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SREED177, Family Counselor
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 220
Experience:  I have a Master's In Marriage and Family Therapy, and have been in the field for 4 years.
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We just found out that when our son was 11, he sexually molested

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We just found out that when our son was 11, he sexually molested his 5 year old sister. He is now 31 and she is 25. Our daughter has finally told us after 20 years. She confronted our son about it recently. He has apologized and feels terrible remorse for what he did to her. Our son is recently engaged and he does not yet know that our daughter told us about what happened. We're obviosly shocked and saddened, but our daughter feels better that she has told us and is prepared to move on with her life. Strangely enough, we are worried about our son, who has to live with this guilt and how it may affect his relationship with is future wife (who does not know). How can we help them both?

Well first since your daughter is the victim in this situation I think that it would be best to follow her lead. It seems as if this is something that she wants to move on from. So just allow that to happen. Tell her that you are here for her in case she wants to talk about it, and even ask her what you can do in order to make things better. But if she is ready to move on then accept that, it may be that she has dealt with the situation in her own way and she may not want to re open wounds or revisit the past.

As for your son, it was not acceptable for his to molest his sister at all. But it is possible that he may have just made a mistake. The things is that as adults this is something that your son and daughter need to deal with. If they both have settled the situation the last thing you want to do is to get involved. I know that as parents it is an urge to get involved, but you have to fight this urge because you getting in the middle may make it worse for everyone. Possibly even his future marriage. Like I said, he may have just made a mistake when he was young. If as an adult he is continuing to molest others, then this would of course need to be brought to the attention of others.

But lIke I said the best way to handle it is to ask your daughter if she would all like to talk as a family or how she best feels that she can be helped. And as the victim, follow her lead on what she wants to do. If she wants to leave things as they are, then just do that. If she wants to talk as a family then be prepared to do that as well. But only re-open the past, if it is okay with your daughter, since she is the one that is affected the most.

I know you want to get more involved, but sometimes if the wounds are healed, it best to let them be healed and not re-open them by bringing them up again. It seems like your daughter has dealt with the situation and is ready to move on. It also seems like your son feels remorseful and does not seem to be a habitual sex offender. So for now, just be there when she needs you and try not to force the issue too much.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thanks for your reply. While we don't truly believe that our daughter is going to "get past" the issue completely, we intend to respect her wishes and not force her to talk about it anymore with us or anyone else (therapist?). However, we have not talked to our son about it and we don't think he is going to get past the issue. Our daughter had a "troubled" childhood, adolescence, teenage period and young adulthood, She believes she can move on now that she unburdened herself by confronting her brother and telling us. But it is clear that she blames her brother for most of her problems over the past 20 years (lying, promiscuity, drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, etc.). We are very worried that our son will never forgive himself for something he did when he was 11 years old. Our daughter did have big problems growing up, but she seems to have gotten her act together (recently graduated college, has a good relationship with a boyfriend, more responsible, etc.). But now she has shifted her 20-year burden to our son and we are not sure how he is going to handle it. Any advice on how to help our son would be appreciated.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Relist: Answer came too late.
Dealing with this issue is fairly time sensitive. As I have not yet received a response to my followup question, I would appreciate another opinion. Thank you.
What makes you think your son is going to be burdened and can't handle it? It is something that happened many years ago.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Our daughter shared with us an email she received from our son. He stated that he was grief stricken about what he did and how it has affected her for the past 20 years. They have both kept this hidden from us for 20 years and the two of them never talked about it until just recently. I know he loves his sister dearly. My wife and I have always marveled at how they always seemed like best friends - even though 6 yrs apart in age. It's possible that over the past 20 yrs he was hoping that it would never come back to haunt him and maybe our daughter would simply forget. Now it is out in the open (between just us, though he is unaware that our daughter told us) and he is soon to be married. His fiance doesn't know and we're pretty sure he wouldn't want her to know. But he is now dealing with this burden of knowing how his sister feels. They have recently stopped communicating and it is obvious to our son's fiance that something has recently happened between our son and daughter since they appeared to be very close siblings. We would like to help him (give him some advice - whatever that is) but we're not even sure if we should bring it up. He is hurting badly and, in turn, it has deeply saddened my wife and me.

