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MIL problem to end all MIL problems(58 Posts)
I have posted about this before, vaguely, but many NCs ago, so if some details appear familiar, they probably are. Apologies that this will be massively long.
Basically: DP thinks - the thinks part is crucial - that when he was a child MIL sexually abused him. What he remembers are events where boundaries were crossed/ things were weird or inappropriate, but nothing that could definitely classed as deliberate, definitive abuse, rather than her just having very poor boundaries.
He has massive gaps in his memory, had huge issues around sex and intimacy which we're slowly getting to grips with, and, what is crucial for me, is that as teenager, when he says he can remember remembering more than he can now, though not what he remembered, iyswim, he believed the abuse happened. He is though not 100% sure. I am fairly sure it did happen.
MIL comes across as normal, niceish, if massively self-centred. We now have a small DS and let her have contact with him on the basis that it might not be true, but on the basis that it may be we absolutely never will leave him alone with her or let her babysit, (something I'm increasingly running out of excuses for but that's a whole other thread.)
What is currently exercising me is that I recently became aware that she regularly babysits for two small boys who are the children of younger friends of hers. I found this out entirely by chance and have no idea what to do. We sort of know them - as in could get in touch - and I really want to tell them, as if I was leaving DS with someone who someone else strongly believed was capable of such a thing I'd want to know. I suggested to DP that I go and see the wife of this couple - tell her the whole story in confidence, including that DP isn't sure it's true, and leave the ball in their court. DP totally flipped out. He's terrified they'd go to the police which he'd find extremely awkward (he is a policeman, small force, at least some of his colleagues would be bound to find out). He's of course also worried about the fallout within the family. He's horrified at the idea of people - anyone - knowing. Especially as he slightly doubts himself.
He is also, I think, furious with himself though for not doing something about it, now and before now - he once said to me when really quite drunk that he feels so weak, as he asks people professionally to do what he can't do himself, and stand up and publicly name their abusers.
Anyway the conversation about this babysitting freaked him out so much that I haven't raised it since but it's massively playing on my mind. I think if I just did it and somehow told them it would be an enormous betrayal of trust, and he would perhaps quite rightly not forgive me. Equally I feel like by doing nothing we are potentially enormously letting down two little boys. Equally, we could be spreading what would effectively be awful, malicious lies about a perfectly nice woman. He is paralysed, and I feel like I have to just make the decision. I can't.
Oh my goodness I have absolutely no idea what I would do in your position, but didn't want to read and run.
So sorry you are having to deal with this. I think you are right though that it is not yours to tell if your dh doesn't want you to, but equally that you have a responsibility to do what is in your power to persuade him to do whatever he thinks is necessary to safeguard those children.
Awful situation all round. My sympathies.
Perhaps he should contact NAPAC. I tried to do a link, but for some reason I'm not finding the web page, this evening.
I'm sure they could help.
What are the poor boundary issues that he definitely remembers? Would be be comfortable just sharing those with the boys' parents? Would that be enough to raise their concerns do you think?
Are the excuses that you use to your mil relevant to the other family?
Do you think that your dh should talk to his mum about what he thinks happened?
What an awful situation, there's no end to it is there? Unless she gets caught abusing another child.
I think your dh needs to talk to a professional about his past. Could he start with his GP? Or start researching counsellors in your area.
I think you do need to talk to the mum of the little boys. You do not need to go into details. Reassure her that you actually have no knowledge about her own dc having been hurt in anyway. But at the very least, confide in this woman that you and your dh have made the decision that your MIL must not be alone with your own dc. Explain that it is to do with possible events from the past and problems with boundaries.
It will then be up to the parents of the boys to take a step back and make their own decisions.
This has to be one of the most difficult situations anyone is ever faced with :s Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
Would it help to unpick it slowly?
