I found out yesterday that my fiancé’s father sexually assaulted her and her sister. Her sister came over and told us that she had be sexually assaulted many times when she was growing up and asked if my fiancé had been, My fiancé said ‘well he used to tickle or massage me and got close to places that he shouldn’t have.’ My fiancés sister started to cry even more thinking that if she had said something sooner maybe it would have prevented this from happening. She thought that the only reason that she was sexually assaulted was b/c she was a step child and that he would never assault a blood relative. Well now the problem is that when she told my fiancé and her brother what had happened both my fiancé and her brother are protecting their father! I can’t stand it, my fiancé says she wants to bury it b/c everything was fine before anyone knew. She says her father is her best friend! She is worried about me not liking her father…I have no idea what to do next b/c she doesn’t want to even talk about it…I am lost…and btw no one in the family even believes in God except the step sister.
Oh dear…saying a prayer for you. A couple of thoughts:
If the concept of being abused is new to your fiance, then she may need time to process the information before she can deal with it. After all, her sister has been dealing with it for a long time. I think it is normal to respond in a doubtful way. It may take time for her to experience anger, or the other appropriate emotions over this. If this is just the first of many stages of dealing with this problem, then I’d say, give her some time to adjust to this new world in which everything is not ok.
That said, she will need to deal with this someday. I don’t know how to get a person to deal with these things if they don’t want to. However I think it is reasonable and for that matter important, to expect her to deal with this before you marry her. How close are you to the wedding? I would be wary of entering into the marriage right away for two reasons:
1. While it probably will sound horribly offensive to say something like "people who abuse have usually been abused themselves" it is a fact. If you have children with her, and she has pushed all these issues inside her, how do you know she is going to understand where appropriate sexual boundaries lie with her own children. I would hope that she wouldn't ever intentionally do anything to her kids, but an unwillingness to confront these issues is not a sign of a person who is ready to make a change in her own life. This is something an abused person HAS to deal with, so that they can be sure that their own children don't suffer in the same way they did. I don't mean to say this to be hurtful to you. There was sexual abuse in my family, and even though I was not a direct victim, the abuse has had a huge impact on me, as well as the people who were directly involved. Without consciously working to understand the dynamics of the abuse and the ways my family member was put unwittingly at risk, I believe I would be more likely to overlook the "red flags" that might pop up in the course of parenting than your average parent would. Now, thankfully, I am MORE aware and vigiliant, and I believe my children are MORE secure than the average chidlren, BECAUSE of my willingness to look at the ugliness that existed in my family. 2. If your fiance's father is still "in the picture" and part of your happy family if and when you do have children of your own, your children will be at risk. For the sake of these future children, I believe you need to ensure that your fiance understands why her father shouldn't be trusted with them. If she doesn't, then that could be a scary situation - worth reconsidering an engagement in my opinion.
God Bless you! I will pray for you and your fiance.
The wedding date is set for April 07. I am very worried about the future children issue and the fact that she didn’t tell me and probably never would if her sister didn’t say anything. I love her dearly but it hurts and is frightening that she chooses to not deal with this, what else is there that she hasn’t told me? It didn’t even happen to me and I am furious…I am also not allowed to ‘tell’ anyone, part of the reason I am posting here because she is afraid of people hating her dad??? I really want to talk to someone and vent if nothing else. I mean I just heard her on the phone with her dad like nothing ever happened and it is just as concerning that the dad is acting like everything is ok when his own step daughter just told him that after all these years she told his blood son and daughter what he did to her…I don’t think I can get married (for the future children’s sake) until it is resolved or faced but I also won’t walk away from the relationship when it is hard like now…I also thank you for your prayers…they are needed
She is still protecting her abuser. That’s sad and devastating for you, but not uncommon. He still has that seductive power over her and is wielding it even in her head.
I would go to a therapist and discuss her and this situation, preferrably a Catholic therapist (check out catholictherapists.com). If not, secular therapists will still know how to guide you in this situation.
Her boundaries (or lack thereof) were shaped by her father and his abusive ways. If you ever marry this woman, you can never, ever, ever, EVER, leave your children unsupervised in the presence of this man. Because they are so sneaky, I personally would not allow my child even in the vicinity of a sexual abuser. (Such as a family party where your eyes can’t be on every child at every moment.) If you do marry her and she actually agrees to this, be very sure you can trust her to keep to it.
