#108 Silence serves only the molester
Dear Annie: I am 22, engaged, working on a master's degree in child psychology and in a very
Two years ago, my fiancé's sister revealed to her family that "Grandpa Joe" had molested her as a child. After she told her parents, her mother shared that she, too, had been molested by the same man (her father).
After a lot of crying and discussing, their family decided it was best to do nothing in order to avoid social embarrassment. I disagreed, but felt it was not my place to say anything.
Both women have gone to counseling and are doing well. But they also decided not to share this information with my fiancé’s uncle, who is married and has two daughters. They worry that his wife would react violently and could harm Grandpa Joe if she found out.
All of my education, training and intuition tell me these girls may have already been abused. However, if I say anything, I would be undermining the family decision. Even if these girls haven't been abused, the parents should be told not to leave them alone with Grandpa.
The family wants to ignore it. How can I do what's right without causing a rift? —Not Family Yet
Dear Not Family: It takes courage to report a family member to the police.
Talk to your fiancé and ask him to speak to his mother and sister. Offer to go with him as someone with background in this area. Explain that if the other granddaughters have been abused, they need counseling, and if they have not been abused, they should be warned. Keeping quiet protects only Grandpa. —Annie
Hi Not Family: Two years ago?? I’m shuddering at the thought of you counseling others about this very same problem. No matter what your mind tells you this is not about Grandpa or anyone other than you. It's your integrity at work.
What if, in a few months or years from now, one of the girls revealed to you that "coincidentally" on the day you were wrestling with what’s right, writing letters and sounding truly concerned, that on that very same evening, was when Grandpa began his first physical violation of her?
I question whether psychology is your chosen profession. What in the heck are you doing still dating a man with such a dysfunctional family? Do you honestly think you can heal him and the entire clan? Even after writing, “All of my education, training and intuition tell me…” you still weren’t/aren’t automatically driven to handle the problem immediately regardless of the consequences. You’re more concerned about rifts and what others think than the abuse of the girls. I assure you the nonverbal emanations, the persistent leering, from Grandpa Joe are extremely unhealthy.
Re: "How can I do what's right without causing a rift?" You can't. When you see someone about to be bit by a rattler the natural reaction (your responsibility) is to immediately cause a rift; later you can apologize for the abusive yell or yank on their arm.
The fact that your fiancé enables them is a predictor of the kinds of problems you’ll be dealing with. Keep in mind that the prevailing leadership-communication model used within that family causes, rewards, and empowers child abuse. Each one of them, the leader in his/her own right, require hours upon hours of therapy, equal to the amount it will take to heal Grandpa which as you know from your studies is presently considered unrealistic.
For your fiancé to dump this in your space is not a gift of love. It’s unethical. He has no business dating until he resolves this problem. There are two things he needs to do to resolve this: First he need to at least try to effect open and honest communication throughout the whole family, zero thoughts withheld, and then, when he fails to effect an agreement by everyone to attend therapy, he needs to estrange himself from the family. To estrange himself he needs to give each the following ultimatum: "All of you must complete xn hours of counseling/therapy before I’ll interact with any of you ever again."
How did your fiancé know, with considerable certainty, that you wouldn’t take immediate action and do whatever it took to resolve the problem (within hours)? The answer is that he does not respect you. There’s something about your leadership-communication skills that communicates (mostly likely nonverbally) that your integrity is out. He simply wouldn’t dump such a problem in the space of someone he admired and respected. He would know that it would assault your very sensibilities, that it would in fact be abusive to you. You fear what will happen to the family and your relationship with him if you handle the situation correctly and that alone should tell you that you’re playing with the wrong family.
People who need therapy attract/choose partners who need therapy so as to be better-than and to hide what they themselves need to work on. People who are whole and complete automatically attract partners who are whole and complete. I suspect you have one or more incompletes with your parents; there are no accidents. For you to dump this problem in your parent's space communicates volumes about your relationship with them.
This problem becomes truly serious for you if, after reading this reply, you continue interacting with any of them. You simply don’t have the leadership-communication skills to effect a transformation within that family. It’s something you were supposed to have learned much earlier. Notice that the way you communicate (relate) doesn't naturally inspire healing.
If you, or any reader, would like step-by-step advice about how to handle this please register (free) and press the Reply button; keep in mind you must be willing to complete your relationship with your fiancé and his family. —With aloha, Gabby