Dear Carolyn: This past week, my stepmom ended up in the hospital because my dad hurt her so bad. A lot of truth came out, especially after she said my mom warned her about my dad and she should have listened.

All these years, she and my dad have been lying to me about the divorce, lying about my mom and I believed it all. Because of that, I’ve been sort of distant from my mom since my dad remarried five years ago.

After I got off the phone with my stepmom, I talked to my brother, who stuck by my mom and always tried to tell me they were liars. He told me I should remember the fights when we were little, and my dad screaming and throwing things, but in my memory none of it was that bad.

I'm so ashamed. I don't even know how to make it up to my mom, who through all of this always told me she still loved me, even with all the hard words I threw at her. I'm beating myself up now wondering why I chose to believe my dad when there were so many signs I was wrong.

I called and had a crying talk with her, and I’m avoiding my dad’s calls since I don’t know what to even say to him. What do I do now?

— So Ashamed

So Ashamed: Oh, my goodness.

I am so sorry.

It sounds as if you have been the target of heavy manipulation, not just “all these years” since he remarried, but for most if not all of your life. If this is true, then the fault lies with the person manipulating you.

Please make therapy the next thing you do. Call your regular doctor for names, call your insurance company, see what your employer or school offers. Domestic violence hotlines are a good resource for local counseling options, too: 1-800-799-SAFE and/or 1-800-656-HOPE (for National Domestic Violence Hotline and RAINN, respectively).

Don't delay. You may need to call and/or talk to several providers before you find a good fit.

You are off to a good start in apologizing to your mom, keeping your dad away, and reconstructing your past in the light of this new information.

Your responsibility from here is, again, not to beat yourself up for believing the wrong person, but instead to pursue the truth without flinching — now that you know there's one to be found.

Readers' thoughts:

· Hope someone called the police — if not, her hospitalization warrants his arrest. I was/am in a similar position. My son believed my abusive ex — every word.

· I can tell you, having been abused for years, that part of an abuser’s framework is to isolate children from the other parent. Make no mistake about it, your dad was manipulating you to keep you away from your mother as part of the abuse.

· I am so sorry this is happening to your family. Exposure to violence, even violence you don’t remember, is a form of trauma in its own right. None of it is your fault.

· I teared up, thinking about how much joy you brought your mom by telling her you finally know, and believe, the truth. Trust that she meant what she said about always loving you.