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Is it too late to right the wrongs?

(14 Posts)
VioletCloud Fri 16-Oct-20 14:11:38

Apologies in advance - this is a bit long!

A few years ago my adult son confided in me about sexual abuse he had suffered as a child/young teen in the early 1970s. His father and I were divorced and at the time we were living the person in question - he was my then partner and I'll refer to him as 'L'.

I eventually remarried (a different man) but we kept in touch with 'L' for many years, he visited our home and we regarded him as a family friend - entirely ignorant of the fact that my son had been abused.

I was shaken to the core by my son's disclosure and feel so wracked with guilt that I suspected nothing at the time and therefore could not bring this person to justice, nor get help for my son at the time. He has sworn me to secrecy as he still feels a deep sense of shame and embarrassment and so I have told no-one, not even my husband, who brought him up as his own.

My son and I are shouldering this 'secret' alone.

For a few years my husband and I lived within 50 miles of 'L' and he would suggest visiting him and I had to find excuses not to.

I long to share this burden of responsibility, to get advice and help for my son (whose life has been affected in many ways - he has shied from marriage to his lovely common-law partner of 25 years, who we regard as our DIL, and from fatherhood for example), but I can do nothing as I have been sworn to secrecy, which is something that I have honoured.

'L' is now an elderly man who lives alone. He has in part acutely affected my son's life and his future. The incident(s) happened in a different era when child abuse was not spoken about as it is today, and as such, I believe my son still feels there is a 'stigma', or 'taboo' attached, irrespective of today's more enlightened conversations. He says he does not need to speak about it to anyone else, now that he has told me, but I am at times consumed with anger and guilt that I suspected nothing, and therefore did nothing to protect him.

I cannot go to my grave without somehow avenging this life-changing wrong for my son. I allowed 'L' to live in our home, I am responsible.

Should I confront 'L'? - a 600 mile round trip for which I would need to plan and an 'excuse' - and shame him into an admission and at the very least a written apology and explanation for my son?

Should I break my son's trust and confide in my husband and ask him for advice after all these years?

Any advice/comments will be considered and of help. Thankyou. smile

Alexa Fri 16-Oct-20 14:28:05

It's not your fault, VioletCloud. L was an insidious poison that you could not have known about at the time. You must know there is no point in trying to avenge the poison L injected into your son's life. Guilt is no use to anyone. Revenge will not help you however you do well to express your anger against L.

Your son may be coping with the unpleasant memory more than you know, and it is his business how he does so.

I counsel you to support your son by respecting his wishes.

Starblaze Fri 16-Oct-20 14:33:05

I can give you my thoughts on this as a sexual abuse survivor but I don't know that that means they would line up for you, your son or your situation.

My mum stopped me getting support because she said everyone would see me as damaged goods. She also told me as an adult that she wanted me to get support and I chose not to, she also said "IF that happened" a few times so, my scenario was a bit worse than the usual rug sweeping that was normal back then because my mum wasn't supportive and emotionally abusive herself.

Here is what I think though.

Confronting this man may not be a good idea, may not be good for you and may open a massive can of worms. Abusive people like to shout how innocent they are the loudest. He may want to hurt you back or the people around you. He may call the police if you go to his property. This might all force a confrontation your son can't handle.

Your son probably needs counselling and if he ever brings the situation up to you, I would suggest it but what I wouldn't ever do is bring the situation up yourself. It can feel like an attack on our wellbeing when people want to discuss it, I don't know how to really best explain that.

I think the best way for you to move forward is counselling. I understand you want some sort of justice to be done but, your son is an adult now, that's his decision. He may not be ready, he may never be ready to confront this.

Sometimes abuse survivors cope by seperating themselves into 2. The child who experienced the abuse and the adult who did not. Our inner children react to the trauma and our outer adults try to ignore it or don't realise it is showing.

Look at him as a whole, without the trauma, is he doing OK? Is he happy? What can you do to encourage that happiness. Don't worry about marriage or children, help him be happy as he is, as who he is.

I'm so very sorry for this awful situation and I'm sorry I don't have much in the way of answers for you.

Smileless2012 Fri 16-Oct-20 14:36:35

I agree completely with Alexa VioletCloud.

It would have taken a lot for your son to share his 'secret' with you. You are not responsible for what happened then, or what may or may not happen in so far as 'L' being confronted with his appalling behaviour.

It's for your son to decide whether or not he wishes to do so or not.

Please don't break the trust your son has placed in you by talking to your H about this. If he were to find out, he'd be devastated and that could seriously impact on the relationship you share.

I wish you both all the bestflowers.

