Horrific family history exposed
This column was originally published in 2012.
Dear Annie: Two years ago, my younger sister learned her grown daughter had been molested as a child by our then-teenage brother. I believe her, but was totally unaware of the situation, as I moved away nearly 25 years ago.
Her daughter had a friend who was also molested. Both girls were under age six when this happened, and the molestation lasted several years.
I urged my sister to seek professional help for her daughter and herself, and to find a way to approach the other young woman to let her know that we are now aware of what our brother did and offer our support.
Since my children also were in contact with my brother during that time, I immediately asked them about this. They both said nothing happened.
I’m pretty sure my daughter was not exposed to any harm, but there is a strong chance my son was molested, as he was never the same after one particular summer trip. In fact, he refused to ever visit his grandparents’ home again.
I asked my sister whether the other girl had been contacted, etc., and was told this was a private matter and the discussion was closed. She says it happened a long time ago and to forget about it.
She says she won’t have further contact with our brother. But she hasn’t considered the impact this has had on me. I was 14 when our brother was born, and I helped raise him after our parents divorced and our father died.
My brother never married and lives alone. He cannot hold down a job. I have no idea whether he is still molesting children. Meanwhile, another brother is asking for a family reunion. How do you respond when something this horrific is disclosed?
— Older Sister Dear Sister: You can’t dictate to your sister how to handle this. That is her decision. But her revelation also affects you and the relationships you have with all of your siblings, not to mention the possibility your son was molested. The rest of the family should know about the molestation, not least because it protects any grandchildren from potential harm. The family reunion may be an opportune time to do this, but you should alert your sister so she is prepared. We also suggest you get some short-term counselling for yourself. This is obviously hard on you.
Dear Annie: I recently became engaged, and everyone has been asking when we are getting married. The problem is neither of us wants a wedding or reception. We both feel it is a waste of time and money, and we’d be doing it only to please others. We would rather use the money to take an extended honeymoon.
We both feel that getting married is such an intimate romantic experience, and we just want it to be the two of us. We would go to the courthouse and have a judge sign our marriage certificate. We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so how do we break the news to family and friends?
— Getting Ready to Elope
Dear Elope: Say, “We know you will be disappointed, but we are going to skip the big wedding and be married by a judge in the courtroom.” Be prepared to stand your ground against their protestations. If you want to be especially kind, invite both sets of parents to witness the courthouse signing. You might also tell them you will consider having a party sometime later on, if that’s an option.