Nobel laureate Alice Munro's daughter reveals family secret of abuse

Alice Munro

The youngest daughter of famous Canadian writer Alice Munro has claimed that her stepfather sexually abused her when she was a child. She also stated that her mother knew about the abuse but continued to stay with him.

In a recent article in the Toronto Star, it was revealed that Andrea Robin Skinner was subjected to abuse by her step-father starting in 1976 when she was just nine years old.

One night, while Munro was not home, he entered the bed where I was sleeping and physically violated me, Ms Skinner explained.

Munro found out about the abuse many years after it happened and stayed by his side until he passed away in 2013.

The writer, who passed away in May at 92 years old, is known as one of the most renowned short-story authors in Canadian history.

She mostly created art about the small towns in Ontario, where she grew up. Her work was highly praised for its detailed and thoughtful depiction of women and girls.

In the weekend article, Ms Skinner and her brothers and sisters expressed their belief that this troubling family tale should also be included in Munro's inheritance.

She expressed that she was tired of hearing about interviews, biographies, or events that avoided addressing the harsh truth of her situation. She emphasized her disappointment in her mother's decision to stay with and defend her abuser despite knowing the truth.

In the blog post over the weekend, Ms Skinner shared that she experienced her initial attack while visiting her mother and step-father, Gerald Fremlin, at their residence in Clinton, Ontario during the summer.

Afterward, she informed her stepmother, who relayed the message to her father, Jim Munro. He chose not to approach Alice Munro about the issue at that moment.

Ms. Skinner went back to her mother's house the following year.

The second wife, Carole, was mentioned in another news article by The Star as saying: "I advised her that she could stay home, but she insisted on visiting her mother."

The BBC has asked for a comment on the matter.

Ms. Skinner felt a sense of relief when she learned that her father had kept the family's secret. She was worried about how her mother would respond, so she was grateful that her father had kept quiet.

"She had mentioned to me that Fremlin preferred my company over hers, and I was afraid that she would hold me responsible if she ever discovered the truth," she penned.

During the following years, the mistreatment persisted during visits.

In the car, Fremlin showed himself to her, asked her for sex, and talked about young girls in the area that he was attracted to.

According to Ms. Skinner, he no longer found her interesting when she reached adolescence.

She stayed silent about the abuse, but as she grew up, she began to have difficulties at university and with her overall well-being.

Years later, in 1992, she confessed about the abuse in a letter to her mother. She recalls Munro's reaction was exactly as she had expected - "like she had found out about a betrayal".

Meanwhile, Fremlin wrote personal letters to his family during that time. Excerpts of these letters were shared by The Star, an external publication. In these letters, Fremlin acknowledged the abuse but shifted the blame onto Ms. Skinner.

"Andrea came into my bedroom for a sexual escapade," Fremlin penned.

"If things get really bad, my plan is to share photos with the public. I have some powerful pictures, especially ones taken at my cabin near Ottawa, that I will release. One of them includes Andrea wearing my boxer shorts," he explained.

During the aftermath, Alice Munro left Fremlin and stayed at a flat she owned in British Columbia. However, she eventually returned to her husband after a couple of months and remained with him until the end of his life.

In her blog post, Ms. Skinner stated that our society, which is disrespectful towards women, was at fault if she was expected to ignore her own desires, put her children first, and compensate for the shortcomings of men.

In 2005, Ms. Skinner informed the Ontario police about the abuse, showing them the letters that Fremlin had written.

The police accused him of indecent assault. He admitted his guilt, but Ms. Skinner noted that "the silence persisted" due to Munro's celebrity status.

In a written statement, Munro Books, which was established by Alice and Jim Munro and is now under independent ownership, expressed its full support for Ms. Skinner's choice to share her story with the public.

In a different announcement from the Canadian bookstore, the Munro siblings expressed appreciation for the store's decision to recognize "Andrea's truth" and their commitment to breaking the cycle of silence. The current owners of the store are now seen as a positive influence in the healing process for the Munro family.

If you have been impacted by the topics discussed in this article, assistance and support can be found through the BBC Action Line.

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