Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Use That Ace

Dear Aunt Babz,

I need some serious advice. For the past month I’ve been feeling really low and alienated from my family and friends. It's only January but as the days pass I become more apprehensive.

Every summer my uncle visits us and stays for three months. He lives in a different country and has been divorced for about seven years and blind for five. It's hard on all of us to take care of someone who constantly needs attention. My six-member family lives in a really tiny apartment and it gets too crowded. The one thing we've always disliked about his stay is his smoking. He smokes about a pack and a half a day and it really bothers my family. He is really inconsiderate when it comes to that because he knows that it makes my mother sick.

Anyways, my uncle and I have been really close for the last two summers he’s been here. I felt that he was the only one who understood me and so we spent a lot of time together. I would vent my feelings and share my thoughts with him and he would be supportive and listen. I really loved his company and felt that he was my real parent. I found that spending a lot of time with my uncle was angering my mom and she would constantly fight with me and tell me that I shouldn’t take him outside. I just thought it was another excuse for my mom to keep me inside.

That summer, my mom and I and had big fights everyday and my uncle would give me advice on how to avoid them. Pretty soon, I trusted him over my parents and even though I was constantly mad, it felt great to have someone to talk to. My traditional family and I are never really on the same page. I guess my uncle felt the same way about our relationship because he would tell me that I was different from my family and that I was the smartest teenager that he had ever met. He even said he wished his son were as intelligent as I was. It really made my day to hear those things. I knew he was a smart man but no matter how much respect I had for him, I always felt sorry for him more because he was blind, had a broken home and had to depend on others so much although he had a lot of money.

As the summer progressed my uncle's behavior kind of changed but it was too subtle for me to notice at the time. He became more physical by always giving me hugs and kisses and then it became awkward. For example he would be running his hands down my back, feel my bra clasp, and tell me that I shouldn’t be wearing bras and that I should let my breasts have some air. I wouldn’t even expect to hear that from my mom and I was really surprised that he had the audacity to say something like that. Then he would steer our conversations into something more sexual and tell me that I could ask him anything and that he knew I had a lot of questions but was too afraid to ask. I became really nervous taking him out to walk because he didn’t know when to draw the line. Even though I knew it was wrong, I never said anything because I felt sorry for him and I’m ashamed to say that he did manipulate me. It just kept getting worse.

One day while on our walk, he told me that he didn’t feel like he was my uncle, instead he felt as though I were an adult. I took it as a compliment then but now I feel so stupid for not thinking twice about it. A week later, my uncle asked me to talk with him in the balcony where he smokes and that’s where it happened. As we talked casually he reached over my shoulder and put hands down my shirt grabbing my breast. It was horrifying but I wasn’t mad because he wired me to feel sorry for him and I did. But I yelled at him and told him no, he couldn’t do that. Then he quickly stood up and told me he was sorry. I wanted to cry but I also wanted it to be over. He told me to give him a hug and I did, he pulled my body too close to his, pushed his genitals too close to my pelvic area, and kissed me on the lips. I pulled myself away from him and left.

I stayed up the whole night crying. I really felt like dirt and was very ashamed. Mostly because I let my sympathy for him cloud my judgment. I didn’t speak to him for two days and then he asked my dad if he could go on a walk and my dad forced me to take him. I felt really angry. I was quiet most of the time and only spoke to tell him, I didn’t care. He then stopped us and told me he was extremely sorry. He said he would never touch me again but begged me to continue talking to him. I told him I would speak to him but I never forgave him.
For the two weeks he had left until he had to go back home I spoke to him but I wasn’t interested in what he said anymore. Soon I found that I wasn't angry anymore and that I felt sorry for him again because he looked really depressed. When I began to distance myself from him I found that I didn’t fight with my mom anymore. We became a lot closer. She then told me a secret and that it was crucial that I tell no one.

