Of­fer sup­port to sib­lings who want to speak about abuse

Daily Press (Sunday) - - Advice -

My sib­lings re­cently dis­closed that our mother sub­jected them to sex­ual, men­tal and phys­i­cal abuse. As a child, I was phys­i­cally and men­tally abused by her, but I al­ways as­sumed I was the sole fo­cus of her ire. I moved out of the house the day after high school grad­u­a­tion. I no longer have any con­tact with her.

One of my sib­lings has in­formed me that after I left home, my mother turned her abuse to­ward my sib­lings. The worst of the abuse in­volved two of my sis­ters, who were sex­u­ally as­saulted by friends of my mother’s. My mother con­doned this. No one ever went to the po­lice.

Hear­ing that my mother’s be­hav­ior es­ca­lated after I left home causes me great guilt for not hav­ing been there for my sib­lings. I am at a loss for the next steps to take.

One of my sis­ters has come to me for help with re­cov­er­ing from the trauma of her child­hood. I’ve thought about talk­ing with the po­lice. How­ever, the as­saults were over 30 years ago, and the statute of lim­i­ta­tions has passed.

Our mother is 78, and she is ac­tive in her church, where she prob­a­bly has con­tact with chil­dren. Con­fronting her will likely achieve noth­ing. What should I do?

— Guilty

Dear Amy:

First, you should cre­ate a safe and open space where your sib­lings can tell their sto­ries, if they want to (some might not want to talk about this). Tell them you

Dear Guilty:

be­lieve them, and emo­tion­ally hold them close. Your own ex­pe­ri­ence might make this sort of in­ti­macy chal­leng­ing, but now is the time to “come home,” fig­u­ra­tively, to be the best and most lov­ing ver­sion of your­self that you can be.

If a sis­ter wants to go to the po­lice, go with her, re­gard­less of the statute of lim­i­ta­tions. And yes, con­front your mother. If be­ing in her pres­ence would trau­ma­tize you, then write her a let­ter, as in­di­vid­u­als or as a group. If you be­lieve she is a po­ten­tial dan­ger to any chil­dren, then you are duty-bound to re­port this to her church clergy and the po­lice. But if your main im­pulse is to ruin her rep­u­ta­tion in her church com­mu­nity, then I don’t be­lieve you should do so.

RAINN.org of­fers a 24-hour tele­phone hot­line (800-656-4673), with an on­line chat op­tion. Con­tact a RAINN (Rape, Abuse & In­cest Na­tional Net­work) coun­selor for ad­vice and lo­cal ser­vices.

My daugh­ter is get­ting mar­ried. We are not al­low­ing “plus-ones” be­cause of the ex­pense. In­vites were sent with RSVP cards stat­ing the num­ber of seats re­served for each fam­ily. To my sis­ter and her fam­ily, I noted that we had four seats re­served for their fam­ily of four.

In the re­sponse card, guests were sim­ply sup­posed to state whether all the guests were com­ing or fill in the num­ber that would be at­tend­ing, if not every­one could make it. My sis­ter changed the num­ber from four to five and added the name of my niece’s col­lege room­mate, whom I don’t even know. How do I clear this up with her? I thought my RSVP card would make this clear.

Dear Amy:

— Un­sure Sis­ter

It’s called a tele­phone. You use it, im­me­di­ately, to com­mu­ni­cate with your sis­ter about her mis­un­der­stand­ing. You say, “Hi, I just re­ceived your RSVP card and I see that you have added a per­son. Un­for­tu­nately, we can’t add any guests. We’re ex­cited to see you, Wayne and the kids.”

Your sis­ter has al­ready leapt over a (nicely en­graved) bound­ary, so she will prob­a­bly try to over­power you in this con­text, too. Just re­spond firmly, con­sis­tently and po­litely. Re­peat after me: Her prob­lem (want­ing her nearly grown daugh­ter to have a play date at a fam­ily wed­ding) is not your prob­lem.

Dear Un­sure:

I just wanted to send some hugs to “Sad Mom,” who is rais­ing a tod­dler and a new­born. My own kids were 18 months apart, and those early months were rough. I felt like a ro­bot most days.

But now my kids are grown, pro­duc­tive adults and I look back on those dif­fi­cult days fondly.

We’ve all been there: “Sad” should lean on dad, grand­par­ents, and aunts and un­cles to give her some rest. But she’s got this — be­cause it turned out that I did, too!

— Happy Mom

Dear Amy:

Help, sup­port and en­cour­age­ment are ex­actly what this mom needs.

Dear Happy:

Copy­right 2018 by Amy Dickinson. Dis­trib­uted by Tribune Con­tent Agency Send ques­tions via e-mail to askamy@amy­dick­in­son .com or by mail to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.

By Amy Dickinson

Ask Amy

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