My adult son was abused by his brother.


Dear Stop It Now!,

My 25 year old son recently told me that his 27 year old brother sexually abused him from the ages of 6 to 10 years old. I was a stay at home mom and never saw any signs. What do I do now that I've found out my son sexually abused his little brother 15 years ago?

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Dear Concerned Parent,

I’m so sorry to hear that your family has been affected by sexual abuse. I’m glad you’ve reached out to us looking for help on how you can help your family heal.

Dealing with Disclosure
It would be difficult to ever hear such news from your son, but for some it feels more frustrating or confusing to hear their child was abused after years have passed, or that the abuse was from a loved one – your child. As a parent it may bring up a variety of feelings and questions. There are many Possible Reactions Of Non-offending Parents And Caring Adults – you may recognize some of these in yourself, which is what many experience after disclosure of abuse from their child.

Know that you are not alone in this. Unfortunately, some parents don’t find out about their child’s abuse until years later – many once they have grown into adults, like your own son. Sexual abuse thrives on secrecy and manipulation, and often it is even more difficult to come forward if the abuser is a loved one.

Despite how vigilant you were as a parent, there sometimes is just no way you could have known. There are so many reasons your son may not have said anything at the time: shame, fear, or guilt; perhaps reading about How Can I Better Understand What My Child is Going Through? may be helpful to you right now. Although your son is not a child, this article highlights the complexities of what keeps a child from disclosing.

Understanding Children's Sexual Behaviors
Many people wonder if children sexually abuse. Yes, and when children sexually harm other children it is often for very different reasons than adults. It sounds like at around 12 years old your older son stopped these abusive behaviors, and perhaps never did them again. It may be difficult to understand why this happened, and your older son may not fully understand it himself. All three of you may find it beneficial to seek counseling as a family unit, to work towards understanding and moving past these difficult events that occurred so long ago. For more information on this topic, check out our guidebook: Do Children Sexually Abuse Other Children?

Warning Signs in Adults
It is always a good idea, however, to be aware of warning signs. Please review these Signs An Adult Is At-Risk To Harm A Child, and see if you recognize any of these in your older son. It’s very possible that you do not, but if you do, I would strongly encourage him to seek treatment for At-Risk Adults.

Finding Support
As this is your son’s journey, he may choose to seek the help of a Professional, as this enables many to work through the traumas of their past in a safe and understanding environment. If he chooses to seek this support, a specialist who is trained to work with Adult Survivors would have the best training to work with your son. He may also find the following resources beneficial as an additional or interim form of support:

What you can do for him now is to continue to provide your unconditional loving support. I’m sure after struggling with this for so many years, it must have been incredibly hard to speak about this to anyone. This will be a long journey for you and he both, but having the support of one another will be immensely helpful. Don’t push him; he will come to you as he is ready, but make yourself available to him.

Support for yourself is also a necessary step to take for your own well-being. It sounds like you have a lot to deal with right now, and I hope you have someone to lean on and talk to through this difficult time. You also may decide to seek counseling for yourself; please browse our treatment resources above if you do. A professional who can listen, a neutral party who you can vent your frustrations to and get feedback from, can be immensely helpful during this difficult time. Many have also found our Parents of Survivors resources useful as well.

I know that this must be a confusing and emotional time for you, but this can also be an opportunity to grow and become closer as a family by being honest and working to mend the past. 

Take care,
Stop It Now!


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Last edited on: November 5th, 2018