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August 21, 2018 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Hard Knocks

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Am I overreacting?

Question:

My dad married my stepmom about nine years ago, but I have always been a part of her family. I've grown up as part of her family since I was two. When I was little I used to call her parents aunt and uncle. Around my fifteenth birthday, my stepmom's dad began tickling me at the apex of my legs right where my thigh meets my hip, only on the inside, and letting his fingers kind of remain there. At first I thought it was odd, but I just brushed it off as him still seeing me as a child. Then, the summer after, the birthday incident totally forgotten, I was looking for my baseball glove, and he came up behind me and asked what I was doing. I told him, and just as I was finishing telling him I found the glove and stood up. When I stood up (I was squatting by the drawer where the gloves are kept) he acted like he was going to tickle my sides. This was nothing new, as my family has always been an affectionate one. Instead he kind of fondled my breasts, or so I think. I've tried to block it out so I don't know for certain if he was doing it purposely or by accident (I never had really bloomed, and when I did, I bloomed overnight).

Small incidents like this, or him hugging me and grabbing my breast or "accidentally" touching it have been going on for about 2 1/2 years now and it has me nervous to be around him. I love my grandma (my stepmom's mom) to death and love seeing her, but I hate going to their house and avoid going as much as possible so that I don't have to see him. I've noticed that I recoil when touched, especially by my dad and other guys. I've gotten myself into a sexual relationship, I've lost interest in school, and I absolutely avoid standing near my stepmom's dad at all costs. I used to call him grandpa and now I can barely stand to call him by his first name. I know the abuse has mentally and emotionally helped to depress me and to scar me. It has also conditioned me psychologically.

Here's my question: Should I tell anyone? My best friend knows, but my dad, and all of my stepmom's family, including my brother and sister, think the world of him. He is the only one in my stepmom's family my dad gets along with, and my relationship with his mother, my great grandmother, is one of my most cherished friendships. I want to protect my little sister and cousin so they don't have to go through this but I don't want to lose my family either. I'm scared to let my mom know because she used to tell the courts stuff about my dad so that I couldn't see him because she hates him. I love my dad and couldn't bear not to be able to see him because of what my stepmom's dad has done. Also, I have no witnesses, and I can't rely on my own memory as to what has happened because my mind has worked to block it out.

I feel stressed and dirty and gross and I just can't wait to move and get away from the situation. Should I tell anyone or just ignore it and stay away from him? I'm moving soon also so I'll be able to get away from it but I don't know if he'll do it to my sister and cousin. It's different with them because they are his blood and I'm not. Please help, I'm so confused!

"Confused," 17-year-old woman

Answer:

Dear Confused,

I can certainly feel the confusion in the words of your letter. Hopefully some of my response will inspire helpful ways for you to deal with this problem. I see nothing that leads me to believe that you are overreacting to the situation. Make no mistake, the breasts and inner thighs are inappropriate places for a man to be touching a young lady! The general rule of thumb is that any area which would be covered by a bathing suit is off limits! If the touching had only taken place a time or two, then maybe it was accidental. Over a continuous period of 2 and 1/2 years... that's suspicious!

Your question was, "Should I tell anyone or just ignore it and stay away from him?"

Telling someone is a personal choice that no one can decide for you. It happened to you. It is your family. It is you that must cope with the consequences. You must make that decision at some point in time based on what you feel you must and can do. It wouldn't be fair for you to keep this man's secret all your life. That would be an injustice to YOU!

One thing you should consider is this... Most states have a law that says a person MUST report child abuse (even suspected) to the proper authorities. This means two things... any adult that you tell may in turn report this man to authorities in which case you would be questioned. This may be the choice that you make in order to have someone else do the telling for you. It can sometimes be easier to have someone else make that report. The second thing to consider is that if you later suspect that your cousin or sister is being abused, you would be required to report it if this is the law in your state. Just something to think about while making your decision.

Should you "ignore it and stay away from him?"

Stay away from him? Sure, if possible. Ignore it... No! If or when you become uncomfortable in his presence, tell him so. Remember, you are not the person at fault, you have done nothing wrong. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise! Tell him directly, "I am not comfortable with being touched there" or "That is not appropriate, acceptable, etc." Put him on notice that THIS IS NOT OK.

Safety must be your priority. It's admirable and understandable to worry about the consequences to your family. But don't take all the responsibility. The man doing the inappropriate touching is the person who deserves that responsibility!

I know I've given you a lot to think about. No matter what decision you make, the road will be a little bumpy! Having your friend to confide in will be of support to you and I hope that you will eventually have family support as well. Yes, it is hard to believe that someone we care about can hurt us. It is so much easier to pretend it can't be true. Unfortunately, it is true. Please take good care of yourself. I do believe that in time you can heal from the violation of trust that this man has caused you. Talking about it and seeking help is the first step in that process.

Sincerely,

Ramona Wesling

This question has been answered by Ramona Wesling, LCSW. Ramona's expertise lies within topics such as women's issues, relationships, violence and trauma issues and chronic and terminal illness issues. She uses an eclectic wellness approach to her counseling and works out of the Difficult Run Treatment Center in VA.

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