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Let it go or dredge up the past? (triggering)

(8 Posts)
bringoutthebunting Fri 04-Apr-14 16:11:30

Namechanger. Sorry this is so long. Have changed names below.

Mum has emailed me to say she is back in touch with her former best friend, Sue. They drifted apart about 20 years ago but Sue and her husband Steve now live in the same area as my parents.

When I was 6-8 years old we lived a few houses down from Sue and Steve and their daughter Kate, who was my best friend. I would sleep over at Kate's house very regularly.

Kate and I used to have baths together and Steve would sometimes come in and watch us. I don't really remember the details, only that he never touched us. Twice, maybe, he made us play a 'game' that involved standing up in the bath and putting our hands over our eyes.

When I was 8 we moved to the other side of the village and I didn't see Kate so regularly. A year or so later, two girls accused Steve of touching them during the night when they stayed at Kate's house.

One of the girls, Rose, same age as me, was perceived to be a 'troublemaker' and none of the parents liked her playing with their kids. Her mother also had an affair and almost broke up two families, a huge deal in our small, insular village. So neither Rose nor her mother were particularly liked and when this came out Rose was talked about in a derogatory 'how dare she' way and my mum prevented me from playing with her, I think out of loyalty to Sue who was of course devastated. I don't remember anything about the other girl, but she was also from a 'bad family' so god knows what the rumour mill did with her. And I don't know what happened with the whole police involvement, I don't even know if it went to court. But he never did time, I am sure of that.

I remember mum asked me if Steve had ever 'done anything' to me. I said no, because in my mind what had happened was a game. I was extremely shy as a child and I remember the bath thing was pretty much the same level of uncomfortable as a lot of my social interactions so it didn't really stand out. If that makes sense?

I haven't thought about any of this in years and years, until the email from my mum. I feel sick and upset. Not for me, but for Rose, who was so brave to come forward and then ostracised. An eight year old, for fuck's sake. And my mum, who told me not to play with her. What was she thinking?

I'm not sure what I'm asking, just getting it all down really. I want to know how someone can do that, just discount the words of two children like that, and dismiss them as troublemakers. My own mother, who, while she isn't perfect, is a kind and thoughtful person. I also wish I had said something at the time so that maybe the outcome could've been different. And it makes me angry that this man is back in my parents' lives.

Would you confront? Bearing in mind this would cause huge ructions in my family? Or let sleeping dogs lie? Or is my anger totally misplaced?

NorwegianBirdhouse Fri 04-Apr-14 17:50:33

God that's an awful position to be put in and reminded of. What a horrible man and yet it is strange that the mud didn't stick considering two reports were made. Why did they have girls to stay over when the first report was made? Perhaps they stopped then and he did not have the opportunity to do anymore harm. It is awful for you to think what he may have been doing or thinking when you were there, or what he might have done later. You must feel key in this because you had some evidence that sways you to believe Rose's claims, while the other adults rejected the children's claims. But you were an awkward 8 year old child who didn't realise what was going on so you must never feel in anyway guilty for not doing anything at the time.

I don't know what your relationship with your parents is like, but I think I would actually ask my mum what she remembers and tell her that it triggered memories and you think there may have been something to the claims, and that he was certainly inappropriate with you and his poor daughter. He does not deserve your parents respect and friendship after how he treated their daughter or any child. As for historical convictions, that is another matter, and wouldn't it be fantastic if it happened.

The worry is what the hell is he up to now??

bringoutthebunting Fri 04-Apr-14 17:55:53

Thank you for listening and replying, Norwegian.

My memory is hazy, but I am pretty sure I did not stay at the house again after that. We had already moved away and drifted a bit from the family. I am sure that no other children would've stayed after the incidents. The mud stuck a little in our small town, but the couple moved away about a year later.

My head knows that I shouldn't feel guilty, but I will always wonder what would've happened if I'd spoken up.

I wonder what he's doing now, too. He is in his late 60s.

Actually I think your approach is a good one, asking mum what she remembers. It's not as confrontational and I don't need to bring up the Rose part, maybe just wait to see if she does and go from there.

Thanks again.

NorwegianBirdhouse Fri 04-Apr-14 18:21:48

I think you would have been way to embarrassed to try to say what had happened to you and wondered if it was actually anything real (as a child) and it may have made very little difference as he did not touch you so no, you must not feel guilty. When I was 11, a builder at my friend's house that we really liked kissed my friend on the forehead in the house, then came out to the garden and kissed me inappropriately on the mouth. I told my friend and we laughed if off and I played it down and never told another soul. The reason, because I thought I was unattractive and people would laugh at the idea.

I have wondered how far he may have gone with others, but we were children, so we are not responsible for sorting it out when we didn't really understand it. Don't let it bother you too much more.

bringoutthebunting Fri 04-Apr-14 22:30:08

OK, I will try to not let it bother me. I'm sorry that happened to you. It's so depressing that so many people I know had shit happen like this in their childhood.

Thank you again for your kind words, it means a lot x

Norweigan makes good points. Don't feel guilty, nothing you could have done at the time. I think you may well feel a little better about it if you do bring it up with your mother, in a non-confrontational way. Also, have you considered having some counselling at all? It's a marvellous thing, having done it. Many charities offer it either free or low-cost. I had it for something similar.

sykadelic Sat 05-Apr-14 00:14:54

When I was younger, about 8 or so, I was at a friends house and I remember feeling extremely uncomfortable when her dad tickled us. A few years later, not many really, it came out that he'd been abusing his daughters for years (and using their sick mother as a reason not to tell or it'd be their fault she died).

Mum asked me as well whether anything happened and I don't remember my answer but I doubt I mentioned the tickling.

As an adult now, I have mentioned to mum the tickling and how I felt uncomfortable and she didn't freak out or anything. So I hope your mother would be similar.

I suggest telling your mum that mentioning his name brought up a memory for you of him watching you bathe. That he never physically touched you, but that you've since wondered if those girls were telling the truth and that if she wants to be friends with them, that's of course fine, but you don't want him near your kids, or to see photos etc., that it's not worse the risk to you

bringoutthebunting Sat 05-Apr-14 16:57:58

That sounds so similar to my experience, sykadelic. Tickling is, on the surface, so harmless, and not what we're taught to believe is abuse. I think there's another reason why I'm thinking about this now - my older DD is just getting to the age where understanding is good enough to explain about good touch/bad touch. I remember having this talk myself. But there was nothing about tickling, or someone looking at you in a way that makes you uncomfortable.

A lot to think about. Thank you again.

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