nobody, including German AP, has been personally insulting here in any way whatsoever, but your response is very much so. We should be able, as adults in this forum, to trade sincere perspectives and thoughts, and while we may not always agree, rarely is one person’s word the only and last word on the subject. Hopefully we can keep this forum mature and in keeping with the mutual exchange of ideas that it generally is.

Aupair Paris June 29, 2016 at 6:10 pm

This whole discussion is personally insulting. I’m sorry, but it is. It’s a real thing, that has real effects on real people, many of whom will be reading this forum. I am not trying to be hostile in my last remark. I genuinely hope that nobody who ever confides in a loved one about this gets a response about the reputation of the other party. I genuinely hope that no one who has ever sucked up the courage to talk about this, ever gets this kind of response from anyone.
That’s not hostile. That is basic empathy.

I am very sorry if I have hurt anyone’s feelings but I beg – sincerely beg – of anyone reading this *not* to respond in this way to anyone who confides any kind of abuse to you – from an uncomfortable touch, to serious and ongoing abuse. I beg of people not to immediately jump to “what about the accused’s reputation” – in real life or on an internet forum.

I don’t think you can talk about one case of sexual abuse without invoking the ghost of all cases of sexual abuse. I think when you disbelieve one person’s story about a hand going where it shouldn’t, you are shaming and scaring every victim who has ever thought “but what if I’m overreacting? What if I’m wrong? What if people don’t believe me.”

Look, this got emotional for me, and I owned that about a million posts ago. I am loud, and I am argumentative, but the vast majority of people who get upset by this *aren’t* loud, and they *aren’t* argumentative, and maybe none of them are reading this forum, and I hope they’re not.

But honestly, what I’m hearing when I hear “maybe it was just a mistake – you shouldn’t ruin a life” is “if YOU ever told anyone, YOU might be wrong too, and YOU’D be stirring up trouble”. I don’t think that’s what people think they’re saying, but that’s what victims hear. And I keep trying and trying to say that, and to say how much it hurts people and the response is effectively “I don’t care how much this hurts people – I think the reputation of someone who has no name, and thus no reputation at all on this site is more important than how you, and millions of victims like you, are actively telling me this makes you feel”. And I think that’s personal.

German Au-Pair June 29, 2016 at 6:37 pm

Given the fact that it is personal for you, we should definitely end this discussion. It is not anyone’s intention to hurt anyone’s feeling.
The message here is not that the other person’s reputation is worth more or mor important if he has done something wrong.
The message is that before accusing someone of a crime, please be sure that he/she has commited it. Either way, your feelings matter and should be adressed and cared for but depending on the actual event that happened, maybe someone else’s feelings matter, too. There is a difference between “it felt terrible for me” and “he/she did XY period”.
No one would want their loved one to exprience either abuse or being falsly accused of something. If your brother was accused I am pretty sure you would also feel personal about him not being called a predator right away. If someone does you harm, please do ruin his life, he deserves it. Just be sure that he has done you harm, that’s my whole and only point.

I am out if this as I do not mean to cause any hurt to you or anyone. I sincerely hope that the situation will be resolved fairly towards all parties involved.

Anon for this one June 29, 2016 at 5:58 pm

I agree completely, FortysomethingHM.

I suspect that the elephant in the room here, is that many of us HMs have husbands whom we would never want to believe could do something as loathsome as make passes at our AP, even if we are well aware that other HFs might be despicable enough to do this.

If my daughter were an AP, naturally I would believe her without question if she said that someone touched her inappropriately, and I would want her out of the situation immediately.

But if my AP accused my husband of touching her inappropriately, I would be stunned and disbelieving. I know my husband to be a very upright and moral man, and after many years of marriage he has never shown any indication of lechery, leering at young women, “guys nights out” where I don’t know what goes on, etc. He is always very professional and slightly distant around the AP, and I would believe that the likelihood that he intentionally made a pass at her to be vanishingly small, and that some other explanation is far more likely.

I know perfectly well that wives of cheating husbands are often the last to know, and that no HF in his right mind would inappropriately touch an AP in front of his wife. Perhaps it is pure naiveté for me to believe my husband would not do this, but if I thought he was a kind of person who would, I would not be married to him! Who knows what the HM in this situation really thinks? Her viewpoint is not available.

Tthe HF in this situation may be a complete sleaze bag who should be kicked out of the program and never allowed to host again. And it may be that the HM is completely clueless about the true nature of her husband and would accuse her AP of inappropriate/seductive behavior or lying rather than face the ugly truth about him. But if it were your husband who stood accused, how would you feel?

All this is to say that I think it is entirely possible to support the AP who is in a very vulnerable position and agree with her immediate removal from the situation, and yet to still feel uncomfortable with the unquestioning assumption that the HF is guilty as charged since you cannot help but imagine how you would feel if your own husband were accused.

I am well aware of the horrendous and ugly tendency our culture has to blame women for men’s inability to behave appropriately and honorably. However, I cannot agree that every accusation against a man must automatically and unquestioning be believed. Given the power differential between a HF and AP the AP needs to be protected and supported no matter what, and should always be made to feel that she can safely report abuse or situations that make her uncomfortable to someone in authority who will protect her. But the accused is sometimes innocent, and to ignore this fact will only alienate many potential allies.

