When A Host Parent Crosses the Line, Au Pairs MUST rematch

by cv harquail on December 4, 2017

There are very few problematic situations in Au Pair-Host Family relationships that are completely black or white, where it’s clear that the next step is rematch.

For Host Families, black and white situations include when an Au Pair endangers a child in any way, and when an Au Pair has lied or stolen.8258078373_abefbec1c0_m

For Au Pairs, black and white situations include when a Host Family endangers them, when families don’t pay their au pairs, and when families abuse au pair rules (especially the work hours guidelines).

And then there’s the situation of physical abuse — unwanted touching, sexual harassment, and any kind of sexualized behavior.

The email, below, came from outside the USA, but at a particularly timely moment. Here in the States we’re experiencing a significant rupture in what people “knew” was going on, and what’s really been going on. We’re six weeks into a long-needed conversation about how men in positions of power abuse women, men, and children, and get away with it. Because the victims are afraid, ashamed, and under the power of the abusers.

Host Parents are in positions of power over Au Pairs. Although Host Parents have authority as employers and heads of households, they also have power because they control the Au Pairs’ working conditions, food, spending money, and even the roof over their heads.

In the USA, Au Pairs who are being abused should and must go to their local counselors, who will help them find a safe place, who will contact the police if necessary, who will intervene on the Au Pairs’ behalf.

Outside the USA, there’s no standard. That’s why this Au Pair, below, needs our advice:  

Dear AuPairMom —   My situation is a little tough right now. I’m from a european country and I’m au pairing in a south american country….  The first weeks, i thought i was in heaven, i love the kids and my host mom is very nice too, also she’s from my home country so we see things quite alike.
I’ve been having some issues with my hostdad for a while, like he used to always put his hand on my back or on my shoulder and i would tell him “no please stop, i don’t like this” but i also thought, well people in this country are a lot more touchy than people in my home country so I excused the behaviour with the cultural difference.
Last Friday things escalated while i was home alone with him. He started hugging me and touching my legs and worse and also put his hand under my tshirt. I told him no and he just said he knew i didn’t like it but kept on doing it anyways. So i just went to my room and cried in the shower for a solid 30 minutes. I was so scared all night (i can lock my door, but still).
I then remembered how he once told us about a co worker whose daughter brought him to court for sexual harassment and he said that the daughter didn’t have the right to do so because it destroyed their family. Also he didn’t want a male french teacher for the six year old because “things happen” so i see quite a bit of a double standard here.
Even though i love the girls and it breaks my heart to think of leaving them, i cant stand the thought of living there. Now, am i being selfish ? << cv notes: NO. LEAVE. IMMEDIATELY.>>   The problem is, there is no au pair culture here, also i don’t have a  LCC to whom i could reach out. I told my mom back home and she asked me if i want to come back. But the point is, i love being an au pair and i love this city and the country. So should i try to find a new family again ? I’m really down right now and i fear i’ll have to spend christmas all alone. 
Any advice would be very appreciated! 
Also, should i go to the police ? Just that police here isnt quite the same here as it is in europe or the US.   I’d love to get some opinions! 



MKS December 5, 2017 at 12:02 am

I am a host dad in America and these stories just burn me up. No one should take advantage of another human being like that. I admit, I am a very loving, affectionate person, I love hugs and I love making people happy, but there should NEVER be a moment when my au pair has to say ‘no’ especially when it comes to physical touching. I made sure to talk to our au pair about her comfort level long before even thinking about any physical contact. Even when she first arrived (we got her as a rematch in less than nine days) I made sure to put the kids between me and her because they should be her primary focus. There is also nothing I talk to our au pair about that I wouldn’t be embarrassed if my wife was in the room, which works out well because I tell her (my wife) everything.

To the author of the letter, please, please, please leave. Men like that rarely change and can be emboldened with every action.

Good luck, be safe.

German-Brit Hostmum December 5, 2017 at 2:57 am

Leave immediately – when the children are at school or safe and no one sees you pack up. Don’t try and talk to the hostmom about it – he has a history of sexual harrasment and she is still together with him AND has knowingly endangered you by hiring a young woman as an au pair. It is not unusual for wifes to be in denial. The comment about male teachers and the 6 year old is very worrying indeed. Normally men will not find girls attractive and ‘things’ don’t happen. Contact your embassy before going to the police. They will assist you. Meanwhile find safe accomodation in a budget hotel and from there find a new hostfamily. Maybe you could get into contact via facebook with girls from the country you are in who have been au pairs in the US or Europe and find safe accomodation with their families. These girls will know about your worries.
Sadly enough, I have some experience from contact to a German au pair help group (we don’t have LCCs or agencies here mostly) with situations like yours. In the cases known to me, neither did the hostmom believe the au pair nor was there enough proof in the end to prosecute.
For now, please focus on being safe. Leave!

Sarah Kelly December 5, 2017 at 11:30 am

Thank you Au Pair Mom for bringing this harsh topic to light. My heart goes out to this Au Pair because this is a disgusting situation. No matter how much she cares for those children, she should leave immediately! Nobody should be put in that situation but as many of us know, there is that abuse of power and an Au Pair in a new country is in the vulnerable position.

There are worse things than spending Christmas alone and her safety is the biggest priority. If she really loves the country, she could try to find a new family but I would suggest to leave the city (depending on size). She wouldn’t want to come across the HD in the streets and should try to take any precautions to be safe.

