I'm grateful this forum exists. I recently posted in the "Introductions" forum, but I'm repeating my background here. At the end of the post I've tackled some of the questions/difficulties that I'm facing as a spouse. I don't want to burden my husband with them right now; I only want to support him.
I'm sorry this post is so long. My thanks to anyone who slogs through.
WHY I'M HERE
My husband disclosed to me two days ago that his sister (older by 3 years) sexually abused him for several years from the age of 7 on. He is just starting to recover memories. She abused him alone for a couple years, and then used him as a pawn to make friends, inviting other girls her age over and passing him to them. She was unpopular, unattractive and horribly bullied by others. That's as much as I know at this point. I wonder if she wasn't sexually abused herself; 10 seems awfully young to initiate sexual activity.
I am heartbroken. I love this man more than I can say. All I want to do is go back in time and protect him. Over the past two days I have told him I love him, that telling me was the bravest thing I've ever seen him do, that I am so glad he trusts me enough to share this, and that he is good at his core (he has often expressed feeling like a "bad person," but couldn't say why - now it and other symptoms make perfect sense). The day after, he said he actually forgot he told me. That is how accustomed he is to dissociating. I made sure to tell him that was a normal coping mechanism, and that I would never pressure him to open up more that he would like.
He is only just beginning to speak about the abuse, and I know the best thing I can do is listen. Of course, I'm filled with questions and my own feelings toward his abuser and family. But I know now is NOT the time to inflict any of that on him. Right now I just need to be available to him when he does want to talk. I'm hoping the F&F board will be a helpful outlet for the questions and emotions I can't yet share with him.
I am in the process of finding an appropriate therapist for him (he welcomes this - again, he is one brave guy). I also read Gartner's "Beyond Betrayal" and found it hugely helpful.
While I'm devastated this happened to him, there is a part of me that is relieved to know the truth, because it explains some of his previously confounding behavior (self-hate, short temper, compulsive exercise, odd sleep patterns and night terrors, low threshold for pain, lack of empathy, and an extreme need to please women, including me). He wants to know how this has affected him, and I know that if he understand himself better, our marriage will be stronger for it.
I am 3 1/2 months pregnant, which I think has something to do with his memories coming back. He said the Sandusky case also brought it to light. Additionally, I have twin nephews that are 7, and he said seeing them reach that age made him realize how young and vulnerable he was at the time.
1. My first concern is getting him help. Thank God he wants it.
2. Dealing with his abuser. She lives far away (thank goodness) but she calls often. He has always kept his emotional distance from her, and doesn't understand why she calls once a week. She called me a few days ago (before the revelation). I can't bring myself to call her back because I don't think I can fake it. I vacillate between feeling sorry for her and wanting to rip her throat out. Our usual small talk just isn't possible. What do I do? Ignore her?
3. Dealing with his family. I have always felt a weighty darkness in his parents' home (where he was abused). In fact, we have a 48 hour limit for visits. Any longer than that and I get severely depressed. I've told him it feels like my soul is deadened when I'm there. Now I know why.
I've also felt uncomfortable with the level of sexual jokes his family tolerates; they like to think of themselves as "liberal" and free to say anything, but the truth is that only extends to dirty jokes, not anything of real substance. For instance, his parents are on the verge of financial ruin but won't declare bankruptcy because they are too afraid of telling the other children and their social circle. We only know because they asked us for loans. Anyway - back to the sexual jokes: I was raised in a very proper home, and half the time chock my discomfort up to coming from a prudish environment. But at Thanksgiving his brother made a joke about Sandusky. Something along the lines of, "I told him to watch out or I'd go all Sandusky on him." My jaw hit the floor. Immediately I said, "There is nothing funny about child rape." The other people in the room (his brother's wife and his sister) agreed with me (for the first time) that it wasn't funny.
I am very angry at his parents. So far he has not expressed anger at his parents and I have not shared how angry I am at them (and don't intend to any time soon). His parents prided themselves on being the house all the neighborhood kids came to, with snacks and sodas available at all times. I think this open door policy coupled with a lack of supervision enabled his abuse.
His mother is a narcissist in my opinion. She has made mothering the center of her identity, and yet her children suffer from eating disorders, are emotionally stunted and suffering (not just my husband - he is actually the most socially well adjusted and successful of the four children). Everything is about her. My husband learned from an early age that is was his job to please her. I am absolutely furious with her for not protecting him. I did manage to have a superficial conversation with her over the phone today, but I am not sure how I will be able to handle this in the future. My mother advised me not to jump to conclusions since so many of the details of the abuse are still murky, and the level of their neglect isn't yet clear. Still. I'm livid.
I am 3 1/2 months pregnant. I have always had a foreboding feeling about leaving our child with his family. We love to travel, and (before he remembered the abuse) he would say "We can just leave the baby with my mom and dad for a week and go on vacation!" I never said "yes" but couldn't really pinpoint what made me uncomfortable. I don't think I will ever be able to leave my children with them in that house. For me, the only thing that can trump my husband's feelings is the safety of our children.
4. Betraying his confidence. He asked me to promise not to tell ANYONE, and I promised. Yesterday (the day after finding out) I found myself completely overwhelmed. My mom stopped in and I confessed it to her. She is extremely wise and said she felt very comfortable keeping his secret in complete confidence (I know she will). I feel horrible for breaking his promise, but I couldn't hold onto the ugliness alone (and I felt alone because he's not yet ready to talk much about it.) I have not told him that I spoke with my mother.
It gets worse.
My sister came over today and confessed to me that her husband was sexually abused by his older sister. The similarities are uncanny; the sisters even share the same name. My brother-in-law also remembered his abuse when my sister was pregnant (this was 8 years ago). My BIL is a terrific guy and father. He has lost all contact with his family as a result of the abuse, but he has gained a great deal of happiness through therapy. I blurted out that we were going through the same thing. Again, my sister said she felt no need to tell her husband, and she would keep it under wraps (I trust her). I never ask married people to keep secrets from their spouses, but she said she didn't think it would help anyone to spread the news further at this point, and that her husband would understand why she kept it from him if he ever finds out. Which I hope he does, as my husband respects my BIL a great deal, and it could help him - eventually - to feel less alone.
I don't feel the need to tell anyone else but I feel HORRIBLE that I broke his trust twice in as many days.
Do I owe it to my husband to tell him about my breaches of confidence? My gut tells me this would do more harm than good. Will there come a time when I can come clean without hurting him?
Any advice on how to handle interacting with abusers and family members when the survivor hasn't yet confronted them and may not ever?
Thank you for reading/listening. I know I'll learn from everyone here and hope my husband will join when he's ready.