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#64408 - 02/05/03 03:49 AM Help for parents of survivor
yippie Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/04/03
Posts: 2
My husband's son (by his first wife) is 34 years old, and we know he was sexually abused between the ages of 8-12 by an uncle. Our daughter-in-law told my husband about it. Unfortunately, my husband's son (I'll refer to him as "Jr.") has never brought this up with him. He is at a loss as to how to best help his son.
A little background might help.
Jr. is the oldest child. His parents divorced when he was around 7 y.o. Since he was the oldest, I imagine the divorce was most devastating for him. His mother immediately remarried, to an abusive alcoholic. His father maintained contact, but I think it was the minimum. The uncle who abused him was the mother's little brother, and he was not a whole lot older than Jr. - I think about 4 years older? His mother is aware of the abuse, but I have no idea what her thoughts or reactions to it were. His uncle, the abuser, died in a motorcycle accident at the age of 16.
Jr. was always in some sort of trouble. When I encountered him, as an adult, he was a severe cocaine addict and alcoholic. Also a bit of a womanizer. He married a couple of years ago because his girlfriend was pregnant. The marriage was very troubled, and came to a crisis a year ago when he strangled her in front of the baby. The police were called, and he was ordered into rehab. He has been clean and sober and actively involved in AA ever since. They have since then had another baby. The marriage continued to be troubled - he was very controlling and critical. We encouraged them to get counselling, and finally only recently, they have. From what his wife has told me, the counselor is seeing him alone sometimes and has been confronting him over his lack of ability to show emotion or feelings of love. In a separate session between only the wife and the therapist, the wife told the therapist about the abuse. She sounds like a great counsellor, and we are hoping she will find a way to gently bridge the subject with him.
I'll try to describe his personality. He is one of the most guarded individuals I have ever known. He is very shut down, and veers between sounding very depressed or being very anxious with panic attacks. I know he has chronic insomnia. He also has a very paranoid world-view. He believes that aliens control the government, reads up on every conspiracy theory there is. My personal feeling is that this reflects a profound sense of powerlessness - if aliens control everything, then humans have little or no control over their own destinies. He is also extremely xenophobic and racist, which is quite unlike the rest of his extended family. I am wondering if the conspiracy theory stuff and the racism are connected to the experience of abuse. He is very affectionate with his daughters - the point of clinginess at times, but overall seems to make a tremendous effort for them. I worry that he will be too over-protective and controlling with them.

Anyway, I hope that gives a clear picture of him. We care about him a lot, and are just wondering if there is something we can do or say - esp. his dad - that could help him a little more. Is there a way for his dad to broach this subject with him? Or is it, as I suspect, up to Jr.? Any advice would be appreciated.

#64409 - 02/05/03 05:01 AM Re: Help for parents of survivor
serafina Offline

Registered: 08/05/02
Posts: 36
Loc: Washington
Wow. As I read your e-mail, I could not even believe how much this sounds exactly my boyfriend, he was abused by his aunt. I have seen the pain there is between himself and his parents on both sides. It is not easy. I would encourage your husband to really try to talk to his son. He wants people to care and to rely on, but only if your husband is prepared to deal with this enormous issue. If he can't be of help and be there for his son, in my experience, he will just make things worse. He needs someone he can trust and can talk to, not someone who will cause him more pain and tell him to get over his pain and get on with his life.

Being an addict is fairly normal, as is the insomnia and womanizing. My boyfriend has been through it all. It is great that he is recovering and is in therapy. It will all help. Just be there for him. Let him know if he has anything he wants to talk about that you are there for him whenever he is ready. Maybe ask him why he needed to use drugs and alcohol? This would be an easy way to start the conversation. He wasn't doing them because it was fun. He wanted to forget. He doesn't sleep because he can't, he has nightmares and would rather stay awake. He wants you and your husband, know that much. If you can be there for him, make sure he knows that and then stick to it, no matter what. He is terrified of letting more people hurt him and letting him down. Best of luck!!!

#64410 - 02/05/03 08:02 PM Re: Help for parents of survivor
PAS Offline

Registered: 06/12/02
Posts: 577
Loc: Canada
You've listed a lot of characteristics here... I'll just recap:

His experiences:
- child of divorce
- sexually abused at around age 12
- mother's new husband = abusive alcoholic

His actions/personality
- cocaine, alcohol and relationship/sex addict (womanizer)
- controlling and critical
- lack of ability to show emotion or feelings of love
- guarded personality, shut down
- veers between sounding very depressed or being very anxious with panic attacks
- chronic insomnia
- paranoid world-view
- xenophobic and racist
- protective and affectionate with his daughters

*All* of this can be connected to the sexual abuse experience and also to the experience living with an alcoholic abusive person. My background is living with the abusive alcoholic. My BF has the experience of being sexually abused. I can see some traits in myself, others in my BF.

