What if My Dad Really Did Touch My Sister?

Reader’s Question

I’m 21 years old, and I’m in desperate need of some advice.

My younger sister, who is 15, told me that the other day my Dad was “a little bit drunk” and tried to kiss her and that he touched her back underneath her shirt. I was stunned and disappointed, because I can’t believe that my dad would be capable of doing something like that. I admire him, I love him, and he is my hero. I told my older sister about the event and she got really angry at my younger sister. She is sure my younger sister is lying. And I don’t know what to do; I want believe my younger sister, but I have my doubts because she does lie a lot, she doesn’t have a good relationship with my Dad, and because even after the incident supposedly happened, she doesn’t act any differently with my dad. My dad went out of town and I told my sister that I was going to confront him when he got back. But now, she doesn’t want me to do it. I’m confused. I can’t look at my Dad the same way. What are we to do?

Psychologist’s Reply

The situation you describe is, unfortunately, an all too common scenario. If sexual abuse has occurred, it’s also not uncommon for the victim as well as those around her to have very mixed feelings about what to say or do. Sometimes even genuine victims recant, fearing the consequences and struggling with feelings of shame and guilt. Sometimes, they even fear to seek counseling, knowing that most professionals and even pastoral counselors are mandated to report even suspicions of abuse, no matter how mild it might appear. Nonetheless, seeking a counselor and honestly relating the incident is exactly what your sister should do, and you should encourage her to do.

Most incidents of genuine abuse are never reported. This helps perpetuate the cycle of abuse. It’s also a myth that such accusations are frequently made up by persons who have other issues or agendas. In fact, false claims are extremely rare. It’s also a common misperception that such behavior can be excused by the fact that someone might or might not have been drinking at the time. In almost all cases, there are serious psychological issues that the perpetrator needs to attended to, no matter what protests they might mount against seeking treatment. It’s also not uncommon for other family problems and issues to be present — but just because they exist doesn’t have any bearing on whether the inappropriate sexual behavior did or did not occur.

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