She told me that the reason my uncle was blind was because his wife left him, took their son and he wanted to make her feel bad. He overdosed on some pharmaceutical drug. His attempted suicide ended up messing up his nerves and now he’s blind. At that moment, I didn’t know what I felt. I knew that my uncle had this effect on people, where he would make them feel really sorry for him but this just blew my mind away. I no longer felt sorry for him, I felt sorry for myself. I had lived with what had happened and put more stress on myself for nothing. He created the mess that was his life and manipulated everyone into thinking he was helpless. I thought he was an inconsiderate jerk. His presence always made my parents fight and near divorce and we took it all because he wanted people to feel sorry for him!!!!!! Even before he was blind he had it all figured out.
I totally cut him out of my life. I didn’t speak to him during his last days and he knew I hated him. I always had the fear he would commit suicide in our house. Whenever I thought about him I wanted to throw up. So I blocked it all out and it all came crashing down every time he called and asked for me. Now, a while later, his time to come again is near and I can’t live with him. I think about it everyday and cry. I recently told my sister what happened and she cried too but I didn’t know how to stop him from coming.

My father loves his brother and insists that he comes every summer. Oh god I just wouldn’t be able to take that.
When my mother and I were having a really good conversation about our hardships I begged her to stop him from coming. In the heat of the moment I let it all out and she was angry. Angry with him and angry with me for having kept it in for so long. Finally, after a long chat and a good cry my mom assured me that he would never step foot into out house again. I was relieved but now I had a bad feeling in my gut.

This confession could ruin my family. My father could hate me forever for saying things about his brother and I don’t want to ruin my parents relationship and I don’t want to add stress into my father’s life. I really love my parents and I don’t know what to do. My mom said she wouldn’t tell my dad until I was ready but I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. Should I just tell my mom to forget it and let him visit so my father and everyone are happy? I just don’t know what to make of this situation. Please help and sorry this is so long, I just needed to get it all out.

Thank you for your help,


Dear J.W.,

Wow, with a capital "W." I really feel for you as none of this is fair to you, none whatsoever. As well, it's not your fault. I must point this out as quite often a victim of a molestation, yes, that's what it's called, feel they brought it on themselves or provoked it.

It has to feel like the ultimate betrayal, I would imagine? Especially so, since you'd tried to be there, emotionally, for your Uncle, only to have it turn around and bite you in the butt. Let me first point out, you did not deserve this. Yes, you should be able to be intimate with an Uncle and not have it turn into a sexual connotation. You were, for all intent and purpose, being a good niece. It is your Uncle who abused this privilege. I want to make sure you understand this and the fact that you've done nothing wrong. I could never reiterate this enough.

Now, let me make a suggestion;

Take this opportunity, use it to your advantage. In all actuality, what your Uncle did was, not only morally wrong but it is against the law. Having said this, realize the potential and possible outcome. Think about the situation and could he, would he, has he done this to someone else? It's quite possible, if he'd do this to you, he'd do it to anybody. It must be stopped. You have the power, right now to nip it in the bud before he deflowers some poor impressionable young girl. Imagine, someone who is not as well rounded as yourself, someone who is not as strong willed and what your Uncle might, unequivocally do to that person?

See, if he'd try this out on his own flesh and blood, if you ask me, he's behaving unscrupulously. Now, giving him the benefit of the doubt, you know, maybe he got caught up in the situation, wouldn't it be better, wouldn't you be doing him a service by demanding that he get help?

The Ace Up Your Sleeve

Yes, this is exactly what I would do, tell him to go for counseling or you will go to the authorities. He'll be charged and if found guilty, for the rest of his life, he will be considered a Sexual Offender. He'll have to register, under Megan's Law with his residing County and people will be able to see his picture and locale on a website.

You must point out all this, place it in no uncertain terms and ask him, which is the lesser of two evils; to get help, on his own or to have his name drug through the mud?If you file charges and yes, you do have that right under the new Sexual Victims Disclosure Laws, he will be arrested, charged and possibly remanded, for incarceration. Then as part of his Parole Packet/Orders he'll be required to attend Counseling for Sexual Offenders, anyway. Which would he prefer???

