Dear Amy: There is a side of the #MeToo movement that could be addressed more thoroughly: Setting boundaries. Girls/women need to rehearse at home and with friends how to say, “No!”
If a guy slaps her on the derriere or kisses her on the lips and she doesn’t like it, she needs to forcefully say, “Don’t ever do that again. I don’t like it.” If a friend’s husband smooches her on the lips, just say, “Let’s stick with hugs. I really prefer hugs.”
Reacting too severely when friends are involved creates a whole new set of problems. The response needs to be appropriate to the circumstances. It would be helpful if you could provide a variety of responses that we can use when advances are unwelcome.
There is an amazing spectrum of unwanted advances, with Harvey Weinstein at one end and the neighbor who gives you a smooch on the lips at the other.
Amy, please encourage women not to freak out and overreact when they can set boundaries by speaking forcefully. If boundaries don’t work – THEN freak out!
Hugs over Smooches
Dear Hugs: I assume you mean well, but instead of offering women self-defense classes, lessons on boundary-setting or instructions on how to offer an (unwanted) hug instead of an unwanted kiss, I believe the main lesson should be directed at the people who impose these advances and assaults.
Men should heretofore just assume that the women they encounter already have a boundary around them, and that NO woman wants to be raped, groped, kissed, hugged, touched without consent, catcalled or commanded to smile – and that if any of these things happen, women reserve the right to “freak out” if they want to.
Dear Amy: My father molested me and my sisters. I denied it for years. As a young adult, I married and had a daughter. All of the memories surfaced again when my daughter was an infant, 25 years ago.
I discussed the abuse with my three sisters. They agreed that they, too, had been abused.
When I confronted my parents, they were both outraged. Not exactly the response I was expecting.
My mother denied any abuse, although she witnessed it. She then renewed her marriage vows to my father. They continued with their marriage for another 10 years, never to discuss it again.
I buried myself in counseling and support groups to heal. My sisters turned on me and I became unwelcome in their homes.
I was not included in family events, and at times, I was tolerated to join them, but ignored and belittled.
It has been a very painful experience. I am completely dismissed from my family now. I have not seen any of them or talked to my mom or three sisters for almost a decade.
My father passed away last year. I did spend time with him in his last years and made peace for myself, even though we never directly discussed his behavior.
Now that he is gone, do you believe that I could now have a relationship with my family?
Dear Survivor: Family estrangements can become entrenched – and yours seems to be.
I doubt your father’s death will have a magical effect on these other relationships, because the source of your pain isn’t only your father, but also what he did – and your mother’s denial of it.
His actions, and you and your siblings varied reactions, don’t change with his passing. What happened happened, and you are still living with it. You should also accept that the molestation might not have happened with your sisters.
The fact that you want to try to repair these relationships means that you are longing for reconciliation, but also that you are working through your own recovery. I assume your experience is common among families torn apart by childhood abuse, especially when there is denial and an overall lack of support for a survivor’s experience and story.
You should certainly try to contact your family members, but I hope you will maintain a realistic outlook about their limitations and choices regarding this relationship. A counselor can provide support and context while you try to reconcile. Treasure your circle of children, family and friends who have stood by you through this.
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