Ask Amy: Abuse survivor ponders telling sister

January 19, 2013

DEAR AMY: You have published letters from people in all walks of life and of all ages who have one thing in common — they’ve all been sexually abused.

I’m one of these people. I was abused many years ago by a teen neighbor. My sister was abused at the same time. It was a one-time only event and consisted of what you might call sexual touching.

I’ve never discussed this with my sister (or anyone else). We’re about a year apart in age. She’s a year younger than me. This took place more than 50 years ago.

Should I bring up this subject? I don’t even remember the name of the boy who did this, so there’s no going back to the old neighborhood and warning others. -- Older Brother

DEAR BROTHER: You should talk about this. This incident has been on your mind for more than 50 years, and you need to communicate about it in order to try to understand it and place the abuse in some kind of context.

I can imagine that this is quite bewildering and painful for you. Ideally you should seek out a professional counselor and discuss this in therapy before taking this memory to your sister. Your sister may have a completely different memory or reaction to this event, and you should have professional guidance as you go through this process.

Male Survivor is an organization committed to helping men and boys heal from sexual abuse. Its helpful Web site can connect you with other survivors and professionals (malesurvivor.org). One of the most powerful messages is a very simple one: You are not alone. If you and your sister are able to communicate about this, you will reinforce this message to each other.

DEAR AMY: I got engaged about a year ago and couldn’t wait to share the news with my two college friends.

One of them immediately asked, “Am I going to be in your wedding party?” I was so thrown off guard that I immediately responded, “Of course!”

A year later, we are actively planning the wedding, and I know I don’t want her to be involved. She’s in an intense graduate program that won’t end until after the wedding. Money is tight and her schedule is tighter. Also, she has recently become one of my “small doses” friends. She can be really negative and opinionated, and I really want a stress-free time during the planning period.

All this is made more complicated by the fact that every single time I talk to her she asks if I’ve decided on wedding colors or have picked out bridesmaid dresses. I don’t even know if I want bridesmaids, to be honest. I’m overwhelmed, but I don’t want to have someone in my wedding just because I couldn’t be honest about my feelings when she asked to participate. How do I tell her? -- Guilty Friend

DEAR FRIEND: Before doing this, realize that you will most likely lose the friendship over this.

You sound prepared to do that, so here’s how you tell her: You start by apologizing and go from there. Don’t make excuses or blame her schedule.

Say, “I am embarrassed and owe you an apology. Even at the time I asked you to be a bridesmaid I knew it was not a good idea for me, and now I am going in another direction. I was overwhelmed and should not have asked you before thinking it through. I hope you’ll forgive me.”

You’ll have to decide whether to invite her to the wedding as a guest.

DEAR AMY: “Democrat in Hiding” said her husband’s political views had become extremely conservative and he had become belligerent over the years.

Many men become reactionary, angry and intolerant because they feel a lack of personal power in their world. She should not allow herself to be bullied by him. She should work to show him that he still is important in her life and has value.

Perhaps in time he will come to understand that with age comes wisdom but not absolute truth. -- Rocco

DEAR ROCCO: This is insightful. Thank you.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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