Ask Amy: Abuse survivor can’t handle family questions
Dear Amy: I am the youngest in my family; my siblings are older by many years. Years ago, I found out that my father had a history of abusing girls. At a family reunion a couple of years ago, one of my older nieces asked me about my father — apparently she was one of his victims.
The reunion became an annual thing, and she keeps trying to talk to me about this, so this past year I simply did not go. I cannot add anything to the conversation — I was a young child and knew nothing of this.
Plus, I (myself) was sexually molested by older relatives when I was a child, so her questions just destroy me.
I have chosen to simply avoid the reunions, which are the only places I come into contact with her, but do you have any suggestions for me in coping with this myself?
I have been to therapy, and have not found it as useful as I had hoped. — Big Burly Guy
Dear Burly: I am very sorry that you and your family have to go through this.
You need to find someone you feel comfortable talking to. If your current therapist isn’t giving you the help you need right now, and then ask for recommendations about other types of treatment.
Malesurvivor.org is an organization designed to help men like you. I heartily support their important work. You can connect online for communication and support; they also sponsor in-person “healing events” where male survivors can learn from and lean on one another.
When you are ready, consider reaching out to your niece through email or a letter. Tell her that you understand why she wants to talk about what happened, but that you aren’t ready to discuss this with her yet, and that if you ever are ready to talk, you will let her know. Other abuse survivors in your family will benefit from your wisdom and compassion, when you are ready. Offering this might help you, too.
Dear Amy: A few months ago, my younger sister adopted a puppy. During the first few weeks my seven-year-old daughter and I would visit the pup at my mother’s home. We quickly realized he was not the friendly type. He has now bitten me, my husband, my mother-in-law, my grandmother and my daughter twice.
The first few times we chalked it up to him being afraid of new faces. But after he bit my daughter in the face while she sat in my lap on the couch — I have finally had it.
I have told my mother and sister that my daughter won’t visit while the pup is outside of his kennel. Unfortunately, this means no more weekly visits to Grandma’s.
My daughter is too afraid to be around this dog, and I don’t blame her.
I have asked my sister to crate the dog when we visit, and she refuses.
She says she’ll just stay in her room with him — knowing this will stress-out my mother.
I can’t help but feel my mother’s bias in all of this, as she advises me to bring my daughter over with the pup roaming around to “see how it goes.”
Am I out of line for not wanting to visit at all? — Bitten by Surprise
Dear Bitten: An often-quoted statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that approximately 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year. It is the responsibility of pet owners to do everything possible to prevent incidents like this. This dog should be taken to the vet for a health check, and also enrolled in obedience classes.
Unfortunately, you cannot force your sister to be a responsible pet owner, and so you have to continue being a responsible parent. Keep insisting that the dog be crated (or in another room with the door closed) if you visit. Invite your mother to your home.
Your sister needs to ponder: what happens if the dog bites someone outside the family? Your sister could be fined, sued or even arrested, and she could be forced to surrender her dog.
Dear Amy: You quoted a physician who gave good counsel to “Frustrated and Concerned,” who was wondering about exposing a baby to a toddler whose parents refused to immunize him.
The advice was good except for one thing: this is flu season, and strains of flu can easily be transmitted — and they can be deadly to vulnerable people who have not received a flu shot. — Concerned
Dear Concerned: Great point. Thank you.