My stepson was convicted of molesting his 12-year-old stepdaughter. He offered a plea where he maintained his innocence while admitting that the state had enough evidence to convict him. He took the plea deal since he was facing more than a dozen counts of various felonies and could have gotten three life sentences. Instead, he got less than ten years.


He is now in prison. My husband and I believe he probably did at least some of what he was charged with, but there is still a tiny bit of doubt, especially for my husband. Our problem since he has been in prison is that our daughter-in-law will not let us see our grandchildren. She was angry with us during the trial for paying for a lawyer to defend him instead of giving her the money and for not sitting with her in the courtroom.


Now she is demanding we sit down with her and talk to her before we can see the children. We suspect she will try to convince us of his guilt. We have told her we have no desire to rehash or retry the anguish of last summer or to hear explicit details of what he did. She has always been difficult and controlling.


We wonder if it’s even worth the trouble trying to see the children, who are young and don’t miss us. The last time my husband talked to one of them, she said, “Why don’t you want to talk to us?” Apparently, her mother had told her that.


What should we do? Should we give in to her demands to meet? How do we deal with her going forward?


It’s evident that the situation you find yourselves in is an incredibly painful and complex one. It’s a mix of legal challenges, family loyalties, and heartbreaking decisions. Navigating familial relationships in the aftermath of such a tragic event requires great sensitivity, understanding, and wisdom. I’ll do my best to respond to your concerns.

The welfare of your grandchildren should be paramount. The Church’s Gospel Topic on Abuse instructs us:


“The Lord expects us to do everything we can to prevent abuse and to protect and help victims. No one is expected to endure abusive behavior. Reports of abuse should never be dismissed. Everyone should respond with compassion and sensitivity toward victims and their families. Those affected by abuse need to be heard and supported.”[i]

This terrible situation has splintered your family, but please keep in perspective that your granddaughter and her siblings need you to prioritize their wellbeing. Their mother has also been traumatized by not only abuse of her daughter, but also the betrayal of her marriage. The layers of trauma and loss in their lives is difficult to fully comprehend. I realize some of this may feel unfair to you, but even if part of the accusations are true, that’s enough trauma for a lifetime.

So, if re-establishing a relationship with them is possibly an option (and in their best interest), it may be worth the effort and possible discomfort of a difficult conversation with their mother who has been charged with their safekeeping.

Your daughter-in-law’s anger and pain are real, and while her actions may appear controlling, it’s essential to consider them from a perspective of love and empathy. Approach conversations with compassion and a desire to understand her perspective. It’s easy to misjudge those who have experienced intimate betrayal. They often appear controlling, withdrawn, and suspicious as a way to manage the overwhelming mistrust brought on by serious betrayal.

Your stepson is in prison and nothing any of you say at this point will change that reality. I don’t believe it will do any harm for you to meet with her to better understand her experience. Instead of demanding your right to the see the grandchildren, perhaps you could use this meeting to learn what’s needed to rebuild the broken hearts of her and her children.

If necessary, it might be beneficial to seek a neutral third party, like a counselor or a church leader, to facilitate your meeting with her. That could create a safe environment where both parties can express their feelings and work towards understanding and reconciliation.

And, remember, Christ’s atonement covers not only sins but also the pain and heartache we experience in mortality. The words of Alma in the Book of Mormon remind us that Christ shall “go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.”[ii]


Continue to seek spiritual guidance, as God knows the truth about all of this. Your stepson doesn’t need to be defended by you. The victims of his actions, however extensive, need to know they have your complete understanding and compassion.

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at ge***@ge**********.com  

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About the Author


Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, host of the podcast, “From Crisis to Connection”, and creates online relationship courses. He earned degrees from Brigham Young University and Auburn University. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.


The advice offered through Geoff Steurer’s column is educational and informational in nature and is provided only as general information. It is not meant to establish a therapist-patient relationship or offer therapeutic advice, opinion, diagnosis treatment or to establish a standard of care. Although Geoff Steurer is a trained psychotherapist, he is not functioning in the role of a licensed therapist by writing this column, but rather using his training to inform these responses. Thus, the content is not intended to replace independent professional judgment. The content is not intended to solicit clients and should not be relied upon as medical or psychological advice of any kind or nature whatsoever. The information provided through this content should not be used for diagnosing or treating a mental health problem or disease. The information contained in these communications is not comprehensive and does not include all the potential information regarding the subject matter, but is merely intended to serve as one resource for general and educational purposes.




[ii] Alma 7:11