Relationship Advice

Left Unsaid

thirtyish man with coffee cup looking at laptop

I have always tried to deal with problems myself. I have never relied on anyone, but lately I don't think I can anymore.

I'm the younger of two brothers. My father was always out of town on business, and my mother hired maids to take care of me and my brother. I was very close to him, since he was practically all the family I had nearby.

He is seven years older. When I was five, he started to play inappropriate games with me. Of course, at that time I didn't understand it wasn't how brothers should play. These games continued for years, until one day when I was eight, I told him I didn't like the games.

He got so angry he dragged me into one of the guestrooms that was always empty and violated me. I never told anyone what happened out of fear. Now I'm 25. I have been unable to have any type of relationship with anyone, and since a few months ago I have started to feel an attraction towards males. I never felt this way before.

I just feel my life is falling apart. All these years I have been able to deal with this on my own, but now I just can't.


Jack, feeling isolated, feeling your life is falling apart, are normal, predictable responses to what happened to you.

You are not alone. Many, many other boys and men have had this happen and it continues to happen. Now you need to stop focusing the pain on yourself and put the blame where it belongs.

The three monkeys—see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil—are often referred to as the Three Wise Monkeys. But they are not wise. They are symbols of those who ignore atrocities. They stand for people who turn their back on suffering.

Your parents should have noticed something, and undoubtedly did, but they chose to ignore it. Your brother had no right to do what he did. Place the blame where it belongs. On them. Place the shame where it belongs. On them.

When we can't give voice to our anger, dejection, shame and isolation, they turn inward. When we are not able to acknowledge what happened and tell someone, we turn that in on ourselves. No shame or guilt attaches to you. You were a child. You are blameless.

Your isolation is a thick layer of ice covering a pool of pain. Writing us is the first crack in the ice.

We suggest you get Richard Gartner's book about sexual abuse of males, Beyond Betrayal. It will provide another crack in the ice. At a minimum, reading a book will help you know you are not alone and give you the mindset to look for more help.

Sexual abuse is nothing to handle alone, just as you wouldn't handle a broken leg alone. The right book will help you change the way you think about what happened and provide resources for follow-up.

Telling someone face-to-face is the next big step, and perhaps now too big a step. But someone who understands sexual abuse in children can help you immensely.

The right person is one you have a connection with. You should feel this is someone who can help me, this person I could talk to once I get to know them.

Don't expect anyone else in your family to admit what happened. Most family members will be rigid in denying both what happened and their role in it.

Take it a step at a time. Do what seems right. And don't be afraid to push yourself just a little bit as you step up on the next step.

Lots of people have horrible things happen. They turn the corner when they realize a wonderful life is still within their grasp, though now that may seem impossible for you.

Wayne & Tamara

Unpublished Emails Between "Jack" And Wayne & Tamara:

Wayne & Tamara, I've tried of course to not let any of my personal problems get in the way of my job. I have to represent my department of my company, but a couple of my coworkers have noted a change in me in the last couple of months.

I started to have nightmares since my brother's 32th birthday. I've tried to keep my distance from my family since I went off to college, but my mother called saying the whole extended family was going to be there and it would be impolite to not go.

I made up an excuse for not going, but ever since I felt some memories come back about that day I didn't remember before. I remembered my brother saying, afterwards, that it was my fault for doing what he told me to do. So I tried to pretend like I didn't remember anything, but after a couple of days it didn't work.

I couldn't help but feel like it was my fault even though I tried to convince myself it wasn't.

I have a group of people I'm in charge of for my company. One of them, Bob, has always been the one I'm closest to. I've worked with him almost five years, and even though I've never liked to get close to people, he's always been there for me. I never told anyone about what happened, but I believe he suspects something.

He has asked about my relationship with my family, since I never talk about them and always change the subject. He keeps telling me if I have something to get off my chest to talk to him. I've tried many times but I just can't.

I'm afraid of telling someone and getting hurt. I didn't even hate my brother for what he did because I loved him so immensely I couldn't bring myself to admit he had done that to me.

I wasn't sure of my sexuality, and I'm still not, so I buried myself in my studies and work for years. But now I feel this connection with someone since my brother, and I'm afraid at the same time.


Jack, the first person you tell should be a specialist in childhood sexual abuse.

These are people experienced in hearing what you are going to say. Lay people don't know how to handle this and it may change the way they look at you.

This is especially true if the layperson is in the workplace. No matter what you think now, after you tell in the workplace you may be full of regret. No matter what you think of Bob's ability to keep a secret, telling someone in the workplace is often the same as telling everyone.

You don't need your first telling to be in a way which fills you with regret or damages your career.

You need a professional listener—someone out of your social and work circles, someone with a professional obligation not to disclose what you say.

Your mother tried to use politeness against you to get you to go to your brother's birthday party, but what you are dealing with is more important than good manners. Your mental health far outweighs her desire to keep up appearances.

Your sexuality, your future with individual family members (if any), and your desire to share with Bob are all things to explore first with a professional.

In talking to a person specializing in childhood sexual abuse, you will be talking to someone who has heard it all before, someone who will not be surprised by anything you say.

That is the first step. Tell a professional first.

Wayne & Tamara

Wayne & Tamara, I can't tell you how much of a help you have been to me.

Before I would have never even thought of actually picking up the phone and making an appointment to see a specialist.

I have gone to a couple of sessions and for the first time in my life, I told someone face to face about what happened. I've never had the courage before.

I now can actually sleep at night without having nightmares. I find it easier to talk to people.

I'm immensely grateful.