#386: Facing down a predator.

Behind a cut for discussions of sexual abuse.

Hi Captain Awkward,

  I don’t know if you appreciate trigger warnings, since most of what you deal with sounds like it would apply, but this letter is about my dad who molested me.  

When I was starting puberty, my dad molested me.  I told my mom, but she told me to tell him to knock it off if he was making me uncomfortable, and there was a resulting crapfest when things were ‘discovered’ years later.  He promised he never touched my younger sibling, and that he never would.  I knew nothing about the possible recourse you could have about this until he told me that if I told authorities, he’d go to prison and be murdered there, and my family would be ruined.  This is a preface to him doing the same thing to my sibling after I moved out.  I wish I had warned my sibling, but … I totally failed there.

A while ago, there was another explosion of family drama during the course of this, in which he really proved to me that he’s still a pretty fucked up person (and he was worse than I knew before), and my sibling and I both cut off contact with him for our well-being, and I now pay lots of money for therapy, since apparently repression isn’t working?  My mom (who wants us to make up) told me he’s thinking about moving pretty far away and living with his family, but he doesn’t want to leave until he’s settled things with us.  Here’s my dilemma (it isn’t whether or not I have to settle things with him; I hate to say it, but my life is just a lot easier): my extended family contains a whole ‘nother generation of kids.  And as an uncle, he could plausibly be seen as a potential baby-sitter.  None of them know.  Now, I’ve (mostly) given up on pressing charges to protect other people, because it would be terrible and miserable, and I… honestly don’t know that it would do any good (if you think I’m wrong, feel free to chime in; I feel pretty hopeless, though).  But, I do think I should pick one of HIS siblings, and explain what the deal is.  Whether or not it is appropriate, I feel incredibly guilty for what happened to my younger sibling, who I thought I could protect without saying anything to.  My dad’s side of the family has been encouraging me to mend fences, and they’re kind of old school, no airing the family’s dirty laundry types, and though we’re not close, I’m worried about them alienating me over this, or accusing me of lying, or… thinking it’s no big deal?

So, I’m not sure what to do.  Is my instinct in talking to one of my dad’s siblings a good one?  Is there something better I can do that would actually protect other kids?  Does that mean pressing charges?  I don’t even know about the statue of limitations (it’s been more than a decade since he abused me like that) or anything in my state.  If it is okay to talk to my dad’s sibling, do you have any script suggestions?  You’re really good at those, which is why I wrote in.  Honestly, whether or not he’s changed in the past year (alleges my mom), he was pretty unstable last year, and without giving you even more identifying info, I just … I think he could hurt someone else.  He was emotionally and verbally abusive basically my whole childhood and adolescence as well, and his family remembers him from before he was like this.  My goal is not to make his family not accept him, and although I understand I can’t control other people’s actions, I don’t have an adequate model for what they might do.  Ignore me?  Disown him?  Continue to shove the dirty laundry in the kitchen cabinets and hope nothing bad comes of it?

Any advice?  I just wish someone would have looked out for me or my sibling.  This sucks.
Thank you.

What is your mom’s favorite condiment? Ketchup? Sriracha? BBQ sauce? Mayo? I need to know so I can pour it all over this bag of dicks I’d like her to eat for the way she failed to protect you and your younger sibling when you bravely told her what your dad was up to and for the way she is pressuring you now to “make up” and making the question of whether your dad stays or goes all your problem. So here’s your first script:

Mom, there’s no way for Dad to ‘settle things with us.’ He molested us. We don’t have to forgive him or settle things. Closure is something he needs to get for himself, by getting treatment for the fact that he rapes children and making sure he is never around them. That’s not something we have to forgive, and fuck you for pressuring us about this. If you and he really cared about settling things, you would both inform (family where he’s moving to) that he’s in treatment for being a pedophile and make sure that they don’t leave their kids around him. That would at least show me that he WANTS to change. I am done helping you cover this up and smoothing this over.”

Run it by your therapist, rehearse it, change it as necessary. Maybe before you talk to your mom you can tell the story to close friends and people on Team You just to get it off your chest and stop carrying it by yourself. Maybe you need the experience of being believed and listened to before you try to slay the dragon in its lair.

The whole thing where your dad’s family is “old school, no airing dirty laundry”-types is a translation for “It’s okay if people in our family rape each other, we have this way of using silence to pressure victims into keeping quiet so that no one has to feel TOO awkward at the holidays.” So, also, fuck those people. And fuck the idea that “We’re a family!” somehow erases fucked up things that people do to each other and carries an obligation to forgive and to continually expose yourself to creepy assholes in the name of some greeting-card idea of what family is. If your family wants to have those Hallmark holidays, maybe they shouldn’t rape each other.

Modified script for your dad’s family:

It’s sweet that you want us to mend fences, but our dad MOLESTED us, and that’s not something I feel like forgiving right now just so you can feel okay about it. Howabout I won’t go anywhere that he will be, and you never ever bring this topic up with me again and also do your part to make sure he is not around kids ever again. That’s probably as mended as we’re going to get.

If they treat you like you’re lying and you’re the one making it weird, they have just delivered a clear message that they are not safe people for you to be around. Tell me where to send those bags of dicks. There is so much pressure on you to keep silent in order to preserve everyone’s feelings but yours, what if you didn’t try to save their feelings? What if you prioritized your own safety and told the truth and let people believe what they want to?

If they say you’re lying, you can say “Don’t you think I wish it weren’t true? Do you think it’s fun to have to tell you this? Believe whatever you want. I will not be in the same room with that guy ever again, for any reason, and if you are smart you will stop him from ever being around kids.”  And then walk on up out of there and go to where there are people who believe you.

One thing you may well hear is “Isn’t that ancient history?” or “But that’s all in the past now, why can’t you move on?” or “Can’t you just forgive and forget?” or “We don’t air our dirty laundry in public” or other sentences from Silencing Techniques 101: Guilting the Victims into Going Away.


“Unfortunately the memories are still fresh, and I can’t erase them just to make you feel better about it.”

“Yeah, I wish I could just forget what happened, but I can’t. I didn’t get raped AT you.”

“I will never forget. Maybe someday I’ll be able to forgive, but that’s not really your timeline to decide.”

“Yeah, this IS a super-uncomfortable topic. You know what else is uncomfortable? Having your whole family side with your rapist so that they don’t have to feel awkward.”

“What’s worse – raping kids, or telling the truth about rapists who rape kids? Because from the way you’re talking about ‘dirty laundry’, I almost think you think it’s worse to tell the truth than it is to rape somebody. Are you sure that’s the hill you want to die on?”

If you don’t want to get into details with family, a good blanket script might be “I’ve decided it’s better for me if Dad and I don’t talk anymore, and probably the less we talk about that the better you’ll like him.

I’m paraphrasing an old comment here, I think by PFC Marie, along the lines of “You think I’m afraid of an awkward social situation? Motherfucker, I’ve been RAPED. You think sitting through a weird Thanksgiving dinner is somehow worse than that?

Can you and your sibling talk and make a united front and decision about this? I think that would be a good idea if you can swing it. That is someone who will DEFINITELY believe you about what happened. I think it’s possible that this family probably has a lot of sad and tragic secrets hiding out. Stuff like what your dad did doesn’t happen in a vacuum. So other people besides you might benefit from your refusal to just shut up and take it for some stupid idea of family unity. You might find a whole pocket of family members who have fled the main group and who are hiding out on the sidelines like you.

As to whether you have a moral obligation to tell other family, I’ll refer you to this post by PFC Marie. The post and the comments are pure gold.

But I may as well tell you now, I believe any sentence that has “moral obligation” in it is trying to fuck with you. Not that I don’t believe in moral obligations. I have some! But they are obligations I have made, for myself, per my own code of conduct. As far as I can tell. The thing is, it’s hard to know sometimes whether your “moral obligation” is a value you personally hold, or actually just a socially sanctioned whipping stick that’s crept into your head.

I bristle whenever I hear the moral obligation line, because it seems to me to be the nicer, more benign end of the victim-blaming stick. Nobody’s telling you the abuse was your fault, okay, that’s progress, but if the abuse ever happens again, somehow that’s on you? You couldn’t control or stop the abuser, okay, but give it, like, ten years and you can stop him now? As if being abused is a great power that also confers great responsibility? The person who has the most responsibility is, obviously, the abuser. After him comes everybody who ever had some inkling of what he was doing — this ranges from anybody who ever heard him make a rape joke and said nothing to people who straight-up knew. They have a moral obligation to stop him. After that we radiate outwards, to a society that does not take abuse seriously. After that, only after all those people have failed in their moral obligations, do we come to you.

Of course, that all sounds nice and pretty as a philosophical bent, but the awful truth is, a victim has the best knowledge of what was done, so hopefully, their disclosure will have the most impact. So you can feel that moral obligation pretty heavy, I know. I don’t think you should do this. I don’t think you have to do this. I don’t think you’re bad if you don’t do this. But you yourself are the best judge of how safe you are. What kind of consequences do you envision if you disclose? Can you handle them? Will they be worth the relief you feel at speaking out? What if nothing happens? What if everybody ignores this, and he goes on raising his girls like nothing happened? Will that still feel worth it? For me, it would, but I am me and you are you, and you get to decide this yourself. I would like this to be a world where you can speak up about this; I think it’s the right thing, but you’re not in a right world.

To that end, I’d suggest that you consult a lawyer and/or a social worker and ask them about the legal implications of revealing what your dad did to your family, statute of limitations, etc. Why not become as informed as you can?

The sad truth is that molesters rape serially. We know this. So if you could inform family in a way that feels safe for you and your sibling, then it’s not the worst idea in the world.  Maybe your therapist and your sibling and you can compose an email together and send it to the parents on that side of the family. One possible script:


This is a very uncomfortable topic, and I’m sorry to have to burden you with it, but I heard that my dad is moving out your way and I think someone in the family needs to know our story.

Dad molested sibling and me when we were between the ages of ____ and _____. We told our mom, but she was more worried about the possibility of jail and tearing the family apart than about protecting us, so we didn’t press charges.

To my knowledge he has never sought treatment or admitted what he’s done. He’s definitely lied and said he wouldn’t do it again and then broke that promise. We don’t want to start a witch hunt, but we did want some other people in the family to have the knowledge they need to protect their kids.

Sibling and I are both in therapy and we are both as okay as you can be after something like this. Please don’t feel obligated to respond in any particular way, or at all if you don’t want to. We know this must be extremely difficult to hear, but we had to take a chance that we could save other kids from what happened to us even at the risk of making things uncomfortable.

If you could send something like that, it would be extremely brave and it may well help other kids. It may not – you kind of have to leave it in the hands of the parents from there – but you can know that you did all that you could.


What happened isn’t your fault.

You don’t have to make up and play nice.

Fuck the whole idea of “family unity” or other people’s peace of mind. Nobody gets peace of mind until YOU get peace of mind.

You’re not obligated to “prevent an abuser” from abusing – that’s pretty much on the abuser to do, but if you can bring yourself to inform someone about what he did you may be a force for good. The most important thing is your own recovery and safety.

If people push back and accuse you of lying, you can say “Ok, believe what you want. I’m done here.” They aren’t making you liars, they are making it known that they are unsafe and can’t be trusted.

Your dad sucks. Your mom also sucks and is not to be trusted.






97 thoughts on “#386: Facing down a predator.

  1. LW, I am so sorry that this happened to you.

    I was raped and sexually assaulted by my older brother for years. When I kicked and screamed at fifteen that he was a peadophile and if he ever touched me again, I would cut his fucking balls off… My mother promised she would stop him from touching me. I would sleep in her bed and she would protect me and he would sleep in the other room with my younger brother.

    I gave her the prescribed big bag of dicks and lived on sofas and worked shitty jobs and supported myself. It sucked as a way to spend my latter teenage years, but now I have this great life that is *all* mine, that I made from the ground up.

    When he got married and had a kid, I played nice because I wanted to be in my nieces life. My mum swore she would protect my niece (who she saw for at least an hour a week!) and I should not worry and not cause drama and not ruin his life over some thing he did as a teenager.

    Two years ago, I pressed charges. I thought no one would believe me, but it turned out between the child pornography on his computer and the fact that he also molested my little brother and my mother while she slept, they had a pretty strong case.

    He’s in prison now and will be for another three years.

    Like The Captain/Marie said, there is no obligation.

    But there is the opportunity.

    And in most countries, you can prosecute for child sexual abuse well into adulthood – in the UK, you have to go to the police “as soon as you feel safe to do so”. Alternatively, you can often file a police report without pressing charges – meaning that the police have your complaint on record and can even use it as evidence in other cases – but that you do not have to prosecute yourself.

    1. I think that the idea of filing a report with the police is a wonderful one,especially if the statue of limitations runs out or the LW decides against pressing charges. I don’t actually know but I would imagine that filing a report would involve a lot less cross-examination, and would have the added benefit of not having to discuss what happened in front of a courtroom.

      I definitely second the Captain’s advice to talk to a lawyer and/or a social worker. They will know the in-and-outs of filing a report, or charges, and they will also be able to recommend any resources in your community that you may not already be aware of. They will have seen and heard it all before and they can give you more advice ( if you need it!) on the best way to go about this shitty situation.

  2. Oh, my God. LW, my hear aches for you. I agree with every single thing the Captain has said here.

    Two additional things:

    1) You do not have to feel guilty or responsible for not protecting your sibling. YOU WERE A CHILD. Your father was and is a goddamn adult. It is not your job to protect your sibling and hello–you tried to. You told your mother, who brushed it off and told you to tell your dad to knock it off. Because a CHILD telling an ADULT RAPIST to knock off raping them always works so swimmingly.

    2) If YOU want to press charges, then you should do so. If you do NOT want to, then don’t. This is about you and your feelings and your level of comfort. Your family will survive this. They will not die. Child molesters and child rapists are released by the thousands from prison so I’m calling bullshit on your dad’s fear that he’ll be murdered in prison. And, to be perfectly cold about it, it’s not your concern. HE RAPED YOU. How about he and your goddamn mother and the rest of your fucking family worry about that??

    The upside to pressing charges is that any child rape apologists in the family will no longer be in your life. They’ll be so angry! They will have nothing to do with you! And it will be a great blessing for you. Also, he will be barred from contact with children if he’s convicted–and if he isn’t, the accusations will be made very public and anyone in the family who allows him near their kids can’t say they haven’t been warned.

    I know, I’m not being very helpful. But letter writer, it’s okay to be angry and it’s okay to press charges if you want to. It sounds to me like the only reason why you’re reluctant to do so is because of concern for your family. If your family gives aid and comfort to the man who raped you when you were a child, then they don’t deserve a shred of your concern.

    You and your sibling–you both are in therapy? Are you safe/on your own/away from family members?

    All the Jedi hugs you need.

  3. OP I wish you all the healing in the world as you decide on what you are going to do. I hope in all of this that you do not ever blame yourself, this is all on him and the choices and paths he has taken. Not you.

  4. Longtime lurker, first time commenter here (please let me know if I’m out of line with anything). First of all, LW, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I’m so glad you and your sibling are in therapy and I want to say how brave I think you are for even considering taking these further steps. As our wise Captain and the commenters have said already, this is not your fault and you have no obligation to stay involved in any way with these people who do not make you feel safe.

    Based on your letter, it’s hard to tell exactly how close you are with your father’s family, and particularly the children in question whom your father might victimize. Since you say the abuse started when you were starting puberty (which I’m taking to be around age 12–please correct me if I’m wrong), would it be possible for you to warn your younger relatives directly? That is to say, if you are close enough to some of the ones who are age 12 or older, could you say to them something along the lines of “Your body is your body and no one but you ever gets to touch it without your permission”? You don’t have to go into detail and say, “Watch out for [Relative], he might try to rape you!” You can simply remind them about their own autonomy over their bodies, which could help them be more aware if any situation they are in with your father starts to get ooky.

    Of course, this could be more complicated than it’s worth; the fallout from these children’s parents might be even worse to deal with than dealing with their parents, you might not feel comfortable bringing it up with these children (because of their ages or your level of closeness with them or any other million legitimate reasons), etc. I just mean to say that if you do have a relationship with these younger relatives where you could establish yourself as a potential source of support for them if they need it, it might make you feel better about the obligation you’re feeling. If not, that’s fine, and I think all the Captain’s advice is superb, as usual.

    1. If you do decide to go straight to the potential victims, though, do give them something to do in the event that things go wrong. It helps to have more potential avenues than just telling some cousin you only kind of know. For example, tell them they can go to a teacher (who often has the legal responsibility to report, so won’t sweep it under the rug like family members will), or give them a hotline like RAINN to call. If they’re 12+ and going “I don’t know if this is okay or not…” then talking to RAINN can let them know whether something that happened is “normal”, or eyebrow-raising, without immediately sounding an alarm.

      1. YES. Telling the kids to go to a teacher, or call RAINN, is perfect — the family has already proven that it’s incapable of dealing with the predator in a manner that keeps its children safe, so going to a mandatory reporter is best.

        So much here. So much. My heart goes out to you, LW.

  5. A couple things to add. I noticed that the captain used the word rape to describe what your dad did, while you said molested. I just wanted to say that even if his molestation didn’t meet some people’s narrow definition of that word, everything the captain said still holds, and it doesn’t mean it “wasn’t that bad” or “was no big deal” or whatever. A violation like that is still a violation, and still a BFD, regardless of the physical details.

    The other thing is that, if you don’t want to be part of your dad’s family anymore, you don’t have to. You may want to, and that’s fine too, but don’t feel like you have an obligation to like them, or keep them liking you, just because they’re family.

    1. Yes, I noticed this too. LW, you were a minor child, and your adult father sexually assaulted you. You get to name that and choose what word to describe it, but by any name it is still a big fucking deal and really horrible.

    2. Second paragraph applies to mother too, especially since she’s pressuring you to make up with dad. That’s some whacked out fuckery right there and you don’t have to deal with it if you don’t want to.

  6. Dear LW:

    I was also molested by my father.

    Today my mother believes me, but no one else in the family believes me.

    Fortunately (or unfortunately for some), my father passed away a couple years ago. I cried at his funeral, but only for those who knew the “good person” he was. I never knew that good person. I saw that person show up when others were around, and fade just a quickly when we were alone. My father was a police officer and a prominent member of our community. He was a church Elder and someone that children looked up to.

    Sometimes I wonder how many people have suffered because no one believed me. I blame myself a lot, as I’m sure most victims do.

    My advice to you is to tell his family, but don’t expect any results. Attempt to tell the children’s mothers as well as fathers. While one of these people will be related to your father and feel the need to defend him and call you a liar, the other will be more receptive to the idea that this man isn’t a friend to his/her children.

    For you: I fear that your mother is going to try to tell you that you’ll be sorry when he dies that you didn’t “make amends.” That’s not true. You’ll be sorry that you didn’t tell more people when he was “alive to defend himself.”

    Now that my father is dead, he is a saint in the eyes of his family. There is nothing I can say or do to stop them from constantly reminding me of how they feel that my father was the greatest man who ever lived. In fact, recently I told my father’s family that my father and I never got along because he was abusive. They all quietly ignored me and continued to talk about how amazing he was as a human being. If he were alive, he would have to defend himself and they would at least consider what I was saying.

    Please tell people what happened, regardless of the results you get.

    1. I wasn’t personally abused, but my best friend was. Quite recently in fact. And when the abuser died, everyone forgot all about the terrible things that person had done and sainted them as well. I will never understand how people can do that. It drives me crazy. I’m sorry that that happened to you as well v_v I want to scream and rage and beat people about the head and shoulders with a clue-by-four but I know it won’t help.

      1. There’s a big taboo about speaking ill of the dead. it’s considered something NOT DONE, as if speaking about the evil they did is even more of a crime once they’re dead than it was when they’re alive.

        1. I don’t understand that…its not like i don’t speak ill of ill people who are alive so i’m not going to change just because they had the misfortune of dying…ah well one more social norm i’m not very good at doing

          1. As I understand it, it’s a combination of “the dead can’t defend themselves against slander” and “the dead defend themselves by haunting you or cursing you”; either way, it’s a social norm that people seem to hold dearly without considering clearly. It’s a very old norm, and sits deeply in the social fabric.

            I say, fuck it. I’ll speak the same of the dead as the living, more or less. Especially when it’s truth!

            Although I do try to keep it generally polite around people who are actively grieving someone who recently died. It’s never been someone who did me direct harm, though; I wouldn’t shut up about my rapist (if I had one) just because he were dead, family or no!

  7. LW,

    You are AMAZING for having survived, especially in such an unsupportive environment. I hope you have found a community since then that is supportive and on Team You.

    You are so strong for wanting to confront your family on this, especially since it sounds like there is a lot of silencing going on there. I wish you the best!

    You might look into the resources of your local rape crisis center. I know the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center has a legal advocacy team, who can talk to survivors about what the legal system is like, if the statute of limitations are up, and can confer on whether the survivor wants to go through with the court case. Other rape crisis centers might have similar programs, so you might want to look into it.

    Good luck with whatever you choose to do. I know you’ll do it awesomely, because you are so strong and amazing and caring.

  8. Okay, I’m in the middle of a similar thing, except it was a stepparent who remarried to a woman with kids.

    I told my mum, my mum went to the NSPCC who took her to the police since he still had contact with his biological daughter. I think the evidence has been gathered but I don’t know when the trial will be (different legal system, everything goes through a magistrate first). However, he’s still not allowed unsupervised contact with anyone under the age of 16.

    Historic abuse cases happen all the time. It’s very unlikely that you wouldn’t be able to go to the police. Even if it was “just” molestation and he didn’t make you do anything to him or actually rape you (by the slimmest definition), you can go to the police. Giving evidence is utterly horrible, but they know it’s horrible and will do everything to comfort you and help you. And it’s over in a few hours. The priority in these cases is protecting the abused, and you’ll probably be able to give evidence in court over video as opposed to in person.

    The guilt isn’t. I think you have to weigh up how you’d feel about doing something to protect the children, and how you’d feel about putting your own father in jail. Any decision is okay here, I guess.

    Telling someone else is a good idea. It is then their responsibility to do what they will with that information. It might not help, my abuser’s wife knows and thinks it’s okay because my mum “knew” (she did not, and was told by everyone that she was overreacting when she suspected). But if it doesn’t, it’s not your fault, it’s theirs.

    I hope this helps. Good luck, whatever you decide.

    P.S. Fuck your mum. Really. I’m sure she has many other wonderful qualities and is possibly deluding herself as to the extent of the abuse, but fuck her anyway.

    1. Hey, Anonforthis, I’m really glad you had a good experience with the courts and the police. That’s amazing and should be true for EVERY survivor. I’m guessing from your mention of the NSPCC that you’re in the UK as well, and while there’s some great police officers, there’s also some bad ones when it comes to abuse cases. So I would just be careful about saying the police will definitely be great? Because I think a lot of times, it’s even harder for survivors if they aren’t warned that there can be a range of experiences.

      Sorry to butt in with my two cents on this and otherwise, you’re spot on!

      1. Agreed. I’m really glad for Anonforthis, too, but I have heard and seen too many other victims who did not good experiences with the authorities.

  9. I’m so sorry he did that to you and your sibling, LW.

    You didn’t fail by not warning your sibling. Your father failed by molesting you and your sibling. That was his doing, not yours.

    About pressing charges: I’m not clear from your letter whether you would like to press charges if you could. Putting aside moral obligations and whether it would help his other victims and whether the whole process would be more damaging to you, would you find it healing to go on the legal record about what he did to you? I’m not saying you should feel one way or another about it, just that if you do feel that way then that’s a valid factor to consider.

    If that strikes a chord with you, then it couldn’t hurt for you to ask around and find out what’s involved in laying charges in your area, what would be involved if it went to trial, and whether if you are outside the statute of limitations, there’s any way you could make a victim statement anyway, so that if one of his other victims lays charges, they’ll know that he’s a repeat offender.

  10. Oh, this letter makes me angry. LW, you don’t have any moral obligation in this situation. If you want to reach out, and feel able to, then I think that would be a kind and brave thing to do, but like the Captain said, there are a whole lot of people who should be bearing the weight of the responsibility to protect children from this man in line before you.

    You know who did and does have a moral responsibility in this situation? Your mother. It makes me furious that she’s trying to push you into playing nice with your father. Honestly, the only way I can think of to handle that situation is, every time she asks why you can’t just forgive him, respond with “you know why”. This thing of trying to make you make up with your father seems like a way of refusing to deal with the fact that her decision not to help you caused all this fallout, so the best way to deal with that seems to be to try to turn it back around and remind her that she knows exactly why you can’t be friends with your father, because you told her a long time ago.

    If you do want to alert your father’s family to the fact that your father is a dangerous person I like the idea of presenting it as “I know you would like to see us reconcile but that’s not possible, and here’s why”. In a way their attempts to push that reconciliation that’s not going to happen is an opening that you can use to bring up what happened, thus potentially both getting them to stop pushing you and alerting them to what happened at once. The possibility that they’ll try to brush it off is there, but you never know, even if their first impulse is to do that at least they will then have the information. You can’t make them do anything smart or good with that information, all you can do is hand it over to them and make dealing with your father their responsibility.

  11. “If your family wants to have those Hallmark holidays, maybe they shouldn’t rape each other.”

    …I think I’m going to print this sentence out and tape it to the wall above the phone so I can look at it every time I get a call from home.

    1. I’m very sorry that you’re in that situation. Remember, you don’t have to talk to them if you don’t want to. You don’t have to have any relationship with them if you don’t want to. It is your choice to do what is best for you – yours alone – it is not the choice of the people who didn’t protect you! *Jedi hugs* if you want them.

  12. Dear LW, all possible comfort to you, I am so sorry that these horrible things happened to you. They were not your fault. Your father’s having molested you is not your fault. His having molested your younger sibling is not your fault. If he molests someone else, that will not be your fault.

    I agree that it could be useful to find out what the statute of limitations is for his actions, because I think it could help you decide how you can best help yourself. In the United States, molestation is generally a state crime, not a federal one, and statutes of limitations vary by state, so if you’re in the U.S., what you’ll want to know is the statute in the state or states where the abuse took place. A rape crisis center might have good information, as a poster upthread suggested, but if you can’t find one in the right state, you might call the state or county public defender’s office instead. Ask to speak to the attorney on duty, preferably the appellate attorney on duty. (Not all offices have separate appellate groups, but an appellate attorney is less likely to be in court or at the jail when you call.) Alternatively, if your father molested you on a reservation, on a military base, in a national forest, or on other federal land, or if he made pornography out of his molestation, call any federal public defender’s office.

    Good luck to you, LW. No matter what you decide to do, I think you’re incredibly brave.

    1. Just a comment since statute of limitations have been discussed here…IANAL but am currently studying law, and my understanding is statutes of limitations don’t start counting down in these sorts of case until you reach the age of majority. Just something to consider as well.

      My heart does go out to you LW, and I hope whatever you choose can bring some relief to you.

      1. In many jurisdictions, they don’t start counting down until the victim is an adult, but they can also be surprisingly short. When I was 25 I learned new information about my abuser and wanted to press charges, but in my jurisdiction the statue of limitations expires on the victim’s 23rd birthday. I will never get justice in a court of law, but neither will most other survivors. Conventional wisdom and pop culture (fuck you, Law and Order SVU) make it seem like there’s only one road to healing and it goes through a courtroom, but I refuse to believe that is the case. I refuse to believe the world is that cruel. I know many survivors who have managed to find peace, however they define it, with or without prosecution. I’m a rape crisis counselor, and I’ve met many, many people who have very, very good reasons for not wanting to prosecute at all.

        Some of the other commenters have mentioned the pluses and minuses of pressing charges. Maybe you don’t want to press charges, and you and your sister will be just fine with that decision. Or maybe you do, and it’ll be the most liberating thing imaginable and it’ll help you heal. Or maybe you might want to but the statute’s expired, or the prosecutor will decide not to take it to trial, or it won’t make it past the grand jury, or they’ll acquit. There are a lot of variables that are out of your control, but you can still control your own recovery no matter what happens in the legal system.

        Whatever happens, choose what is the right course of action for you, personally, and never look back. Remember that you have done nothing wrong and whatever choice you make is right. Jedi hugs forever, LW. I’ll be thinking about you. Please be nice to yourself while you’re working through this!

        1. Yes, it can be difficult or impossible to press charges. And of course I agree that LW may not want to for her own reasons, and is under no obligation whatsoever. But I’d simply like to point out that pressing charges is the surest way to be sure that the offense is ON RECORD. That is, you can try to talk to the entire family and make sure they at least know this guy may well rape their kid (even though you should not expect any direct results from that, especially in a “dirty laundry” family). But you can’t talk to the parents of every kid he may ever come in contact with. Having it be on his record means that anyone in the future who thinks to check can find the evidence, and act accordingly.

          I know personally of a woman who started to have doubts, and when she looked and found the guy had done it before she immediately kicked him out, got a divorce, and used his record to cut off any contact with her kids. The next woman he tries to bamboozle will have even an easier time figuring him out. It helps to have it Official..

  13. LW, you are amazing. Your mom, your dad and the enabling relatives are the ones who failed to protect both YOU and your sister. Here’s another shitty thing they did: by their shitty behavior, they led you, a good person, to think it might somehow be your fault because you couldn’t stop a grown-ass man from raping you and another child. I know this thought is very strong, because you are a good person and do not want to see other people hurt, but it is NOT your fault that a) your father is (not was: is) a rapist, and b) scumsucking enablers protect him.

    You are helping your sister by being a witness. You are the person who knows what happened, who does not practice denial, who does not pressure her to make nice and pretend nothing happened because another generation of raping children is better than ‘dirty laundry’.

    1. Here’s another shitty thing they did: by their shitty behavior, they led you, a good person, to think it might somehow be your fault because you couldn’t stop a grown-ass man from raping you and another child.

      WORD. Sometimes you can keep a rapist from having access to a particular victim at a particular time, which is a good thing for that victim, sure. But the thing that makes rapes happen is the rapist, not the situation. If the LW doesn’t follow the father around, preventing his access to children, that does NOT make subsequent rapes the LW’s “fault”.

    2. Yes, LW don’t underestimate how good you are being to your sister just by being a witness. Remember what it feels like to have your mother deny it. You may not have been able to totally protect your sister back then, but she won’t go totally crazy from hurt and loneliness because you’re there for her. It’s invaluable.

  14. Every time she asks why you can’t just forgive him, respond with “you know why”.

    Extracted from cassandrakitty’s comment for emphasis- because it’s true. We don’t know why your mother’s like this. She may not know why she’s like this. No matter. Fuck her. She’s had more than enough chances to do a good thing and she’s blown every one of them.

    LW, talk all this through with your therapist and your sister. Only you, or the two of you, can make the decision on what’s best for you. For you personally, you’re suffering extra because you, as a child, couldn’t protect your sister. Now, as adults, you have to decide how to deal with the possibility of that man inflicting further pain on other relatives. This is the central thing you’ll need therapist/s support for. Working through the captain’s scripts could be a good focus for getting your head into the right place to do whatever the right thing turns out to be.

    I hope both of you can gather strength as you go through this. And give each other whatever support you feel able to when the need arises.

    1. “We don’t know why your mother’s like this. She may not know why she’s like this. No matter. Fuck her. She’s had more than enough chances to do a good thing and she’s blown every one of them.”

      LW, you may find that the more you dig into your parents’ backgrounds, the more complicated it gets. It take some serious dysfunction to rationalize incest, often going back generations. Maybe it’ll ease your pain to have compassion for them and understand where their pathologies come from. Then again, it might not. And it certainly doesn’t change their (failed) responsibility to be good parents.

      Your parents may try to excuse their behavior and get your sympathy by telling you what monsters their own parents are/were. You don’t have to listen to that nonsense. That’s just a way to manipulate you and make themselves feel better by claiming your abuse wasn’t as bad as their own. My parents didn’t report my abuse because my mother thought that what her friend’s son did to me wasn’t as bad as what her father did to her. Her parents in turn felt their behavior was okay because they were less abusive than their own parents.

      TL;DR: Even if you do want to feel compassion or forgiveness for the parents who hurt you, you can do it from a distance. You don’t have to interact with them or make them feel better. And you’re under no obligation whatsoever to feel anything kind or warm towards them.

      1. I’d like to second this, as it sounds to me like it’s not just your paternal family that’s fucked up. I was enraged when I told my mother how her husband had been molesting me, and that I was certain he was doing the same to my 6-year-old sister. She just didn’t respond at all. I kept bringing it up for years and she never responded. I think what finally got it through to her was that one of her close friends found out that her husband had been doing the same to her daughters, but whatever, by then I was in my 40s. What calmed me down about it eventually though was realizing that my mother had been in the same situation herself. I know it’s no excuse, but I can’t presume to know how anyone else deals with this kind of thing, or how it comes out in later behavior.
        I’m not saying this was necessarily the case for your own mother LW, but I also think it’s likely there’s some major crap lurking back there in family history, that you may never even know about. If you love your mother otherwise, don’t stop talking about what happened to you, you may end up getting some acknowledgement in the future.

      2. I know from my girlfriend’s experience in her family that not only did her mother (may she rot in hell when she dies) use her own abuse as an excuse, there was a conspiracy of silence in the family to spare her father’s feelings, because of how much he needed to believe he had not married a monster. Breaking ranks is going to threaten everyone in that situation: everyone is gaslighting everyone else and taking comfort in each other’s reassurances that the lies are true. When you speak the truth in that situation, the only way to protect your sanity is to keep your distance.

        I’m glad that you and your sister are backing each other up!

  15. I was molested as a child by my mother’s brother. My mother refused to believe me when I told her; I suspect, from a few things she told me when I was older, that she was also molested by him.

    There’s a reason for this — it’s been documented mostly among torture survivors rather than survivors of sexual abuse, but apparently, when people go through incredibly painful experiences, sometimes those experiences are so bad that they cannot imagine anyone else experiencing anything like it. Not even if they saw it happening (in the case with survivors of torture). I’m mentioning this because LW hasn’t written anything about zir relationship with zir sibling (have they talked about this?). I really, really hope LW has some support there in terms of what happened, but if that support isn’t there, it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, and our letter writer is not alone.

    Also, of course, as other people on this thread have said, people have a tendency to side with the rapist in these situations, because it’s easier to side with the person who has more social power. It’s just that when those people are ones who are fellow survivors it can be really, really hurtful, and I wanted to comment here that it happens. It can happen.

    I still think that it’s worth it for our Letter Writer to 1) tell the molester’s side of the family that he is a clear and present danger to children. This is hideously painful but worth doing. And 2) do whatever they need to feel safe, including, if necessary, not talking to family or only talking to family members in certain ways (over the phone, over email, etc.).

    I am so sorry that this happened to you, and that you are faced with this. It is very very bitter: children are blamed for what they cannot control; made to feel worthless and shamed and guilty; and even as adults we struggle with a false sense of moral responsibility for the actions of our abusers.

    And still, I think there is a value in speaking up if you want to do it. But I will tell you in this place and under this not-name that I never did. And my abuser is, as far as I know, still alive.

    Take care of yourself, Letter Writer.

  16. Hey, LW. Let me start by echoing everyone else and saying that I’m so sorry this happened to you. Everything the Captain said was dead on, but I just wanted to say a little more about disclosing.

    Despite what a lot of people like to assure survivors, going to the police/going to trial can be a horrible situation. It is in no way selfish to decide that, having thought about it, it’s something you don’t want to go through. Your body is not public property and you have every right to decide that the legal process isn’t what best for you.

    The Captain’s advice on speaking to a family member is dead on, but if you want to tell some kind of authorities without discussing your own case, the possibility is there to call one of the anonymous child abuse helplines (in the UK, it’s the NSPCC). This might not be the right option for you, but I know I had no idea of its existence before I started working in the sexual violence field, so I just wanted to bring it up in case it wasn’t on your radar.

    Good luck, LW, and remember how amazing you are to have survived what you have!

  17. LW, your bravery is inspiring. You are in no way responsible for anything that has happened to anyone, and your willingness to take action to protect others is a really, really positive thing.

    For insights into the kind of family dynamics that try to keep these things quiet, I suggest taking a look at Jennifer Freyd’s book, Betrayal Trauma (Amazon link).

  18. I am now luckily surrounded by people who believe me and support me, but it wasn’t always so, and still sometimes the jerkbrain gets all whispery about “but maybe you’re just a whiner…”, and still sometimes there is a goddamn Law & Order: SVU marathon on (spoiler: rape forever!), and I have to use some tactics to get myself back to an even keel.

    So one thing that has sometimes helped me — and I’m mentioning it because I’m seeing everybody do it here and it’s so amazing — is saying the unspoken, and demanding that anybody who talks to you does so as well. I can do this in my own head or out loud. “It was a long time ago,” is an incomplete sentence, it needs to be, “It was a long time ago that he raped you.” “We shouldn’t air dirty laundry,” needs to be “We shouldn’t air dirty laundry about fathers raping their children.” “He’s looking for closure” needs to be “He’s looking for closure after raping you.” In my own head, “What’s wrong with you?” becomes “What’s wrong with you, you’re so upset after you were raped?” and it suddenly seems a little less stupid to be a mess.

    All these let’s-make-up, you’re-so-angry, just-forgive statements sound really, really reasonable and moral and calm out of context (making you sound like the unreasonable, hysterical one), so enforcing the context really illustrates how obscene and vicious what they’re saying actually is. I will tell you that people get awfully huffy awfully quick if you enforce that context out loud (which, extra bonus, leads to them never trying to talk about it again with you) because that shit just got too real. “It was a long time ago” becomes “It was a long time ago that my father raped his own child and then raped his other child, is what you’re saying? Just to clarify,” and suddenly the line between “making peace” and “causing a problem” looks a lot more like the line between “rape is cool” and “NO IT’S FUCKING NOT.”

    1. A+ technique. I stumbled into it on my own a few years ago, in a different situation — dealing with my father’s racism.

      “[Mr Preposterice] is too sensitive.”
      “He’s too sensitive about being called [racial slur]?”

      “It was just a joke!”
      “Oh, it’s a joke to call [group of people] [type of animal]?”

      WORKS LIKE A CHARM. Makes the other side look like a jerks they are in all KINDS of horrible situations!

      The other bonus is that sometimes you use this technique and people you thought were jerky jerks stop and think about what, exactly, they are saying & defending…and switch to your team. Because their jerkbrains were singing LA LA LA LA LA at them and you spoke over that internal noise and now their jerkbrains have ground to a halt and their nicebrains have engaged. It’s AWESOME.

      1. This is so true. Sometimes people who defend horrible human beings are just jerks, and sometimes they’ve been telling themselves a story for so long they’ve not had a chance to step back and look at what they’re defending. Pointing it out, explicitly, may give them a chance to re-evaluate, and then they may not be so jerky after all. That said, it still isn’t your job to make people not be jerks to you, so you are totally free to just disengage.

        1. Right — from the outside, jerks look the same as storytellers, and LW, it is not on you to figure out which is which! But completing the sentence, as a technique, sometimes has the pleasant side effect of finding some wheat amidst the chaff, which is (I think) a point in its favor.

          I would not say that the storytellers could be trusted on Team You, or even really as safe people, but perhaps as “not actively unsafe”.

      1. Hi! I started grad school and also relationship things, oh god the relationship things, but I am here and always reading! Hi!

    2. Delurking to say: thank you so very very much for this. My own situation is different, and my dad was not a rapist, but he and my mom are alcoholics, and I’m currently in a long a grievous battle called “no, mom and dad, I don’t care if it’s our national tradition to be a drunk and all the aunts and uncles will feel offended, there will be no alcohol on my wedding”. It helped me so much to say out loud “I don’t want alcohol on my wedding because, among other Reasons (like me and fiance disliking alcohol) you two are alcoholics and I don’t trust you near booze.” It just made me feel so much less like the crazy unreasonable person.

      Thank you so much.

  19. I just want to re-iterate what has been said above and in PFC Marie’s post about disclosing what happened to you–you must do what you think is right FOR YOU and not for anyone else, not even potential future victims.

    I was sexually abused by a friend of my mother’s for almost a year when I was 13. When she found out, we reported it, he was prosecuted and went to jail for three years. And then, after he got out, he did the exact same thing to some other girl. In other words, I did the “right thing” by reporting him and got the best possible outcome and still did not save that girl. To paraphrase PFC Marie, you can’t stop him; you can only make it slightly more difficult.

    But reporting him and prosecuting him was the right thing for me, personally. It felt good to tell the truth, even when I was cross-examined by his defense lawyer, even when I had to sit it court and look right at him again and thought I was going to throw up. It even felt good when I got to see him again at the second trial and be an example to that other girl that, “hey, what happened *SUCKED* but you can keep going. That’s not the only thing, good or bad, that’s ever going to happen to you.”

    That’s not to say you should report or tell his family, just that you should do what you think is the best thing for you. Your obligation in this instance is to yourself — what can you do (or not do) that gives you the relief of knowing “that was right for me.” Because then, even if it’s hard, even if doing the right thing (whatever that is for you) has consequences, it will be worth it.

  20. I don’t have anything to add to what the other commenters have said, especially re: your mum and a bag of dicks, but on the practical side of things:

    If you do decide you want to tell someone in your family, but you’re afraid your dad’s siblings will refuse to believe you, what about their spouses? Given that they’ve not grown up in this family, I’d think they’d have a better chance of not being infected with this “Lalalala We Don’t Talk About That!” bullshit.

  21. Oh, LW. My thoughts are with you.

    The Captain covered this, but I wanted to say something about:

    I wish I had warned my sibling, but … I totally failed there.

    You didn’t fail. Your dad failed. Your mom failed. Your family failed. But you were working hard to survive something awful, and what you did while trying to survive wasn’t ‘fail.’ It’s so, so easy to second-guess what you did while trying to survive, but I’m saying: you don’t need to. You aren’t the one who failed.

    1. YES. I think of it this way. Imagine your sibling is being held up in the air by your family, your neighbors, your friends, just a big crowd-surfing party. You are a child. Your arms are kinda weak and they are also kinda short and you are also trying to shove your goddamn dad away. So you stop holding your sibling up. And your sibling tumbles to the ground. Okay, I guess some part of that gets to be your fault, I mean, you were part of the holding-them-up party, but, uh, what about the dozens or hundreds of other people who were supposed to be doing their job? You were getting abused, what the hell is their excuse?

    2. So much this. The adults in the situation failed. The children in the situation were CHILDREN. You were little girls who had been betrayed by their own mother. He was and is a grown ass man who raped his own baby girl, lied to her, and then raped his other precious child. Neither one of you had any ability to influence the situation. There was nothing either of you could do.

      Let’s say, hypothetically, you had in fact warned your sister. What on earth could she have done with that information? If by some miracle this scared little girl had the ability to call out a predator the second he misbehaved (a skill most adults don’t have!) he would have just used the fear of prison and whatnot to coerce her just like he did to you.

      You were a child. She was a child. Even if they were able to, children are under no obligation to prevent rape. Rapists are obligated to not rape.

  22. LW, I am so sorry that this happened to you and that you have to deal with shitty family members who want you to shut up about it. It sucks. I hope you are successful with your therapy.

    One thing I wanted to mention relates to this line of The Captain’s advice:

    “Can you and your sibling talk and make a united front and decision about this? I think that would be a good idea if you can swing it. That is someone who will DEFINITELY believe you about what happened.”

    I was physically abused by my father for years as a child and emotionally abused until I cut off contact with him at age 20. Despite the fact that I know he emotionally abused my siblings and probably physically abused them as well, both denied the abuse for years. My sister finally admitted to some emotional abuse a year or so ago, but still denies ever being physically abused by him. And my brother only recently was willing to admit that he was physically abused, within the last six months. What I’m saying here is that your sibling may not be ready to admit the abuse yet and may deny that it ever happened. Even if zie has talked about it before, zie may deny that it ever happened if zie finds out that you’re planning to go public with the knowledge.

    I spent a lot of years being hurt by my siblings’ refusal to acknowledge the abuse because I didn’t understand that they were just in a different place in their healing proccesses. I hope you are able to understand that your sibling may be at a different place then you and that zie may not be ready to do what you are ready to do. I would suggest that you be understanding about that, and not be hurt by hir response if it doesn’t match the response you want.

    1. Having agreement isn’t essential, and I love your comment. Here’s an old post about different siblings having a different way of handling abuse.

  23. Oh, LW, I am so sorry.

    Unfortunately, the world is full of people who will blame you, belittle you, ignore you, or think it’s no big deal. It’s not fair and it’s not right! You and your sibling (and any other victims of this man) are the ones who suffer the most.

    I just want you know how proud I am of you that you are in the position to say “This is what happened to me.” You can look it in the face. You’re in therapy to deal. You’re naming it. That takes incredible strength! It’s very, very hard to do! A whole lot of people just block it out and bury it down and pretendpretendpretend just like the rest of their families because it seems so much easier that way.

    Whatever else you choose to do — and you’ve got some tough choices, I don’t even know, except I hope you decide based on what helps you feel safe and happy — you should know that you are strong and brave. You’re standing tall and unbroken, even though you might sometimes curl up into a little ball and be small and scared.

  24. LW, I’m so very sorry this was done to you and that you have to deal with all the fallout, as well as the invalidation. Everyone else has said so many good things to you about this, I just wanted to touch on one thing you said: “his family remembers him from before he was like this”.

    I believe that there often isn’t a time before an abuser became an abuser, except mayyyybe early childhood. You remember him being abusive to you through your whole childhood and adolescence — he didn’t just magically become an abuser because his children were born, or because he got married, or because he graduated from high school. Most of the abusers I have known or know of have some history — often revealed only vaguely and much later after the abuse I know of happened — of doing it before.

    My abusive ex, it turned out, had been arrested for molesting kids in the Boy Scouts when he was a junior counselor (but the arrest records were sealed because he was a minor). No one told me that until a year or more after I left him. And then he was arrested for molesting more kids later, well after I was gone, thank heavens. But he definitely had a long history of abusing people (and animals, I also found out later), and in retrospect now, I can perceive that his siblings were all incredibly careful not to leave him alone with their kids.

    Best of luck. I hope that if you choose to reveal information, someone in the family believes you, or at least takes your information under advisement and is somewhat more watchful because of it.

  25. Hi, LW. I’m so sorry. I have a similar situation and took some of the steps you’re considering. I hope it helps with some perspective.

    /start backstory:
    I was molested by my grandfather. The abuse was extreme. I told my mother. She asked her father. He denied it. She lectured me on “telling the truth and making up mean stories.” I was five. I realized no adult would help me and devoted myself to loudly and viciously protecting my younger brothers. I was “the difficult child” to the extended family because I had so much “attitude” and so little respect for adult authority. My brothers didn’t know about the abuse, they just believed I preferred to be confrontational with adults. It scared my grandfather enough to decrease how intently he pursued me. What I didn’t know then was that he would just look for easier targets.

    When I was 11, my 6 yr old cousin starting drawing anatomically correct pictures of a man hurting a little girl – her and our grandfather. Her teacher reported this to my aunt. My aunt reported it to the police. My parents remembered the “story” I’d told them years later. An investigation ensued.
    /end backstory

    What happened next is what may be helpful to you. During the investigation, the six grandchildren involved were discovered, questioned, and put through a battery of psychologist, detectives, and social workers, while the extended family literally lost their collective minds. My grandfather’s family disowned the lot of us for daring to accuse him. This was the family they had holidays with, grew up with. The abandonment was immediate and intense for my grandmother (who divorced my grandfather), mother and her siblings. To this day, 20 years later, there’s no interaction between the two sides. Bridges were permanently burned. It was for the best, in the end, but during it, it was very painful for a lot of people involved.

    In the end, my grandfather plea bargained his way to time served during the investigation, which was reportedly connected to how old the kids were and how they’d make unreliable witnesses or some idiocy like that. Laws have changed some now concerning this, but just like any rape, only a small percentage actually read as a “win” in the court system. It took another 6 months after the ruling for my mother’s siblings to complete cut him off, as some of his children thought they had a shot at rehabilitating him. More fights ensued and he was finally shut out.

    After all that, here’s my best suggestion: you should report your father. Yes, it will likely mean alienation from segments of the family. You should use the Captain’s excellent advice on setting up a very firm dialogue with your mother. Her abandonment of you is almost as bad as your father’s abuse. I know what that feel like. Even after she had to believe me, my mom had a really hard time feeling torn with loyalty to her father, despite what he did with me – and it’s changed our relationship permanently. No one WANTS to believe someone they love has done something monstrous, but by her not standing up for you, by her not making him accountable, she’s only joined the monster club.

    Don’t be surprised if they throw, “It could have been worse! Why can’t you see causing more pain won’t take yours away!?” memes at you. It took me a long time to be able to separate out what they were saying as a sign of their own pain rather than the vicious attack on me personally it sounded an awful lot like.

    With me, even though I tried actively to protect people close to me, the predator just went to someone else. I understand feeling guilty – I did, too – but you’re not the one who dropped the ball here. Your father did. Your mother did. Blame the people in positions of power who chose terrible things.

    It will get better, LW. The first step is finding YOUR safety. Share it with your sibling. Be safe together. Your feelings count. Your feelings are important. Talk to people who are safe, whether a professional, or just someone you trust. Anyone who can’t respect that or insists you consider the feelings of the people who hurt you doesn’t get to talk to you right now – maybe ever.

  26. LW, I am so sorry this happened to you. I’m glad you came out of it stronger and with a level head on your shoulders despite all of the odds against you. Bravo! You deserve to be happy.

    I’m seconding pfcmarie that the decision to notify relatives and/or the authorities is completely up to you and your sibling. I went to through a very similar experience, albeit not as severe.

    My stepfather (henceforth Horrible Human Being) began to act weirdly around my twin and I when we hit puberty; enough that it raised both of our suspicions. He was already pretty emotionally abusive (Of course screaming at a young girl while a few inches from her face is a great idea! Douche.), but this was…different. Horrible Human Being began to walk around the house in just his briefs or speedo swimsuit, and when my sister and I told our mother (henceforth Biological Mother, that woman lost her title as Mom) it made us uncomfortable, she in turn told him. So, did this change anything? No. He went to a hotel for a night and had her read a letter to us that stated how unfair it was he couldn’t wear what he wanted in his own house, this is normal for families, he spent so much money on all of us, we’re ruining the family, we hurt his feelings, and most importantly, DO NOT TELL YOUR FATHER (our Dad was a detective at the time). We fell for the ploy, and things continued to escalate. Finally one night while Biological Mother was out, Horrible Human Being cornered my twin and I (separately) while he was naked. Nothing happened beyond that, thank God. When Biological Mother came home and heard what happened and saw how upset we were? She told us Horrible Human Being insists on still being able to wear his briefs and speedos around the house.

    We eventually got the authorities involved, moved in with our Dad, and pressed charges. The trial was easily the most horrible experience I ever had in my life. Biological Mother asserted we made it all up, used OUR OWN FUCKING DIARIES AGAINST US, and due to a small oversight, her lawyer got all of the charges dismissed before the jury could administer a verdict.

    We cut off all contact Biological Mother and Horrible Human Being. To this day neither of us has had contact with Horrible Human Being, and maybe see Biological Mother once or twice a year. Recently, she called and hinted since it was so long ago, and us being mature adults, we could see the entire thing was blown out of proportion and should just make up with her and Horrible Human Being. Other members of the family used the death of my stepmother, the woman I consider Mom, to pressure us into forgiving and forgetting.

    What helped me get over all of this was a great therapist (fist-bump!) and a great Team Me. You are not obligated to adhere to other’s “moral obligation” to find closure. Still to this day my Christian family and friends pressure me to forgive Horrible Human Being and Biological Mother so that I find “closure.” Bullshit, I don’t have closure, but I have grown, moved on, took whatever lessons I deemed necessary from the experience, and cut off contact. My life now is full of happiness, love and all the classic films I can get my hands on! YOU DO WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU AND NO ONE ELSE.

    Because of my experience I am weary to advise pressing charges, but that is just based off my own experience. It will be hard and from the way your mother, and your father’s family sound, I suspect things will get nasty. Run it by your therapist and see what works best for YOU.

    Jedi hugs, and much love and healing and fun things to you and your sister.

  27. LW, you are a fantastic and amazing person who is able to look at this horrible betrayal and violation head on without blinking while others look away. Your jerkbrain tells you that YOU failed your sister. But try a game of what-if: what if you had done something different? Talked to her? Talked to your mother again? Attacked your father? Would it have changed the outcome? No, not really, because the only person who controls the rapist/molester is that person himself. Nothing you did or didn’t do would have made your father not molest your little sister. That is part of the manipulation HE used to control and most especially isolate you (both). If only she had/hadn’t…is the classic victim blaming tactic, and your jerkbrain continues to use it against you. This victim blaming is so commonplace because it offers the illusion of safety, that the perfect magical words and deeds could have prevented harm. Really, if you had done something else would have resulted in a different sequence of events but the same destination, and your father would have used whatever else you did differently as the justification for molesting your sister–it is still manipulation and you still are not to blame for his actions..

    I don’t know if this might be helpful, possibly OT and YMMV, but Project Unbreakable is a space where rape survivors speak their truths loudly and publicly via photographs of each one holding a poster of a quote from hir rapist (or sometimes another person associated with the experience who contributed to the trauma). So many of them were raped as children, often by a parent or other family member. I am not advocating that you spend time on that site–frankly it was hard for me as a relatively unaffected bystander without such direct experience. But such an essential part of the sexual violence is the shaming, silencing, and isolation and dismissal of the victim who always, always deserves better from family and society. You are not alone, and you are speaking out, and you are discovering your strength, and maybe simply knowing that this project is out there in the world may help in some infinitesimal way?

    Good luck figuring out what is best for you and how you want to proceed.

  28. Hi LW,
    I wanted to say that while I don’t know where you’re located and what services are like in your area, you may find it helpful to talk to someone at a rape crisis hotline about this. I know a lot of folks think of crisis lines being for right after a rape or sexual assault, but when I went through hotline training a LOT of our time was spent on childhood sexual abuse issues and how to help both child and adult survivors who might call in.
    It was not at all uncommon for adults to call in talk about abuse that had happened a long time ago and we did have resources for them. You might find that people at such a hotline could help you talk through some issues around your family and your questions about reporting and point you towards resources that would explain how that process would work in your state given the time that’s elapsed.

    I’m so sorry that you have to deal with your family being horrible on top of the abuse itself. =(

  29. OK, first, in no way, shape or form have you failed. You were a child who was abused. Your mother refused to protect you from that abuse. The fact that your father went on to molest your sibling is all on him. He’s an adult with agency who could have made other choices, like, oh, NOT ABUSING HIS KIDS.

    Second, the moral responsibilities here belong to your parents- he should be turning himself in to the police, and she should be groveling to her kids for allowing this to continue. You owe them nothing.

    Third, if you tell them and some or all do not believe you, well, do you want a relationship with people who think it’s appropriate to molest your child, but not to talk about it?

    1. “He’s an adult with agency who could have made other choices, like, oh, NOT ABUSING HIS KIDS.” This. This is how I deal with people trying to manipulate me by telling me that consequences are my fault. “Oh, you don’t like [consequence]? Then probably you shouldn’t have molested little girls.” I stop feeling guilty pretty quickly.

      1. Yeah, I’ve found reframing the situation helps a lot. It’s not “Dad feels bad that you don’t talk to him,” it’s “Dad is sulking because we have spoken out about his abuse and refuse to be around him.” It helps to put things into perspective, which is important when you’ve been through something like this. Your reactions are- not off, but sometimes it’s hard to apply the reasonable person standard- “Would a reasonable person not talk to her father? Well, that depends why. He abused her for ten years. Yep, seems pretty reasonable to me.”

    2. Hi, I lurk a lot, but i’d like to chime in and agree that it’s very much not your responsibility to stop an adult abuser from abusing. I just thought of an analogy — not just for you, but for all the Awkward Army folks who are or have been in abusive situations.

      Let’s pretend that, rather than being a soldier in the Awkward Army, you were a soldier in the Actual Army. You know, the one with guns and stuff. Pretend you got captured by enemies, that your situation was a prison camp. Do you know what the Actual Army says are your responsibilities at that point?

      1. Survive. You, precious and valuable you, are a resource that CANNOT BE REPLACED. Short of purposefully killing other folks on your side, you do whatever you need to do to survive, because that is THE MOST IMPORTANT JOB.
      2. Resist, if you can do that and still survive. That is, don’t go over to the enemy’s side, and don’t even pretend to if you can avoid it (but do pretend to, if you have to in order to survive or escape).
      3. Escape, if and when the opportunity presents itself. Even if that means waiting patiently and being a Model Prisoner for a long fucking time.

      That? That is IT. That is ALL YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR, even in the Army of Grown-Ass Adults With Guns and Shit. Getting other folks out? They give out medals for that — but a medal, by its very nature, means that if you managed that, it was EXTRA. Getting out, surviving, that by itself was enough.

      And you? You did all that! You survived; you resisted their horrible bullshit about how you deserved it or you were just making up stories anyway; you grew up and got out of the house of your enemies; they have no power to hold you anymore.

      You did all of those things despite having gotten drafted into this war before you had a clue what was going on; and you did it despite being wounded and tortured. You’d get a medal for THAT, too, in the Actual Army. Pain makes everything harder.

      Maybe the Awkward Army needs medals? Lots of folks around here fucking deserve them. I am in AWE of the compassion and the kindness and the survival-of-incredible-bullshit that the folks around here are demonstrating and living every fucking day.

      1. That was an incredibly apt and well-crafted analogy; I wish I had heard it when I was beginning the process of my recovery. Bless you! That was amazing! And what an entrance–so glad you decided to de-lurk!

  30. I just want to leave a story with a positive outcome for me about telling the ENTIRE INTERNET about my father’s molestation of my sister and some of her friends. It’s up to you to decide what’s right for you, but I was impressed with how positive the response was to me “airing the dirty laundry” in public.

    Some background: My father became a martyr/hero for the anti-Scientology movement. The Scientologists discovered records of his molestation of children and published them. My mother publicly semi-defended him with a weasely email that many people took as denial of the very court document she had written. We didn’t want our personal tragedy to be used in this fight so we refused to cooperate with the detectives the Scientologists sent. Our father had several hundred (thousand?) people who were deeply invested in their hero being a perfect person. This is just a larger version of what happens inside families with patriarchs.

    No charges were filed for various reasons, mainly police hostility and not wanting to go through cross-examination by nasty lawyers in court.

    I didn’t feel like it was my story to tell, but my father got out of prison for an unrelated charge and began attending the same conferences as I did. My sister agreed to let me publicly post her story so I wouldn’t have to explain at every conference why I was leaving. I included my own stories about our stepfather and our mother’s failure to protect us. I also informed our mutual acquaintances of what happened.

    When I posted the story, I was practically hyperventilating and couldn’t sleep for days. The actual result was mostly positive: a few people asked me to “please consider the harm to the anti-Scientology movement,” a few nasty trolls occasionally use it as proof I’m a liar and a crybaby, I had to move my web host once, and my father occasionally sends me manipulative emails trying to convince me to take it down. (Block, block, block – that’s the problem with new social networks!) My sister got absolutely no personal attacks. I was already not speaking to my mother.

    A lot of people thanked me for speaking up, including some friends who reminded me that he could have other victims. I hadn’t even thought of that in our obsession with the whole Scientology angle and I learned he did indeed have other victims. Overall, everyone who stopped speaking to me was someone who was creepy or unpleasant anyway. My father stopped attending conferences I was at. I love no longer keeping a child molester’s secret for him.

    It’s not going to be like this for everyone, but I think there is one point I got out of that maybe has broader application: When you step back and look at the bigger picture, it becomes easier to see more positive possibilities. People who won’t support you are people you should be wary of in any case.

    1. Oh, that sounds so much like the complement to the Assange mess. You have very good causes that could be hurt by the fact that a public supporter is a rapist. But does it really help the good cause to support rape in order to minimize their problems?? Not! Not even in the short term, and absolutely not in the long term.
      I’m glad after all this you still feel like there was a positive outcome vaurora…

  31. I was raised by predators, too, and after many years of therapy, I’m a lot better. I have a lot to say about this, but there are a few important things I want to get out there for you before I choke and have to stop writing.

    I haven’t read any of the other responses. I absolutely know that they are good. Take what comfort you can from them because these are good people who care about you.

    First: in my state, and in many others, your therapist would be considered a Mandated Reporter, meaning that if s/he knows about a specific danger to children or old people, s/he is required by law to report to the police and/or the Child Protective service in your area. Even if your state does not mandate reporting, your therapist will know how to do it or can easily find out. Your molester’s next family likely lives by the same rules he does and won’t do anything with the information you give them. You can try, but do it in writing and keep copies.

    Also, SOME THINGS ARE UNFORGIVABLE. The only reason to forgive somebody who does such horrible things to you and your sibling is for your own comfort, so it’s not necessary unless it helps YOU. And forgiving is not the same as saying it was okay that it happened. If you were to forgive that rat bastard, you would still need to try to get a warning to the family whose children are at risk.

    I severed contact with my family of origin long ago, and mostly it’s been a relief. I caught my father trying to molest my 10-month-old daughter and after blowing the whistle–AGAIN–told them I would not be speaking to them again and not to contact me. For several weeks there was some anonymous caller who would call from a payphone at all hours of the day and night and then hang up, so I changed my phone number and wrote to them telling them to leave me alone.

    You are so brave and strong. I admire you and wish I could be right there with you to help. You have already done the most important thing, which is to escape. Carry on and trust your instincts.

  32. A note about reporting and the statute of limitations (at least in the US): The statute of limitations defines how much time can take place between a crime occurring and someone being charged with committing that crime. It does NOT mean that it cannot be reported. In the US, connect with your local sexual assault support center (rainn.org will tell you which is closest to you). They can tell you how to go about this. Having worked at a center, one of the things all of the police departments we worked with would tell us is that it’s never too late to make a police report. It might be too late to prosecute, but they can take all of the information down and then if the perpetrator’s name comes up in any subsequent reports or if the pattern seems familiar without a name, they *might* be able to connect the two. It can help them know who to keep an eye on. In some states, it can even be introduced at sentencing. It may allow them to demand a longer sentence for subsequent crimes, because they will have the knowledge that the perpetrator has done this before and is therefore at risk of doing it again. I cannot promise your PD will do this for you; I cannot promise they will be wonderful and supportive. I can say that there are definitely ones that are and your local support center will have a much better grasp on this. They may even be able to go with you, which I encourage you to consider. Ultimately, it is your choice and you should do what is best for you. Taking care of yourself is your number one obligation.

  33. 1- Fuck forgiving, and excuses, and keeping silent to make things easier for the man who molested you and the people who would choose him rather than stand with a victim of a pedophile. None of these people deserve an ounce of consideration.

    2- On the subject of reporting your father for the sake of other potential victims, you have to do what you need to do to survive, not just physically but emotionally. And there’s no denying that any steps you take to warn people will put you at risk emotionally because of hateful backlash from people who don’t want to know. Yet it feels like YOU think you should, which means that if you think you can handle that, it’s probably a good idea. Just make sure you have a really solid Team You in place first, ok? And have a few scripts worked up for how you will handle the range of crap you get from family members. One of which might be to respond to whatever shit they say with “So, I take it you’re siding with the pedophile?” Repeated in response to several comments in a row if necessary. At some point, you could switch to “I find your choice contemptible” and walk away.

    3- I can’t imagine siding with the pedophile. Lots of people can’t imagine siding with the pedophile. Which is not to say no one does — extensive evidence suggests otherwise — just that those people are not the whole world, by a long shot. They are not even the best part of the world. They are the collaborators and apologists of the world, the go-along-to-get-along, not-making-a-fuss-is-more-important-than-fighting-cruelty-and-injustice types, and really, you might as well find out which of those people in your “family” are among them so you do not waste a drop of your precious love and time and attention on the likes of them. If you sent out a warning — and I thought Captain Awkward’s script was awesome — and some of them get pissed off at you, by all means write them right off. Redefine family to mean people who love and support you and you can trust to have your back, not people who have a common ancestor. Hell, alone except for your sister would be better than defining family in a way that includes those assholes, and you’re not going to be that alone.

    Internet hugs.

    1. Love this answer. The only thing I would change is to replace “pedophile” with “child rapist.” All child rapists are pedophiles, but not all pedophiles rape children.

      Also, “So, I take it you’re siding with the rapist” packs even more of a punch.

  34. To me it sort of sounds like you want to tell his family but are scared of their reactions so that’s where I’ll be coming from here.

    Think about what will happen if they don’t believe you. You say you’re not that close and they don’t live near you, so what are the consequences for you? Them not believing you WILL feel pretty shitty, I can’t lie about that, it will hurt and make you feel awful. But you don’t have to see them all the time. What I would probably do if it was me would be to pretend I’ve emailed them and they’ve come back saying the worst things I can imagine – they don’t believe me, I wanted it, I’m trying to ruin his life over some grudge because I’m ungrateful, anything like that. Then I would let myself feel how that would feel. I would wallow in it. And when I was done I would think, “That is the worst case scenario. Anything that actually happens cannot be worse than that.”

    Now mind you, even if you do want to tell them, you can change your mind if you think about it and the possible consequences are too painful. You have to protect yourself first and foremost. The bullshit guilt that gets laid on rape victims to report because otherwise its their fault if someone else gets raped is BULLSHIT. It’s his responsibility to not rape. You warning people is a bonus, something you have to go out of your way to do and open yourself up for even more pain, and you don’t have to. You don’t have to do anything to protect other people – as I commented in the next post, you can’t even be obliged to donate someone a kidney, even if you’re the only match in the world, even though you can happily live with just one (though of course there are restrictions like not playing contact sports just in case, but even if there weren’t and it was a simple painless procedure you still couldn’t be obliged to).

    I hope the Captain’s response and the comments help you figure things out and good luck with your therapy and working out boundaries for yourself and keeping yourself safe and happy. That is the most important thing you can do. The only person you really are obligated to is yourself, after all.

  35. Dear LW,

    You are incredibly strong and incredibly brave.

    Take a moment, take a deep breath, and then read that again.

    It can be so hard to internalize positive things about ourselves and brush over them, especially from strangers, especially over the internet; or perhaps to intellectually understand them, but not internally believe them.

    So I hope you believe it as true when I tell you, you are so strong and you are so brave.

    LW, I work at a rape crisis center and deal with sexual assault survivors on a regular basis. My story is very similar to yours. Someone in my immediate family molested me as a child, and then I discovered later the abuse continued to my younger sibling. (cue years of family problems similar to yours)

    I want you to know that the guilt you are feeling surrounding your younger sibling is a completely normal reaction. You are a loving and caring person who wants the best for your sibling and to be able to protect them. Normal! Finding out this happened to your sibling and wishing they didn’t go through what you went through? Normal! But I also know this to be true, YOU DID NOT FAIL YOUR SIBLING. Your dad did. And your mom did. And any adult that might have known what could have been happening did.

    When we are abused, it takes away our sense of power and control. And taking blame (that does not belong to us) for what happened, can sometimes give us a sense of control. That if we had done X thing, then the abuse would not have happened. It gives us back a sense of power in a situation that as a child we were powerless in. So those feelings of guilt and blame are normal, and I want you to know you are not weird for feeling them.

    But LW, you were a child. And little LW was using all the tools that Lil LW had at the time. I know for me, it was easier to focus on my younger sibling’s abuse for a long time instead of my own because it was a comfortable space for me to take the blame. And it also meant that I could avoid dealing with my own abuse, until I felt safe enough and had the resources in my world to address the whole big mess of abuse that I survived. LW, you are all grown up now, and you have more tools, and you have control over your choices, and your body, and your life. And I hope one day soon you feel safe and empowered enough to put down the guilt you have been carrying around and understand that what happened was not your fault, you are in no way responsible for your dad’s actions to either you or your sibling or anyone else, in the past, or even in the future.

    Please be gentle with yourself, kind to yourself, and eventually forgive yourself on this.
    LW, whatever you choose to do regarding talking to family about the abuse, will be the right choice. You need to do whatever will make you feel safe.

    Logistically, I know that the statute of limitations is determined by state, is different depending on the particular sexual offense, and the statute time restraint that applies is generally what was in place at the time of the offense, not at the time you come forward. This would be something to discuss with any knowledgeable authority in your state on sexual abuse, about all the possibilities of what reporting the abuse entails.

    Talk to the people on Team You, your therapist, friends, and anyone at the nearest rape crisis center and come up with a game plan that makes sense to you after you are armed with information. But whatever you do, it should be YOUR decision, because YOU want it. Not because of pressure from anyone else on what should or should not be said/done. You do not owe anything to anyone. You are a strong, smart, and capable person, you have the power of getting to choose what you do, and no one gets to take that away from you.

    Prepare yourself for the possible outcomes of talking to family members about the abuse if/when you decide to do so. Not only preparing the possible scripts of what to do and say (and maybe, if anyone, who you want with you when you do it?), but how you will take care of yourself surrounding this. How you will be good to yourself after doing such a brave thing. I am sure you already have an arsenal of tools on self-care, but maybe make a physical list of things you can do and keep it somewhere handy.

    In case you want to add a few things to your list, here are some of my favorites: sitting down in a long hot shower, coloring, being in nature, watching something funny, hot tea, music, journaling, yoga, singing, cuddles, a close friend to talk to, candles, pedicures, playing guitar, crying, chocolate peanut butter ice-cream, playing with babies, punching my pillow, deep breathing, comfy pajamas, etc…

    LW, I want you to know that I care about you deeply and that you are not alone in the range of emotions you are feeling, and that you are so incredibly strong. Continue doing what you are doing, and keep building your safe world around you. And I am rooting for you, whatever you decide to do. I wish you the best on your journey of healing and thriving. You are a force to be reckoned with.

  36. LW, if you’re looking for a contact point I’d suggest talking to someone- my gut feeling says female – who has married into the family, rather than your dad’s siblings. Because it’s not unlikely that your dad’s siblings are deeply involvedand/or invested in denial and guilt and not-airing-dirty-laundry; but someone who has come into the family from the outside doesn’t owe your dad anything and is quite likely to value protecting their children higher than ‘keeping the family together’ and ‘not airing dirty laundry’. Their children’s safety versus someone else’s dirty laundry might make it more likely that they’ll not just believe you, but act upon it.

  37. If you are afraid that his sibling won’t believe you, you could just send a blast email to everyone in your extended family. It’s a bridge burning move, definitely, but I get this feeling that younger generations are just much less sick than the older ones. Kind of in the way that everyone excuses “racist grandma”, there is much more of a tendency to sweep things like abuse under the rug for previous generations. My guess is that cousins, especially young adults, who aren’t close to him would believe you much more.

    1. Oh, man, this is such a bold and awesome idea (that may or may not be right for you, LW! Keep yourself safe!). Upthread someone mentioned going to the kids and talking to them about ‘if an adult’/”your body is your body’, which didn’t sit quite right with me. I think commenter was on point that talking to the kids directly could be a great option, but i really dislike the idea of doing it in a general, hypothetical kind of way. 11 year olds are pretty savvy in some ways, but this seems like warning a person in a calm voice about proper response to a bear attack while failing to point out the ninja grizzly creeping up behind them. If you choose to talk to the kids, LW, please consider telling them. You could avoid saying the words explicitly, if you wanted, with something like, “When I was growing up, my dad did some terrible things to me and my sister. It was awful, and no adults helped me. I want to talk to you about things to do in case of (any adult) doing something or trying to do something to you.” But the information that your father is dangerous is crucial, I think, if you decide to talk to his potential victims. (Which, I would again like to point out, you absolutely do not ‘need’ or ‘have’ to do, LW! I just think if you decide to talk to the kids, it would be helpful to give them actual information.)

  38. Fuck “old school”. Beverly Cleary wrote in her memoir that her mother(with whom she did not have the best relationship) believed her when the husband of a relative started acting inappropriately to her and no young female relatives were ever left around him again. This was in 1925.

    In 1964 the director Sam Fuller mused “what’s more shameful than a being a prostitute? being a child molester!” Which led to the making of the Naked Kiss

    1. THIS. I found out THIS YEAR that the reason I never met any of my mother’s paternal family — the reason behind my grandmother’s divorce — was that my maternal great-grandfather sexually abused my mother from childhood, and my grandfather physically abused her and her brothers. When my mother told my grandmother, she kicked the lot of them to the curb, filed for divorce and got it, and moved the whole family 800 miles away. She did this in 1963.

      My grandfather died year before last, in a nursing home, with none of his family there (it took them a week to find my uncle, after); there was no funeral, and only a two-line notice in the paper. It’s a hell of a thing to think about, but my thoughts always end with “I’m glad my Grammy was strong enough to protect my mom and my uncles once she knew, and to make sure we would be safe from them.”

      1. Your grandmother KICKS. ASS.

        A previous boyfriend I had came from a family with a history of sexual abuse–specifically, his grandfather raped all of his daughters, including my boyfriend’s mother. None of the women in that family were able to stand up to him. The only reason my boyfriend even found out was that his mother and father had an ugly divorce and in the process a lot of dirty laundry was aired. One of the issues in my boyfriend’s parents’ marriage? The fact that she still talked to, cared about, and was loyal to her father/rapist.

        I had to attend the funeral of that rapist. And watch all of those people (SO MANY) mourn him. It was vile. He shouldn’t have had loving family at his funeral. He should have died alone and had no funeral and only a tiny notice in the paper. Instead it was attended by the two generations of his family that he had warped forever.

  39. I do like the idea of telling everybody in the extended family, including (especially) the kids. Two reasons:

    1. Many people here have already told you not to blame yourself for your sister’s abuse. Even though they’re absolutely right that the blame rests on the shoulders of the person who abused your sister, you still feel bad about it. If he hurts somebody else in the family before you speak up, you’ll probably feel worse than if you say something and the family gets mad at you. At least you’ll know you tried.

    2. Let’s say your father manages to abuse one of your younger relatives even though you warn everyone about him. That doesn’t mean your actions won’t have done any good. If nothing else, the kid he abuses will know that somebody attempted to fight for her — somebody was in her corner.

    BTW, none of this is to imply that you should beat yourself up for not warning your sister. You did try to protect her. You talked to your father about it, and he promised he would never hurt her. Abusers are good at convincing lies, and people much older than you were then have been taken in by them.

    Good luck, whatever you decide to do next.

  40. LW, here. Thank you for all of the support and encouragement. I’ve been watching the comments for hours, and I’m blown away by the kindness of strangers.

    I’m having a hard time figuring out what to say. I keep wanting to explain more, but also don’t want to give even more identifying details. All of Team Me knows about the abuse, which is straightforward. I had forgotten about the ability to try and file a police report without pressing charges, and that sounds like a good subject for my therapist, too. The idea of trying to remember it all (since it occurred over a period of time, and I did a really good job of repressing it until pantsfeelings gave me panic attacks. Poor First Pantser) is completely horrifying. I think suggestions that I not rely on a single relative as a point of contact are daunting but really smart. I don’t think I’ll be reaching out to the kids – I have met only one of them, incredibly briefly. Maybe I can include resources for parents to talk to their kids about?

    I’m not sure I managed to express it well in my letter, but my worry hasn’t been my relatives’ hurt feelings (or even my dad’s, although I’m not even mad at him anymore. It’s all…pity and contempt, I think? I do worry about him hurting himself if he is alienated from his social network because of this, but I’m trying to come to terms with the Not My Faultness of that), but the overwhelming fear that I could go through outing myself (and negotiating outing my sibling in this, since I think the repeated behavior pattern, years apart, thing is really important) and it could be useless, and I could discover that my relatives … all deserve bags of dicks for Christmas? But, I really think that by broadening the scope and talking to most of them the family drama levels will spike, but the usefulness quotient will probably be met. If nothing else, family gossip might get them to try and protect their kids, whether or not they actually believe me.

    And who knows? Maybe some of them could be as supportive as the Awkward Army? Seriously, I really appreciate the reassurance, and the stories, and the “X could happen but you can always respond with Y”. Thank you so much. I’d thank you individually, but it’s too hard, still.

    Boy am I going to be prepared for my next therapy session.

    1. LW You don’t owe us anything, let alone personal replies.

      Use whatever you can out of all this to talk it through with your therapist. It may slow down whatever you thought you might do in therapy but if it _is_ a tangent or a diversion it will be worthwhile.

      Take care of yourself. Let your strength grow and develop at its own pace. We’ll all still be here if you need or want to come back.

    2. LW, we don’t want you to feel like you’re putting yourself out here too much for comfort, so feel free to say nothing else.

      I like your idea of including some resources in any letter you choose to send out, I think that helps make it less personal, less just about you. The densest people have heard by now that children do get raped within their family. But I’d also like to support your feelings of not wanting to drag your sister directly into any declaration/warning. If she really wants to, that’s one thing. But you can mention he broke his promise to you not to abuse someone else without naming her at all. It may make your argument a bit less strong, but it doesn’t invalidate it, because you’re talking about your experience. Even if people guess this other person may be your sister, that could be just a symptom that they suspected him before, and in any case they’re very unlikely to confront her about it.

      I’d like to comfort you with the likelihood that the entire family will probably not side with the rapist. No matter what the family, there are divisions. Even my father’s family had a couple people who have really brightened my life :-). You may well set off an avalanche of hate from the rapists and their supporters. But you may also flush out a couple strong supporters for yourself from the sidelines. Someone else who’s been a victim of the family rapists. Someone who hates them and didn’t have a concrete reason why. It’s my opinion, but I prefer to have a few good family members than to put up with the whole lot of assholes..

    3. Totally agree with the conclusion of your second paragraphs. It seems like there’s no way to handle this that won’t cause a drama spike, and that’s not your fault or a reason not to tell anyone, no matter what your mother may say. Even if the initial reaction is not good and of the OMG why are you causing all this drama kind, the thing is, the information will then be out there, and that might lead to people trying to protect their kids, even if they initially try to reject that information as too upsetting to deal with.

  41. LW, your situation reminds me so much of my own. My father molested me for several years when I hit puberty, on top of emotionally abusing the whole family for as long as I can remember. He told me he planned to rape me when I got older, but thankfully it never got that far. My father had no living relatives for me to worry about, but after my mother divorced him he moved in with a girlfriend who had two daughters around the age I had been when he molested me. I was terrified to tell anyone for years because I blamed myself and didn’t want to tear apart my family, but I was afraid that if I didn’t say anything, his girlfriend’s daughters would go through the same nightmare I did. When I finally told, there was some fallout, but there was also the relief of getting it out there and warning my step-sisters about my father. My mother believed and supported me, but my dad’s girlfriend (who had been like a second mom), said I was making the whole thing up out of spite. My brother refused to believe me at first, but came around after a few years (turned out he was physically abused by our father). My step-sisters backed me up. In the end, I did lose some of the people I considered family, but I also found out who had my back and cared about me and who couldn’t be bothered to give up the convenience of pretending nothing happened. As wrenchingly difficult as it was to go through all that, it made my life SOOOO much better in the long run. Now that I’ve cut out all the people who would choose my abuser over me, pretty much everyone left is on Team Me. Not all of it ended perfectly. The aforementioned girlfriend continued to let my father live in the same house as her children, and I didn’t get to see as much of my step-sisters. But at least they knew about him and had resources to go to if he stepped out of line. And while I never tried to prosecute (too scary), a police report was made, so his name is on file should anything happen in the future. Last but not least, telling felt good. The more I got it out there, the less it felt like some dirty shameful secret I had to carry, the more it shifted my sense of dirtiness and shame onto him, and the more I felt justified in only dealing with people who don’t protect abusers and rapists. I stopped second guessing my decision to talk when I started reminding myself every day that if he didn’t want me to talk freely about it, he should’ve thought about that before he molested me.

    I don’t know if hearing all this helps or not, but I hope it does. Do whatever feels most right to you, and I hope it goes the best it possibly can. Good for you for cutting off from him, and good for you for getting yourself therapy. I’m rooting for you!

  42. I’m not sure I’ll have the spoons to read all the comments, but I’ve been wondering for a few weeks if I should ask Captain Awkward myself how to develop a Team You when you have a family full of narcissists and abusers, and now I see this particular question…

    My sexual predator was my cousin when we were both teenagers, and I was living with his parents (after my parents sent me away in disgrace, for flunking out of college). He raped me twice, but he also tortured me and threatened me with a hunting knife. I lived in terror for months, since my parents didn’t want to let me come back ‘home’. Eventually they relented, only to constantly tell me what a horrible example I was setting for my younger siblings, that I was a disgrace to the family name.

    Told my parents about Cousin 5 years later only because I thought I was “going crazy” and thought if my life/sanity was at stake, since they were my parents, for once they would help. My mother called me a slut and a liar and said I probably seduced Cousin, then accused him out of revenge. She told me she loved him more than me; said he was a good person and I wasn’t. My dad let her say those awful things. Then claimed he was going to kill Cousin, so I felt I had to minimize my own rape and torture to protect Cousin’s life. Neither of my parents ever apologized or explained what the fuck they were thinking that day. It killed any love I had for them, but I remained psychologically enmeshed with them for another 15 years (during which I got lots more therapy).

    About 12 years after, I was ready to think about pressing charges, despite the fallout I knew there would be. The state I was raped in? Is one of the few that has a statute of limitations for rape, and it had expired.

    Cousin has consistently claimed to have “no idea” why I can’t be in the same room with him. My mother bludgeoned me with “family harmony” as a reason to ‘just get over it’ already and *be friends again*!

    The last straw was Cousin’s wedding 7 years ago. I agonized over how or whether to tell his fiancee that he had been a violent juvenile sex offender who never got any counseling. My therapist, my husband, every friend I had, finally convinced me reaching out to her might get me killed, so I reluctantly said nothing. But I did stop talking to my parents, who attended his wedding (!). Apparently out of solidarity, all 3 of my siblings and pretty much every living relative that I had any relationship with, stopped talking to me.

    I do hope my brother never allows his daughters to be alone with Cousin, but nothing I can do about it if he doesn’t.

    I now live halfway across the country, and I’ll probably never see any of them ever again. Best decision I ever made, but oh, it was agonizing. I don’t miss having parents who didn’t love me, but I do miss having parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces.

  43. I am not normally a Captain Awkward reader but I talk a lot about being an incest survivor.

    It sounds like you are a girl but I can’t swear to it. Person who wrote the letter, it looks like people call you LW. Letter Writer? I’m guessing.

    I have had intensely good and intensely bad experiences with police. When I reported my father’s molestation/rape I had good detectives. They were very good men. I think my case traumatized them. One of them cried when he told me he had never heard anything as horrible as what my father said during his confession. They were supportive and kind. I didn’t go through the full trial experience because my dad committed suicide the morning his trial was to begin. He left long notes saying that I was a liar and evil.

    But when I was 18 I was slipped a date rape drug and raped and the sheriff told me, “What else did you expect?” and wouldn’t press charges because he wasn’t willing to ruin the guy’s Coast Guard career. Even though I had physical evidence. Festive.

    I have no relationship with anyone from my family. I don’t speak with my siblings, mother, aunts, uncles… It kind of happened in stages then all at once. Last year I had a breakdown and I sent everyone an email saying that my father raped me then held a gun to my head when I was nine years old and none of them ever helped me and I need them to know that. Then I wrote a book about my first 18 years. It’s a harsh book. I doubt I will ever speak to anyone I share blood with other than my kids.

    If you really come out as an incest survivor you may find out that your family would rather kick you out. You are the problem. My experience is not uncommon. I was raped over and over for decades but can’t I shut up and let them get back to their soap operas? They really don’t give a shit about me.

    I have to do that. No one else is ever going to give me the love and support that a family gives. I am married, but my husband is an Aspie. I am alone a lot of the time. My friends basically disappeared when I had kids and stopped whoring around. I guess that was my only use. (to be fair the friend who sent me here moved from California to FREAKIN SCOTLAND so she has an excuse for not visiting me.)

    You are going to have a hard road. I hope you have a good relationship with a therapist. Take care of you. Take care of you. Take care of you. You have to put your own oxygen mask on first or you can’t take care of anyone else. You have to believe you are important.

    I prosecuted my dad because he wanted to escalate things with me. I hadn’t seen him in many years but when I was 16 I called him and asked if I could have a computer because I was in AP classes at school. He asked me for a weekend visit alone. I wasn’t willing to fuck him for a computer. So I called the cops. My mom represents me quite badly. I was “just being petty because he wouldn’t give me a computer.”

    He put a gun to my head and asked me if I deserved after raping me when I was 9 years old. But I’m petty for not fucking him in order to get a computer. Or doing without if I don’t want to fuck him. I should have just shut up.

    I prosecuted my father because he raped my sister and my brother. He raped his sisters growing up. He raped the two daughters of his other girlfriend. He raped my mother–I was told my whole life that I was the product of marital rape. My mother was a charter–that was how she handled birth control. She didn’t want another baby. She told him no sex. So he raped her. Here I am.

    I prosecuted my father because I needed him to stop hurting me. I knew he would continue to do so. I knew he would hurt other people. I HAD to. If you don’t feel the same way then the process of dealing with police can be degrading and horrifying. I don’t think there is a “right” thing to do, really. I’m so sorry. I wish there was.

    I agree with all the commenters who tell you to form Team You. Therapist. Close friends. You can make it through this. Good luck. I’m not going to lie to you–you almost certainly have Complex PTSD if you lived through ongoing childhood sexual assault. You are going to have rough days. Remember even on the bad days that there will be good days too. You deal with things in layers. Be patient with yourself.

  44. LW, your letter gave me chills. I know I’m a bit late to the thread, but I just wanted to just throw my voice in with the rest, in saying that you are awesome, and your father’s actions are NOT YOUR FAULT.

    It took me years to stop blaming myself when my father raped my step-sister – I mean, I knew who and what he was, right? Therefore I should have had the wherewithal as a 11-year-old to single-handledly put a stop to a serial child rapist, right? No. It was not my fault. When jerkbrain started into the self-recriminations, I trained nicebrain to shout back “NOT MY FAULT” until jerkbrain was completely drowned out. YMMV, but it was really helpful to me – and the longer I did it, the more I believed it.

    My father is the worst kind of predator. He molested me at age 5, and when he finally went to jail 10 years later, he would be wanted in three states for hundreds of charges of child sexual abuse, and considering how good he got at doing it quickly, surreptitiously, and in broad daylight, there’s no way to know exactly how many victims he had.

    Reading your letter, I feel like I’m walking into my own story somewhere in the middle of those 10 years before my father went to prison.

    You are in no way obligated to go to the authorities, or talk to your extended family, or provide “closure” for anyone (and I’m horrified that they are asking that of you). If you choose to talk to your family about this, I’d urge you to use the scripts that CA and others here have provided, as they are fantastic.

    Whatever you decide to do, I can’t emphasize enough that your father’s actions are not your fault in any way, shape or form. In my experience, if a predator wants something, he will take it, regardless of any measures taken to prevent it. It is not, and never will be, your fault, in even the smallest measure.

    All the Jedi hugs that you want, LW. You are so strong.

  45. LW, my heart goes out to you. You’ve already shown great courage.

    I don’t know how much this anecdote will be of use to you, but I’m a legal transcriber, and I occasionally do work for the police. This unfortunately includes a lot of sex crimes. But I’ve seen arrests made for sexual abuse and rape dating back as far as the 1930s.

    I don’t know what the law is in your area, and there’s no guarantee the police will be willing or even able to help you. And the whole legal process related to sex crimes can be incredibly stressful and even traumatising for the victim. But if you choose to go down that path, I wish you luck and strength.

  46. Captain, I love you. I have a juicy bag of dicks with razor blades embedded that I would like to add to your shipment.
    LW, I am so so so sorry for the violation of your trust and safety and body that you endured. I agree that if I were you, I would want to do what no one did for me, and try to protect future victims. Do not hesitate to out this maggot father of yours. I send you Jedi hugs and a box of Righteous Mojo!

  47. If you do opt to contact your paternal family about him, you might have better luck bypassing his siblings and going to their spouses first– a friend in a similar situation did that, when she suspected Bad Person’s Family/Friends wouldn’t believe her. The situation wasn’t the same, but it boiled down to that this wasn’t a person that should be trusted, and especially not around vulnerable people.

    Her approach was basically to contact Spouse/SO and say “This is the situation with X, this is why they are not a safe person.”

    I think she also contacted Bad Person’s Family/Friends, but she knew they had a vested interest in believing in Bad Person, in not thinking it possible that this person could be like that.

    Whatever you decide, nobody has the right to demand you react in the ways they’d prefer -you don’t have to forgive, you don’t have to be Hollywood-traumatised, you don’t have to become a saint or a martyr or an avenging angel.

  48. LW and so many other commenters here, I am so sorry that you were betrayed, often by your own parents, and abused in a way that no human should experience, much less any child. It just makes me want to apologize on behalf of humanity. God, no, it was not your fault; so many others have failed you. At the same time you survived and moved forward and told your story and I am so glad for that, glad you’re here with us and speaking out, regardless of how you choose to or able to handle all the complexities around your abuse. All my good thoughts to you.

  49. it’s been a really long time since i’ve posted a comment here… but this was rather like reading something i could have written, so i’ll say [if no one minds] what i wish i could have told myself.

    first – like everyone else says – this wasn’t your fault, your father is the one at fault, AND SO IS YOUR MOTHER. honestly – in a way, i feel hers is the bigger crime. but that’s neither here nor there.

    the thing… the PROBLEM is, when you have a kid around 12, that kid is no longer seen as “child” in a specific socio-sexual way. not that a 12-y-o is seen as someone ready to have sex! but that there isn’t that same HORROR at it. even – maybe especially – when it is against their will.

    so if you take the advice to warn cousins directly, i would absolutely NOT tell them to go to any teacher. i’d warn them that lots and lots of people have totally effed-up views on things like being raped/molested, go to a teacher you TRUST or even BETTER, call a hotline, call someplace neutral, call CPS DIRECTLY [or whatever children protection services is called where they are]. teachers can – shouldn’t, legally are obligated to not, but can anyway – judge the person who was sexually assaulted. i wish i had been given more options than “tell a teacher or school admin”. there ARE more options, and in the long run i feel they are safer. because even if you have the coolest, most -ist-knowledgable teacher EVER, that teacher STILL KNOWS. and that can be nice for a bit… but later, maybe you want to just go to school and not have to think about it? but you see the teacher, you know zie knows…

    but sexual desire for a 12-y-o isn’t pedophilia, it’s ebophilia [spelling?] and GENERALLY younger kids are safe [by which i mean – those who look like CHILDREN, as opposed to young teens]
    and i bring this up because the repercussions are a bit different. the blame attached can be different – “it wouldn’t have happened excepted i started developing” sorts of blame. i hope neither you nor your sibling have that sort of blame ON TOP of the regular sorts of blame/shame. the way OTHERS react is changed in a similar manner – what is OMGNEVERFORGIVE!!! when done to a 9 year old turns into some bullshit of “but just LOOK at hir, zie doesn’t look *12*, zie looks [insert older, “acceptable” to the speaker, age] and really, how can we expect [rapist] to control hirself in the face of that” victim-blaming-rape-culture SWILL. rape culture is rape culture; hell, i’ve heard “Born-Again Christians” excuse the rape of a 14-y-o developmentally-delayed girl with “well, the Bible says if a woman is “taken” in a city and doesn’t scream, the man can pay her father a good dowry and marry her. why doesn’t he just marry the girl, then?” [NOTE: that was NOT me knocking on Christians, though there was a small bit of snark towards hypocrites; rather, that was meant as an example of how people can and will use ANYTHING to justify evil like this. for all the reasons they do, which full subject would take at least a full encyclopedia-length books series to even START defining]

    i ALSO think that you might – just possibly, depending [i am not there, i cannot judge, etc] warn people about your MOTHER. covering a crime is a crime itself. one has to wonder what OTHER crimes she has covered? i absolutely would never, ever want to leave ANYONE alone with a person who is that willing to cover crimes, that willing to pressure and manipulate innocents and victims.

    as a not-really-related sort of aside – if you ever want to get together with someone whose been through almost the same thing, i’ve been therapy a loooooooooooong time too, and i don’t mind talking with others. while therapy is great and necessary and infinitely useful, sometimes it’s nice to talk to someone who GETS IT. na da? [you obviously don’t have to. up to you.happy to talk and/or listen, if you want, or be ignored, if you want 🙂 ]

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