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Dear Amy: When I was a child, my female cousin, who is three years older than me, engaged me in sexual games/role-playing that I now realize were not at all age-appropriate.
She swore me to secrecy and praised me for being such a good cousin for keeping our secret. This abuse went on for almost three years.
We are now in our 30s, and when I raised the issue of the child sexual abuse with her, she denied it ever happened.
She asked me why I hate her that much, and why am I making this up?
She accused me of fracturing the family with my allegations.
I told a few family members, including her parents, and now I’ve been vilified, because no one believes me.
I have discussed this with my therapist, who advised me that people will not want to face the ugly truth about my cousin, so I will probably never be vindicated.
I reached out to my cousin and suggested that we have an in-person conversation to clear the air, and a follow-up with family members, but she has ignored my request.
Any advice for me so I can move forward?
I feel like I’ve been victimized twice — once with the sexual abuse, and then with the denial and lies.
— Trying to Move Forward
Dear Trying: If this abuse went on for three years, and your older cousin swore you to secrecy, then it stands to reason that she knew this was wrong at the time. And yet the behavior continued for years.
I’m so sorry this happened. I hope you do have some family members who believe you and who are concerned for your healing.
I agree with your therapist that your abuser — and her immediate family — will most likely never acknowledge her actions and how her actions hurt you. For them to do so would be for them to admit that their daughter (or sister) preyed on, manipulated, and hurt a child. And that she lied about it then, and is lying about it now.
You seem to mainly want an acknowledgment and (presumably) an apology from your cousin.
You should also explore with your therapist any other options you might have, including legal options. You don’t mention specifics about your cousin’s abuse, but if she continued this behavior with other vulnerable children, there may be others out there who also deserve answers.
Anyone wrestling with questions of sexual assault and abuse can contact RAINN.org. Their 24-hour phone hotline (800-656-4673) and live “chat” function is staffed by dedicated counselors who are there to help.
Dear Amy: I saw my sister-in-law of almost 50 years after not seeing her for two years (due to the pandemic).
She had lost a moderate amount of weight — I would guess 30 pounds. Honestly, I was shocked when I saw her.
I commented about her weight loss and asked if she was OK.
I was concerned about her!
She blew up at me and stated I had no business asking her about her weight loss. She told me how inconsiderate I had been.
I promptly apologized and said that I was sorry that I offended her. She stormed off into her bedroom.
How should I have handled this situation?
She did not look ill — just a lot smaller.
Dear Wondering: If your sister-in-law did not look ill, then why did you ask her if she was OK?
If your sister-in-law has spent the pandemic taking off 30 pounds, rather than putting them on (as many of us have done), then she might not have appreciated the implication that she could only lose weight through illness.
And if she is actually ill, she might not have been ready to discuss it.
Your sister-in-law’s reaction was definitely oversized, but, generally speaking, it is not a good idea to comment on weight loss — or gain — until the other person has opened the door to the topic.
Dear Amy: “Disappointed” planned a group trip, only to have people drop out after deposits had been paid.
This reminded me of lessons I’ve learned while trip planning: Everyone needs skin in the game.
If one person is booking and shelling out deposits for everything, the others can easily drop out at the last minute.
It’s safer if one person handles car transportation, another arranges outings, another does the lodging, etc., — that way you’re in it equally.
— Been There
Dear Been There: Great advice. It is also wise to pursue opportunities that offer refunds.