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Sibling sexual abuse - advise please

(4 Posts)
Pride Fri 15-Jul-11 09:45:24

I have two boys aged 5 and 7 and a stepson of 12. We share custody of him with his mother. It has just come to light this week (after I overheard my two boys having a conversation) that their stepbrother has been sexually abusing them. I believe it may have been happening for up to about six months and am distraught that I didn't recognise the signs. We have been in contact with social workers and the issue is being dealt with in the correct manner, with full co-operation from my DHs ex.

I need to come to terms with what my stepson has done. My DH and I are both coping with different situations and doing our best to support each other through this. The social workers have discouraged separating the boys from each other, but short of sleeping in the same room as my boys, I don't feel I can keep them safe. I don't know how to face my stepson (who is in his mother's house since the incident). I know he needs help and I am the adult here, but I am so angry with him. I won't turn my back on him, but don't know how to move on with him under our roof again.

My main concern though, is my boys. Can they get through this without lasting damage? They seem their little happy selves this week, but this has to have affected them. How can they trust me after I have let them down so badly - they didn't feel they could tell me when it was happening, even though we talk all the time and both my DH and I regularly ensure they all get one-on-one time from us where they can talk about anything that may be upsetting them. I feel I have failed them in the worst possible way. Please PM me if you can offer any words of advice on how we can all get through this. Thanks.

EldritchCleavage Fri 15-Jul-11 12:47:59

The good thing is that you know about it and have plenty of time to help them and get them any specialist help you can. it is much harder when things go undiscovered for years. It is a terrible discovery but please don't lose hope.
Some things to hang on to:

Children, generally, don't tell. That is not a reflection on you. Please do not think this. I didn't tell (I was 4). It's very hard now to say why, but I didn't, despite having fabulous parents to whom I was and am very close. The best I can come up with is that there was a kind of shame/fear/confusion paralysis. Where there is a family or friend relationship with the abuser, there can be conflicting loyalities and fear of consequences for them at play too.

Own the anger but don't let it own you. I was filled with quite toxic levels of rage for a long time, probably because I went without help for decades. Your children may be angry with you for not knowing. That, I was told in treatment, is a common young child's reaction. It's not fair, but it is common. Acknowledge their anger and deal with it together openly .

Please don't drown in guilt. My parents were so consumed with guilt (the abuser was someone they employed) that when I did disclose and seek treatment they shut down and were not able to respond as best they might. Please find the courage to help your children even when it is especially hard for you. That will stand your relationship with (all three) of them in good stead.

The abuser needs help too. Try to hate the sin and not the sinner, though it must be so hard.

In my case, the faint memories have faded further. I got help. I recovered. Traces of the pain remain, but I am well-adjusted, a mother, in a wonderful marriage and happy. Lots of people suffer this (the statistics are horrific), but then, lots of us recover.

Pride Fri 15-Jul-11 15:06:32

Thank you EdrithCleavage for your very supportive words. It's so good to hear that you are happy and have come to terms with the terrible things that happened to you. You have clearly found great strength to deal with this. It gives me hope for the future.

I am trying not to feel guilty purely because it's not about me right now - it's about my boys and to a lesser degree, my SS. It's my sons' hurt that's important. I know I will deal with my own in time. It would less difficult if the abuser was not a family member. We would never have to see them again, but as their half-brother and my DH's child, we need to maintain the family relationship and also get him the help he needs so that we can all move forward.

EldritchCleavage Fri 15-Jul-11 16:04:34

Do make sure you and DH look after yourselves too. Please don't put your feelings on hold while you try to help the children. I think that's a very heavy burden to carry. You can help them best when you have your own outlet (parent, friend, counsellor) to listen and let you unburden yourself.

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