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Did someone (perhaps my father) sexually abuse my sister?

Open Discussions About Sexual Abuse and Incest.

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Did someone (perhaps my father) sexually abuse my sister?

Postby Disillusioned_ » Mon Jul 25, 2011 5:15 pm

Dear forum,

I've recently started to suspect that at some point in the past someone, perhaps my father, may have sexually abused my sister. I'm 26 now, she is 32 and has been living away from the family for the last 8 years. I've never before even supposed that something like this may have happened, and no one in my family has ever talked about anything like this in my presence. But the more I think of it, the more it seems to explain many strange aspects of my sister's and my father's behaviour, as well as the general mood of the family as a whole. The thought that this may have happened dawned on me a few weeks ago, and I've felt very distressed since then. It is devastating to imagine the kind of hell that her life in this family must have been if this is true - the dreadful experiences themselves, all the secrecy surrounding them, and then having to confront the outer world with this wound in her past.

I was really happy to find this forum. I hope that people here will be able to give me some advice on how to verify my suspicions, and perhaps what to do next if they turn out to be true. I know that what I'm asking about is only hypothetical, and much of it is based on my intuitions. I know there are many people out there with serious and urgent issues, and they probably deserve much more attention than my question does. Still, I hope that someone with knowledge of abuse will be kind enough to help me read the signs that I think I'm seeing. It is very likely that if anything like this has gone on, it won't ever be voiced and resolved. It is difficult to speak about these things in my family. This is why I'm looking for some certainty before going ahead.

I'll list all the reasons that make me think that my sister may have been abused in the past. First, her character. It is difficult not to notice a deep anxiety about her. When she speaks she often unconsciously runs her hand across her face as if to cover it. Her laughter is often very sharp and sudden, as if she is holding a lot of tension inside of her. It's difficult for her to deal with situations that call for an immediate decision or involve some kind of urgency. In those cases she loses her self-possession, acts erratically, vacillates, doesn't know what to say or yields immediately. She has trouble saying no, even to something like a phone survey that she clearly doesn't want to take. She would much rather lose some benefit or do more work than face a situation that is new or asks her to make a judgment. She has had this side to her ever since I can remember. I've always noticed it, though never really known how to explain it. Lately there's something very strange happening. We are now sharing a house for a few months. Whenever I am in a room or on the stairs and she walks by without expecting my presence, she gets startled at seeing me. She gasps and puts her hand on her chest, as if the image of me momentarily terrified her. This happens regularly, nearly every time she sees me in this way, even though she knows that I must be around the house at that time. Perhaps it's relevant that I look and sound very much like my father and have inherited many of his little behavioural habits.

We've never, ever, discussed intimate relationships or sex. This is strictly taboo, not only between my sister and me but in the whole family. It's often struck me as unusual, since I've seen other siblings talk about these things openly. My sister hasn't been in many relationships. I've only known of one, in her undergraduate university years, with a man around 10 years older than her. It lasted for several years but eventually ended. I don't think she shares details about relationships with anyone in the family.

Now something much more concrete. I have a memory from my early childhood of my sister touching me. I must have been six or seven, which puts her in her early teens. This was while we were still living in Eastern Europe. My sister and I shared a children's room with a window looking out on the apartment balcony. One day she told me to lie on the bed face down, she took off my long johns and started to touch my behind. I felt her hands running across my skin. She may have touched other parts, I don't remember. My mother walked out on the balcony and saw this happening through the window. My sister panicked and told me to pull my pants up quickly. My mother soon came into the room and started asking what she was doing and why. That's where the memory ends.

I don't know if this happened many times or just this once. This is the only time I remember. But two things make me think that it may have gone on repeatedly. First, in this memory my mother saw us. I remember being scared at having being found out. So it may be that I remember this fear much more than the touching, and that I've forgotten the times when we weren't found out. Second, I have another clear memory of myself touching the neighbours' two daughters in a very similar way. I told them to turn around against a wall and take off their pants, then I stared at their behinds and touched them. I promised that afterwards I would take off my pants and show them too, but then I refused to do it. This must have been at around the same time, when I was six or seven. In this second memory once again someone saw. This was down in the back lobby of our apartment building, and some of the kids playing nearby caught us and called everyone else. Again, I don't know if this happened many times, I only remember this once. But it may be that what stuck with me was the fear of having been caught, and so it may have happened at other times that I don't remember. I figure that if I was doing this myself, then being touched by my sister must have left a strong impression on me.

I remember something else very vividly. No context to this, just my sister walking out on the balcony one day, stepping on the garbage can, holding on to the railing and saying to me 'I'm going to kill myself'. There was no one else in the apartment at that time. We lived on the 7th floor, and she could easily have jumped over that railing. This was around the same time as the other memories. Again, I only remember this one time of this happening. And something else. More than once we would be out playing around the apartment building and she would say 'I'm running away, are you coming with me?' Then she would start walking down the street away from the building. I don't think she ever ran away. I know I never did. I would follow her those times, we would walk down for a while then come back.

There isn't very much I've noticed that might link this to my father. Once, a year or so ago, the whole family was sitting at the table in the evening drinking and having dinner. There may have been some guests over. Towards the end of the night I saw something strange and disturbing. My father had his hand around my sister's chair, which in itself is unusual. He suddenly got hold of her pony tail and pulled on it a couple of times. He was looking at her affectionately but there was also something overbearing in his look. He was a little drunk and had a smile on his face that seemed suggestive. My sister was obviously uncomfortable in the situation. She pulled away her head to make him stop, but she did not say anything. All of this was subtle. It happened quickly and I doubt that anyone else saw. It struck me and stayed with me, becase it was completely unlike anything I had ever seen in the relationship between my sister and father. I had never, ever, seen any display of affection between the two of them, except the mandatory hug at Christmas or birthdays. My father's express attitude towards her is always very critical and distant, and he has told me that he is dissatisfied with the person she has become. And yet, it somehow seemed that there was an underlying context in which this intrusive gesture fit, as if it was something usual between them. Though there was worry and shame in my sister's look, there was no suprise at what had happened. She didn't seem alarmed or outraged, there was nothing in her reaction to indicate that this was out of the ordinary.

