Home Australia DEAR CAROLINE: My brother sexually assaulted me when I was 12 years old. Should I tell him, even though it will destroy my family?

DEAR CAROLINE: My brother sexually assaulted me when I was 12 years old. Should I tell him, even though it will destroy my family?

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 DEAR CAROLINE: My brother sexually assaulted me when I was 12 years old. Should I tell him, even though it will destroy my family?

q When I was 12, my brother, who was two years older than me, repeatedly sexually assaulted me. I have kept the abuse a secret for over 30 years and this is the first time I have acknowledged it.

Despite this, I have been happily married for 20 years. However, I am estranged from my father, who rarely wishes to see me and has never been happy with my choice of partner. I think he is jealous of my husband’s success as a businessman. Am I am in contact with my mother but our relationship is strained.

My brother is close to my parents because he constantly needs money and support. I would like to tell you what he did but I know it would destroy lives and shatter any possible future happiness. He would also implicate the police if he went further.

TO First of all, I am very sorry for what you have gone through.

I know many readers will find it deeply shocking. Being sexually abused by your own brother must have left you traumatized and scared. It violates everything a sibling relationship should be. Carrying the secret for 30 years will have been very difficult and must have taken every ounce of courage to write to me, but opening up and getting support will help. It’s wonderful that, despite all their trauma, they have a happy marriage.

So start by telling your husband about the abuse, as you will need his love and care. I suspect he will be extremely angry with your brother and may want to take it out on him, but explain to him that this won’t help for the time being. As painful as it is to contemplate, I wonder if your parents already know anything about what happened. I hope I’m wrong, but I can’t help but think that behind his withdrawal there are feelings of guilt for having disappointed you so much.

I also can’t help but wonder why your brother started his path of abuse. Given that perpetrators are often victims of abuse, is it possible that his father would have done the same thing to him?

Yes, revealing everything can cause distress, but it’s important to tell your parents what your brother did because, for the sake of your own mental health, you need to own up to it. There is also a protection issue if your brother has children or grandchildren. It won’t be easy and you should be prepared for your parents not to react the way you need them to, so contact the National Association for People Abused as Children (napac.org.uk; 0808 801 0331).

They can help you report it to the police and seek advice. Also try an app called Ed Can Help (edcanhelp.io) for post-traumatic stress disorder. It uses a form of high-frequency sound (a type of EMDR – eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) to reduce the impact of trauma, including sexual assault.

Should I support my ex-wife after her betrayal?

q My marriage ended six years ago after I discovered my wife’s affair. When I told her that she wanted a divorce, she became furious and she insulted me. She said it was my fault because she almost never wanted sex and that her younger lover was more virile.

I was only 57 years old, but ten years older than her. There was some truth to my lack of interest, as I had been laid off and was depressed. I have since gotten my life back, although I am currently single. Now my ex-wife has called me crying to apologize and beg me to try again.

Her mother has dementia and says she has nowhere to turn. She would never return, but I feel obligated to offer her support for the sake of our adult children.

TO Believe me, you don’t owe your ex-wife anything. When you were at a low point and you really needed her, she didn’t support you at all. Sometimes, unfortunately, people do have affairs because they feel rejected by a partner who shows no interest, although it is not a good way to deal with the problem.

But when she was discovered, she revealed a very unpleasant side to her personality with her lack of remorse and vicious insults. It speaks volumes to your humanity that you’re even considering helping her, and of course it’s natural to feel sympathy for anyone dealing with one of her parents’ dementia. As his ex-wife seems volatile and lacking in empathy, her adult children probably find her difficult as well.

So, for your sake, I would suggest a compromise. Help her with practical arrangements, such as finding caregivers or advising her on finances. But don’t be a listening ear or someone she leans on. That’s not a role you should play.

If you have any problems, please write to Caroline West-Meads at YOU, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY, or email c.west-meads@mailonsunday.co.uk. You can follow Caroline on X/Twitter. @Ask_Caroline_

Caroline reads all your letters but regrets that she cannot respond to them personally.

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