Teenage Problems/ex-spouse ... older brother violated her
Thank you for taking your time to read my message. I find myself at a point in time when I want to confront the perpetrator, an older brother. The violations occurred in the 1965-1970 time frame when my ex was 9-14. Her older brother is 5-6 years older.
This abuse was known about by father and mother in 1965-1970, but their efforts to stop it appear to have been meek at best and certainly not successful ... it went on for several years, so conclusions can be drawn just from that.
I am divorced from ex in 2001. I found out about the abuse in a marriage counseling session in June 2000, as my ex broke down in tears recounting one transgression. The counselor was inquiring about each of us, how we grew up, family situations, etc. When I found out I confronted mom and dad the next day, and out of a sense of guilt (IMO) they began to tell me, while we all wept, about many more instances, which told me the revelation my ex had just made was only the tip of the iceberg. The whole thing had not been handled right for years. What a travesty.
I view my ex as a victim in this. The older brother is the perp. Dad and mom were irresponsible parents.
I was married to ex for 23 years, but began complaining around the 13 year mark about sexual and intimacy issues I had with my marriage. My complaining was often, repetitive, and consistent. Arguing would ensue. Closeness was evaporating steadily. Little did I know at the time that repressed memory re: brother's abuse was likely at the root of issues in my ex's brain, and very likely contributing greatly as the root cause for my complaining. I would realize this much later.
We divorced in 2001 because after 17 marriage counseling sessions in 2000 (at my insistence) it was apparent to me that what damage had been done, what had now surfaced, would never go away. The revelation of the abuse occurred in session #4 in June, 2000. Session #17, the last session, would occur in December 2000. Seven months dealing with understanding and attempts to repair were futile.
My issue today is that I am angry, mainly because I spent many years (first 13 at a minimum) building a life, financial a large part of that, with my ex that eroded beginning in 1990 due to lack of intimacy and lack of sex. I did not cause this, any of it. I was in the dark, purposely kept there or not. Repressed memory may be an explanation, I actually think this is true, but it still does not correct damage done. How unfair is it that a situation like this can happen, with husband kept in the dark, while building a life with a future, with expectations, and with attention to finances, only to have repressed memory crop up unexpectedly and ruin it.
I hold mom and dad accountable. I hold my ex at least partly to blame because of not sharing, which gave me no chance to help fix the problem, and I view this as a major violation of intimacy. But more than anything else I blame the perp, the older brother, and he has lived his life with the benefit of his hidden secret not coming home to roost. I believe he needs to be "outed" and I am considering doing just this. I do not want to hurt my ex in the process, but am simply feeling that if the truth comes out and perp is forced to deal with consequences, I will feel some justice, and I believe I need it and that it is "right". He will have to deal with the "old baggage" with his current situation, and quite frankly, I relish knowing that he will suffer long over due consequences for his earlier actions. This might be mean spirited of me, but somehow I don't feel too badly if truth is to surface and he has to deal with it!
I appreciate any feedback you can give me, and thanks for reading this.
ANSWER: Hi Steve,
I know that you must be feeling angry, disappointed and frustrated at the situation that has occurred and having been kept ‘in the dark’ for so long about what happened to your ex-wife but you have to be careful about potentially causing yourself and her more pain by attempting to ‘out’ the perpetrator. I understand that you need to have a feeling of justice and almost closure for what he did to your ex-wife and the impact that it had upon your relationship but going about this the wrong way may only serve to leave you further out in the cold and feeling more bitter.
What happened to your ex-partner was despicable and unacceptable and the fact that it went on for so long with the knowledge of her parents makes this situation all the most grave and incomprehensible. Being abused by anyone is not acceptable but to be abused by a member of her own family, someone who was supposed to protect her must have just added onto the pain that she felt. Her parents should have acted as soon as this came to light and should have put appropriate measures in place to ensure that her brother faced the proper authorities and that there daughter was not at risk. To hide him and his actions is guilt by neglect and they, themselves, deserve to ask themselves some harsh questions about their failings to put one child’s needs above the other.
