I’m writing on behalf of my wife and myself as we are desperate for advice and support. We’re both in our 70s and have three middle-aged sons. Two years ago, our youngest told us that our middle son had sexually assaulted him over a period of time when they were teenagers.
My wife and I were shocked and had no idea this was going on, even though we all lived together. There was nothing to suggest anything was amiss.
Our youngest didn’t want any action taken – he didn’t even want us to approach our middle son about it. However, his wife at the time persuaded him to go to the police. They interviewed our other son who denied everything.
I also spoke to him and he was devastated these allegations had been made and swore he was innocent.
Our youngest then separated from his wife and came to stay with us. I tried to persuade him to drop proceedings for the sake of the family – I couldn’t see what good it would do.
On one of these occasions he lost control, swore at us and said he’d never speak to us again. I asked him to leave because of his behaviour and, to this day, he hasn’t spoken to us. Our eldest son took his side and he, too, hasn’t spoken to us either.
We tried to maintain a neutral stance. The police eventually dropped proceedings because of a lack of evidence. We’ve tried to reach out to our sons and still send birthday and Christmas cards, but get no response.
What’s hard to understand is that some years ago, our youngest stayed for several months with our middle son and his wife, and even allowed them to babysit his son.
We feel caught in the crossfire between our children and, through no fault of our own, have lost contact with two sons and six grandchildren.
This is consuming our lives and we’d be grateful for your advice.
I understand your youngest son’s anger. It’s the toughest thing to come out and tell people you’ve been abused because of the fallout you’re expecting – and people not believing you. Why would he make up this allegation and blow his family apart if it wasn’t true?
So, when he finds the courage to come to you for support and you then ask him to forget about it to protect the family, you’re protecting his abuser. And that’s the problem with abuse.
This is a terrible situation for you and your wife and I think you’d benefit from counselling – find a therapist through the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy at bacp.co.uk. There are also many support organisations online such as the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (napac.org.uk).
I don’t know if there’s a way back to a relationship with your two sons and grandchildren, but it might be an idea to reach out again to your eldest son first and ask him if there’s a way forward. Explain you didn’t know what to do and handled things in the wrong way, but you want to make amends and try to find a way to rebuild the relationship.
Ask what your youngest wants you to do and how he’d like you to move on. If he won’t speak to you, write to him and keep trying.
There are lots of reasons why abuse doesn’t emerge until years later – shame, anger, guilt and the fear over not being believed. I really don’t want my response to seem harsh because I can empathise with you – there was abuse in my own family, so I know how hard this must be.
My father abused one of my sisters and, when I found out, I was left with very confusing emotions. I loved my dad and never knew that side of him, but I believed my sister. And, looking back, her reactions to certain things now make complete sense. I hope you can reach out for support.
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