SHE SHOULD BE SELFISH! TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF! The family will be fine and honestly need a bit of a startle if this is how the HD thinks it’s appropriate to behave.

TexasHM/CCAP LCC December 5, 2017 at 12:37 pm

Agreed. Run! I always harp on talking things out with the host family but not this. The minute he laid a hand on you and you said please don’t that should have been the end of it. Period. He has crossed that line again and again and it is escalating. You have been sexually assaulted. Period. You need to pack quickly, go to the police and report it. Christmas alone is much better than the alternative (he takes things further the next time you are alone – and he will find a way to be alone with you – its unpreventable unless you run). If you want to stay and still be an au pair then sure, find another family but first priority is getting out of that house (I’m praying you left already when you sent the email). Take a few days to process and decompress and then see if you want to go home or try again. Solve one problem at a time and take your time. Let people help you. Ask for help. This is how you get control and your pride back. Don’t let him get away with it. Stand up for yourself and get out of there. Praying for you…

exaupair December 5, 2017 at 3:30 pm

So this man co worker’s daughter took him to court and the family is still allowed to participate in the programme?!?
I’m not even sure I should advise you to contact your AP agency first, because the agency either gives things a blind eye or doesn’t screen families properly.
Leave the house as soon as you can, no need to discuss things with the HM at this point.

AuPair Paris December 6, 2017 at 4:29 pm

In fairness, I think the man’s coworker’s daughter took her own father (AP’s HD’s colleague) to court. But it doesn’t change your advice. This AP probably doesn’t have an agency – I never did – it was all private. But she should definitely leave ASAP.

exaupair December 8, 2017 at 6:30 pm

You might be right, I didn’t have an agency to have my back when I was an AP in England.
Still it’s beyond belief people like that pray on dedicated young women.

txmom December 5, 2017 at 4:22 pm

I agree with the poster who said to get out, call your embassy, call the police – in that order. Not only should you be out of that situation, but no other au pair should be tricked into joining that family. I’m so sorry you’re going through this.

SadAuPair/HappyAuPair December 7, 2017 at 9:55 am

Hi everyone, I’m the original poster, i just wanted to give a quick heads up on my situation. First, thank you so much for your comments and your advice, this really helped me to make the decision to leave. I did so eventually this morning and i know that it was the right decision. Thinking of living with somebody who thinks treating an au pair like that is perfectly alright just makes me want to do i-don’t-even-know-what. I’m staying at a hostal now, but i will stay in the same city because its huge (for you americans, think bigger than LA) so i would say the chances i will run into this guy somewhere are pretty low. I miss the kids already but still I’m so happy to have moved out. Thank you all!

Amelie - former au pair December 7, 2017 at 3:57 pm

Leave immediately!

Can you find a hostel or something to stay until you try to find another job?

I’m from São Paulo, Brazil, if you’re here or anywhere in Brazil, let me know, maybe I can help you get in contact with people who can help you!

LongIslandHostMom December 7, 2017 at 4:10 pm

This is a no brainier. You have to leave immediately. No young women should feel shame about this situation. This is not your fault at all. Go someplace where you feel safe and call the authorities. Despite of what the laws are where you are, this is just ethically wrong. There are good people out there and I hope you find a family who is more deserving of a good Au Pair.

HRHM December 12, 2017 at 8:58 am

I agree with leaving, but with the caveat that I don’t think she should automatically call the “authorities” Not every country works like the US and getting police involved may actually make this situation MORE dangerous for her, not less. If she needs help, going to her home country embassy makes sense, but if not, just leaving and going straight home is the best bet. Otherwise, if she can’t/won’t go home now, staying with a friend or in a hostel for the time being until she can find a new host family. Finally, I think if I had a daughter who was APing, I’d probably advise her to look for a single mom. We are extra grateful for the help LOL

AtlantaHostMom December 12, 2017 at 4:31 pm

FIRST AND FOREMOST: LEAVE IMMEDIATELY!!! There is absolutely NO reason anyone should have to stay in a situation where they feel violated. Period.

This story is disturbing on so many levels. The first being the complete and utter abuse of position and power by the host dad. Men like this are disgusting and vile. Shame on him and shame on his wife for bringing a young woman into their home knowing there was even the slightest chance he would do something like this. I am the victim/survivor of abuse (physical, sexual, emotional) at the hands of my adopted father. When I started having children, I warned everyone who came in contact with my children that there is a fate worse than death that awaits them if they so much as THINK about harming them. This includes my own husband!!! He and I also had a long talk when we decided to start using Au Pairs. I trust him implicitly but it would be stupid of me not to address that issue. My heart goes out to that young lady and I hope she has left that situation and is safe and sound ANYWHERE else but there. I hope this does not affect her long term in such a way that denies a family of her love and assistance with their children. I can’t share what I hope for that host dad. Thank you for addressing this difficult subject. No one should have to experience this.

HMA December 21, 2017 at 4:20 pm

Agree with the above on leaving. There is no situation that would be worth staying in an unsafe environment for. This sounds like trouble brewing. I understand your concern for the children but I also agree with HRHM on using caution with local authorities. I would talk with your embassy first and let them advise you on how to handle. First things first, make arrangements to get out of there ASAP this is not a safe environment.

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