It must have been incredibly difficult for yourself to have built up a relationship, a life and a future with a person that you thought you knew and trusted, only to find out that there has been this weight on her shoulders for all of these years. Trust is fundamental to a relationship and whereas each partner does not necessarily need to know the smaller parts of our past, the big things that matter should be out in the open relatively soon so that they can be worked on and addressed together. I completely understand that this has impacted upon you hugely and a lot of what you experienced in your relationship could be down to issues caused by your ex-wife’s childhood.
Victims of sexual abuse can often find it difficult to talk to someone about it or admit that something has happened and in your wife’s case, this is probably down to a lot of pressure from her brother and her parents to keep it quiet. If her own parents are telling her that she must not tell people or speak about it because it will ruin the family, then it is understandable that she would be reluctant to talk to anyone. Loyalty to our family is paramount and people will do unbelievable things and suffer incomprehensible trauma in order to preserve that family as a unit and retain the sense of love that it offers and usually, this is done out of fear of losing everyone opposed to genuinely attempting to deceive someone.
Victims of sexual abuse also find it difficult to have intimate relationships because they do not identify sex as being something positive that two people do out of love; but rather something that provokes negative memories and leaves the victim with feelings of guilt and shame. It is not surprising therefore that you and your wife were struggling to have an intimate relationship throughout your relationship and this may have been because she was almost trained to associate sex with secrecy and shame, not love and belonging.
Abuse of any kind is long lasting and although counselling can help, sometimes it needs to be continued for a longer period of time for results to be seen or for medication to be given to help the individual overcome some of the effects of anxiety that may have been caused. Someone who has been abused is scarred but not broken and it is only through on-going support that the individual can come to terms with what has happened to them and relinquish the blame, shame and guilt that they feel. The first part of this process is for the individual to understand and accept that what happened to them was neither normal nor as a result of their own actions. When this hurdle has been overcome, the treatment then starts at chipping away at the fiction to reveal the facts.
I understand, from what you have said, why you will have found it difficult to be in a relationship with your now ex-wife when she kept something from you that you should have known. You were not just ‘anyone’, you were her husband and you deserved to know so that you could have understood the issues in the relationship and looked to fix them before it became too late. But now, things have progressed so much and you have been disappointed so badly, that even though you probably still love your ex-wife, the betrayal and lack of trust you may feel can become all encompassing which would only take you back to the question ‘why didn’t you tell me?’ which is not good for either of you.
In terms of moving forward yourself, you need to take a step back and look at the situation you were in and how you dealt with it given what you knew. The fact that you knew nothing about what had happened but continued to fight for your relationship, even insisting on counselling (which in the long term may help your ex to come to terms with the issue) shows that you did everything that you did to try and preserve what you had. Ultimately, your relationship broke down because your ex wife, for whatever (and maybe understandable) reasons did not tell you what had happened, which undermined everything that you as a husband stood for. This is not about pointing blame for the way in which you feel but it is about understanding that you have been a devoted husband and you have been let down. Who wouldn’t feel what you do right now?
Any actions that you take now will not change the way that you feel or make you feel better (although you may think that they will), they may only serve to push your ex wife closer to her family and back into the domestic home because she will become socially isolated. This will mean that she will end up back at home with parents that neglected her and will blame her for telling people about what happened, meaning that your ex wife may end up suffering from emotional abuse by them as they look to blame someone for their lack of actions.
The other thing that you have to be wary of is what you say to people because you do not want to come across as a bitter husband that is trying to defame his wife. People will think that you are saying these things because you are angry and upset and not because they are true. If you ‘out’ her brother and people find out what has happened, they will inevitably go to the family to ask at which point, if all deny it, you will be made to look a liar and like you have a vendetta against the family. This will then actually backfire on yourself and you may end up finding that people keep their distance because they think that you are angry.
