Life Advice


Health & Spirit

Abuse survivor can't handle family questions

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

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

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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. 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.


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