By the way, if it comes to actually having to take a break…or breaking up…with this woman, it might be a positive thing in that it will be an impetus for her to recognize how absolutely not okay this is for a person who hasn’t been abused to tolerate–and might lead her to seek help if she won’t do so willingly, now.
I will certainly keep you in my prayers.
You have to let her deal with it on her own terms. Forcing her to deal with it or holding it over her head is only revictimizing her. I have had some people throw it in my face and talk about it like they are the victims. It is my fault because it happened and it is my fault because I don’t like to talk about it and broadcast it to the world. It is obvious that you see yourself as the victim rather than your fiance. For some people, it is easiest to put it aside and move on with life. I know this from personal experience. Have any of you ever been molested or assaulted by a family member? I have and it is not as easy as you guys are making it out to be.
I think it is absolutely ludicrous to think that she is going to abuse any future children because she does not know sexual boundaries. If anything, it will make her even more aware of sexual boundaries and be that much more vigilant in respecting the boundaries of others.
I agree that the children should never ever be left alone with the father. That is common sense. I still have a good relationship with the family member that molested me, does that mean that I am somehow sick. I know what he did and so does he and so does God. My children will never ever be left alone with that person and I will always be extra vigilant when that person is around. Where is the good in digging up old wounds? Are you trying to pour salt on these wounds?
No amount of counseling or dealing with an issue like this will ever erase it. Your fiance is defective and always will be. It is up to you to accept her where she is. If you have such a big problem with her not telling you, then you do not understand how deep the wounds of being molested by a family member go. You need to talk to her about your feelings but don’t be suprised if she lashes out at you. I understand your anger towards the situation but you have to remember that you are not the one that had to live through it and carry those memories with you for the rest of your life. She is the victim, not you!
Although your post focuses on the sexual experiences of your fiancee, the underlying issues are the ones that will cause the most pain in your relationship.
Someone who lies, denies or is unwilling to change/resolve/work together will have issues in marriage over everything from paying bills to raising kids to sex.
I would hesitate to continue the relationship towards marriage until you see an effort or desire to become openly honest.
I hope this is making sense. Yes, her experiences are a big issue. But they wouldn’t be such a horribly devastating issue if she had been honest about it, and also showed an interest in sharing with you and trying to make things work. You think a bit of her past is making you mad? What about when you find out about adultery? A huge debt? A speeding ticket? Children taking drugs?
Marriage requires honesty and a decision to work together as a team, regardless of the issue at hand. She has just shown you that even on a big, huge important issue, she is unwilling to work with you.
That is something to think about.
I am glad you posted, I know that she and her sister are the victim, and I am not mad at my fiancé…I mad about the situation, I love my fiancé and plan to always choose to love her. I don’t understand how not telling me would have ever worked. What if I had found out later…after letting my children spend the night with their grandpa? Then I would have been really upset…. You may think it is selfish but I am thinking of my future children and the fact that she can’t talk/trust to me about big issues. I believe that you have to be honest with each other if you are preparing for marriage and through marriage. I also don’t think it is healthy to bottle the feelings up. Since you seem to have first hand knowledge I hope that you can help my fiancé and me. What would you suggest? How have you handled it? Would you seek professional help? Any suggestions/prayers from anyone would greatly be appreciated.
Thank you for the web site, and the prayers
I can see your point about being concerned about future children. I did eventually tell my fiance, now husband. He didn’t like it but he supported me completely and never made me feel like I was the one with the problem. He said straight up that none of our kids would ever be allowed with that family member which I completely agree with. If your fiance can’t agree to that, then I would say move on. There seems to be quite a few issues here that have nothing to do with the abuse.
I saw red when I read your post because it struck a nerve with me. I have had many friends confide in me about situations where a family member violated them. They only confided in me after I shared my story with them. Many victims of abuse choose not to tell because we are revictimized all over again. The statements about a victim will likely become an abuser comes to mind. There is also this notion that we cannot live with it and must talk about it and be counseled to death about it. I am not saying that it needs to be bottled up but there are ways of dealing with it that do not make you feel like you are getting your nose rubbed in it. I have done a lot of reading, prayer, and meditation. I feel like focusing on it too much gives the abuser unneccesary power. I find it very empowering to be able to forgive and not hold on to it. Does any of this make any sense at all?
