Woman’s Cry For Help Needs Expert Advice and Inner Reflection

Posted at Salon.com:

“Dear Cary,

When I was 18, I found out that my brother (I’ll call him “T”) had been sexually abused for years by a family friend. This friend had been one of our dad’s drinking buddies. He would come over and they would get so sloshed together that this friend would end up spending the night. When it started, “T” was about 8.

It was found out by my mother (divorced from my father) who walked in on two of my other brothers engaged in fellatio. This was when I was 18, the other two brothers were 10 and 12 at the time. My mother called my father … she had somehow connected all the dots already. The police came. “T,” then 16, was questioned. “T” told everyone about how this family friend had been “raping” him for years. The family friend was indicted by a grand jury, and then a few days later shot himself before standing trial. My brother, a minor himself, went into counseling.

My sister, age 8, then came forward and said that “T” had also been molesting her ever since she could remember. Then, my cousin said that he used to come over to her house when her dad wasn’t home and asked if he could be her first kiss. Then, my other brother, age 6, said that he didn’t want to talk about it … and on and on. Minimal, if any therapy, was received by my other siblings. Each of those siblings went on to start drinking and using drugs. My youngest brother started getting high at age 12, and I’ve never seen him sober since. He’s now 25. It seemed that everyone I knew, every young family member, had been affected. My dad drank, but then again that had started way before any of this. Mind you, I once found naked photos of my father with his sister.

Fast-forward to 10 or 12 years later … “T” married a woman he had dated for several years — a woman I don’t like … a woman who seems fine on the outside, but almost as if there’s something stirring underneath … a woman I don’t trust. I was still wrestling with my anger with “T,” my own feelings of worthlessness for not having protected my siblings, and my anger with my dad for just having another cocktail with all of the craziness. On the outside, everyone looks so put together. Everyone laughs, sings, parties together … yet under the surface … well, there’s so much that nobody was saying.”

This is so typical, everyone behaves as if nothing has happened. No one ever talks about the uncomfortable, painful topics….they just have their cocktails, their family meals, and sit around the dinner table and are a lie to themselves. The secrets, the silence, and the pretending is often the most difficult part of interacting in a family where incest is going on.

“So, I asked “T” if he’d told his wife. He said that was none of my business. I asked if he was considering having children. Again, none of my business. He said that he was actively working on his issues with a therapist, and that he’d never have children if he thought he himself was a threat. That was four or five years ago.

They’ve had two children in the past three years. I still wonder. I still worry. The family continues to go on partying together. Nobody is in therapy, not even “T.” I’ve asked my other siblings about it to the point that I’ve been told to back off. They’re all in their mid- to late 20s now. “T”‘s wife is still passive-aggressive, still has no girlfriends, still makes these horribly mean jabs just under her breath. I take over hand-me-down clothes for her kids that my children have outgrown. I take over housewarming gifts … .all met with the same response. She’s got this insincere kindness upfront, but then I get wind of the gossip … the things I speak in love that get distorted, twisted, turned and then gossiped about. I feel that my brother might be damaged, and I know that a healthy woman doesn’t marry a damaged man … but I just cannot seem to put my finger on it.

I often feel as if my brother is incapable of empathy. Once, when someone called him a narcissist, I looked up the definition of NPD (narcissistic personality disorder), and felt that maybe he might meet that description — always the victim regardless of the situation, incapable of seeing someone else’s point of view, catastrophically damaged at a very young age to the point of fracture. Any relationship I ever try to create with him is completely one-sided. I’m not asked to meet on common ground — it’s his way, period. If I say, “I can’t come to the party,” it’s met with, “Why not … what do you have going on.” They complain about their children never having playmates — how my children should come over so they can play, but yet they’ve chosen to home-school. If I am so important, if they want me around, then why am I not treated with more respect? Plus, I cannot, not even for a minute, take my eyes off my children when we’re around them. I feel like I can’t relax — like my children are in a room full of knives. My husband always comes and he knows the entire story, but still … it gets old. I’d like to say I’ve gotten through my anger, but I’m not so sure. I definitely don’t trust. Maybe who I’m really mad at is my dad.

So, here are my many questions. Is my brother a pedophile? Now that there are children involved, when does it become my responsibility to ask? Do I ask his wife what she knows? I don’t think that his children are in danger today, right at this moment. But, can I trust myself? All of my siblings were damaged while I was unsuspecting.

