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Left Out of the Family Circle of Trust

Hi. This is a complex issue. But essentially my husband’s family recently learned that his younger brother suffered sexual abuse from a family member 10 years ago. I was in this family 10 years ago (though not married yet), but when they met to discuss the issue, they excluded me. My husband flew across the country to learn the bad news in person, and I had to stay here waiting to hear over the phone…

I care about these people, but I feel as though my feelings are being completely invalidated. I have known this brother since this incident happened. At minimum, I’d have liked to have been there to support my husband when he heard this news. Maybe I don’t understand my place? I am a firm believer that survivors of sexual abuse should only tell whomever they want, on their own terms, when they want, etc. But I definitely feel a little bit down about not being included when the ENTIRE family heard. And they basically told my husband “you can tell her…if you want”. We are going on a family trip next month, and I honestly don’t even know how to act. Of course my husband told me, which I guess they were ok with, but now what? Am I supposed to act like I really don’t care? Did I not get included because they think it doesn’t effect me? Even if it didn’t, it effects my husband, and I don’t even know how to be supportive at this point. And its his mother that said I shouldn’t come, not even the brother. Feeling very lost. (From the USA)

My best guess is that the family was deeply embarrassed. During these times people make decisions that grow out of shame and insecurity rather than out of good judgment.

I believe the correction is reaching out to your brother-in-law. As long as your brother-in-law knows that your husband has told you, and that it wasn’t meant to be kept from you by him, then you reaching out directly to lend your support short-circuits the dynamic of feeling left out.

I would also encourage you and your husband to talk about this. The main dilemma here is that your husband honored his family over you. I believe it is you when your husband that need to talk more about you not being included. As his wife, the separation from this process should’ve been something the two of you discussed prior to his going. But now it will be essential as an effort to heal your exclusion from the process — and work toward integration in the future.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

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