With respect to the abusive alcoholic: I struggle with insomnia, depression/anxiety (depression and anxiety are OFTEN closely linked or present together), and I have struggled with paranoia (I tend to think more along the lines of disaster thinking (oh my god what if so and so does this and then that and then they DIE????!?! More of a compulsive disaster thing rather than conspiracy theories).

From my experience the living with chaos and alcoholism drives one to be unsure of their surroundings, hence a serious need to control. You try to control your surroundings (people, relationships, jobs, house, etc) because there was so much chaos in your growing up years (unfortunately, controlling everything is an impossible task and one has to re-learn how to trust, how to be OK with themselves, which are very very difficult and very very scary.) As far as any anger problems he may have - they are often related to control issues - anger has a lovely knack of blocking out even scarier emotions such as fear, grief, etc. It often comes up for both me and my BF.

As far as the abusive alcoholic part of JR's experience - I dont think you can go wrong by validating how hard it must have been to deal with being close to an abusive alcoholic - what I ALWAYS benefit from is from others tellling me "wow you went through a lot and you are very strong and we are going to be here to help you and none of what happened to you was your fault". That has really has taken a load off.

The clinginess is also familar to me. It is a trait that I exhibit in spades. Its kind of like a "I need you do you love me please don't abandon me, please help me" kind of thing. I always wanted someone to stick up for me when I was young (my mother didn't) so I still struggle with the need to have a "saviour" or "guaranteed love". Perhaps Jr looks at his kids that way?

The sexual abuse is another difficult layer - From my experience with my BF - he has issues with being cut-off/shut down, inability to express emotions - particularly love and anger in appropriate ways. His sexual acting out was a way for him to "assert himself" sexually (being abused by a man made him question his sexual identity so he got overly sexually involved with many girls between the ages of 17-23 (he was abused at age 17 and began acting out shortly after). My bf also suffered from alcohol and drug abuse, and SERIOUS anger problems (he has lost a job on account of his anger).

Trust is also a major hurdle. Jr. was abused in such a personal way by someone who was close to the family - after that you can no doubt understand it is difficult to trust anyone else! As far as the drugs and alcohol - anything to dull the pain is what that is all about. I have struggled with tendencies to be addicted, but since I barf on even one drink, and I wouldnt even know where to go to get a joint, alcoholism and drug abuse is just not for me (however I have been known to binge on pre>

#64411 - 02/05/03 08:34 PM Re: Help for parents of survivor
Wifey1 Offline

Registered: 12/03/02
Posts: 380
i can only ditto ditto what others have posted above.
its a tuff road and then some. no sure fire answers --- i will say tho , take care of you along the way becuz this may trigger some stuff for Jr's dad too -- which of course will impact you...
Peace, Wifey1

#64412 - 02/05/03 11:59 PM Re: Help for parents of survivor
yippie Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/04/03
Posts: 2
Thank you for the thoughtful responses.
I myself am ACOA and a child of divorce, so I can relate to some of Jr.'s experiences in some way. His dad is 10 years older than me, and I think that when he and his first wife got divorced in the 70's, it was during that rather naive time when a lot of people believed that if the parents were happier that way, then of course the kids would be, too. But now, we know that divorce just plain sucks for kids. In my case, I actually wanted my parents to divorce b/c my dad was so out-of-control with his alcoholism, and was becoming increasingly violent. However, in Jr.'s case, it was more of a situation of the two parents just growing apart. In a way, I think that must be more difficult for a kid to understand. I certainly recognize the familiar abandonment issues in him. And there's got to be a rage there at his parents for not protecting him. When his wife told me that he said he felt completely alone and unloved as a kid, I felt so sad. I know his father feels guilty to the point of just being paralyzed. Today, he told me he thought maybe if he spent some real time alone with his son and apologized for not being there for him all the time after the divorce, that maybe that would open up some new avenues in what they are able to talk about with each other. His son loves for us to come visit, and speaks to his dad on a daily basis, but he almost seems to avoid being alone with his dad. I think it's a good idea for them to spend more time together - I've been encouraging his dad to address the fallout of the divorce issues with his kids openly like forever. He's as scared about it as they are.
One little sad observation - Jr. and his wife just found a new, better apartment. The kids room will be downstairs, a converted basement. There are no windows in it, and that's what he like the most about it - that no one could get to his kids there.
Again, thanks for the support.


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