DEAR CAROLINE: My brother sexually assaulted me when I was 12. Should I tell, even though it will destroy my family?

Q When I was 12, I was sexually assaulted repeatedly by my brother who was two years older than me. I’ve kept the abuse secret for over 30 years and this is the first time I’ve acknowledged it.

In spite of this, I have now been happily married for 20 years. However, I’m estranged from my father who rarely wishes to see me and has never been happy with my choice of partner. I think he is jealous of my husband’s success as a businessman. I am in contact with my mother but our relationship is strained.

My brother is close to both my parents as he is constantly in need of money and support. I would like to tell them what he did but I know it would destroy lives and shatter any possible future happiness. It would also involve the police if I took it further.

A Firstly, I am so sorry to hear what you’ve gone through.

I know that many readers will find it deeply shocking. To be sexually abused by your own brother must have left you traumatised and frightened. It violates everything that a sibling relationship should be. Carrying the secret for 30 years will have been very difficult and it must have taken every ounce of courage to write to me, but opening up and getting support will help. It is wonderful that, in spite of all your trauma, you have a happy marriage. 

So please start by telling your husband about the abuse as you will need his love and care. I suspect that he will be extremely angry with your brother and might well want to take it out on him, but explain that, for the moment, this won’t help. Painful though it is to contemplate, I wonder if your parents might already know something of what happened. I hope I’m wrong, but I can’t help thinking that behind their withdrawal lie feelings of guilt for having let you down so badly. 

I also can’t help wondering why your brother started on his path of abuse. As perpetrators are very often abuse victims themselves, is it possible that your father could have done the same to him?

Yes, revealing all might cause distress but it is important that you tell your parents what your brother did because, for the sake of your own mental health, it needs to be acknowledged. There is also a safeguarding issue if your brother has children or grandchildren. It won’t be easy and you need to be prepared for your parents not having the reactions you need, so please contact the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (; 0808 801 0331). 

They can help you report it to the police and find counselling. Also try an app called Ed Can Help ( for PTSD. It uses a form of high frequency sound (a type of EMDR – eye movement densensitisation and reprocessing) to reduce the impact of trauma, including sexual assault.

Should I support my ex-wife after her betrayal 

Q My marriage ended six years ago after I discovered my wife’s affair. When I told her I wanted a divorce, she was furious and hurled insults at me. She said that it was my fault as I hardly ever wanted sex, and that her younger lover was more virile. 

I was only 57, but ten years older than her. There was some truth about my lack of interest, as I’d been made redundant and was depressed. I have since got my life back together, although I am currently single. Now my ex-wife has called in tears to say she is sorry, begging to try again. 

Her mother has dementia and she says she has no one to turn to. I would never go back but feel obliged to offer her support for our adult children’s sake.

A Believe me, you don’t owe your ex-wife anything. When you were at a low ebb, and really needed her, she didn’t support you at all. Sometimes, sadly, people do have affairs because they feel rejected by a partner who doesn’t show interest, though it’s not a good way to deal with the problem. 

But when she was found out, she revealed a very unpleasant side to her personality with her lack of remorse and vicious insults. It speaks well of your humanity that you are even considering helping her and, of course, it is natural to feel sympathy for anyone coping with a parent’s dementia. As your ex-wife sounds volatile and lacking in empathy, your adult children probably find her difficult, too.

So, for their sake, I would suggest a compromise. Help her with practical arrangements such as finding carers or advising her on finances. But don’t be a listening ear or someone she leans on. That is not a role you need to fill.

If you have a problem, write to Caroline West-Meads at YOU, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY, or email You can follow Caroline on X/Twitter @Ask_Caroline_

 Caroline reads all your letters but regrets she cannot answer each one personally.