I moved across the US to be with him. Now, I am learning some very unsettling things about his daughter who lives with us. I worked in the public school system for 12 years, and this young woman is…well, something’s very wrong here and I am beginning to suspect abuse. I know that her mother raised her in almost abject neglect, teaching her nothing about even the simplest things in life (self-care, home care, work ethic, social graces, etc.). Her mother was constantly dumping this child off on babysitters so she could go meet dates while her then-husband was gone for work. And now I am wondering if she’s developmentally disabled from all the neglect.
Here is a laundry list of what I’m seeing from this 22-year old:
• She does not hold a job.
• She sleeps all day and is up at night. It has been this way since she graduated high school.
• She has not even the most remote interest in dating.
• She has only two household chores: Dishes and cleaning the cat litter.
• She is obsessed with anime cartoons.
• She has the ability to speak intelligently about such things as politics, yet will go for days without bathing or dressing herself (she goes around the house in a t-shirt and underwear–often with the underwear in dreadful disrepair).
•She has no interest in grooming herself (makeup, hair styles, etc.), nor will she clean her surroundings (her bathroom, bedroom, etc.).
• She often carries and sleeps with a ragged remnant of her childhood security blanket.
• Recently, two male friends of hers stopped by for a visit. She did not put on jeans or shorts, citing that it wasn’t necessary to cover up because these friends were homosexual.
• Upon occasion, she will argue a point with her father, seeming to be in refusal to be wrong about anything, much like someone in pre-adolescence would do.
• She has a very “elementary school-age” view of public displays of affection, stating that such things are “gross” or “sick”.
• She chews with her mouth open.
She and I have gotten along alright, but there’s very little chance for any deeper discussions between us because she’s awake all night and asleep all day. Her dad states that he is trying to be gentle with her following the trauma of finding out about her mother’s titanic indiscretions, but I can’t shake the feeling that there’s something wrong with this girl.
Then, very recently, I discovered something shattering. My husband has an internet history filled with pre-teen pornography, family nudist website visits, child model “no-nudes” sites, and even sites showing alleged incest. I’m beyond frightened. I am 3,000 miles away from my home in the Pacific NW, my 19-year-old daughter, and my whole family…with a man I thought I knew. My daughter and I had a wonderful home together, we were very happy, I had a great job, and we were finally healthy after leaving my daughter’s psychologically-abusive father (I was married to him for 25 years; he’s BPD/NPD).
I’m nearly 50, and I should be so much smarter than to have become wrapped in this. But how would I have known about ANY of this if I’d not moved here and become a part of this household? Prior to the discovery of the internet porn, I’d not spoken to my husband about the health of his daughter because I’ve only been in the family for about seven months. Do you think this young woman displays the traits of someone who’s been sexually abused?? — World Shattered
Your step-daughter’s behavior and your suspicions around her behavior, as sad as this all is, is secondary to one major, horrific thing that you bury in the end of your letter: you discovered child porn on your husband’s computer. I am so very sorry that you have made this discovery and I can only imagine how you must be feeling right now after picking up your life and moving across the country to be with him — betrayed, naive, angry, disgusted — but the first thing you need to do is turn him in. What he has done is illegal and, if he is ever caught and it’s discovered that you knew about this little hobby of his and did nothing, you will be in trouble, too. Please, please protect yourself and do what is morally and legally right and turn him in to the authorities.
Next, get your marriage annulled and move back home. Put this painful chapter behind you and move on as best you can. Go home to the life you said was great — to your daughter and the rest of your family. See if you can get your old job back or look for another job you might like. Get a good therapist to help you process this awful experience and find whatever silver lining in it that you can (a deeper appreciation for what you have back home, maybe).
As for your step-daughter, she’s not your problem. I know that sounds uncaring, but the truth is you hardly know her or the rest of her family and you have your own daughter and family — and yourself! — to think about. I would hate for you to get so wrapped up in her well-being that your own healing and well-being is jeopardized. If there’s any adult in her life that you know and trust at all — a grandparent or an aunt or uncle — you can touch base with this person and share your concerns. But because at 22 she’s legally an adult and because your relationship with her is brand new and pretty superficial, there’s not much you can do beyond that.
Finally: don’t blame yourself. You followed your heart and that’s an admirable thing. After what I assume was a painful marriage to your first husband, you moved on and reconnected with someone from your past — someone you believed you knew — and you picked up and left everything that was familiar and comfortable and followed your heart all the way across the country. That takes guts, and just because you’ve now learned that the man you married isn’t whom you believed him to be doesn’t mean you were stupid or wrong. It only means that you took a risk and this time it didn’t quite work out. You are in no way responsible for your husband’s behavior or your step-daughter’s behavior. The only control you have is over your OWN behavior and what you choose to do now going forward. So, please think about the larger picture and do what is best to protect yourself and your family and any potential innocent victims in your husband’s path.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.