Abused kids, shattered family.

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

IN THE FALL MY OLDEST STEPSON TOLD MY HUSBAND AND ME ABOUT BEING SEXUALLY ABUSED SOMEWHERE BETWEEN 5-7YRS AGO BY A RELATIVE. MY STEPSONS MOTHER KNEW ALL ALONG. SHE TOLD MY 2 STEPSONS THAT IF THEY TOLD THEIR DAD THAT HE WOULD “KILL” HER NEPHEW(THE ABUSER) AND THAT HE WOULD TAKE THEM FROM HER “FOREVER”, AND SHE WOULD BE PUT IN JAIL. THE BOYS WERE TOLD TO KEEP IT A SECRET. THE ABUSE WAS APPARENTLY REPEATED SEVERAL TIMES.

SHE ADMITTED AT FIRST THAT SHE DID KNOW, BUT NOW THAT WE HAVE INVOLVED LEGAL ISSUES SHE SAYS SHE JUST FOUND OUT WHEN WE DID. ANYWAY, AS STRESSFUL AS ALL OF THIS HAS BEEN, MY HUSBAND NOW FEELS LIKE THE VICTIM WITH ALL OF THE LIES BEING TOLD. NO ONE IN HIS FAMILY BELIEVES US. SINCE I AM NOT BLOOD RELATED, I HAVE NO SAY IN ANYTHING WHICH REALLY MAKES ME FEEL USELESS. MY HUSBAND GOES TO APPTS AND CALLS HIS “FAMILY” WHEN HE RETURNS HOME TO LET THEM KNOW HOW EVERYTHING IS GOING. THE ONLY TIME I KNOW ANYTHING IS IF I ASK, AND I DON’T FEEL LIKE I HAVE ANY RIGHT ASKING.

WE HAVE BEEN MARRIED FOR 5YRS AND TOGETHER FOR 7YRS. THE BOYS HAVE BEEN IN MY LIFE FOR THE MOST PART OF THEIR LIVES. THEY ARE 11 AND 10. I ALSO HAVE A DAUGHTER FROM MY PREVIOUS MARRIAGE.

SHOULD I PICK UP AND LEAVE THE SITUATION ALL TOGETHER OR WHAT? I HAVE THOUGHTS ABOUT ENDING ALL MY STRESS AND FUSTRATION AND UPSET IN THE WRONG WAY AND IT SCARES ME THAT I COULD THINK OF THAT. THOSE CHILDREN ARE IN MY CARE ATLEAST HALF THE TIME AND ALWAYS HAVE BEEN UNLESS THEIR MOM GETS MAD AT MY HUSBAND.

I AM SO CONFUSED AND REALLY NEED HELP, I CAN’T SLEEP PEACEFULLY. MOST OF THE TIME I CAN’T EAT WITHOUT GETTING SICK. I AM SO WORRIED WHEN AT WORK THAT I WILL MAKE A HUGE MISTAKE . I CAN’T HANDLE LIFE LIKE THIS ANYMORE….I KNOW ASKING FOR ADVICE LIKE THIS IS CRAZY BUT I DON’T KNOW WHERE ELSE TO TURN. I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR ANYTHING ELSE.

A: What a hard, hard situation. The disclosure of the abuse of the boys has shattered your family. My guess is that your husband feels terrible that he didn’t notice that the kids were being abused. He’s scrambling to do the right thing for the boys and at the same time to preserve the extended family. The family is in denial and wants to make the whole thing go away. Of course they reject you. They know you won’t participate in the lies.

It seems that in his stress, your husband has forgotten that his strongest ally is you. You have been a primary parent for these kids for years and they were always safest in your care. When they were with you, they didn’t get abused and they didn’t need to be afraid. It’s probably because they’ve had a safe harbor that they eventually came forward.

Now you are feeling powerless to help and rejected by your husband. Being angry apparently doesn’t get you anywhere so instead you are getting seriously depressed. It’s time for a change. You need some support and some practical help. Get yourself a counselor and ask for help bringing your husband into therapy with you. You and your husband need to find ways to handle the situation with his family, give the boys the help they need, and at the same time preserve your marriage. Describing the specifics of all of that is too complicated for this column but a therapist who is experienced with issues around child abuse will know how to help.

There’s nothing worse than feeling stuck and trapped. I think if you take that first step and get yourself a counselor, you will start to feel better. I did a websearch for therapists in your city and was pleased to find that there are many qualified people there.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 26 Jan 2008

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). Abused kids, shattered family.. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/01/26/abused-kids-shattered-family/