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Annie’s Mailbox: In-laws wish to keep family secret

Dear Annie: My 12-year-old son recently informed me that his 18-year-old cousin was molesting him. I immediately informed my in-laws. They were in shock and denial. Both said, “Are you sure? Maybe they were experimenting.” I was outraged and disgusted, and so was my husband. I went to the police and filed a report.

Both the perpetrator and the victim are their grandsons. My husband no longer speaks to his brother because of what his son did. The cousin was arrested. He was sentenced to a year in the county jail and will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

The problem is that my in-laws have chosen to keep this a family secret. Whenever relatives visit and ask where the cousin is, they respond that he is away at college. I find this appalling. What happens when the cousin gets out of jail and goes back to live with his parents? Will they tell the relatives with little kids then? I know my mother-in-law is angry with me, and I’m OK with that. My primary concern is protecting my family and continuing to seek treatment for my son. We have found him a great therapist.

Should I tell the family members who have children? – Daughter-in-Law

Dear Daughter-in-Law: Family members need to know the truth, but it would help if you could approach your in-laws with love and understanding instead of anger and recriminations. This is breaking their hearts. Help them see how important it is for relatives to know why they cannot permit their young children to be alone with the cousin – for his sake as well as theirs.

When he is released from prison, he likely will be prohibited from being near these children anyway, so the in-laws are only postponing the inevitable. Sympathize with how awkward it will be to inform others, but the sooner it is done the more supportive and trusting the family members can be.