Since I believe that “T” is not actively seeking recovery from this trauma, I don’t know where he stands. I would think that any question about that should be within limits if he’s truly seeking emotional health, but I’m dealing with someone who acts victimized that I would even ask the question. My fear is that by bringing it up, I would be ostracized to the point that if intervention became necessary, I wouldn’t know it because they would keep so much space between. Should I try, anyway?

And, then there’s questions about my life and my issues. I don’t always know what’s mine and what isn’t. How do I define my relationship with my dad, my brother, my younger siblings. I was also abused … by a neighbor, but my reaction was so very different that I cannot begin to understand “T’s” reaction. I don’t know how to be in the room without addressing the huge elephant, and they seem to want to avoid the elephant at all costs. Do I address it? I don’t know how to resolve this thing with my sister-in-law … do I try?

What do I do?,


Here’s the advice that was given:

“Dear Confused,

Let’s say that today is the beginning and today you take the first step in remaking your life by accepting everything that has happened so far. Just accept it. What you have seen and what you know, these things are true. Others in your family may claim that certain things didn’t happen or that they are no big deal or that you are just stirring up trouble or being difficult but you know what you know. These things happened.

You aren’t to blame. There is nothing you could have done to stop these things and there is nothing you can do to change what has happened.

Your job now is to live and move forward.

Maybe that sounds like clichés. It’s just the way things are. Take a deep breath. Accept what has happened…”

It sounds like just a cliche, because it is! This is how American society operates. The advice being given to this woman is the same thing being told to her by her entire family about the incest. American society is taught to ignore the bad, don’t speak about anything uncomfortable, don’t stir the pot, ‘go on with your life,’ ‘don’t let things bother you so much.’

Meanwhile, many Americans are neurotic, numbing themselves with dangerous prescription drugs, drinking themselves to death, ignoring their children, and ignoring the state of the world.

The advice above sounds like the the personal advice of this columnist…the advice he wanted to give her…the advice that is suitable to the public: Go on with your life, be happy, accept the past as it is. The direction below sounds like the columnist received expert advice from RAINN. (thank goodness)

“…Contact RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.

Start there. Explain your situation.Through contacting RAINN and social service networks and support groups locally, you can form relationships with professionals and support groups in your area.

Here is my vision for what it would look like long-term:

You would begin a lifelong program of reading and studying how incest affects families and individuals. You would begin talking to others about these issues. Through these activities you would find a knowledgeable ally in the professional social services who would be on call when suspicions arise, crises erupt or dysfunctional behavior becomes dangerous.

After contacting RAINN, also contact the support group for survivors of incest, SIA, Survivors of Incest Anonymous. As you can see, this group has local chapters such as the chapter in Texas and the chapter in New York. Look for a local chapter near where you live; if you can’t find one, then remain in touch via the Internet.

The point of connecting with these groups is to see how events similar to yours have affected others and how they have dealt with it. You need to be around people who understand what you mean when you say, “I don’t always know what’s mine and what isn’t.” To people who haven’t been through what you’ve been through, such a statement may seem curious and baffling; to people who’ve experienced what you have, it is dead-on clear as day. They know exactly what you mean. You need to be around those people to learn how they have coped and to benefit from what they have learned.

This is a long-term thing. Think in terms of decades — 20 years, 30 years, 40 years. It’s a long road. Stresses are going to occur and things are going to break. People with drug and alcohol habits are going to have illnesses and legal troubles; there will be shifting family alliances, scapegoating, periods of silence and “not-talking-to-each-other-ism”; there may be deaths and violence and drug overdoses. You will need a consistent support network to cope with these things as they happen. At times, though you will feel that you are the one who needs the support, you will have to be the rock for others. So you will need others outside the family to be the rock for you. That is how support groups work.”

Now there is some good advice!

“You and your family members are living with deep psychic wounds. If you have the courage to get to know these wounds and accept how they are influencing your life, you can live a life free of shame and full of joy.”

No one can live without shame, and live a life of peace, if they “accept” abuse as being a part of their lives, or “accept” how incest and its after-effects have created who they are etc. Every human being has the potential to be free and live free, but not by accepting incest and abuse as being who we are.

“You can live with this. You can. But you have to look at it with open eyes and confront it with courage every day. Whatever is true and certain, get it out in the open. Whatever you have seen with your own eyes, speak it. Live your life in the open. Speak what you know.

This is a hard story. But it can be transformed. It is not the end of the road. It is just the beginning. You can have a life full of joy.”