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Fortysomething HM June 29, 2016 at 6:39 pm

AP Paris,

From what I read, everyone has been sharing their perspectives respectfully, so I’m not sure how any of that can reasonably be translated into “personally insulting.” I don’t think you are truly comprehending those other perspectives, because nobody has remotely suggested or said the things you are attributing to them here. I hope that for the sake of the dialogue, subject matter, and your own emotional reaction to all of it, that you can perhaps step back a bit and see that nobody here is suggesting that the first (or even second) reaction to someone reporting abuse is to question it in the name of the accused’s reputation.

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German Au-Pair June 29, 2016 at 7:03 pm

This is basically the whole argument in a nutshell. No one has said what APParis took away from it or intended to hurt anyone but given the different background and history, the perceptions are different.
Nonetheless APParis clearly has been personally affected by the conversation and for that I do feel sorry. This is an emotional and delicate subject and rationality is not always the most welcomed approach.

Fortysomething HM June 29, 2016 at 7:11 pm

Trying this again, b/c it ended up way farther up in the wrong place:

Agree completely, German AP. I don’t want to see anyone’s feelings hurt, and also felt an obligation to ensure that anyone reading this now or in the future didn’t misinterpret anything that was said to their own detriment.

NZ HM June 29, 2016 at 7:41 pm

Very sensitive issue (understandably so). Really interesting how different socialisations (in addition to personal experiences) come through in people’s opinions and how some have been more obviously brought up in a possibly more male dominated environment. I haven’t read all the comments in the heated debate but I think one important point to re-iterate is that there is a difference whether the action (inappropriate touching, accidental brush-up, groping, harassment) happens between peers or between people of different power levels, be it man or women. Your superior (boss, hostmum or dad, teacher, coach, friends’ parent) should just be more aware (and know better) not to get into any questionable situations and apologise if it was indeed accidental.

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Julie Dye June 29, 2016 at 12:35 pm

Regardless of how you all feel about his contact & how the au pair is allowed to feel, the end point is this: If an au pair tells me she feels the host dad has been inappropriate, I pull her from the home and the family will be reviewed and likely removed from the program. It’s like abuse–it’s taken so seriously that it’s really a game-over situation.

This situation comes up from time to time across the country, but I’ve never seen it in my large area in the last 6 years. What did happen that really upset me is a colleague had a family where we had to pull the au pair immediately for inappropriate behavior. The family had one previous au pair who went home early for “family reasons.” When we contacted her after the 2nd situation, the 1st au pair admitted the dad was inappropriate towards her as well. If she had just told her LCC that had happened, it wouldn’t have put another young woman in that situation again. I found it so upsetting that she could have prevented it.

Au pairs, if you feel someone has been inappropriate, tell us. Host moms, if you feel someone has been inappropriate and you hear it through the grapevine, tell us. It’s so serious, we really need you all to communicate this to us!!!

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Host Mom X July 1, 2016 at 11:50 am

Update:

All – I have a somewhat discomforting update on this situation (and it may not be the latest update – my AP hasn’t yet heard further details; mind you, also, everything I write here is second and third-hand, through my AP).

Our LCC met with M the day after M and my AP called her, and apparently told M to “give it a week.” She did NOT immediately remove Mfrom the home, and in fact apparently suggested to M that it WAS all a misunderstanding, thus M should give it some time. M talked to the HD, and he basically acknowledged that he DID intentionally engage in inappropriate touch – he said something to the effect of “I’m so sorry, it won’t happen again.” And the LCC talked to HD and HD apparently said something to the effect of “it was a misunderstanding, I love my wife, it won’t happen again.”

Now, the situation this week was that HD was going to be leaving town that day, M was to stay overnight with the kids (without any host parent around because HM had been travelling), and then HM would be back and HD would be travelling. And I believe M’s planned vacation was to start today. So – I can see from her perspective why she might have agreed to this. She felt she’d be “safe” this week, get to take her vacation, and she can initiate rematch (if she wishes) when she returns.

What concerns me is the LCC’s reaction (and again, this is second-hand, so I could no doubt be missing vital details of the conversation, and that perhaps M wanted to leave some doubt around the situation until after the vacation; M’s English is also not great, and there could possibly have been communication issues between her and the LCC – though she and HD speak the same language). I am incredibly disappointed and not a little bit disturbed that our LCC heard something like this – even maybe not fully appreciating all the details — and said “give it a week,” and was willing to just take HD’s word that it was “a misunderstanding.” Again, though, not knowing all the details – I just don’t want to jump too hastily to any conclusions; but I’m disturbed.

I’m also disturbed that the LCC said “give it a week” hearing not only this, but the overnight stay/greater than 10 hour shift violation. Though could be M did not share this detail – since it seems M was okay with that arrangement (HD would be out of the house, and I believe she was getting paid extra – which she could use if she’s going on vacation and maybe into rematch without pay for a week or two).

Anyone else know of LCCs who have reacted this way to this kind of situation?

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Julie Dye July 1, 2016 at 12:22 pm

Can you contact me? julie.dye @ lcc.culturalcare.com or via jdye.aupairnews.com

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HMAdvice July 15, 2016 at 10:57 am

Whoa! First of all, I just want to say that I do support the comments that are in favor of proclaiming innocence until we are SURE there is intent and that someone is guilty. As people looking from the outside in, we don’t always have all the facts. I have seen friends of my au pair exaggerate about past situations because they were upset about the current situation so it does happen.These are serious accusations and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Having said that if an au pair does not feel safe in a home for any reason, the LCC should be involved. If for nothing else than to prevent this kind of behavior from happening to another au pair. Purposely touching an au pair inappropriately is NEVER ok. If that LCC is not doing their job then they should escalate it to another LCC or call their agency directly to report what is going on.

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