Saturday, June 4, 2011

When Things Go Bad Between Siblings

“Ask Amy” by Amy Dickinson got a letter from a mother who is dealing with some of the worst kind of family drama. Be warned of possible triggers.

First off, I was a good mother to my children. I raised them with much love and was always there for them growing up and through adulthood.

About two years ago out of the blue, my daughter (age 40) tells me that her brother (two years older) molested her when they were children. I was shocked, to say the least. I told her I was so sorry, and didn’t know what to say.

When she told me the story, I felt so bad for her. But that wasn’t enough. She apparently wanted me to totally take her side and turn against her brother. My son and I are very close. I know she is very jealous of that.

She and I have had many problems since her father passed away. She has been depressed and has made lots of mistakes.

Amy Dickinson replied…

You are not a good mother. You might have done your best when your children were younger, but you are not doing your best now, and there is no acceptable excuse for that.

Your daughter’s depression, poor judgment and fury can be traced to being molested as a child.

Amy is right, if the daughter is accurately recalling real events in which her brother forced himself on her. If that is the case, then he probably was molested himself and has probably molested others and should be stopped and brought to justice.

But I do note that there is just a two year age difference, and we aren’t given the age or time frame for the alleged abuse. If he was 7 and she was 5, that is different than if he was 16 and she was 14. Either way, it could still have been molestation. 30 year-olds rape 28 year-olds, for example. But the older they were when this happened, the less significant the age difference. Many therapists do not consider it molestation if, for example, there is uncoercive sexual contact between a 13 year-old and an 11 year-old. That is considered experimentation, it isn’t uncommon, and some siblings mutually enjoy and benefit from it... especially if they are both in their teens. And it is possible for someone, decades later, to forget or deny their willingness to experiment and come to think of it as molestation. There have also been cases where nothing at all took place and someone comes to believe, as an adult, that they were molested. Especially if they are troubled from other things. Once they get their head clear, they may recant.

Unfortunately, we don’t have enough information from the letter. Also unfortunately, some people lump all sexual activity between siblings, even close in age, into the same bad category, which unduly brings feelings of guilt and shame.

No matter what, things are going to be rough for the mother who wrote that letter. Either her son is being falsely accused by her confused daughter, or her son is an abuser and her daughter is justifiably angry.
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