The other issue with you attempting to ‘out’ the perpetrator yourself is that you are not the victim of this situation and any attempt to involve your ex-wife in discussions about what happened to her when she was younger is likely to come across as being mis-informed and insensitive. It must have been difficult for her to go through what she did when she was younger and equally as difficult to lose a husband over it, so I would tread carefully if you want to remain friends as this potential dynamite could end up pushing her over the edge or driving her to do something stupid.
I think the closure that you need will come from your ex-wife her self and that is by sitting down with her and having a frank and open discussion about what exactly did happen to her, how she felt about it then and now, did she feel this affected your relationship and more importantly, what does she want to do about it. Hearing, in her own words, what she was feeling, why she was feeling it and how it affected your relationship, may help you to understand the reasons why she kept this from you and will stop it feeling so much of a personal betrayal. It may also help you to understand the pain that she was and probably still is going through as a result of what happened, which will help you to understand how best to support her.
It is up to your ex-wife how she chooses to deal with what happened to her and for some people, that may be denying that it ever happened and never speaking about their childhood as if it never existed. For some people, dealing with it means talking things over with a counsellor so that we shed the burden of responsibility for something happening to us that we could not stop. For other people, closure for them is about criminal proceedings and getting justice. Every person reacts differently to abuse and it is for them and them alone to make a decision about how they want to deal with it. If your ex-wife wants to bury this issue and never discuss it, then you need to consider doing this and moving on; otherwise you will both get hurt.
I have a saying: ‘My past is not my future’ and it is true. If we cling to the past, we spend so much time living there with guilt that we miss out on our future believing it will be equally as negative. Sometimes, we need to accept that things happen beyond our control and we need to move on having learned, to our benefit, that in any given experience we may make an alternative decision to the one we previously chose.
There is nothing that you can do or say to the guy that hurt your ex-wife that will haunt him as much as the guilt that he must carry for doing what he did. A brother abusing his sister is not normal behaviour and neither is the parents covering this up. He will have to live with the burden of guilt and shame of what he did for the rest of his life and this will have more of an impact than if you tried to ‘out’ him. More still, he will feel this burden even greater if he knows that you know because he will realise at any given time that his life can be uprooted simply by another person finding out.
All in all, whatever you do be the bigger man and remember that you are hurting from disappointment and a feeling of betrayal. These are not emotions that you want your ex-wife to have towards you if you decide to confront this guy but will become attached to you if you do. Remember that at the heart of all of this was a marriage; two people that loved (and probably still love) each other and planned to spend the rest of their lives together. Although this may not be the case anymore, you still had part of your lives together that you should remember for the positives and not the negatives and take from it, the fact that anyone else would be lucky to have a husband like you.
Please think about everything that we have discussed and I hope it helps. Whatever you decide to do, I wish you all the luck and success in the World and I hope things work out for the better.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
A very thorough response and I thank you for the thought and care you put into it. I can certainly agree with you on many of your comments, conclusions, advisements, etc.
Since you went to such great lengths to help, I feel the need to add some information that might help to explain why my anger has risen a lot and more recently.
When we divorced in May 2001, all I wanted to do was to get away from a what I viewed as a non-intimate, non-loving relationship. I deserved IMO a relationship where the return would be like the investment. I like being married and involved with a good woman and sharing all that that entails. I have that now.
It wasn’t a clean break with the ex, but not too bad either after having been married for 23 years and with each other for a few years before. That said, in the divorce settlement agreement I was generous. Splitting the assets was not that difficult …. add ‘em up and go 50/50. But the spousal support got set generously, allowed by me as my attorney said “you can afford it and besides, the %’s say that your ex will re-marry within 5 years and then it will cut off”. At the time, I could afford it, not really well, but I could manage. This would change in 2010.