Your husband has gaps in his memory. Has he ever seen a very skilled therapist in confidence? Given the situation and his current job it would have to be a skilled one, not an average counsellor. If those gaps in his memory suddenly begin to disappear, he couldhave a lot of stuff to deal with that could temporarily throw him off balance, possibly quite badly.
But he would KNOW what had happened or what had not.
Of the things he can remember, write them down as they occur to him over a 2 week period. The broken boundaries, the weirdnesses. He has to be honest with himself.
If what (probably) happened was found out, what realistically would happen at work? A lot of his fear probably comes actually from self-loathing inside, but given his work it has to be faced that if things came out it might affect his job and his work.
My own view: it sounds like you and he both believe that it probably happened. Because of that I think myself that you need to balance two things out: can he survive at all if this comes out? You have to think of yourselves. But if he can survive at all, then I think that you should speak to this other couple. I do think you have to get his agreement to speak to them first though. Maybe raise it very gently and give him time to think first but
Your consciences are both clearly weighing on you on this one. Clarity of conscience is beyond price. Living with this sort of concealment can be so corroding for some people and at a guess you are both those sort of people.
About the malicious lies thing. Because you do believe that on balance there is a good chance the abuse happened -and with the list of heavily broken boundaries that he's written down- it would not be a case of maliciously spreading rumours. It'd be a case of two people acting in good faith. It is still just possible you would be mistaken, but you have to act in good faith on the basis of the information you have and the strong probabilities of the case.
In the end if you two are convinced enough that something happened to the extent you won't leave her alone with your son (and my god, are you ever right to do that) - she shouldn't be left alone with theirs.
Has anyone ever spoken to your mil about this? Not that I think she'd admit if it it's true, but she might reveal something through her replies. I'm not sure how your dh goes on with the limbo of thinking she abused him, and still seeing her - and letting his ds see her.
While he is the victim in all this, I can't help thinking how I'd feel if I was the other boys' mother, and they were abused and someone had known they were at risk.
It seems to be the not knowing for sure that causes the paralysis here, so maybe that needs to be looked at through counselling, as others have suggested.
I think the things he definitely remembers are a good starting point for the rest of it.
Could you give an example?
for you and your dh.
Could your dh pop round to the boys' family one day
preferably when he just happens to be in uniform on some other police type business and without giving them any personal information mention that he knows his mother babysits for them and that he doesn't leave his own dc unaccompanied with her. If they ask why not, he doesn't need to say anything except that it's confidential but that there are other good babysitters locally that he could recommend.
Get your husband into therapy as soon as possible but don't expect a quick/any solution.
The other boys might not be at risk, it might just be her own offspring that she was too familiar with. But, it might be worth letting the other mother know that you don't leave your ds with your mil.
I think at some point this is going to come to a head in the sense that you are going to have to tell MIL some reason why contact with your children is limited.
I'm not sure that helps your dilemma in the sense that if there was abuse MIL would just say - here's a full and frank confession thus making a forward path clear. However (assuming a therapist concurs) it may be worth considering addressing this head on with MIL.
Wrt the boy's I think you have to put their welfare first - above your DH and MIL.
I don't think you need to provide full details, simply say you feel unable to leave your own kids unsupervised with her as a result of childhood recollections. Say you have no proof of any improper behaviour and for this reason you wish the discussion to remain confidential.
I really feel for you - it's a really tough situation
What an impossible situation.
I agree with counselling - but with somebody who understands the complexities - not all counsellors are the same. Maybe organisation for survivors of childhood abuse could offer advice on how to go about choosing one.
Somehow broaching the subject with MIL might be a way forward. Her replies might shed some light.
As for talking to parents of boys I would imagine they would be petrified and run a mile. Would it be awful to make up a white lie? eg You have suspicions MIL might be developing dementia so not safe to leave her with small children - but explain they mustn't raise this with her! Or is that bad in itself? My moral compass can wobble on these sort of matters - greater good and all that.
I am so sorry you are going through this. Sure more people will come along with a better plan.
