Starved for men's attention: Could this be an issue of past child abuse?

by p
(Iowa, USA)

My oldest sister has been very flirtatious her entire life. Once when we were in high school, she was standing in her bra (1970) in the dining room ironing her blouse when I came in with my male friends. We were 14 and she was 17. She didn't make an attempt to cover up, but she did look up to see if they had noticed her. Being the homecoming queen that year, she had a new boyfriend every week and never seemed to be part of the family, just all alone in her own world. Thirty-five years later she is still flirting.

One night, she was hugging all of the guys in the bar. Two of the guys asked her to leave with them. Her husband got into a fight with them. He was "defending 'er honor", so he felt.

Now I hear from her daughter that she was flirting with her son's friends at a family camp out. She apparently crawled into a tent with 2 or 3 of them. I don't know the rest of the story. She is 56. They are 28-30 years old. My other sisters have told me stories of her partying with guys, two at a time.

The police were at our house one night at 2 a.m. because I had called them to get her off my property. She paraded around in her white (t-shirt) nightie for nearly an hour, getting water and aspirins and making phone calls etc...them sitting in the chair talking until she finally decided to leave.

And if this isn't sick enough, one evening, after her bath, she hiked her towel up to her butt to put lotion on her leg and looked to me to see if I was watching. She had a very odd look on her face. Then she came into the room where I was and said, "Don't pinch my boob, I'm not wearing a bra."
What is up with all of this? I'm really creeped out by her behavior. I have banned her from my property and all types of communication, for the second time. This is it. I have told her give up drinking or give up me. She chose the booze. Go figure. I want to tell my siblings about it, but I can't find the nerve to get it all out.

Thanks for listening,

Reply from Darlene: P, I'm not a psychologist, nor do I have a PhD in human behaviour, so my ability to answer your question is not rooted in formal education. I must be upfront about that.

As for the time it has taken me to put together an answer for you, it has been a week, P; not several weeks as your follow-up submission stated...not only have I been working on e-books and other site-related projects, I have been dealing with grievous family issues, therefore, my personal time has been extremely limited. And please understand that all I do on my site is of my own personal time. This is not a job I get paid to do; and there are times when I must scale back my time spent on the site (both in front of the scenes as well as behind them) in order to take care of myself and personal circumstances. If I am to continue operating the interactive nature of my site as I do, I need my visitors to be understanding when it takes a week or so to reply.

I've also had to find a "child abuse" element within your query. Please note, P, that this is not an advice column for personal relationships. The questions I answer here must have a child abuse connection. When I receive questions that do not have that connection, I'm forced to find a correlation, which results in a much longer response time.

Every day of the week, I receive dozens of requests for information, answers, etc. I am not in a position to be an ongoing support for my visitors. I trust you can appreciate the situation I am in.

The remainder of my reply to this Ask Darlene question "Starved for men's attention: Could this be an issue of past child abuse?" can be found at Comments below this submission. Depending on system activity, there are sometimes delays in comments going live on my site; but rest assured, they do eventually appear. So if you don't yet see them, I hope you will return later to read what I, and possibly others, have written. I thank you for your patience and understanding.

Email addresses, phone numbers, home addresses AND website/blog URLs in visitor comments are STRICTLY prohibited, and could result in being banned from making further comments on this site.

Comments for Starved for men's attention: Could this be an issue of past child abuse?

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Jul 28, 2008
Outrageous behaviour...
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

It's possible that your sister was born with some type of brain disorder that has resulted in an inability to differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate behaviours. There's no way for me to know; a psychiatrist or other specialist would have to make a diagnosis.

In particularly large families, it is not uncommon for one or more of the children to resort to outrageous behaviours in order to garner some much-needed attention. In your sister's case, it could be that she needed male attention. Also, there was shock-value in the faces of others when your sister displayed improper conduct as a teen. What started out as attention-seeking behaviour could easily have become habitual.

Your sister's inappropriate flirtatious behaviour may be as a result of child abuse, including sexual abuse; but there are too many possible circumstances to address within the confines of this limited space. She might be re-enacting the experience over and over again, and even though she is 56 years old, she might not understand that her actions are unbecoming of a woman her age. Although her behaviour is so noticeable to others, she may not be capable of seeing it for what it is herself. She may be "stuck" in a childhood circumstance.

Your sister may lack boundaries, may have impulse control issues, as well as any number of behavioural disorders. Add to the mix her dependency on alcohol...her brain has been chemically altered. You are not dealing with a human being any more; you are dealing with the booze. Try as you might to reason with your sister, alcohol has overtaken her brain. Depending on the amount of alcohol she regularly consumes, she might have to go several months without a drink in order to become truly sober, and thus, be reachable. There are no guarantees that she will ever BE reachable.

Understanding the nature of your sister's problem is only half the challenge. Getting her to comprehend is the real hardship. An intervention can be set up. This is where family members circle the wagons, as it were, in an effort to convince your sister that for her own well-being, she should enter into long-term treatment for alcohol abuse. But ultimately, the choice is hers. She's an adult, and as such, she has the right to decide for herself whether or not she wants to get the help she needs. But she has to recognize that she needs it in the first place. Even mental illness does not necessarily allow for family to make decisions for her.

As an adult, P, you must take a stand, which you've already done. You cannot enable her. She will have to hit rock-bottom herself, whatever that is for her, including being "disowned" by other family members if that's what it takes, before she decides to get herself the help she needs.

I sincerely wish you and your family all the best, P.

Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

Jul 28, 2008
my apologies/ you are so helpful
by: p

dear darlene, i must send my most sincere apologies to you. i know youre busy as we all are i am too impatient a lot of times. i also have memory problems, possibly dimensia, and its getting worse, so again i am sorry.
now to the story. you are amazing! i dont care that youre not certified with some sort of degree. you are inspirational and you hit my sisters problems right on the head. i have seen her revert back to a childlike demeanor several times. she uses a tiny little voice and curls up into a ball whimpering her needs. i thought she was playing some sort of game, since she uses other means to get her way. she is very manipulative and now to hear you explain it, makes it clear.
we(11 children) were all victims of abuse from our parents. i have suggested to the others about trying for an intervention, but n CA victims.o one wants to do that.
darlene, thank you for being here for all of us and for the future CA victims. i pray hard for small children who are being brutalized and treated like worthless hated animals. you are a shoulder to lean on for many of us, when we feel isolated and alone.
i would like to tell everyone who reads this some wonderful things that have happened to my family, because of the abuse we all shared as kids. we know the abuse we received wasnt our fault but it is our problem and we must deal with it. we totally love and respect each other,(well not quite all of us. and the most important thing is the abuse stopped with us. we have all raised our kids in a positive, loving way. with esteem building words and hugs. our happy and healthy children are our reward for all of our suffering. i believe that God chose us to be the last of the abused children in our family. He knew, that through His grace, we were strong enough to survive, and stop CA in our life time. no more ruined childhoods in this family, the CA stops here.
i am nearly 53 now, and im finally ready to deal with my childhood trauma. i want live happily ever after. this crap isnt going to ruin the rest of my life, and another marriage. im too tired to fight it anymore. i thought i could be mentally tough and squash it on my own, but its still kicking my butt. im checking into the mayo clinic addiction services, intensive addiction program. any advice for me? sincerely, p

Jul 28, 2008
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

Your understanding is very much appreciated, P, and so are your kind words. At this moment in time, I'm not able to reply to your question and personal circumstances in detail, but I will try to within the next few days. I am truly grateful for your understanding.

Also, sharing of yourself is an important element to the supportive and encouraging nature of this website; I thank you for doing so.

Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

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