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Ask Amy: How do I deal with my sister’s abuse 60 years later?

Dear Amy: I am a 73-year-old woman. I was sexually molested by my older sister when I was about 11. She was greatly influenced by her “friend” who sexually molested my 10-year-old friend at the same time.

It happened once to me.

I did not tell anyone. Our father (who was my sister’s stepfather) was very physically abusive toward both my mother and my sister.

I truly was afraid that he would hurt or kill one of them if I told.

After my parent’s divorce when I was 17, I continued to keep the secret and have done so until this day. I often told myself that I would confront her after our mother passed away.

I never wanted to hurt my mother since she had a very tough life.

Well, our mother died four years ago and I did not confront my sister. I’m sure she would deny that it ever happened.

My sister has health problems, largely due to her lifestyle over many years. She has had a rough life.

We have never spoken of the incident. However, I never allowed our daughter to spend time alone with her. My husband and I frequently come to her aid when she needs assistance.

I am now in my elder years and find myself thinking of the incident a lot. It certainly changed my feelings toward my sister, as I find her rather pathetic.

The only thing I know for sure is that I will NEVER serve as her caregiver when/if she becomes incapacitated. (My husband agrees with me.)

My question for you is: Is there any benefit to counseling? I have a comfortable life, with a caring husband and daughter.

What would counseling do?

— Wondering

Wondering: Here’s what counseling could do for you:

Allow you to tell your story freely and completely.

Encourage you to describe and process your feelings and reactions as they have changed over time.

Discuss your dilemma regarding talking to your sister about this.

Encourage you to talk about your family of origin, describing the violence, your fears and vulnerability, and your strong and protective instinct toward your mother, your sister, and also your daughter.

At this stage of your life, therapy can help you to integrate all of the varied strands of your past, and finally — to celebrate your impressive survivorship!

Triumphing over extreme dysfunction and creating a healthy life for yourself is truly worthy of celebration.

Dear Amy: I read and enjoy your column daily.

The situation is this: Our son, “William,” is married to a wonderful woman, “JoAnne.”

We have been very generous both with money and time with them, as William has some health issues.

However, when we give a gift — anniversary, holiday, etc., addressed to them both, we never get a “thank you” from JoAnne.

William does thank us. We have been told on numerous occasions that JoAnne has sent beautiful thank-you notes for wedding and baby gifts, so it’s curious why we receive no thanks — either verbal or written.

What is your advice on how to mention this to our son?

We would not want this to come between him and his wife.

— Perplexed Mother-in-law

Perplexed: Why would you mention this lack of gratitude to your son? After all, of the two of them, he is the one who thanks you.

Depending on the nature of your gifts, your daughter-in-law might sincerely believe that they are primarily directed toward your son or for his benefit.

Or, while she should express her gratitude to you for all sorts of things, including everyday kindnesses, she may believe that because these gifts were given to both of them, her husband speaks for the two of them when he thanks you.

You might prompt a verbal thank you from her by asking, “Have you and ‘William’ been using the rice cooker we gave you for Christmas?”

Dear Amy: Thank you for your response to “Also Annoyed,” who was dealing with the legacy of a parent who clearly favored one child over another.

I especially appreciated this line: “Parents write the script, while siblings spend the rest of their lives reciting it.”

That is so true, and reciting my own script — over and over — trapped me in a previous reality.

With the help of a therapist, I started to rewrite the script. It can be done.

— Recovered

Recovered: Congratulations on your recovery!

Any of us can find ourselves trapped in our storylines. Recognizing this, and evaluating our motivations, can help to rewrite the script.

©2022 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency