How do we help a family member who has revealed she was molested years ago?
May 12, 2007 2:50 PM   Subscribe

A few months ago, my sister disclosed to my family that she was molested as a child by an aide to a former baby sitter. We would like to help her but we have no idea how to proceed from here. What should we do?

This is my youngest sister...the baby of the family and the most adored. We had no idea this had happened to her until about six months ago. There was signs but she was always a very introverted girl. She married young and is now a mother. She told her husband first and he didn't disclose her secret until she was ready. There were a lot of tears, feelings of guilt and a lot of pain involved for a few weeks. We tracked down the day care where this occurred and the police were ready to move forward but can only do so after my sister comes forward. She's not ready to do that. We would like her to get counseling and my parents have offered to pay for as much of it as she'd like but she hasn't moved forward with a matter of fact, she's said nothing since her disclosure more than six months ago. Do we just say nothing and wait for her to ask for more help. Is there anything we can do to encourage to get the help she needs? We are really at a loss and don't know where to go from here.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (7 answers total)

I would recommend visiting this previous thread in which the topic is broad, but there is some interesting anecdotal experience with people who were molested as children.

It seems in some cases, the fallout from benevolently minded family members was actually worse than the trauma itself. The urge to do something, anything, is no doubt very pressing, but you might want to take cues from your sister as to if she wants to pursue this -- you've reached out, now let her decide.
posted by geoff. at 3:03 PM on May 12, 2007

I would let her take things at her own pace on this. That doesn't mean that you have to stay completely quiet and act like she never told you, but don't put any pressure on her and if she seems uncomfortable on the topic I would rarely discuss it. There is not a lot you personally can do other than to let her know you support her, and her decisions.
posted by caddis at 3:32 PM on May 12, 2007

Sometimes just the disclosure helps. Talking about it further may not just be in the cards for her right now. It may be too painful, or, the disclosure was the most important part for your sister at this point. Sounds strange to people who want to support and help her (and looks like you and your family are doing a great job at that) but the relief from such a disclosure can be overwhelming. She'll probably want help and to talk more at a later point, but for now, just being open and receptive to what she wants - and not pushing her - is the best course of action.
posted by meerkatty at 4:16 PM on May 12, 2007

I was molested as a child and don't feel that I was traumatized by it. The last thing that I want is people hovering over me worrying about how traumatized I am. I'm not saying that this is the case with your sister, but unless you feel like she is reaching out or in need of some help or support, I'd just let the situation be.
posted by alms at 4:26 PM on May 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

You may want to contact your local Rape Crisis Center. Our local center not only provides free counseling to victims (even if the event was many years ago) but also to others affected by the event (parents, spouse etc.). They might be able to help you with your own emotions as well as how to help her.

Our center also provides a victim's advocate service so that if /when she wants to find out what would happen if she talked to the police, they can tell her what to expect and help her sort out what she wants to do. If she goes ahead, they can be with her during any interviews, track the case on her behalf and generally provide support (again for free)
posted by metahawk at 6:58 PM on May 12, 2007

I'm not sure how to advise you regarding your sister, but I think it's important to make sure that the person who molested her does not continue to work with children. People who offend children rarely stop at just one victim. It's very likely that person has molested before and has done so since.
posted by loquat at 11:33 PM on May 12, 2007

We tracked down the day care where this occurred....We would like her to get counseling....Is there anything we can do to encourage [her] to get the help she needs? We are really at a loss...

These comments in your post make it sound like you and/or your family are trying to take over your sister's life. You should realize that your sister, when she was sexually abused, experienced a significant loss of control. An important stepy, for most abuse survivors, is re-experiencing control over their lives. Therefore, I suggest that you and your family back off and let your sister make the decisions. You don't get to decide what "help she needs"---she gets to decide that for herself.

In your post, you ask a couple different questions, and they have different answers:

Is there anything we can do to encourage [her] to get the help she needs?


How do we help a family member who has revealed she was molested years ago?

Ask her what help she wants from you, and then do what she tells you to do.
posted by medusa at 4:49 PM on May 14, 2007

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