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Health & Spirit

Sisters abused by stepfather now blame mother

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: I had a rough childhood. My mom and dad had my older sister and me before they divorced. My mom remarried, and my stepfather had a son from his previous marriage. They then had a boy of their own.

My sister and I were always treated more harshly by our stepfather than our brothers were treated. Our punishment was a lashing from a leather belt. It was harsh and abusive, and started when we were very young.

It stopped when we were around 13 years old.

I would be left with bruises for days, making it painful to sit down at school.

I know that my older stepbrother only got the leather a few times and that my little brother only ever got a spanking from a wooden spoon.

I am 30 years old now. My stepfather is a changed man. He is no longer the man that abused me, but is kind and loving.

My issue lies with my mother. Throughout all this, she never once told my stepfather to stop, or that we didn't deserve such an abusive form of punishment.

Whenever I made my way out of the bedroom after a lashing, tears streaming down my face, I remember only seeing my mother's back. She never looked me in the eye. She never stood up for me and I carry around hatred and bitterness toward her for that.

Now my mother desperately wants to have a relationship with my sister and me. I see that she is heartbroken and confused as to why we struggle to have one with her. We desperately want one with her too, but we both can't drop our guard. I guess we both still believe that our mother hasn't changed at all -- unlike our stepfather.

My mother is a soft and emotional woman. I don't know if having a conversation with her will just break her heart. Can I resolve this myself without demanding to know why she didn't stand up for me as a child?

-- E

Dear E: If you could have resolved this by yourself, you probably would have done so already. It is significant that you have been able to forgive your abusive stepfather, and yet you hold onto bitterness and resentment toward your mother.

You might assume that the fearsome man that beat you with a leather belt also frightened your mother into submission. She couldn't make eye contact with you because she was afraid and ashamed.

Physical abuse threatens and intimidates the entire family. This is why cruel punishers often want others to witness what they do.

It is better for you to risk cracking open your mother's heart a little, allowing everyone to express their truth, versus extending an estrangement. You and your sister will get further with her if you don't gang up on her or overwhelm her. If all of you are desperate to have a relationship, commence the process with a determination to listen, try to understand, lean into forgiveness and love each other through it.

Dear Amy: Is it just me, or does everyone interrupt?

I can be talking to anyone -- even family members -- and they'll interrupt me or talk over me.

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Even cable news panels talk over each other and interrupt.

Is this new? Where are everyone's manners?

Why doesn't anyone care about what I say?

Am I just too long-winded?

-- Ignored

Dear Ignored: Great question. I do believe that we are all interrupting one another more often. I've read through two recent university studies demonstrating that men interrupt more frequently than women.

According to a 2014 study from George Washington University, men interrupt 33 percent more frequently when they are talking to women, versus talking to other men.

This dynamic has extended to the Supreme Court. A separate study from Northwestern shows that male justices talk over female justices far more frequently than fellow male justices. With three female justices on the court, 65 percent of interruptions were directed at them.

Interrupting is about establishing a power position.

When you are being interrupted, lock eyes and say, "I have a couple of other points I want to make. Then I'd love to hear what you think. Can you let me finish?"

Dear Amy: "Upset Girlfriend" described her boyfriend's desire to have a "drunken one-night stand" in Vegas.

While I agreed with your response regarding her need to be honest with him and also not control him, you neglected to point out that STDs are a real risk.

Sexually Safe

Dear Safe: Absolutely. Thank you.

========

(You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: askamy@amydickinson.com. Readers may send postal mail to Amy Dickinson, c/o Tribune Content Agency, 16650 Westgrove Drive, Suite 175, Addison, Texas, 75001. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook.)

 

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