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Direct Answers - Column for the week of September 22, 2003
I have three grown children. My elderly father, six younger brothers, and a large extended family live in the old country.
The last time I took my children for a family visit was 15 years ago. The reason I have not gone back is because my youngest brother, who was 21 at the time, "fell in love" with my 13-year-old daughter.
It was hell time for me because I had to watch my child 24 hours a day so my brother would leave her alone. I had no support from my parents. My mother blamed my 13-year-old daughter, and my dad sat around maintaining his inner peace amidst the mayhem.
I was stuck there for two months because I had no money for rushing home during the high season or for staying in a hotel. My family's position is my brother and daughter didn't grow up together. They ignore the fact a 21-year-old has no business messing with a 13-year-old.
I exchange the occasional letter with my dad and brothers. I have no contact with the brother who, I found out years later, managed to molest my daughter several times despite all my efforts to keep her safe.
My daughter had counseling to help her deal with what happened. For a time she was convinced it was "love," but she finally realized she was just a little girl, not responsible for what happened. I still feel guilty for not protecting her.
In 15 years many of my elderly relatives have passed away. Now I am being told I am overdue for a visit. I told my aunt I cannot go back to socialize with my brother because it would negate the injury he caused. My aunt told me to get over it.
My family in the old country is close-knit. It would not be possible to visit without having contact with this particular brother and his family. As it is, when I get photos, I discard half of them because I don't want my daughter dealing with memories of him.
Am I being fair to my dad and to the rest of the family by staying away? Am I being disloyal to my daughter with the contact I have with the family?
What do I say to the relatives? My oldest brother keeps sending photos of my youngest brother as if nothing happened. I cannot put these questions to my daughter, and frankly, this isn't her problem it's mine
Ulrica, if your daughter was molested by a stranger, charges would have been pressed and punishment meted out. Neither you nor your daughter would have had contact with the perpetrator or anyone related to him, and those elements would have allowed a measure of healing.
Now you feel torn. Keeping these family members in your life suggests in some fashion that what happened was all right, and it hurts your daughter to know you are in touch with people complicit in a crime. For your daughter, that dismisses the injustice which was perpetrated upon her.
Nobody has been punished here except you and your daughter.
Your family should have had your daughter's best interests at heart, but instead they broke the one bond they had with you, and that is the bond of blood. People in our families don't owe us less of a duty than they owe a stranger; they owe us more of a duty. When that duty is not met, the offense is not lessened, it is doubled.
The relationship with your brother is what allowed your daughter to be molested, and your family is still trying to negate their responsibility for what happened. You are perfectly justified in cutting off contact with those involved.
We won't tell you exactly what to say, but you are in a position to give your daughter the justice no court was ever able to.
Wayne & Tamara
About The Author
Authors and columnists Wayne and Tamara Mitchell can be reached at www.WayneAndTamara.com.
Send letters to: Direct Answers, PO Box 964, Springfield, MO 65801 or email: DirectAnswers@WayneAndTamara.com.
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