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Question
Posted by: Vivienne | 2011/11/24

Confrontation after abuse?

Dear Doctor
More than 30 years ago, we lost our mother in very tragic circumstances. My young brother went to stay with an older sister. He must of been about 16 or 17. The daugter of my sister has now told her that, at that time my bro fiddled with her. He placed her hand on an inappropriate place. This was done over a period of time. When my sister thinks about it, she now realises it did take place, she remembers things which at the time did not cross her mind at all. The revelation of this has hit my sister very hard. She has all the years had a very turbulent relationship with her daughter. She beleives this revelation can now explain a lot. My bro of course has grown up in the mean time and is a wonderful person. Hard woking and very kind. Living a very normal decent life. She is going to confront him. I beleive when this happens he will be destroyed. So embarrassed to ever face another family member etc. It will kill him. I feel, ag it happened so long ago, he was a youngster, at the time. How many of them dont do things like this. I just dont see the point in coming out with this. I would rather just see her and her daugter get help, but she is determined. Do we " tip"  our bro off so that he is at least a little prepared?... how do we , the rest of the family handle this sad situation which is going to develop?.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Its not fashionable to suggest that there can be degrees of inappropriate sexual conduct. At 16 or 17 he knew this was wrong for him to do. But if it was limited to placing her hand at his crotch while clothed, it was less likely to be unavoidably traumatic than more vigorous and even more unpleasant sexual activity.
Frankly, such behaviour while wrong doesn't usually cause serious harm or even noticeable consequences ( though that doesn't make it right to do ). It wouldnt be likely to be a significant cause of conflict between the daughter and her mother, and other reasons must also be taken into account. An aggressive "confrontation" ( only recommended by dangerously naive meddlers )isn't likely to produce any real benefits for any of them.
Mother and daughter should see am unprejudiced counsellor / psychotherapist to review all aspects of their strained relationship, rather than scapegoating this guy and this particular incident, or they will avoid discovering other important truths ).
That she seems unwilling to consider any other excuse for the difficulties she had with her daughter strongly suggests she is looking for a scapegoat and an excuse, rather than in finding the truth and solving the problems. SHe sounds intent of avoiding taking any shred of personal responsibility for her own bad relationship with hter daughter, which is ominous.
She is likely, if she insists on this ill-advised "confrontation" approach, to damage him, herself, her daughter and the family at large, with no benefit whatever. And as the facts of the situation will not be possible to establish after all this time, he could even potentially sue her for defamation of character, and so on.
Either she's been reading some of the highly misleading and dangerous twaddle books about the supposed effects of childhood sexual encounters, and maybe even some of the quack "therapists" who propser by creating such problems and then indulgently "treating" them and who so often seem to encourage "confrontation".

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3
Our users say:
Posted by: Liza | 2011/11/24

Why are people so fond of confrontation? It never helps the way they think it will. People get defensive and then lash back - which just makes everyone unhappy.

This happened 30 years ago. Exactly the same amount of time since an uncle of mine sexually abused me from the age of 4. My uncle was the same age at the time that your brother was. Confronting him about it now will do absolutely squat. The only thing that helps is therapy. Cognitive behavior therapy helps to break the bad habits that were caused by the abuse. The thing is that my uncle was sexually abused as a child too. So who is really to blame? My uncle? Or the person who abused him? It can become a vicious circle that is hard to break out of.

If your sister insists on the confrontation - do your brother the favour and let him know about it beforehand. He doesn''t deserve to be accused of this out of the blue after such a long time.

Good Luck
Liza

Reply to Liza
Posted by: Kelly | 2011/11/24

Hectic stuff!
I would also feel the way you do but I can also see it from your sisters view and esp. from her daughters.
He needs to own up to his mistakes, at 17/18 we know right from wrong.

What must this girl have been going through these years.
I dont know what good can come from all of this but yeah
He needs to own up to his wrongs against and innocent child.

Reply to Kelly
Posted by: cybershrink | 2011/11/24

Its not fashionable to suggest that there can be degrees of inappropriate sexual conduct. At 16 or 17 he knew this was wrong for him to do. But if it was limited to placing her hand at his crotch while clothed, it was less likely to be unavoidably traumatic than more vigorous and even more unpleasant sexual activity.
Frankly, such behaviour while wrong doesn't usually cause serious harm or even noticeable consequences ( though that doesn't make it right to do ). It wouldnt be likely to be a significant cause of conflict between the daughter and her mother, and other reasons must also be taken into account. An aggressive "confrontation" ( only recommended by dangerously naive meddlers )isn't likely to produce any real benefits for any of them.
Mother and daughter should see am unprejudiced counsellor / psychotherapist to review all aspects of their strained relationship, rather than scapegoating this guy and this particular incident, or they will avoid discovering other important truths ).
That she seems unwilling to consider any other excuse for the difficulties she had with her daughter strongly suggests she is looking for a scapegoat and an excuse, rather than in finding the truth and solving the problems. SHe sounds intent of avoiding taking any shred of personal responsibility for her own bad relationship with hter daughter, which is ominous.
She is likely, if she insists on this ill-advised "confrontation" approach, to damage him, herself, her daughter and the family at large, with no benefit whatever. And as the facts of the situation will not be possible to establish after all this time, he could even potentially sue her for defamation of character, and so on.
Either she's been reading some of the highly misleading and dangerous twaddle books about the supposed effects of childhood sexual encounters, and maybe even some of the quack "therapists" who propser by creating such problems and then indulgently "treating" them and who so often seem to encourage "confrontation".

Reply to cybershrink

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