True, but transforming such serious family dysfunction and incest issues can only be done if someone truly digs into their own psyche, and penetrates it at the subconscious level.

A person needs to be totally honest with themselves, and to have a will to be different than those who are dysfunctional –to escape the conditioning and programming instilled by the dysfunctional family.

This woman will only truly be free if she breaks from her need to be accepted, to please others, and breaks free from the fear of saying the “wrong” thing and inducing ruffled family feathers.



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6 Responses to Woman’s Cry For Help Needs Expert Advice and Inner Reflection

  1. Miracle says:

    I honestly believe that “confused” has to work on herself first. Put her thoughts and feelings in order and I am sure that this may be where a therapist becomes involved. Finding someone outside of her family to talk with and confide in, but whoternoon is honest and does not just speak to please would also be beneficial. There seem to be so many tragidies that “confused” is attempting to “deal” with. Work on your feelings and tragidies first. If you are broken and have not begun your own healing then there will be no helping your brother or any of your other siblings. Confused, decide what you want from this, for lack of a better word, battle, it seems thats what you have on your hands, but with yourself. You can feel better, you can have a family that opens up and begins to heal, but with so much trauma there will be a lot of individual healing that must be done before there will be a Sunday afternoon dinner and family therapy session. I am sorry but no matter your trauma and pain if you have a reasonable belief that your nieces/nephews are being molested then you must take immediate action and contact your local DFCS office. If that happens to be the case then try and put a dent in the cycle and prevent these small children from becoming victims of their father/mother or anyone else for that matter. I started typing just to say that you can not fix the family if you are broken, you couldnt “fix” the family even if you were functioning on at 100% because people have to want help. It sounds as though you are asking for help using the screen of how much help your family needs. Have you ever thought of this, that maybe you feel youl have to heal for one of you to heal? That is not the case. Please do not take this as me asking you to think only of yourself but think of how much easier it would be to talk with the members of your famoly if you knew how you felt and knew that your feet were firmly planted in the truth that you want to help them not hurt them. We can not out grow our pain and fears but we can overcome them. I send the best of wishes to you and I hope that you can re-buid your family because it does sound as though you love them very much and want to be a part of their lives. Please find someone as soon as possible that you can discuss the childrens( T’s children) well-being with because that is an immediate concern that can be stopped and/or prevented. I hope that there is no need for the concern but the children as well as you will be in my thoughts. -M.

  2. little nel says:

    “…and are a lie to themselves”

    I was forced to accept the lies when I was a child because I needed a family to take care of my needs because I was too young to do it myself. I became neurotic because of it and knew that I needed to make some changes my life.

    I found that it was hard to dispel the lies in adulthood as they had become so ingrained in me, but I was determined to find a solution.

    Nothing feels as good as the freedom, the growth, and the happiness that has occurred inside me because I refused to give up and give in to those lies. I am no longer a lie to myself, as was learned as a family tradition for too many years.

  3. little nel says:

    “the secrets, the silence, and the pretending…etc.”

    I believe that these were the things that made me harbor resentment for a lot of years. I was told by a counselor that harboring resentment is like drinking poison and expecting another person to die.

    I used to think that resentment and not accepting abuse were the same thing but I was wrong.

    • Alethea says:

      “harboring resentment is like drinking poison and expecting another person to die.”

      WOW. No truer words.

  4. little nel says:

    “A person needs to be totally honest with themselves…to have a will to be different…to escape the conditioning…etc.”

    I have had a desire to adhere to this idea for most of my life. What I found by acting on this goal is that my life became a great adventure as I became aware of my power to overcome all that dysfunction and make choices that were not influenced by all that craziness and fear.

    I found out that I did not have to accept the “unacceptable” people, places, and things that hurt me. My physical, mental, and spiritual adventure took me to people, places, and things that enriched my life and made it productive and worthwhile. I am still discovering new things in myself, so the adventure continues as the “constant dread” that I grew up with, is dispelled and made as benign as fluffy soap suds.

    What was withheld from me in childhood or used against me to keep me caged in the dysfunction has no power to dominate my thinking anymore. It’s so refreshing to understand my own inner loveliness without constant outside validation.

    The transformation in me did not come without a price, but it was worth it. All the time, effort, and money that I spent was a small pittance compared to the huge dividends that I received back.

    • Alethea says:

      “It’s so refreshing to understand my own inner loveliness without constant outside validation.”

      Amen to that.

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