Trust is the bigger issue. Is this the only thing she hasn’t told you about or are there other things? In your original post, it sounded as if this is the only thing that she hasn’t told you about. If this is the only thing, then I wouldn’t be too harsh on her because it is something that takes a lot of nerve to share with others because many times when we share we are made to feel defective and somehow less human because of our experiences. If there are other things that she has kept from you, then I would be focusing on that rather than the sexual abuse. They are really two separate issues. There were a lot of things about the abuse that I went through that didn’t come out until my husband and I became sexually intimate. There were things that I couldn’t stand having done to me because of past experiences. Much of it didn’t come out until we consumated our marriage.
In other words, you just discovered that your fiance’s family is horribly disfunctional, there was sexual abuse, she is in denial, they are almost all in denial, and you won’t be able to trust grandpa with the kids. This is a doozy. If it were me, I would reconsider marrying so soon–she has a lot of work to do. Two words: professional help.
Please convince your fiance to seek counseling for the past abuse. I can tell you from experience that untreated sexual abuse can manifest itself in terrible ways.
My wife suppressed hers for over 20 years. It was also from her father. And to that a rape as well.
This led to sexual promiscuity, depression, feelings of wothlessness and many other dysfunctions that affected our marriage of 16 years.
Please get her some help.
Gogogirl, I think you are referring to my statement about how perpetrators of abuse are often abused. I hope I didn’t offend you, and if I did, I apologize. I didn’t mean to imply that a victim of abuse was LIKELY to abuse, and would never accuse you or another person of doing something so terrible simply because you had something horrible happen to you. I think in your case, you did deal with what happened to you in your own way. You are right that it is not other people’s business to tell you you have to keep talking about it on and on and never end the counselling etc. In my family’s situation, the person who was abused spent about 10 years from the time she remembered the abuse dealing with it, and having no contact with her abuser. Now they actually have a reasonably good relationship, because they dealt with the problem in the way it needed to be addressed. I’m sure each situation is so individual that it would be arrogant and presumptuous of uninvolved parties to tell them exactly HOW they should heal.
To look at things really simplistically, you could categorize people into 2 somehat caracatured groups. First you have people who have been abused. Either the incident was isolated, or it happened outside of their immediate family, or they always knew it was horribly wrong (even when it was happening to them). Or if it happened within their family, there was very little that the parents could have done to find out about it sooner or prevent it from happening. I think these people probably don’t have any trouble understanding where good boundaries lie. They are able to move on with life in a “psychologically healthy” way.
Then you have another group of people who grew up in a family in which boundaries were being crossed all the time, and in which the children were not taught to trust their instincts or that they deserved to be protected. Abuse may have happened in those homes partially because there was a family culture that blurred the lines of right and wrong and sexuality. For these people (and not just the victims of the abuse, but anyone who grew up in such a family), they are at a higher risk for creating those same conditions in their own families in the future if they never stop to examine what went wrong and do some work to teach themselves about appropriate boundary setting etc. It is just human nature that we tend to be like our families, except for when we intentionally try to chamge something. Again, how to accomplish that is an individual thing.
My family was more like the second group, and I think the children in our family have all tried very hard (each of us in different ways) to make sure that we don’t let something like what happened in our family happen in the future. My impression is that the OP’s fiance is not at the point you are, but more in a stage of denial that anything was ever wrong. If that is not true, then that is wonderful, but since they are not married yet I think it is really smart of the OP to do his best to make sure that he and his fiance have the psychological capacity to protect their future children.
Your are absolutely correct. I am definitely bringing my own biases to the conversation. I completely agree that nobody should tell somebody else how to heal. That is what I wanted to say but it didn’t come out quite right. I tend to get angry sometimes because people have “forced” me to talk about it when I didn’t want to. Burying it isn’t good but neither is dealing with it according to everybody else’s rules. It has always made me angry and resentful to have people shove it in my face and tell me that I am not healed unless they say I am.
This is definitely something that should be dealt with before marriage but even if it is “dealt” with, there will always be residual issues some of which will not surface until you become physical with your spouse. There are certain things that I can’t stand for my husband to do because it makes me feel too powerless. That is an issue that I will always have but there was no way of knowing about it until after we got married. So, even if the OP’s fiance goes to counseling and “heals”, there may always be little things that surface when you least expect them too. It has taken me almost 20 years to fully digest everything so the short period of time before a marriage will never be enough. Starting the healing process may be all that can be hoped for at this point. Anything beyond that may be too much in such a short period of time. When I say short period of time, I am talking about years not months.
