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Dear Ali,
An uncle has been accused of sexual abuse to a child outside of our family. When I was a little girl he was always one of my favorites. I never personally experienced anything inappropriate and to my knowledge this is the same for members of the family. This uncle has always gregariously loved women. He’s been completely open about his attraction. He’s a man who loves beauty, whether a woman, a car, or a delicious meal. He is now in prison and will more than likely serve a sentence of 45 years. He’s 70. This will be the rest of his life. Because of the sentence, other family members (all claiming to be “good Christians”) are gossiping how maybe it’s possible. I agree. Anything is possible. But as a family, my feeling is we should do everything we can do to get the facts and help him … right? How do I stop the incessant clucking in the “good Lord’s” hen house?

I am neither an expert in law nor religion. Your question is about relationships between you and your god, you and your uncle, you and your gossiping family, and you and your conscience.

So many people and feelings to consider here. You really just don’t know the details—and you don’t need to. Children generally do not lie about stuff like this, and I just feel terrible for any child he may have hurt. It’s hard to imagine something so awful happening to anyone, let alone a child.

It must be so painful to see someone you love and with whom you had a great relationship being accused of something so heinous. You felt safe with him and loved by him, so I imagine it must be very painful for you. It would be nice to think that he is innocent, but it is highly unlikely that if he was sent to jail for the rest of his life, he is not guilty of said crime. It’s really very challenging to reconcile, because in the back of your mind you always wonder what is the truth. We know that our judicial system makes mistakes, so the wondering and doubt are there. Everyone will continue to draw their own conclusions. The only people who really know the truth are your uncle and the other person(s) involved in said crime.

You don’t say whether or not he claims innocence. If he does, and you feel that it’s your responsibility to help him file an appeal, know that the burden of proof of innocence is on him. Can he prove he is innocent? If he could, wouldn’t he have done it before he was sent to prison?

People talk. It’s probably more interesting than their own lives, so they gossip. Some people see private personal information about others as a commodity, unfortunately. Sadly, you are never going to stop the gossip. The only way you can help to stop gossip is to not participate in it.

My hope for you is to be able to reconcile your feelings about your uncle and move forward. If you still think he’s innocent, then go visit him. He will be there a long time.

Hug your kids. Listen to them.

“Children generally do not lie about stuff like this, and I just feel terrible for any child he may have hurt.”

Dear Ali,
In our house when the kids get minor cuts and bruises we acknowledge, kiss it, make sure everyone is okay, and then move on. My father-in-law (who is moving in) keeps telling the kids to suck it up and stop crying. It’s not how I want to raise my kids. How do I talk to him about this?

He was probably raised to suck it up and stop crying. How sad. I love how you take care of injuries. That’s exactly how I would do that with my children. And, they are just that – YOUR children. Your father-in-law needs to be respectful of how you live in your home, how you raise your kids, and how you talk to and treat each other. He needs to be nice. But you can’t make Grandpa feel empathy. You can’t make him kiss boo-boos. Either don’t leave your kids in his care, bubble-wrap them if you do, or just don’t expect him to be lovey-dovey with them when they are injured.

This is an important conversation you need to have with him, because he will be living with you and will likely bear witness to an injury or even hurt feelings. You will need to make your expectations of him crystal clear! He needs to be respectful. He needs to be nice. If he’s not both of those things, maybe he shouldn’t be living with you and your children.

Talk to your kids. Let them know that Grandpa does things differently. After some time, your father-in-law will hopefully learn by example and treat your children the way you do. It’s hard to witness kind respectful parenting, and see a problem with that.

“Your father-in-law needs to be respectful of how you live in your home, how you raise your kids, and how you talk to and treat each other.”

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