Relationship Connection: My mom told me something horrible about 1 of my siblings

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Question

My mother recently told me one of my siblings told her they were sexually assaulted by another sibling.

She has never been a stable mother and is known to make up stories to make others look bad to take the light off herself and her own wrongdoings.

How do I confront my sibling to find out if something really did happen? And what do I do if she has made up this horrible story?

Answer

What a terrible situation for your entire family. If this is all true, I hurt for your sibling who was abused and only imagine the terrible emotional weight they’ve carried all of these years. It’s unfortunate you were pulled into this triangle between your mother and these two siblings. I want to reassure you that you have options to respond. You don’t need to believe that you’re trapped.

I noticed that you didn’t ask how you should confront your mother about this. My guess is that’s because you have little confidence in her ability to tell the truth or handle a real situation like this; you feel you need to go directly to your siblings.

You are dealing with two issues here. First, you have a potential sexual incest issue in your family. Secondly, you have a mother who tells lies and stirs up trouble in your family. I think they both need to be addressed.

I recommend you speak individually with each of the siblings involved in your mother’s accusation. Speak first with the sibling who was potentially victimized.

Tell them that this was brought to your attention and you feel it’s important they know what’s being said. Let the other sibling who was accused of being an offender know as well.

It will be important for you to discuss, as siblings, how to confront mom with what she’s doing to create divisions in the family if you determine that she has fabricated this story. A professional counselor can help guide you through that process as well.

If your sibling acknowledges the accusations are true, then encourage them to get help from a counselor to begin healing and also to begin the process of addressing with their abusive sibling.

If it’s true, then a parent needs to take on a more active role in helping to heal their family. Granted, your mother may not be the healthiest person to do this, so you’ll have to decide if you want to take on this role or pass it back to your mom to handle. If your father is still married to your mom, or otherwise available and stable, please make sure to include him as well.

If your sibling is really suffering from sibling abuse, then your mom needs to first turn to your father and seek counsel and direction from a professional counselor to know how to proceed. Obviously, if she’s single or unmarried, she can seek these other avenues without burdening her other children with this responsibility. Simply speaking to her children – you and your siblings – about each other will not resolve anything. This is a time for your mom to carefully proceed and make sure that she protects the confidence and trust of her child who trusted her with this information.

I realize your mom may not be capable of this. However, after speaking with your siblings, I still think handing it back to your mom is an important step. My recommendation is that you explain to your mother that these allegations are very serious and it’s inappropriate for her to speak with you about it. She has a responsibility to handle it in a way that doesn’t involve you.

Ideally, your mom would work with the injured sibling to have them address this directly with the offender. Unless other siblings were abused or there is a risk that grandchildren are at risk of being abused, it’s not an issue that needs to be openly discussed with the other siblings. Of course, if the offending sibling needs to make any personal reparations with family members, they will hopefully take care of that.

Other serious considerations are what reporting requirements or options may apply. These may vary depending upon where you live (every state has its own laws), the age of the individuals involved, when the abuse occurred and whether or not it is still occurring. I encourage you to consult counselors, attorneys and law enforcement for direction in this regard, bearing in mind the safety of a child – if your siblings are still children – ought to be of paramount concern.

Regardless of the truth of what happened, your mother has an opportunity here to learn how to manage her emotions and relationships. Your siblings have an opportunity to heal as well. There are patterns with mom’s behavior in the family as well as potential patterns of abuse and secrecy that need to be confronted. Hopefully your mother can learn how to keep confidences, seek appropriate counsel from professionals so she can step up to her responsibility to help her family.

The author thanks Jeff Ford, LMFT, for his review and helpful suggestions for this article.

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Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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2 Comments

  • comments August 16, 2017 at 11:23 am

    So mom is an old nutter/loon and likes to tell stories? Firstly, you need to decide if these are skeletons you really wanna drag out of the closet. Sometimes it can be better to let the past stay in the past. In this case I’d be curious to know the ages of these siblings when such event was alleged to occur. If both were children at the time I’d say leave it alone. If you wanna put yourself in the middle of it and stir things all up, then by all means tear into it and play sherlock holmes. You’ve got to decide in advance what you hope to accomplish by it. If you do decide to dig into it confront old story-telling mom about it first and make sure she’s even credible in the least.

    • desertgirl August 17, 2017 at 9:54 am

      If it is true, in all likelihood, the offender is still offending. That is a major concern. Sexual deviants don’t heal themselves they go to more victims.

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