I really liked the distinctions you made in your post. I still haven’t figured out which category my family fit into because my dad would barely give you a hug. He had very clear boundaries and showed almost no physical affection and would not even let you see him in his underwear. My mother was so unbelievably affectionate that it was annoying. She didn’t cross boundaries but she was the huggy kissy type and she didn’t have much sense and was way too naive about things. She didn’t cross any boundaries but she was constantly putting us into situations where other people took advantage of us and crossed boundaries when she wasn’t looking. I blame a lot of the abuse that we suffered on my mother because she didn’t have enough sense to protect us and keep us out of potentially harmful situations. Who leaves a 12 year old boy in charge of his two little sisters anyway?
so I thought we were making progress when she called me at 2:30am crying to ask me to come over and sit with her. She just cried and apologized for not ever being able to cry in front me. The next day she gets a call from her brother saying that he sees it as a sickness and just something that his dad will ‘get over’. (everyone thought that her brother would instantly hate the dad so we are all confused by his responce) I am afraid the brothers response has only pushed any feelings ready to come up further down for my fiancé b/c now my fiancé is back to emotionless about the whole thing saying that she has already forgotten it and that she doesn’t ‘want to think about it anymore, it has never impacted my life before…why should it now?’ ‘I dont want have to think about this everyday for the rest of my life.’ Is it even possible to not impact her life!!! Any advice on what the next step is?
I think it is fabulous that you are willing to stick by the woman you love. Are you willing to tell her the truth? Are you willing to share with her YOUR fears about how this kind of dysfunction and perversion may impact your future children? In other words, do you think that if you asked her to help YOU by going with you to couples counseling as suggested by Princess Abbey that together you may discern whether being married to each other is the right thing to do?
There is a blessing in all of this - you discovered this before you married her. Now you can never claim to not have made an informed decision.
It sounds like her brother is in denial as well. I know that there were a lot of things in my family that evoked strange reactions. When my dad found out what was going on, he wanted to kill somebody and even had his shotgun out. My mother on the other hand was kind of nonchalant about it like it was no big deal. I would have hoped that my mother of all people would have a stronger response than she did. She made the offending family member go to some counseling but it was done under the guise of substance abuse or something like that. To this day, my mother still protects the abuser and more or less forces the rest of us to live with it whether we like it or not. My dad is outraged by it but he is not really in any kind of a position to do anything about it. We all know who and what the abuser is and watch our children accordingly.
I am afraid the brothers response has only pushed any feelings ready to come up further down for my fiancé b/c now my fiancé is back to emotionless about the whole thing saying that she has already forgotten it and that she doesn’t ‘want to think about it anymore, it has never impacted my life before…why should it now?’ ‘I dont want have to think about this everyday for the rest of my life.’ Is it even possible to not impact her life!!! Any advice on what the next step is?
Whether she likes it or not, it will impact her life. I know this from experience. If she was honest with herself, she would realize that it has already impacted her in very small and subtle ways. It sounds like she needs to talk to other people that are in her same situation or have been through the same thing. There is something about talking to somebody else who knows exactly how you feel. I know I did most of my healing by sharing my experiences and talking to others that had been through it too. My best friend in high school had a similar situation in her family and that is where I received most of my healing. We provided each other with unconditional support. I was never afraid that she wouldn’t like me or would turn against me.
You need to get some literature about the kinds of things that could possibly be going on in her mind but that she is too afraid to tell. For example, I know I had difficulty in recognizing what happened as abuse because I enjoyed the attention that I was receiving from the family member. It happened over a period of 4 or 5 years starting when I was about 4 or 5 and ending when I was about 9. At the time, what was going on sent off warning signals but at the same time it was kind of nice to be receiving that kind of attention. A really young kid does not know that what is happening to them is wrong until somebody tells them. Often times we don’t tell because nobody asks. When things came out, all my mom did is ask and I told her. I assumed that things were okay because nobody had told me otherwise and nobody had bothered to ask if those things were happening to me. This invokes a great sense of guilt. If she enjoyed any aspect of the attention she received from her father, then she is probably very overwhelmed and conflicted at this point.
Of course, she probably wants to put it past her because if she persists in “dealing” with it, then she could lose her family and her fiance and that is probably a pretty scary prospect. You can PM me if you want. I know how difficult this must be for you. My husband was very shocked when he found out about my past but I had already dealt with it so it wasn’t that big of a deal because I could answer all of his fears and questions which is not an easy thing to do.
And I thought it couldn’t get any worse…are there anymore ‘Catholic therapist’ web sites…I am looking for one closer to home.