Dear Dr. G.,
I was sexually abused by my uncle who is my mother's brother for 4 years. He started touching me at age 12 and stopped when I was 16. At 16 I had had enough and started avoiding him completely. I never told my mom about this because I didn't want to get my uncle into trouble. I've always been the type to look out for other people.
Now that I'm 18 I want to tell my mother. She can then decide whether or not she wants to tell my dad and how we should deal with my uncle. My uncle moved to another state recently so maybe that's why I'm ready to talk about this with my mother.
I just feel that we'd have a better and more honest relationship if I come clean. I have to admit that I want to know if my mother ever suspected. If she did I want to know why she didn't protect me.
Here's my problem, Dr. G. I don't really know how to talk about this. Can you guide me?
A Violated Teen
I admire you and your courage. You are absolutely correct that sharing the truth can "set you free" so to speak. Once you are free of secrets anxiety tends to lessen in intensity. That is because secrets require a lot of energy to keep, right?
I agree that you and your mom may take your relationship to a more honest and mature level if you tell her about what happened. Unfortunately, there is no clear script about how to address this very painful issue. Nonetheless, I will guide you like I have guided many young women before you
First, let your mother know that you need to talk to her in a private place where the two of you can be free of interruptions. You may want to start out gently and talk to your mom about the happy memories associated with your childhood. Then tell your mother that there were painful times as well. Let her know what happened, with whom, and how long it went on. Do not feel compelled to give details of what happened until you are ready.
Expect that your mother is likely to display a number of emotions including sadness and anger. She will be sad that she didn't protect you. She will, of course, be angry at her brother. Keep in mind,though, that he may have molested your mom when they were growing up.If so, your mother may experience relief by sharing this with you. Don't be surprised if your mom seems to be a bit angry at you for not telling her while it was happening. Most mothers are by nature protective. My hope is that after the two of you have had some time to talk you will embrace and cry in each others arms.
Be honest with your mom. Let her know if you are angry that she didn't protect you. You may also want to ask her if she ever suspected anything. I'm not sure whether or not you have other siblings but if you do your mother may want to find out if they too experienced similar violations at the hands of your uncle. I am also not sure exactly what your uncle did. It will be up to you if you want to proceed legally. Also, think about whether or not you would like to seek help from a therapist to give even more of a voice to what you kept secret for so many years.
You are a brave young woman. I wish you all the luck in the world. Please get back to me and let me know the outcome of this situation.
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