I have a six‑year‑old niece who doesn’t like to stay at home with her parents and hates to sleep there. The girl’s father is my brother, who is three years older than I am, and the truth is that he harassed me sexually from the time that I was a very young child until just before I turned fifteen, which is why it worries me a lot to think that maybe that is also the reason she is mortified by the very idea of sleeping there.
What do you suggest I do? My parents don’t have a clue about what happened to me, and I don’t want them to find out.
We are very sorry to hear about what you went through as a child, and we certainly understand why you are concerned about your niece. Even though you don’t know for sure whether your niece is being sexually molested, it is always better to do everything we can to prevent abuse of any kind.
You say that you don’t want your parents to know what happened to you. In spite of everything, no doubt you love your brother and you don’t want him to lose the respect of your parents. You probably don’t want any unpleasant situations to ruin your family gatherings, nor do you want your brother to be mad at you. Most likely, you feel some guilt for what happened and you don’t want your parents to think less of you.
No matter what happened between you and your brother, he is the one who is responsible. You are younger, and he took advantage of your youth and inexperience. He may have tried to make you feel that you were also responsible for what happened, but ask yourself, would you have molested him? Would you have tried to take advantage of him? If the answer is no, then the guilt you feel is unjustified. You must accept the fact that what happened was not your fault. And since it was not your fault, there is no shame in it. You were the victim. So we believe that you should tell your parents what happened to you, and tell them your fears about your niece.
Tamar, the daughter of the great King David, was raped by one of her brothers. Since she was old enough to understand that it was not her fault, she did not try and keep it a secret. And no one blamed her for what had happened to her.1 We believe that you should follow Tamar’s example and tell your parents without any further delay. You were too young at that time to know what was right, but now you can understand and do the right thing regarding what happened to you.
However, regarding your niece, it would be very sad to accuse your brother of molesting his own daughter if it is not true. That is why we strongly advise you to tell your parents and to work together with them to discover the truth. If your niece needs protection, all of you together can confront your brother. But if nothing is going on, then only your parents will know what happened to you, and you will no longer have to carry your secret alone.
It may be that your brother feels terribly for what he did to you. And it may be that he would never harm his own daughter. Unfortunately, however, we don’t know this for sure. You may believe that it is risky to confide in your parents, but it is infinitely more risky to ignore the possible warning signs that you have seen.
Be brave, and do the right thing!
Linda and Charles
1 2Sa 13