Help! My Childhood Abuser Is Now Married With Kids. Is It Too Late to Say Something?

Advice on manners and morals.
May 1 2014 6:00 AM

Rear View Horror

I was sexually abused at 14. Years passed, and he now has a family. Is it too late to say something?

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Dear Prudence, 
I’m fortunate enough to be marrying a smart, funny man in a few weeks. My problem is that when he proposed he was very proud that he managed to surprise me. It was a romantic moment that couldn’t have been better, except that I knew it was coming. I had my suspicions leading up to the proposal, then when I was looking for my phone chargers I accidentally found the ring box (I didn’t open it). He thinks his subterfuge is particularly impressive because my profession involves investigation, research, and being more observant than your average person. So he likes to tease me about the proposal and brag to friends. Only three people know that I knew beforehand and none of them would tell him, so I’m certain I can keep this a secret. But should I come clean and tell him that I knew it was coming?

—(Dis)Honest Bride

Dear Bride,
I don’t know if you’re in the National Clandestine Service or a paparazzi, but your fiancé is getting a kick out of telling everyone how he put one over on a professional. But if two young people are in love, have set up housekeeping, want a future together and even a family—and have talked about all this!—ultimately it’s a little silly to think one partner would be totally dumbstruck that the other is ready to get married. I’m betting your fiancé was so full of tells about his romantic plans that even the most oblivious girlfriend would have suspected what was coming. But I don’t see any reason to pull a Sherlock on him and enumerate all the little giveaways (including a ring box) that let you know. Just tell yourself that surely there was something about the event that came as a surprise to you. As for your friends, keep in mind this observation by Benjamin Franklin: Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
Last week in church I sat behind a couple whose 4-year-old son was playing a Walking Dead video game that featured a zombie menacing a child in a tree house. Aside from the obviously inappropriate nature of this game for church, I am concerned that the parents were not bothered by it. Violent media is harmful to little children and I feel like I just witnessed an act of abuse. I didn’t say anything at the time, but I feel I should say something the next time I see them. The problem is I am a single guy with no kids and am worried I would just be ignored or seen as judging their parenting. Is there a way to call parents out for their bad behavior without seeming nosy or getting blowback?

—Concerned

Dear Concerned,
Of course the boy should have been playing a Bible story video game. I’m sure you would have been delighted by the imagery for Fun With Cain and Abel, Abraham and Isaac Take a Hike, Joseph’s Brothers Play a Trick on Him, and Jesus Goes to Golgotha. One can take issue with choosing a Walking Dead video game, but it worked. The little boy was absorbed in zombieland, thus allowing the services to go on. That’s strategic parenting, not abuse. And believe me, you don’t want to go around making explosive charges against well-meaning people. If you have kids some day, I hope you will look back on this and laugh, because there will be times you’d let your child play God of War: Ascension if it would just keep him quiet for 20 minutes.

—Prudie

More Dear Prudence Columns

Making Up for Murder: How do I reach out to a family irrevocably damaged by a member of my own?”
Medicare Mommy: I nanny 4-year-old twins. Their mother is 65. What’s going to happen to them?”
Beyond the Pale: Should I tell my infertile Asian wife that I want all-white babies?”
Alluring Old Men: I fantasize incessantly about my male mentors. How do I stop?”

More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts

Shadow of a Doubt: In a live chat, Prudie counsels a woman whose husband believes she lied about the rape that left her pregnant—to hide an affair.”
Bounced From Baby’s Birth: In a live chat, Prudie advises a woman whose husband is furious at being banned from the delivery room.”
Ol’ Yeller: In a live chat, Prudie offers advice on a verbally abusive husband.”
Unbearable Betrayal: In a live chat, Prudie counsels a woman whose husband left her to start a family—with her sister.”

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Emily Yoffe is a regular Slate contributor. She writes the Dear Prudence column.