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Wedding Woes

The neighbor's name is Chester.

Dear Prudence,
I live in a close-knit community, and my husband and I are, or were, close friends with a couple who live in our apartment building. We are all in our late 50s. In our community there is a single mother with an 11-year-old daughter, and many of us are friends with the mother. The husband of the couple who lives in our building offered to be a father figure for the 11-year-old because her father is not in the girl’s life. He tutored the girl in school subjects with which she was having trouble. One day the girl came to me and told me that while she was being tutored in “Mark’s” apartment, his wife had to go out. He then offered to read a book to her. He chose a book about teenagers’ changing bodies. He told her to sit on his lap, which she did, and they leafed through the book until they came to the parts about boys’ changing bodies, and there were drawings of boys’ erect penises and “Mark” asked her if she had ever seen an erect penis. After she told me this, I arranged for her to talk with an experienced social worker. The social worker is convinced that Mark did not molest her, and while what he did was clearly inappropriate, it is not reportable or prosecutable. I can’t get this scenario out of my head. My husband and I confronted this couple. They think that Mark has done nothing wrong and Mark’s wife is adamant that he didn’t do anything inappropriate. We no longer speak to them. When people in the community ask why we are no longer friends with them, we don’t know what to say. We have not told people about this situation, but do we have an obligation to warn other parents about this, or is it slander? They still want to be friends with us, and keep inviting us to go out with them. Help!

—Friend No More

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