Alice Munro’s Daughter Opens Up About Abuse in Family

Alice Munro

Written by Zoe Guy, a journalist who reports on movies, television, music, and famous people.

The announcement follows the passing of Alice Munro in May. Picture: Julien Behal/PA Images/Getty

Two months after the passing of Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro, her daughter has come forward about the abuse within their family. In a recent essay in the Toronto Star, Andrea Skinner revealed that her mother was aware of the sexual abuse she endured from her stepfather, Gerald Fremlin. Despite this, Munro chose to remain with him. In 2005, Fremlin, who was 80 years old at the time, was found guilty of sexually abusing Skinner and received a two-year probation sentence. Skinner explained that she wanted the truth to be known publicly and to have some form of validation for what happened to her. She also wanted her story to be heard and recognized, especially in relation to her mother’s legacy. Unfortunately, Munro's fame prevented the truth from being fully acknowledged, and the culture of silence continued.

Skinner recounts that the abuse took place while she was on summer vacation in 1976 in Clinton, Ontario with Munro and Fremlin. According to Skinner, while her mother was away in China, Fremlin entered her bed and sexually abused her. Throughout that same trip, Fremlin would ask inappropriate questions about her "sex life," a pattern that continued during subsequent summer vacations over the following years. Skinner recalls, "When I was alone with Fremlin, he made crude jokes, exposed himself during car rides, talked about the young girls in the neighborhood he was attracted to, and discussed my mother's sexual desires." Skinner admits, "At that time, I didn't realize that was abuse. I believed I was preventing abuse by looking away and disregarding his stories." Upon returning to Victoria, British Columbia, Skinner confided in her father, Jim Munro, about the abuse, but the family chose to keep it a secret from Alice Munro.

At the age of 11, Skinner faced a troubling situation when the mother of a 14-year-old accused Fremlin of exposing himself to her daughter. Fremlin denied the allegations and even went as far as to say that Skinner was not of interest to him. It was during this confrontation that Skinner was shocked to hear Fremlin justify his actions by claiming that in the past, it was common for children to learn about sex through engaging in sexual activities with adults in certain cultures. Skinner's mother remained silent throughout the conversation, leaving Skinner feeling embarrassed and hoping his blush would go unnoticed as he stared at the floor.

The mistreatment caused Skinner to struggle with bulimia, insomnia, and migraines, leading to inner conflict during her time in college. When Skinner was 25, she finally mustered the courage to confide in Munro about the abuse after a conversation about a story that mirrored Skinner's own traumatic past. Munro temporarily left Fremlin before ultimately siding with her husband and staying married to him until his passing in 2013. Despite being a celebrated writer, Munro viewed her husband's abuse as a betrayal similar to infidelity, distancing herself from Skinner and the situation altogether. This rift persisted until Skinner's passing in May.

"My mother's celebrity status caused the silence to extend beyond just our family," Skinner states. "Numerous important individuals became aware of my situation but still chose to uphold and contribute to a fabricated narrative." After Munro passed away, Andrea and her sisters Jenny and Sheila Munro aim to ensure that her legacy includes the truth.

Read more
Similar news
This week's most popular news