I was sexually abused by my brother during my childhood

Dear Troubleshooter:

I am in my 50s. When I was a child, I was sexually abused by my brother who is two years older than me and was in junior high school at that time. I didn’t know what he was doing to me, but it caused me to overeat and led to other problems due to stress. My brother was my mother’s favorite, so even though I wanted her to help me, I couldn’t ask her. When I think about it, my mother might have turned a blind eye.

When I grew up and learned that people would engage in such behavior with their lovers and spouses, I felt like I was terribly filthy and messed up. I thought it would be better to keep quiet and pretend nothing had happened, but the other day, I could no longer suppress my feelings when my mother and brother laughed at the news about a woman who spoke out after being sexually assaulted, calling the action a publicity stunt. I haven’t seen my mother and brother since then.

My feelings of frustration and sadness are unbearable. I feel ashamed for agonizing about this matter for such a long time. How can I put these feelings to rest?

— J, Chiba Prefecture

Dear Ms. J:

You have truly been in agony for a long time, haven’t you? I sincerely hope that you will free yourself from this darkness as soon as possible. To that end, now is the time to start that battle.

But in truth, you have already taken the first step. You have realized your anger at your brother’s actions, which cannot be dismissed as an adolescent mistake, and at your mother, who seems to have turned a blind eye. You have put that anger into words and posted them in this column. You should have confidence in your courage and ability to take action.

You are absolutely not to blame. You have never been filthy. You will need people who will listen to you and understand your suffering in order to make sure you truly understand and accept that. I recommend that you seek support from local counseling centers and self-help groups for sexual assault victims.

The battle you need to fight now is to protect yourself. Even if you confront your brother and mother, they might simply deny the fact and mock you in the same way they mocked the woman on the news. I don’t want you to stand on the same footing as them and get hurt further. I think it is good to continue to keep your distance from your brother and mother until you feel you are ready. Please use your strength and time to calmly and resolutely protect yourself.

— Masami Ohinata, university president