I would most certainly make him aware that you intend to play hardball with him and that he needs help. I would make him aware that you will never tolerate his behavior, it disgusts you, not to mention the hurt and confusion, it must bring about. As well, I don't know your Sisters age but you must make sure this does not happen to her or anyone else, for that matter. I doubt you are his first. I'd be willing to bet, his brazen behavior has been going on for quite some time. You have the Ace, play it and start the healing, stop the pain and stop him from hurting anyone else.

Trust Issues

I further suggest, if at all possible, for you to seek counseling. When a person in a place of authority, i.e., teacher, government official and especially a parent or family member violates your trust, we often times have an extremely difficult time allowing ourselves to trust again. More often than not, when a person, a female has had that trust violated, they tend to equate it as, all men, in general, are untrustworthy. They often go on to form the opinion that all men are dogs. Men are hardwired differently than women and it's often times hard for us, as women to understand what motivates them. We don't think like that, nor do we behave as they do, especially a sexual predator or male that molests. But all men are not like that and it would be the crowning insult to injury, for you to go on and harbor resentments towards men, as a whole. It could/would affect you, possibly, the rest of your life. See this scenario's importance!

I can tell that you are what I call, a "Survivor." This means, you tend to take on more than you should and just get through it. Where others crumble, you still stand. We survivors usually stuff things, deep down and just try to muddle through. But my suggestion is for you to look at this and not ignore it. I don't want you to allow this to own you either. Yes, you will rise above it but remember you have been a victim. I think you down play this in the name of keeping the peace.

My Advice

I believe you should write a letter to your Uncle, stating his options. He has to know you mean business. Although you've been taught to respect your elders, he does not deserve you respect any longer. You let him know that he will not ask to come there and if he pushes to come there, you will tell your Father everything. He must know that you will no longer allow him to manipulate you, his brother and most of all, he will not come between your parents ever again. You tell him you want proof that he is in counseling or you will file charges against him. Do not be afraid of him. Do not allow this guy to keep you a victim any longer.

One thing you will soon learn, is that if you don't look out for you, no one will. Even though you are young, I want you to begin to be good to yourself. Stop the madness right now. By writing your Uncle and letting him know that he is not welcome until such time as he has gone to counseling, for a lengthy period of time, he will not even attempt to try to visit. Make it real clear that you will tell God and the world all about his little game of molestation and manipulation. He has held all of you, your family, as hostage for far too long. You are the key to breaking this cycle. Do it for you, as well as your family.

You are still impressionable, at this age. I'd love to see you work through this, in it's entirety, with a psychologist, school guidance counselor or some form, any form of counseling, please?

Do not be dismissive of this or become complacent about it. It is what it is. Even if it/he is family, it's wrong, almost doubled in strength. You must be stronger than it and I believe you can be.

I am here and will continue to be here for you. The lines of communication are open on my end. If I can be of any further assistance, know that I am here. If I can steer you in the direction, to begin the healing, just say the word. As well, make sure you read Mary's response to you. She has some excellent points. We are all here for you and will continue to support you, you need only to reach out and write. Big Hugz!!

Keeping It Real,

Aunt Babz

Dear J.W.

First thing is first, stop apologizing for all this! You are trying to explain what has been a very traumatic event in your life and shouldn’t feel sorry for trying to explain it in full. Not to mention, this isn’t your fault. And it isn’t a “fault” as such. And I will get into this in a moment or so. And I also want to commend you on the courage it takes to let this all out. To your sister, your mother, to yourself, to us. It takes so much inner strength to see things as they have happened, remove your self from them to analyze and then to work on the problems. And you are there, in the last stages, trying to figure out what to do next. Trying to figure out what the best thing to do is.

There are plenty of things that I could go into here, but the one I would like to focus on is your own personal health and safety. Let’s look at this in a few different situations okay?