BTW, we have 3 daughters. Wonderful people in their own right. I was generous with each of them well beyond any suggestions the settlement agreement spelled out. Their mother has told them she was "compromised" when she was young, but the admission on the part of my ex to our daughters has been the absolute bare minimum so as to qualify for "I told them". She has revealed less than 5% of the reality of the situation, and I understand why. If I was in that position, and felt the need to tell anything, I would low ball what I said too.
Another aspect floating around in this situation is that no one really knows the true underlying overwhelming reason for the marriage failure. Because of this, an because I was the one who left, well you can guess who gets viewed like and talked about as the "bad guy".
Little did I know that ex would go out of her way not to get remarried or to even cohabitate for that matter, all in the interest of “maxing out” spousal support over 11.5 years (half the duration of the marriage). It got to a point that in 2010-11, I could not afford to maintain the payments, and we worked out a deal where I would stop making monthly payments for the last two+ years in lieu of me making a lump sum payment to ex when my home sold. I live in a seasonally affected RE market, so getting results is tied to the May-October time frame. I’ve not been able to sell and I’m now in season #3, even though I have been priced at what my broker says is arguably aggressive from a selling standpoint. The value of my property, like for everyone else, got cut by more than half in the RE meltdown. In the meantime, the amount owing to my ex ($50K) sits. I am obligated to pay interest on it, so that is accruing as well. Of note, ex has already received around 93% (assets and spousal support) that she could from me from the divorce and the $50K remaining does not represent a need to her. She has inherited from her family some $$$$ and is not hurting in the least.
Starting last November, ex took an aggressive posture to go after the remaining $50K hiring an attorney and making my life hell. WTH? I got remarried last summer, and I strongly suspect that has something to do with her new attitude?
Another interesting development is that older brother got remarried to younger woman (several years ago) and she has tons of $$$$ (a few homes including an $8M mansion in SoCal, a private jet, trust fund baby, etc.). He has always avoided my family and after the revelation, it all fell into place for me as to why. We maybe saw him 2-3 times over the course of 20+ years. So now he lives the “life of Reilly”, and this adds to my irritation greatly, given that at least a good portion of my financial struggle now relates to what I had to part with as a result of the divorce …. a divorce I blame largely on lack of intimacy and sharing, which was not my fault, and which when I connect those dots now they lead back to what perp did to my ex.
You’re smart, so by now after reading the above you’re seeing why I’m so PO’ed. I don’t wish any harm (emotional) to my ex, but as far as the finances go, she’s now doing all she can to make my side of the formula difficult for non financial reasons. Her emotional well being has become far less important to me over time, especially given what has been done for her and the attitudes developed now. Completely forgetful about what has been done, unappreciative. Her agenda is now different, and not for the better. I'm rather tired of "being punished".
I believe that my ex’s family would not want the curtain pulled back on this situation, especially now (gross understatement). But the one who has the most to lose (financially) is the perp, who has managed and maneuvered to avoid detection to the point of being wealthy in the process. His current wife, if she were to find out? Their situation would go ballistic.
I’ve spent some time with a couple of attorney friends wondering out loud if I have some sort of case, some sort of cause of action, against the perp. They have offered up some very interesting ideas. I believe it’s very probable that if the perp were confronted, he would do everything in his power to keep the silence maintained. Me? I’m looking for reparations, if not vengeance?
And now you know more of the underlying crust of the situation.
Any further comments are appreciated. Thank you again for your time, thought and advice. I’m listening. I do understand your comments, but it is impossible for me to just set aside my feelings in this.
Hi there S,
Thank you for taking the time to read my response and reply, it has given me additional clarification about your situation and the reasons why you feel the way that you do.
From what you have explained (and what I suspected from your first question) you are a doting father and a loving husband that wanted nothing more for his family to be happy, safe and protected; even when things began to break down. You did not have to be as generous as you were during your divorce settlement but you were, wanting to protect your three daughters and ensure that your ex-partner had more than enough money to manage her day to day finances. I can imagine that not a lot of people in your situation would have been so generous, taking the opportunity as a relationship breakdown to walk away and pay the minimum amount that they could do out of anger, frustration and spite.
