Ask Amy: Abuse survivor wants to set record straight
Dear Amy: When I was a young woman of 20 and returned home for a visit after basic training in the military, my father had too much to drink one night.
He asked me to sit beside him after my mom went to bed.
It didn’t feel quite right, but I sat next to him.
Then, my dad tried to French kiss me.
I got away from him and avoided him the next day.
I didn’t visit my parents again for a while because I was shipped overseas.
I thought about it later and wondered if he even remembered doing this?
Maybe he blacked out from drinking.
Then, my aunt (my mom’s sister) who is only slightly older than me, confessed that my dad did the same thing to her. (I did not disclose it happened to me too.)
My dad has since died. My sister thinks that he was a saint. She has never recovered from his death. She and my mother never understood why I was not close to my dad as an adult.
Should I tell them, or let sleeping dogs lie? They think I was cold and uncaring toward him.
My mother also beat my sister and me so severely that our whole bodies were covered in bruises. I would have to wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts in the summer so no one would know.
I repeatedly ran away. I went to the police, who did nothing.
I moved over 1,000 miles away from them and have only visited once a year.
My mom and sister and extended family all think I just don’t care about my family. My aunts, uncles and cousins never knew we were being severely abused.
Should I tell them?
Do I need to feel guilty for moving away and never visiting?
I know this hurts my sister.
– Troubled Daughter
Dear Troubled: Given the violence and dysfunction in your past, I’d say that your choice to stay away is one of self-preservation.
It is unfortunate, though not surprising, that you still care what these family members think. You carry the guilt of hard-won survival.
The truth is the truth, and you might as well tell it.
You should not tell the truth to persuade others that your father and/or mother were monsters but to simply own your personal history.
Understand that people who stay in abusive family systems sometimes develop selective amnesia over painful events. This is a survival tool.
You can assume that your family members are entrenched in their own narrative. They may not believe you. They may blame you.
I hope that your life in adulthood is rewarding, and that your career in the military has given you a sense of belonging to a deserving family-of-choice.
If you decide to share your truth, approach this from a place of strength and confidence.
Dear Amy: My husband and I have adult children in their mid-20s to early 30s, all of whom are doing well. We both work full time, and all our kids (thankfully) are gainfully employed.
For the last 10 years, we have had at least one child living with us during that post-college looking-for-work phase, or during various times when they have needed a place to crash.
The pandemic brought two of them home for over a year.
Overall, I’d say that we all enjoyed this togetherness, but frankly I am done. I may be the only person in the world yearning for an empty nest.
They are all out now, but with remote-work, two of them now bounce home for days on end and with very little notice – and work from here.
They do this when they get bored, want a change of pace, or home-cooked meals.
Please, how can I get them to stop?
Dear Tired: You should set some parameters: You would like at least a week’s advance notice, unless it is an emergency. They should limit their stays.
Make sure their time home is boring and fruitless. Limit the home-cooked meals. Don’t clean up after them.
I wonder if other readers are dealing with this? If so, I will run responses.
Dear Amy: Thank you for talking about credit card “churning” with your answer to “Churning Concerns.”
This wife wanted feedback about her husband’s choice to open credit cards in her name. This is wrong (and illegal). She should place a freeze on her credit.
– Credit Advisor
Dear Advisor: It wasn’t clear whether this wife had co-signed on these credit cards, but I agree that she needs to advocate for herself.
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