- You have already told your mother all that has happened and I am pretty sure that if she had such a strong reaction, that she has already talked to your father about this (or has tried). Parents will usually try to do the best by their children, and I would think that in this situation that your father will not have an open invitation for your uncle this year. So if this is the case, you will not have to fear your uncle’s visit, because your father wouldn’t allow it.

- Your father won’t hate you. I have to say this because victims of sexual assault always pin the ownership on themselves.. And it is unfair. If your father is a “complicated man” (most are, but by this I mean from the old world. I would use my own as an example, where he came from Germany and has a different mind set as to how honor works and what it means to be loyal to family) he may seem hard or unkind to you after learning all this… but it will be because he cannot comprehend what has happened and he cannot come to terms with what his brother has done to you. He may become very over protective and put unusual restraints on you (like curfews and such) because he won’t know what to do. Don’t think of this as a punishment… this is his inability to cope. And you will need help of some sort to work this out (because obviously this is not a beneficial relationship either). But he doesn’t hate you; he needs help to come to terms with this. He will feel like it was his fault that this happened. It was his brother and his hospitality. And even though that is the furthest thing from the truth, it will be hard for him to make amends in his own mind. So give him time to process as well.

Given these two things and the variation of feelings and emotions that everyone will be going through… it will all come down to if the uncle comes to stay. I always say hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. So. Let’s look at what you can do IF for some reason your family cannot get out of this and he comes to stay.

#1 – YOU have nothing to be sorry for. You weren’t inviting this behavior and you didn’t deserve this. You are a teenager, and even though you sound like a very smart young woman… you are still young. And you do not have the life skills to see when you are being manipulated. I don’t mean this to be a fighting sentence here. When I was a teenager I thought that I could see manipulation. But the truth is when you are younger.. you can’t see the whole thing. And by the time you see the wolf in sheep’s clothing it is normally too late. And HE should have known better, and he does.

#2 – If you do decide to forgive him (because you haven’t thus far) you need to let go of all of this. You need to tell yourself that you are better then this, better than him and you can feel sorry for what your uncle has lost and will never regain: your friendship. It sounds to me like this is a man who has forged his whole life on manipulation and doesn’t know what to do with real friendship and real feelings. It sounds to me like a very unfulfilling life, and one that will make his life miserable. And it was his path to choose. His sickness is his own to carry. But you do not have to feel sorry for his sickness.

#3 – If you cannot forgive him (and trust me, it’s going to be hard if you do and understandable if you can’t), then you can’t let this jade you. I am of a different “school” if you will. I believe that you don’t have to forgive people who have royally fucked you over (and I definitely think that he has). But you can’t let that make you jaded and not see life for all that it is. Letting go of this doesn’t mean you have to forget, it means that you will learn and become stronger. It means that you will take this experience and you will recognize it and you will not let it happen to you or anyone you love. And so by doing this, living your life and not letting him “get to you” you are proving his manipulation to be useless. You are beating him at his own game.

#4 – If your uncle is staying, then keep your distance. Be cordial if you can, but don’t have this happen again. You know now what kind of man he is. You know now the way he will give complements and make you feel. You know now the game he plays to have his own personal gratification filled. Do not fall prey to this. You know in your heart and head that you are smart and you are wiser now. Use that knowledge to protect yourself and to defeat him.

#5 – explain all of your actions to your parents and do not be alone with your uncle. Explain to your father (if your mother hasn’t told him) that you do not feel comfortable being alone with your uncle, so unsupervised walks is something you would like to stay away from. If he asks why, tell him again that you do not feel comfortable being alone with your uncle. If you keep telling him your concerns, he will get the message. Tell your parents what you fear, and tell them what you can do to help (like maybe making meals or something that doesn’t require alone time). Reiterate that you will help your parents because you love and honor them, but you do not have respect for your uncle and cannot in good conscious be around him alone. Also, you have a sister. If for any other reason to say something it is to protect her. You know the evil that lies in this man, and you need to protect your family.

Like I said before, your uncle sounds like a very ill man. It sounds like he needs psychiatric help, and isn’t willing to get it. Which is his cross to carry. But you do not have to be the victim. And you do not have to perpetuate this behavior. You can change all of this if you talk to your father and let him know what’s going on.

If for some reason your father cannot cope with all that you will tell him, or you feel like he won’t, then get some outside help. I don’t know where you live, but there is always someone that can help in situations like this to help deal and resolve. Community therapists, preachers, councilors. There are a lot of resources. And your mother wants to tell your father, that much is evident. She doesn’t want this man in her house any more than you do. So let her help you tell your father. Let her help.

No matter what happens though, you cannot just try and “make everyone happy” and put yourself at risk. A parents job is to protect and help their children, and if you don’t let them know when you need this help you are putting yourself at such huge menace, and that can become worse then anything you could possibly imagine. I don’t say this to scare you, I say this so that you can take this information and you can protect yourself. You need to tell your father, and your family needs to come to terms with this while there is time. The time to say something is now, not when it is two weeks till your uncle visits. You need to say something to preserve your safety and the safety of your family.

Please let me know if you need any resources and I will help you find them. Please let us know if you need help talking to your father (I will gladly e-mail in confidence as I have a lot of experience in this area).

And please, please be safe.


Dear J.W. What a difficult situation you are in! The weight you are bearing right now is enormous. Not only are you carrying the weight of your own pain and shame and self-blame for what happened with your uncle, you are faced with the prospect of living in the same house with him again. In addition, you are feeling responsible for maintaining the happiness and stability of your family. Any one part of that would be a huge burden for anyone to bear. Fortunately, you don't have to bear it alone. You are doing exactly the right thing by reaching out for help: to your sister, to your mom, to all of us here at Ask Aunt B.

You sound like a person who is deeply caring, compassionate and
empathetic. It shows a deep love for your family that you want to protect them from the painful consequences of your uncle's actions. Those qualities are a wonderful gift, one you should cherish and develop. But as you do, don't forget to take care of the most important person in your life, the one you have the greatest responsibility of all to care for, nurture and respect: yourself. And believe it or not, that's one of the hardest things in the world to do. It takes some people a lifetime to learn, but in reaching out for help, you are already on your way.

There are a few things you can do for yourself in this situation.
First, focus on healing. You loved and trusted your uncle, and he betrayed your trust in a truly terrible way. It's normal to doubt yourself and to doubt other people. It's normal to be hurt and angry. It's normal to blame yourself, to feel that you should have known better, to feel ashamed. Believe me, I know. But the truth is, it really isn't your fault. You'll need time to heal and to learn to trust yourself again. And you may need help to do that. If there is a school or a religious counselor you can speak to, please do. If you don't feel ready to do that, you can call Childhelp's free hotline at 1-800-422-4453, where you can speak to a counselor anonymously and get more information about help in your area. To give yourself time to heal, you should keep yourself safe from your uncle: not only physically safe, but mentally and emotionally safe. Given the level of stress and anxiety you are feeling about him right now, I believe that means keeping yourself away from him and out of contact with him. Finally, work on learning to trust other people to take care of themselves. That can be hard, especially if some of the people in your life may not have done a very good job with this in the past. In this case, remember that your parents are adults. They should be able to manage their own marriage and their own relationships. They should be capable of managing their own stress. If they aren't, it's not your responsibility to shoulder that burden for them. Quite the opposite! You are a teenager living at home, which means that, as mature as you are, it is still your parents' responsibility to care for you. And hard as it is to believe, you are not providing anyone with true happiness by hiding the truth, you are perpetuating an illusion. Your uncle is mentally ill and has molested you, and if you simply hide that, it doesn't change reality. You may not be ready to break the illusion -- sometimes the illusion is what you (or others around you) want right now -- but true happiness can't be found in secrets and lies. You have show remarkable strength in a terrible, confusing and painful situation. Trust yourself, take care of yourself and let others help carry some of the weight for you.

I will be thinking of you,

Mary (MPJ)

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