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Are we looking at generations of abuse?

Updated: September 5, 2013 4:33PM

Dear Cheryl: I’m the mother of three. My eldest son, age 31, recently confided in me that his male cousin (my sister’s oldest son) molested him when he was about 7 or 8. My nephew would have been 9 or 10. My son said my niece, 10, walked in on them and her brother stopped. My niece would have been about 14.

A few weeks ago, my sister accused my son of molesting her youngest son. Both my son and younger nephew deny this happened. Now that I know that my oldest nephew molested my son, I believe he also may have molested his younger brother.

My son has sworn me to secrecy. I am forbidden to share this information with my sister or confront my oldest nephew or his sister. My son refuses therapy. He says he doesn’t see the value of talking about this. The only reason he told me was so that I would stop trying to get him to move in with my oldest nephew. He’s afraid that if my nephew lies and denies the abuse, he will kill him.

I read your column frequently and am asking you and your readers what should be done to help my son deal with this. Also, how should I handle this issue with respect to my sister’s sons? (She worships her eldest son and despises the younger one.) — WORRIED MOM, SISTER AND AUNT

Dear WMSAA: You can’t make your adult son do anything, but you can strongly advise him that there is value in discussing what happened to him with a professional who has experience with sexual abuse of children. Ask him to please do it for your sake, if not for his own. Tell him you’re not suggesting that he sign up for a lifetime of therapy, but that he agree to see a counselor once or twice.

Explain that he may be living with the consequences of the molestation and not even know it. It may be holding him back and influencing his life in ways he’s not even aware of. I’m assuming he’s not married or in a relationship or independent by the fact that you want him to have a roommate.

Just the fact that he’s afraid he’ll “kill” his cousin is evidence that he’s still living with the trauma. With therapy, he may be able to confront him and bring the whole thing out in the open. And that’s of the utmost importance because his cousin may still be molesting children.

As for your sister, she’s obviously aware that someone has been molested, she’s just placing the blame on the wrong person. Until your son is ready to bring the whole thing out in the open, you have to respect his wishes and keep silent. But you can tell your sister that your son is innocent and her younger son backs him up.

As for your nephew, children who molest other children have usually been molested themselves. There may be some deep, dark family secrets that need to be revealed so that all the victims can start to heal and all the perpetrators can be punished.

Readers, what advice would you give WORRIED MOM, SISTER, AND AUNT?

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