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Suzanne, Therapist, LCSW
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 919
Experience:  Experienced in treating trauma, relationship issues, co-dependency
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Can a teen molest his younger sister and then not remember

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Can a teen molest his younger sister and then not remember it? A senior citizen confides that his younger sibling told him that while she cannot remember exactly who molested her, she has a strong "spiritual belief" it was her older brother. Her age at the time was 4. His was 12. He is now in his sixties. He has said that he did not ever molest her. She says he "probably forgot about it". Hence the problem. I am in the middle and am trying to make peace.

So is it likely that if the brother did molest his sister, he could forget a thing like that?

And how much weight should be put on the memory of the sister or her spiritual suspicions. I have read that if a person "thinks they were molested" they probably were. So I do not doubt her credibity, or sincerety. But I do not doubt the same for her brother.


Thank you for bringing this question to Just Answer.


Even though this incident happened 60 years ago, I doubt (but no one could say for sure) that this would be an incident one would forget. That said, if it were a one time occurrence, a person could certainly, out of shame, push it out of their memory. Remember that 60 years ago, sexual abuse was not the openly discussed issue it is today. That isn't to say it didn't happen, because it certainly did, but that the "label" didn't exist. Many men who perpetrated before sexual abuse was defined and publicized call what they did "fooling around" or "just touching" and most of them felt at the time it (and it pains me to even type this) that what happened was "no big deal." Given that attitude, the time period, and the lack of significance it was given back then, it would be possible for a man to convince himself he did nothing wrong.


Without a clear memory, I would suggest the woman go into counseling. She needs help dealing with the feelings of violation and lack of trust that can arise from the experience of being molested.


Rather than try to get the brother to admit to something, the energy should be put into helping this woman heal. It is possible that the person who actually did this is someone else--very often the victim cannot bear the pain of remembering that a parent or grandparent was the perpetrator. This is a minefield that needs to be dealt with in therapy.


The method I have found helpful in working with people who have a strong feeling that "something bad happened when I was young" is EMDR. The true damage of abuse and neglect is the distorted, negative self-image the victim is left with. EMDR (eye movement desensitization & reprocessing) can help correct the victim's self-image, and takes the painful emotions out of the memories. Here is a link to a video that gives an explanation and demonstration of the technique:

CBS video report on EMDR


Without a clear memory, it will only be destructive to continue trying to figure out who might have done this. Sometimes the victim supresses the memory of who did this to her because that memory is too painful--someone who she should have been able to trust completely. This especially happens in families where the father or grandfather is thought to be "a very good man who would never do such a thing."


Most therapists who deal with adults with long ago abuse put the focus on the effect the abuse has had, rather than on who did it (especially when prosecution isn't possible). While the idea of an apology is appealing, an apology alone will not heal the damage that was done. If she is open to working on this issue, you could find an EMDR therapist in your area through these links:

Therapists trained in EMDR


I hope she makes the decision to heal this trauma so you can get out of the middle of this situation.





Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thank you for your very thorough and informative answer. I will watch the link video you gave me and also refer both of them to it as well.

At this point, the brother is not admitting to doing anything; and insists that if anything ever happened, he has no memory of it. I really do not know why the sister, even though she admits she cannot remember who, suspects her brother. It would be so much easier if he admitted to it (assuming he was the perpetrator) and they could work through it. But he is absolutely adamant that he does not recall every behaving inappropriately towards his younger sister.

At any rate, I think it is time for me to "pass them" off to someone in your profession who may be able to actually help them.

Thanks again for your answer.

You're very welcome...I hope she decides to get some help (him too, if it turns out he was the perpetrator.)


Please click ACCEPT so I get credited for this correspondence. It's been a pleasure working with you,


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