Dear Amy: Two sisters in our extended family have a broken relationship. When they were young, their parents brought foster children into the home. The eldest foster child was a boy in his early teens. He began sexually assaulting the younger sister, who was eight. The abuse continued for at least four years. No one in the family was aware of it. The young sister was threatened not to tell anyone.
Fast-forward 20 years. The abuse was revealed, and the older sister said that everyone needed to forgive the predator. She opted to keep him in her life, like a brother. The victim no longer trusted her sister, and their relationship was never the same.
Now the older sister feels rejected by the family because of her continued support of the predator. She still feels that forgiveness of the predator was the best course, and she can’t grasp the depth of her younger sister’s hurt. Sixty years have passed, and the entire family is still clouded by this disloyalty.
The older sister feels like she’s the victim, due to the palpable rejection she feels from everyone else in the family. Is there hope after all this time that trust can be reestablished? How should they make amends?
They are now all senior citizens, and they could both benefit greatly from each other’s companionship and love. Your advice?
— Fractured Family
Fractured: The older sister seems to have spent all of her compassion and forgiveness on the man who sexually abused her young and vulnerable sister during much of the girl’s childhood. Where is her compassion, forgiveness and understanding toward her sister, who suffered as a child — and who might continue to suffer?
Sexual abuse of a child is the ultimate violation. The older sister does not have the right to claim victimhood, but this might be her way to try to paper over her own guilt — and perhaps win sympathy as a way back into the family fold.
Your letter highlights the legacy of childhood trauma which, unless addressed in a therapeutic context, will continue to hurt and divide family members — possibly into the next generation, when no one will even know the origin story.
Both of these sisters are locked into intractable positions. Nothing will change unless they are both inspired and motivated to honestly state their truths. The younger sister should be given space to continue to heal. The elder should be encouraged to understand how her long-ago choice became an important test of trust and loyalty.
The sisters may need to return to the painful events of their childhoods and rebuild from there. A family counselor could try to mediate a detente between the two. If you are able to bring them both to the table, you’d be helping to forge a new path for your family.
Dear Amy: Do you think it normal (or wise) to meet your Facebook friends?
My husband arranged a dinner with a “friend” he met on Facebook through one of his news sites. He’s not happy that I didn’t want to attend this meeting. He arranged another dinner with someone who was a member of his fraternity from college. I attended this dinner only to find out they didn’t personally know each other!
My “friends” on Facebook are people I know and even if I haven’t seen them in years, I enjoy their news about family and their activities. To randomly collect friends that you have no personal background with seems desperate and unwise.
— Concerned Wife
Concerned: Any time you personally connect with a “stranger,” there is some risk involved, but in my opinion, meeting people you’ve gotten to know online is a natural and positive impulse. I’ve done so many times.
Meeting someone who was in your fraternity in college is not a “random” meetup. This is personally connecting with someone with whom you already share some real-world commonality.
This is neither desperate nor unwise. It is actually old-school “networking.”
Dear Amy: Thank you for seeing both sides of the question posed by “I’ve Got a Secret,” who was keeping his close friendship with his ex-girlfriend a secret from his girlfriend.
I broke off a long-standing friendship with my former boyfriend because of my current boyfriend’s jealousy (we’ve since broken up). It was one of the most painful experiences of my life. Thank you for encouraging openness, and for asserting anyone’s right to maintain friendships.
— Still Sad
Sad: It’s a genuinely tough dynamic, which necessitates honesty and trust.
© 2023 by Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.
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