DEAR ABBY: I'm so upset. I just found out my son was molested by one of his older cousins. "Ryan" didn't want me to know because he was afraid of how I would react. Ryan is 19 and a very private person. I want to confront the person who did this to him and press charges.
What's upsetting is I tried hard to protect my children. I thought I was doing everything right by having my boys let their friends come and spend the night at my home instead of letting them stay at their friends' homes.
I want Ryan to go to counseling to understand he did nothing wrong, that it wasn't his fault. Please help me to help my son. I partly blame myself for not knowing.
How did I let this happen? I am their mother. I am supposed to keep them safe. Please tell me what to do.
- Confused mother in North Carolina
DEAR MOTHER: Stay calm and understand that you have done nothing wrong. This is no reflection upon you as a parent. While many people still believe that child molesters are creepy strangers who prey on little kids, the truth is the majority turn out to be family members or close friends one would never suspect.
Your son may be embarrassed or blame himself for what his cousin did. Reassure him that when someone older acts out against a younger one as his cousin did, that is "coercion" - an imbalance of power and experience. Explain that it would be beneficial for him to talk to a therapist. It might also benefit the cousin to do so because he may need to learn about boundaries.
Whether the cousin can be arrested or prosecuted may depend upon how long ago this occurred, and how old the kids were at the time it happened.