The situation is very delicate with you and your son. I am going to weigh the pros and cons with you to assist you in making a more informed decision on what you can do. First, if you come to your son about the issues. He more than likely is going to be ashamed and embarrassed to talk to you about it, because he does not feel like you know. So if you want to talk to him about it. The best thing would be to try to hold a family meeting with the parents, son, and daughter...possibly with a counselor present, to bring the issue out delicately. I think that this is the best way to talk about the subject with your son and daughter without causing too much of a problem. And even if this meeting happens, there may still be outburst, embarrassment, and hurt feelings.

As I mentioned before, ask your daughter if this is something that you can bring up to your son. I do not suggest bringing it up without her permission. If you do, she may feel hurt, betrayed, and as if you interfered with something that she had told you. If she agrees that it is okay, then you can talk to your son (if your daughter wants to be involved then invite her, if not then with her permission with just the three of you), but as mentioned, he is not going to feel comfortable about it, and it will bring about embarrassment and possible a change in your relationship. So I really do recommend having a professional present when you decide to speak with him about what happened. They will be able to navigate the situation with him and you present without making it too uncomfortable. Do not involved his fiance of anyone just yet until you have a chance to talk about what went on with just you three.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thanks again for your reply. Our daughter told us that our son agreed to tell us what happened. That was part of her plan to unburden herself. So she is fully prepared for my wife and I to have a discussion with our son about it. We believe he still plans to speak to us about it, whether he approaches us or we approach him. The last few weeks have not been the best time for him to start that process as he just got engaged to be married last week. In the meantime, our daughter just told us yesterday, but our son doesn't know she did so. Group counseling is probably not an option as our son lives in another state. Our daughter has stated clearly that she does not want to do counseling (group or otherwise) and doesn't want to be involved in our discussion with our son. Certainly our son is going to be embarrassed and shamed to talk to us about it, but we just want to guide him as to how to go about forgiving himself, making amends and moving on to live a happy life with his fiance.

I think that you can approach him. You can say something like. "Son I want to talk to you ____(your daughter) has told us that something has happened in your childhood that has upset both you and there anything that you would like tell us about it." This way you leave the door open for him to tell you what has happened without you outright saying it. You give him the chance to tell you what happened, what he remembers, and how it has been affecting him. Try to approach him in an open way. Stay away from words like "molested" it is going to make it worse. You can ask him if there was any inappropriate touching between the two. Also stay away from words like "you did" instead say "why don't you tell us what happened" by using more open words and not accussing words, it will make a better way for him to be open in talking to you about it. And do it with just you three no one else in the home. When things get heated, leave him alone and say "when your ready to talk we will be here, we love you are we are not here to judge" always be open and positive so that he will want to talk to you and remind him that you are worried about him and your daughter and you just want your family to be whole.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you again. I think your suggestion of how to speak with him is on the right track. This is going to be extremely difficult for all of us. I assume you think it would be good advice to suggest to him that individual counseling might be helpful, especially if he cannot get over feelings of guilt and shame.

Yes I think individual counseling is in order. But one again, try to chose your words wise, you do not want to come across as telling him what to do. Say something like "Son we are very worried about you, and want you to have someone to talk to, do you think that you can benefit from a counselor?" Saying it this way make him think it was his idea, since the subject is so delicate you do not want him to think your telling him to go to counseling because he is a monster or something is wrong with him. You want him to think that you are concerned about his overall well being, and you are. But you want him to get that this is how you are feeling.
SREED177, Family Counselor
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 220
Experience: I have a Master's In Marriage and Family Therapy, and have been in the field for 4 years.
SREED177 and other Parenting Specialists are ready to help you