Smileless2012 Fri 16-Oct-20 14:40:01

Just want to add that you have already done the single best thing you could have done for your son; you believed him and believe me when I say, the importance of that single act is more than words can ever say.

silverlining48 Fri 16-Oct-20 14:47:13

It is good your son has been able to tell you what happened, I hope he may talk to his partner too. He will probably feel unnecessary guilt and responsibilityv because that is what abusers make their victims believe, which is why he wants to keep it between you. He needs to know and believe it was not his fault, no guilt can be attributed to him, he was a child.

If L is still alive your son can still report this, he will not be the only one who has suffered by L’s behaviour, there will be others and he has no reason to feel shame.

I am so sorry. These people are devious and sly and can prey on single women with children in order to abuse. They rely on the child’s silence, come from all walks of life, can be charming and kind, and many are taken in but they are a danger to any child who crosses their path. Why should L get away with what he has done.

It will make a difference to your son that you believe him and are supporting him, but it’s really for you son to decide the next step.

Lolo81 Sat 17-Oct-20 03:55:06

Like someone else commented previously, by believing your son and listening to him you have helped already.
Please do not break his confidence, it must have taken a huge amount of courage for him to trust you with this information.
Please do not confront this man either, it’s not your decision to make and you may cause a chain reaction which could mentally devastate your son.
I would encourage you to reach out and get some support to deal with your own feelings of guilt and anger - charities like the NSPCC have helplines which could potentially give you some advice on how to deal with your emotions and also the best way to support your son.
I am so sorry for both you and your son and wish the very best for the future and hope you can both heal from this as best you can x

BlueBelle Sat 17-Oct-20 06:21:30

What an awful dilemma for you, as like you, my first thought was this man must be brought to task and to stop it happening to anyone else BUT your son has begged you to silence and you must do that for him
A counsellor is sworn to confidentiality so perhaps you could discuss your feelings within this closed relationship instead of talking to your husband etc
It’s put you in so many unwanted situations keeping secrets from your husband, not feeling you can ‘out’ this awful man it must also give you a horrible sense of guilt that you unknowingly brought this man into the house so I do think you getting counselling may be a very helpful way forward for you
Your son may have felt a great deal of relief by talking to you and sharing this so don’t underestimate how much help you have already been and honoured you are his first confident Hopefully he may be able to talk to his wife too and then he will be well on the way to healing
I too wish you luck and healing and hope you can both get the help you both need one day soon
Love and healing thoughts 💐

VioletCloud Sun 18-Oct-20 18:47:39

Thankyou so much to all the wise, kind, practical and helpful responses from everyone.

They have given me much food for thought, and courage to help me cope with this matter. Your different points of view have all been taken on board, and you've certainly proved that sharing a trouble is indeed a trouble halved.

I will update in the future as to which course of action I will follow. I'm still feeling nervous about taking matters forward but you have confirmed that I can, I just need courage.

Thankyou again, so much! smile

Sparkling Mon 19-Oct-20 07:30:56

Violet, Agree with all the replies. Of course you must go along with your sons wishes. L is best left alone, he knows he's done wrong, horrible man. Meanwhile you have your husband and son, whom it must have helped so much confiding in you and having your complete support.

Toadinthehole Mon 19-Oct-20 16:03:36

I’m really sorry * Violet*, but I don’t agree it should go no further. I’m not sure in his heart of hearts, that this is what your son wants either, otherwise he wouldn’t have told you. Neither of you will ever have peace/ closure, unless you take this to the police and report this vile man. Take time..and talk about it with your son before doing anything, but I can’t see how any of you will ever feel better until you do. It may not go anywhere, but at least you’ve tried. I wish you all the best💐

DiscoDancer1975 Mon 19-Oct-20 16:09:39

I agree Toad. Even if your son is relieved, he’s passed the burden to you. If you spend time talking about it, he will hopefully see this is the best course of action. ‘L’ shouldn’t get away with this. I do hope it can be resolved.

fevertree Mon 19-Oct-20 16:30:49

I have no personal experience, but one of my best friends faced a similar situation. The abuser had been her fiancee (they subsequently broke up) and she confronted him 30 years later when her son told her about the abuse. He simply denied it. Her son was unhappy about this man being confronted, he felt that it was his prerogative to direct how it should be dealt with, (and did not take it further).

IMHO all you can do, Violet is tell your son how deeply sorry you are, and that you will stand by him in whatever he decides to do.

I understand though, about wanting to confront this man. I would be so very angry.

thanks for you.

GillT57 Mon 19-Oct-20 16:53:29

What a great relationship you have with your son that he was able to confide in you, knowing that you would not break his trust. As smileless said, you have done the most important thing, you believed him. Although it is easy for me to say, you must not blame yourself for bringing this man into your home and family; this is how abusers work, they gain trust. Please recognise that you have a wonderful relationship with your son, he has committed to his partner for 25 years and the abuser is a lonely old man.