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My mother recently told me that one of my siblings told her they were sexually assaulted by another sibling. My mom 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 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?
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 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. If they deny telling mom anything, then you automatically know it’s made up. If this is the case, let the other sibling who was accused of being an offender know as well. It then becomes important to discuss, as siblings, how to confront mom with what she’s doing to create divisions in the family. A professional counselor and church leader can help guide you through that process.
If your sibling acknowledges that it’s true, then encourage them to get help from a church leader and counselor to begin healing and also to begin the process of addressing with their abusive sibling. If it’s true, then your 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 and he’s stable, please make sure to include him as well.
If this adult child is really suffering from sibling abuse, then your mom needs to first turn to your father and seek counsel and direction from church leaders, a professional counselor, and, most certainly, from Heavenly Father to know how to proceed. Obviously, if she’s single, she can seek these other avenues without burdening her other children with this responsibility. This is a time for your mom to carefully proceed and make sure that she protects the confidence and trust of this 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 act on those promptings as they go through their repentance process.
Regardless of the truth of what happened, your mother has an opportunity to learn how to manage her emotions and relationships. Your siblings also will 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 leaders and professionals, and depend on God to help her step up to her responsibility to guide and bless her family.
The author would like to thank Jeff Ford, LMFT, for his review and helpful suggestions for this article.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.geoffsteurer.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.