Dear Amy: My 28-year-old college-educated adult child has a 3-year-old child who has no relationship with his other biological parent.

My adult child is currently in a live-in relationship. My spouse and I see our grandchild often, both willingly and because we're needed to help with child care.

The significant other spends a fair amount of time alone with my grandchild.

I've seen and heard horror stories of abusive boyfriends/girlfriends and the harm they can commit not only to significant others but to the children in the relationships.

I ask my grandchild from time to time if "so and so" is nice to them.

Every time the answer is basically this: No, they are not. No, they spank me. No, I get spanked on my butt and my cheek.

I have passed this information on to my child and the response is usually the same: The child's parent doesn't believe it.

My feeling is this: A 3-year-old cannot lie about something like that. What do I do?

Amy says: The correct response is never to assume that the child is lying, but to investigate and discern what is behind these statements.

Everything your grandchild says should be taken seriously; if he reports being hit, follow through. The parent shouldn't accuse him of lying, but instead, every adult should try to find out why he is reporting this. Reflexively accusing them of lying calls the parent's instincts into question.

There is no question that this child is in the "high risk" category: no contact with one biological parent, and the other parent has moved an unrelated adult into the home.

The statistics concerning the risk to children when a parent cohabits with a nonrelative are shocking. According to a 2005 study published in the Journal of American Academy of Pediatrics: "Children living in households with unrelated adults are nearly 50 times as likely to die of inflicted injuries as children living with two biological parents."

Over the course of the eight-year study, in households with unrelated adults, most perpetrators (83.9 percent) were the unrelated adult household member; 6.5 percent of perpetrators were the biological parent of the child.

Even if this child is not in physical danger, his statements indicate distress.

You and your spouse should do everything possible to get to know the domestic partner. Take on more child care, if possible. Urge the child's parent to take this very seriously. And if the parent doesn't, report this to Child Protective Sservices.

Also, enroll the child in a quality nursery school or Head Start program. Early childhood education will have a profound impact. Experienced teachers can mark his progress, and are also mandated reporters.

He's abused, too

Dear Amy: I want to point out that as a male I do my best to respect everyone. I have on occasion been grabbed in an inappropriate manner or had a woman attempt to take advantage of me.

I find it extremely distasteful to be treated this way.

When I have brought it up, I have been belittled, shamed and actually accused of doing it to them first. Do you have any advice for a guy in such a situation?

Amy says: No person should have to tolerate being grabbed, and then shamed for objecting. I'm very sorry you've had this experience. My advice would be the same I would give to a woman. Use your voice, stay strong and organize in solidarity for the rights of others who have been abused, but not believed.

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