Ask Amy: Sister wants siblings to understand abuse

February 18, 2014 

Dear Amy: In 1960, when I was 9, I was sexually abused by a family friend over a period of months.

While he was on a trip with my dad and two older brothers, I finally told my mother. Her immediate response was, "How could you!"

My mother contacted another family friend who was a part-time deputy. It was decided that the best way to handle the situation was to have the police waiting for the man when he returned from the fishing trip and run out of town.

He was not prosecuted because my parents told me they didn't want people to "think badly of me."

My parents would never discuss the incident with me and basically treated me like scorched earth the rest of their lives.

In later years, after going through therapy on my own as an adult, I know that my parents failed me miserably. I have a wonderful supportive husband, terrific adult children and a good life.

My parents are both dead, but with the exception of one younger sister, the rest of my siblings don't seem to understand what a horrible experience my childhood and young adult life were because of the sexual abuse and my parents' treatment.

My brother had family movies put on a DVD, including films that had my abuser on them, and asked me if I wanted a copy. He can't understand why I got upset. I'm tired of their trivialization of the incident.

How can I make them understand that their attitude just continues the pain and shame I've worked so hard to overcome?! Should I just end contact with them?

— Sad

Dear Sad: Decades after the fact, you should assume that some of your siblings will simply never catch on that you had a distinctly different — and much more painful — childhood than they had.

Stop trying to convince them. Instead, you could pity them their lack of insight.

You could try to forgive them for their cluelessness and astounding tactlessness.

You should continue to protect yourself through whatever personal boundaries you need to maintain. And then, as a final act of healing over the monstrous behavior that stole your childhood, you could accept your siblings as the flawed people they are (after all, they were raised by your parents).

The proof of your own triumph over this violation is in your success as an adult engaged in healthy and happy relationships. You win!

 

You can contact Amy Dickinson via email at askamy@tribune.com, follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook.

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