What you do next is up to you, says Annalisa Barbieri. You have no responsibility to report him, and none for his behaviour
My mother always put men and herself before me. This included moving us in with her now husband after six weeks of knowing him. He is a wonderful man, but we also lived with his two sons, one of whom sexually abused me from the age of nine until 12. We then moved house and he didnt come with us, but he moved back in for six months when I was 14 and the abuse began again.
Fifteen years later, I have no contact with him, but of course, the family do. I recently gave birth to my daughter and I have started to feel angry all over again. I am angry that this man still gets support from my family and causes them worry (at over 35, he is still a waste of space). I also feel resentment and anger towards my mother for not protecting me from that situation over and over again. I feel she put her interest in my stepdad, and in drinking, over what was best for me. As a new mother, I struggle to accept her with my daughter.
She still has no idea about what happened to me. It would destroy her and her marriage, and I dont feel there is anything to gain from that. My stepdad knows what his son did; he guessed a few years ago. But he wont talk about it and acts as if nothing happened. I just want to be able to shut this Pandoras box again and move on with my beautiful family.
I am so sorry to hear what happened to you. It is very common, when you have a baby, to revisit parts of your past that hurt you and look anew at how you were parented. But I wonder if becoming a mother has made you afraid that your stepbrother may be a danger to your daughter or any other child.
Although that fear is something to consider, what you do next is up to you. I cant stress that enough it is so important to listen to survivors and to what they want. It would be easy for others to say that you should report your stepbrother, but you have no responsibility to do this, and none for his behaviour I double-checked with two specialist agencies, which agreed.
I also consulted a psychotherapist, Stuart Hannah (childpsychotherapy.org.uk). He said: Focus on what you want what can you change, what cant you change? This sounds basic, but it is a really useful, practical exercise in high-emotion situations. You said you wanted to close the box; that is an option. You could go on a recuperative journey with your beautiful family concentrate on the positives, live your life, Hannah said.
What is stopping you? What made you write to me? Do you want the anger to go away is it solely that? Do you want justice? Do you want, in fact, to talk to your mother? I understand how angry you are and how you feel your mother failed you. I also understand that you may fear telling her that she may not respond as you would like. It is a risk.
I was deeply concerned by your stepfathers inadequate response. You havent said how he knew or when he found out. Your description of him as wonderful contrasts sharply with how you describe your mother, who you say doesnt know. I wondered why.
What does your partner say? Is there anyone in the family you could, or might want to, talk to?
Revisiting memories of abuse is bound to raise difficult and conflicting feelings. What happened to you was entirely wrong and not your fault, but it has affected you deeply. Napac helps adults who were abused in childhood; it would be worth calling its helpline. You can speak anonymously to someone who understands what you have been through, but there is also useful information on its website. Stop It Now! is another useful organisation.
What to do? There are three options: a) do nothing and consider getting therapeutic help; b) talk to your mother; c) report your stepbrother. The organisations I mentioned can help you to decide, when you are ready.
For the moment, you dont have to do anything. It is perfectly OK for you to enjoy this special time with your daughter can you allow yourself this?
Hannah also suggested keeping a diary to write down and externalise your feelings. It may help more than you think.
Send your problem to [email protected]. Annalisa regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.
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