It's a terrible situation to be in. Female victims of rape and sexual abuse are generally advised to get themselves help and support and told that contacting the police etc is a matter of personal choice. They are also not considered culpable if their abuser does on to abuse others. I don't think your husband deserves different advice just because he is male.
Apologies feeding DS so only one hand to type but thank you so much for all your replies. It's just such a relief to be able to sense-check, albeit anonymously. Sorry for not naming everyone you've all been so kind. To address some of the questions:
I agree DP needs counselling. Unfortunately financing it would be very difficult for us, as I imagine it would be very regular and very long term. A few sessions is one thing but we don't have the kind of money to commit to weekly sessions for months. Does anyone have any experience of accessing decent counselling through the NHS?
I don't want to give specifics as feel even on here it's not my place, but trust me that the things he remembers were VERY borderline. I'm ashamed to say my initial reaction to hearing the specifics, in a cack-handed attempt to make him feel better, was to say they could just be the actions of someone narcissistic/ self-centred/ with limited understanding of her child as a seperate entity, rather than deliberately sexual. I wish I hadn't though, as I think it's meant that he's now neatly boxed it up in his head as 'my mother is a narcissistic pita but not necessarily a pervert' but hasn't really dealt with it. I think he has felt better, but now it's even worse to drag it all out again. I feel so guilty for trying to talk to him about it. Last time I brought it up he just froze, wouldn't talk to me, and eventually cried and said now I knew he was a bad person bc he wouldn't do anything about it . I love him so much and am so proud of him - he has no idea I think - how on earth do I hurt him like this by bringing it up again??
He also massively minimises, and tries to look for alternative explanations. His elder brother is virtually NC with her and has never said why , but recently effectively said he might tell DP why when she dies. DP just says 'it's probably about something else' . I've wondered if DP could try to talk to his brother, more in a general 'do you know of any reasons why we shouldn't leave DS with Mum?' type way in the hope that might provide some kind of confirmation but I don't think he can even face that. To say they aren't close is an understatement.
I also wonders as some people have suggested about just telling the couple we don't leave DS with her but we don't feel able to say why as no proof. (Incidentally atm my excuse is exclusive breastfeeding (though I'm not) and will be just that I want to spend time with him before going back to work. When I do though she knows we 'll have huge childcare issues so it's going to be very hard to continually fob her off.) but yes the couple - I think if I was told that, whatever my reservations, I'd make discreet excuses to never leave my child with the person again and not pry further. But DP says they won't accept without details/ might tell MIL/ it won't make any difference - I think this is his fear talking but am I being unrealistic? What would other people do if given similar info?
I'm at my wits end with this. Desperately want to support DP but think as people have said, safeguarding the children needs to come first- just really hope I can somehow get him onside. I am actually going to see a counsellor for six sessions I've accessed free through work about something totally different , but am very tempted to talk about this instead. DP could also get six free sessions but would not be with a specialist and I worry six sessions would be just enough to open the can of worms but not to resolve anything. Argh.
As I say apologies this is a bit abrupt/ disjointed / ranty - typing one-handed on phone and now I've started offloading it's very hard to stop! Really thank you all so much for your replies.
Firstly, I am so sorry you are going through this dilemma. You must be so torn. I agree with PPs who have said that this is not something you should sit on.
I think talking to your BIL about his reasons for being NC with their mother could be absolutely key in finding out what happened to your DH during his childhood. IME, I don't think people cut family members out for 'minor' reasons. It seems like a rather large coincidence for your brother to have fragmented memories of terrible events, and a brother who won't open up about the reasons for cutting out their mother, iyswim?
There may be other reasons why your BIL has cut your MIL out, but if it is to do with the abuse, it would make sense for your BIL to keep quiet about it 'until she dies'. He probably thinks that your DH either didn't experience the abuse too, or has forgotten about it and therefore BIL doesn't want to open the wound.
Could your H's work perhaps provide him with some counselling?
