Dear Amy: My siblings recently disclosed that our mother subjected them to sexual, mental and physical abuse.
As a child, I was subjected to physical and mental abuse at her hand, but I had always assumed that I was the sole focus of my mother's ire.
I moved out of the house the day after high school graduation and no longer have any contact with her.
One of my siblings informed me that after I left, and without me there as a focal point, my mother turned her abuse toward my siblings.
The worst of the abuse involved two of my sisters, who were sexually assaulted by friends of my mother's.
My mother knew about and condoned this. No one ever went to the police.
Hearing that my mother's behavior escalated after I left home causes me great guilt for not having been there for them when they were children. I am at a loss for the next steps to take.
One of my sisters has come to me for help with recovering from the trauma. I've thought about talking with the police. However, the assaults were over 30 years ago, and the statute of limitations has long passed.
Our mother is 78, and she is active in her church, where she likely has contact with children.
Confronting her will likely achieve nothing. What should I do?
Amy says: First, you should create a safe and open space where your siblings can tell their stories, if they want to.
Tell them you believe them, and emotionally hold them close. Your own experience might make this sort of intimacy challenging, but now is the time to "come home," figuratively, to be the best and most loving version of yourself that you can possibly be.
If a sister wants to go to the police, go with her, regardless of the statute of limitations.
And yes — confront your mother. If being in her presence would traumatize you, then write her a letter, as individuals or as a group. If you truly believe that she is a potential danger to children, then you are duty-bound to report this to her church clergy, as well as to the police. But if your main impulse is to ruin her reputation in her church community, then I don't believe you should do so.
RAINN.org (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) offers 24-hour support (1-800-656-4673), with an online chat option.
Plus ones not allowed
Dear Amy: My daughter is getting married. We are not allowing "plus ones," because of the expense.
Invites were sent with RSVP cards stating the number of seats reserved for each family. Guests were supposed to state if all the guests were coming, or fill in the number that would be attending.
To my sister and her family, I noted that we had four seats reserved for their family of four. My sister changed the number to five and added the name of my niece's college roommate, whom I don't even know.
How do I clear this up with her?
Amy says: It's called a telephone. Use it, immediately, to communicate with your sister about her misunderstanding.
You say, "Hi, I just received your RSVP card and I see that you have added a person. Unfortunately, we can't add any guests. We're excited to see you, Wayne and the kids."
Your sister has already leapt over a (nicely engraved) boundary, and so she will likely attempt to overpower you in this context, too. Just respond firmly, consistently and politely.
Her problem (wanting her nearly grown daughter to have a playdate at a family wedding) is not your problem.
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