Offer support to siblings who want to speak about abuse
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?
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
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.
— 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.
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
Help, support and encouragement are exactly what this mom needs.
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.