I've noticed this strange kind of familiarity between them at other times. Nothing concrete, nothing that is said, just something about their presence with one another. It is as if she knows him in a certain way. She almost never talks to him, and it often seems to me that she rejects him as a father. She does not ask for fatherly advice, does not share her experiences with him, does not ask him for favours. She does none of the things that I've seen other daughters do with their fathers. And yet she acts as if he has implicit authority over her. She does not speak back, she lets herself be contradicted and silenced. She relates to him in almost exactly the same way as my mother does. The same goes for the way he relates to her.

I know that all of this is based on my intuition and memory. Unfortunately, I have nothing else to go on. And yet I have this pressing ill feeling that there is something to be discovered there. It would not come as a surprise to me if something grotesque was indeed done in the past and then was kept secret for all these years. My family is capable of this kind of secrecy. My father has a strong and independent personality. He does not let anyone else make decisions in the family, and often does not even let others voice their opinions. He is impersonal towards everyone in the family, as if he is living with colleagues or employees. His attitude towards my mother is to keep her in check. He is verbally abusive to her. He is not used to being challenged at home. My sister and mother almost never do it, and I too feel that I'm overstepping some established boundary if I contradict him. My mother has told me that he has a history of envy and has a hard time tolerating people who he sees as better than him. I think other people scare him, and he reacts to that by closing in and rejecting personal contact. It is strange that when I try to describe the relationship between him and my sister, there is mostly a blank for me, as if no personal connection between them exists.

For the last couple of years he has been in a deepening depression, and he acknowledges it. He's never sought psychological help for it, but he says he has trouble sleeping and feels a lot of anxiety. So far I've attributed it to mid-life crisis, fear of death, problems at work, etc. But now I wonder whether he isn't actually hiding something. Whenever I begin to talk about family, especially when I point out to him that he is being rude towards my mother, he falls silent right away. He doesn't try to defend himself. We don't speak very often, but when he looks at me I sense despair in his eyes, mixed with a sort of guilt.

I hope that someone with knowledge of abuse and its signs may be able to tell me if what I think I'm seeing in fact amounts to anything. It seems clear that something went on in the distant past that triggered the touching and my sister's threats of suicide and running away from home. It also seems that something may be covered up in the relationship between my father and my sister. I hope that someone can tell me how my observations fit with the typical patterns of sexual abuse. How can I verify my suspicions? I tried talking to that old boyfriend of hers. He mentioned her anxiety issues but didn't know of anything else. Should I confront my father? Should I ask my sister directly?Speaking with my mother seems like the natural thing to do. But how should I go about it? I am apprehensive because she is extremely devoted to her family and her husband. Some time ago he threatened to leave, and that left her completely devastated. And how should I address these issues in a sensitive way if it turns out that something has indeed happened?

Thank you for taking the time to read this over. I know it's a long post. I would be very grateful for any insight and advice. I feel much more at ease sharing this here than with anyone in person. Writing has helped me put the issues in a much clearer light.
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Re: Did someone (perhaps my father) sexually abuse my sister

Postby CrackedGirl » Mon Jul 25, 2011 5:50 pm

Welcome to the forum. I am sorry you are struggling with these questions. The first thing I would say is to check how you are with what happened to you when you were touched. It sounds like that was disturbing for you. Otherwise, it is difficult to say for sure what happened to your sister although you do mention some things, like her touching you inapropriately that could be indicators of abuse. Plus gut feeling can sometimes be right. I think the best way to resolve this is to ask her, but think carefully baout doing this before you do. She may not want it brought up and she may not be ready to deal with it if something did happen. When it comes to you, if you are troubled by what happened to you then I think considering therapy would be a good idea to talk this through. Keep posting and let us know how you are.

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Re: Did someone (perhaps my father) sexually abuse my sister

Postby salted lipstick » Tue Jul 26, 2011 2:33 pm

Hello and welcome to the forum. I'd agree with CrackedGirl that first you should seek help for being touched if you feel you are in need of it....

As for your sister, it is difficult to tell. I think a lot of what a person observes is often put down to their interpretation of what they think the other person might be thinking about. There are many thing that could have caused the family dynamic that you have noticed as so many factors play a part in shaping the way people interact with one another.

I think it is a bad idea to go asking your mother or father about what you suspect. If you are wrong, you will create huge tension and animosity, and if you are right you will also do the same. I think a better approach would be just to get to know your sister better. Rather than directly asking her if anything happened, talk to her about certain things you remember about when you were both younger and ask her questions. For example, you might ask "you know how when we were younger and you always used to say you wanted to run away... what made you want to run away?" or "why did you want to jump off the balcony that time?", "how did you feel about growing up in our family, did you like our parents?". That type of thing. Develop your relationship with her so that you know her as a person and she knows you with a level of emotional intimacy so that she feels safe to open up and talk to you if she wants to. I don't think it's a good idea to ask any of your family members directly or implied, if any sexual abuse went on. It is a question that just wouldn't go down well...
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Re: Did someone (perhaps my father) sexually abuse my sister

Postby EarlGreyDregs » Tue Jul 26, 2011 2:42 pm

I know you're worried about your sister. But are you alright? You went through abuse as well. Your sister did some inappropriate things to you which in turn gave you the curiosity to do it to others. Did you ever consider therapy to work through feelings you may have subdued?

I was just wondering how you're feeling about what happened with you.
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