I can understand why your ex-wife is reluctant to share full details about what happened to her when she was younger but your daughters deserve to know enough information as to why your relationship broke down with their mom and the impact that this ‘compromise’ had upon your relationship. Without this, as you have mentioned, there maybe misunderstanding as to how and why things broke down and without the full picture, your daughters may never fully understand the difficulties that you, as their parent, have gone through. There will be time in the future where your daughters will begin to probe and ask their mom the questions that they have and they will develop enough intelligence and understanding to understand if their mom is deliberately being evasive or dishonest; which will ultimately force your ex-wife to reveal what has happened to her allowing the truth to come out.
In terms of your ex-wife filing for this $50k when you had reached an agreement, I believe that this could be a retaliation to you and your wife because you have remarried and moved on, when your ex-wife will not be able to until she confronts her issues. Without her willingness to be open and honest (and also to confront) the issues of her past, she has no issue but to lash out at those closest to her and blame them for the situation even though the perpetrator is known to you both. What will happen however, is this will be seen as a selfish act by her by anyone who knows your history as they will see this for what it is, a vicious attempt to extort money out of a man who has done nothing wrong but love and provide for his partner and their family.
If she is seeking to feel better by taking more money from you that she does not need or by hoping that the additional financial burden on you strains your marriage, then, to be honest, she is worth keeping some distance from and if needs be in the future, tackling in court to confront both her greed and her past. If your ex-wife has pulled the gloves off and is forcing you to struggle financially, then you could potentially counter-sue her for emotional damages because she is the one that caused the marriage to breakdown by ultimately not confiding in her husband. If she has pulled the gloves off enough to attempt to force you into paying more money when you have already been generous, then any court would see that she has no case and could potentially award damages to yourself as you have suffered…but silently until now. Any attempt to extort money from you by way of the courts should be challenged and if necessary, the cause of the marital breakdown put on record so that, in the case that you counter-sue, it is there as a matter of fact for the court that cannot be disputed. This then means that in the event of a court case by you against your ex-wife, she may be called, under oath, to attest to the real reason that your marriage broke down; which will then become public record ‘outing’ her brother.
I understand that you have only ever wanted the best for your ex-wife and your family and you have kept your patience, your dignity and emotions in tact throughout all of this. But you do have every right to be angry, both at her and at her brother, as both are now enjoy a life of considerable happiness when in fact, it should be you that it is better off. If your wife wants to fight a legal battle and has little consideration for you, then it may be time to counter-attack anything she attempts to extort as it was her failings in the marriage that led it to break down, not yours.
I am not a legal expert, but there may be some kind of legal action that you can consider pursuing against your ex-wife’s brother because it is as an act caused by him that you have lost your marriage and ended up in financial hardship. Perhaps you could angle it towards loss of earnings or emotional trauma as you have suffered as a direct result of his actions. This is something that you may want to explore with your legal friends to see if there are the bones for a case that can stand up in court. You do not necessarily have to win but to generate enough publicity, interest or gravitas that your ex-wife’s brother begins to understand that either he has to make right the pain he has caused you through way of compensation or that he faces a court case where, by the nature of it, he will be confronted by the past he thought he had hidden.
Remember that in all of this, there are three victims, your ex-wife, yourself and your marriage. All three of you have been hurt as a result of this but at least your ex-wife has been able to live through this comfortably because of your support, both financial and otherwise. You have had no such support (other than from your current wife) and you are suffering…thus making you an indirect victim of the original perpetrator’s crime.
Please remember that any legal action that you take will require a lot of time and money and you are never guaranteed the outcome that you may want. Please take a lot of advice, consider all of your options and then, do what you think is right for yourself (for the first time in your life, put yourself first!) to get yourself some kind of recompense for the ordeal that you have been through.
I wish you all the best of luck in whatever you decide to do.