Gosh thank you for trying to put more details forward. Think it is quite telling that brother is NC with mother and doesn't want to talk about it either. Is there anything stopping the brothers being close? Could DH not approach brother to help him understand what might have happened. But as I type this I wonder if that will just muddy his own memory, as it is fragile anyway.
No experience of nHa counselling. Only private for a totally different issue. Think an org that deals with child sex abuse survivors (will search for one online - have heard about one relating to national enquiry into historic sexual abuse - not what your DH is concerned with but might give advice).
If it was me and the son of somebody who was babysitting for me gave any hint of abuse I would run a mile and probably stop all contact with the babysitter. Sorry. Am fairly paranoid and pessimistic. Wouldn't want anything like that near my children. Not sure how others would react but can't see parents just shrugging and saying "oh ok then" and carrying on with the relationship even with less contact. Sorry if that makes things more difficult for you - maybe others will disagree with me. As I said before I would make another excuse to parents and hope that works - am fairly devious and non confrontational
Thank you preciousbane for suggesting NAPAC. Couldn't remember the name . So sorry about your experiences.
Even if you lie to the parents of the boys you HAVE to do something. Tell them she is secretly an alcoholic, this will mean that if they ask her about it and she denies it then she could just be lying. Also gives you opening to make it clear that she is not trusted to look after your dc.
You can't force your husband to deal this head on bit you MUST take steps to safe gaurd the children.
Wrt your husband I suggest you personally call the number above and ask for their advice in handling him. You need to be very frank and specific to get useful guidance.
His brother is the key to unlocking all this. If he doesn't feel able to say the words to him offer to do it under his supervision. Suggest calling him and asking him to give him his honest opinion about wether you should leave your dc with him.
This is in no way accusatory but if his brother has the samevconcerns it's an opening.
Look op, I have quite extensive experience of dealing with victims if abuse having been one multiple times and supported a fair few along the way. If you want to pm me so I can be more specific help then go ahead.
I was going to name change, but I wanted to post before I changed my mind.
I have some indirect experience of your position and it is truly awful. Here is a thinking exercise suggested by a professional in child protection that helped me.
'What is the worst that could happen'
And work from there. In the instance I am thinking of, my biggest fear would be that the child would turn round in 20, 30 years time and say
'I was abused. You suspected. And did nothing. It went on for years. And no one stopped it'
For me, that made a course of action far clearer. That was far more important than protecting an adults sensibilities, someone HAD to act to get the children out of the situation, somehow, then worry about the fallout later.
I really feel for you.
Further to your last post OP I think speaking to your DH about a dialogue with his brother is the way to go.
He could open a conversation with "I don't allow my kids to be alone with our mother - do you know why?"
The sadnesses here is the shame and embarrassment victims can feel that enables the secrecy and enables further abuse.
In terms of this dilemma I think your DH speaking to his brother - though I appreciate this is a big and difficult step would be important.
Think of it this way - how would either of you feel if in 10 years time you get contacted by someone experiencing the same turmoil as your DH, asking for information- only to find it was one of these boys or their partner (like you) trying to help them?
The patterns only get broken when someone takes the hugely courageous step of talking about what happened.
I don't have experience of this but it seems to me two different things are going on here that need to be resolved but the solutions will lie,y be different. There isn't going to be one thing that solves both.
1) Protection of the other little boys
2) Resolution for your DH.
I think you can speak to the parents. Maybe tell them you, DH and DH's brother find MIL 'unpredictable' and that you wanted to let them know you can't recommend her as a babysitter.
My instinct is: this whole situation needs professional navigation. Start with your GP.
So in the course of a lengthy session of taking turns trying to get DS to bed (because sleep regression is the best time to also be worrying about all this...) DP was footling round in my laptop and saw this thread. He says we'll talk on his next days off. So now I guess if anyone has anything further to add it's for both of us?
You've had good advice. I just wanted to say good luck to you both in attempting to resolve this
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