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I am 25 years old. My 26-year-old sister has struggled with severe depression and drug abuse since she was an early teen. Yesterday, my mother revealed to me that when my sister was 3 years old, she began to cry out in pain when she peed. My mother took her to the doctor, who said she was being molested. When they asked my young sister who was touching her, she identified my 12-year-old cousin, who would regularly babysit us. I have two older brothers. Around the same time, my oldest brother, who was about 7 at the time, revealed that the same cousin tried to make him perform oral sex on him. My other older brother and I showed no signs of abuse. My sister has been drug-free for two years but still struggles with depression. She doesn't remember the incident. Could telling her be beneficial or do more harm? I hope it may give her some clarity. Also, my oldest brother couldn't be more normal; should I bring this up to him or could it be damaging? My other brother definitely has some social issues; should I ask him? Try to hold a family meeting? Also, my cousin was never properly treated or disciplined. He's now successful in real estate with a wife and two children. Could he be harming his children? He's the last person anyone would expect to be a molester. I don't want to destroy his life if he's moved on, but he's also a high school football coach, and this scares me. Please give me some insight, especially concerning my sister. Thank you for your time. —Unsettled
Thank you for writing in. This sounds like a very complicated situation fraught with the potential for significant consequences for many people, some of whom you love dearly. I’m curious why your mother chose to share this tragic portion of your family history with you now, after all these years. Is she proposing to do something about it? Is she trying to unburden herself after carrying this disturbing knowledge alone for so many years? Does she have reason to believe that your cousin is abusing his children and/or members of the football team? Is there some other motivation for the disclosure? If you haven’t already done so, it might useful to talk to your mom about why she shared this with you at this time. It is possible that her answers might help you decide what you will do with this information. For example, if your mother thinks that someone is presently in danger, then there would be ample reason to take this information to the police immediately.
If you do decide to go to the police and open an investigation, they would probably want to speak to your family, especially your sister and brother who were victimized by your cousin. If this is the course of action you choose, it would be best for your siblings to hear this from you and your mother, and possibly also a therapist in a safe, therapeutic setting. It would be unfortunate for your siblings to first learn about this from police investigators.
I would also suggest that you schedule a consultation with a therapist who has a strong specialization in work with childhood sexual abuse. Someone with an extensive background in this area would be very well equipped to meet with you and your mother, listen to the history you present, ask additional questions, and ultimately make some recommendations for developing an action plan that will serve everyone as best as possible. Consulting with a therapist in this capacity might also prove to be quite therapeutic for you. In reading your question, I can almost feel the anxiety you are likely experiencing. You might find it quite helpful to have the support of a therapist during this time.