Dear Annie: I am a woman in my mid-30s, and think I may have been molested when I was young. I have little memory of my childhood up until age 13. But I do know that when my friends played with their Barbie dolls, they had her driving around, going on dates and dressing up pretty. I pretended she was having sex with Ken. Other kids played house, but I pretended to be the dad and would get on top of my younger sister and rub against her. When I was 14, I made out with my 8-year-old stepcousin until his mother caught me, and for years after, he refused to talk to me. When I was 16, I kissed my best friend’s 10-year-old brother.
I don’t remember anything specifically. I only remember having a bad dream once that my dad molested me, and for years afterward, I didn’t want to be near him. Our relationship still feels kind of strained. I don’t know what to think anymore. What should I do? — Bewildered and Worried
Dear Bewildered: We would not presume to tell you what happened to you as a child, if anything actually did, or whether it involved your father. We suggest you seek therapy, although we do not recommend those who claim to specialize in “recovered” memories of abuse. This type of therapy is not reliable. Ask your doctor to refer you.
Dear Annie: We have a family member who wishes for us not to contact him anymore. Both of his parents are deceased. What do we do? — Upset Relatives
Dear Upset: You must respect his wishes, even though it seems cruel. (We assume this family member is not under any type of duress from a partner who is trying to isolate him.) We would inform this relative that you will cease contact, as per his wishes. But add that you still care about him, and should he wish to resume contact, it always will be welcome.
Dear Annie: “Little Sister in Need” told you about her abusive older brother, and you told her to “stop taking it personally”? She wasn’t talking about disagreements. She cited his being “verbally, psychologically and at times physically abusive.”
You should have told her that what’s going on is abuse and, if he gets physical, constitutes domestic violence. She needs to talk to a domestic violence counselor and be alert for signs that he’s also abusing his wife and child. Odds are that he is. Abusers rarely limit themselves to just one victim. — Judy
Dear Judy: Many readers agree with you, but we did not get the impression that the current abuse is physical. Sibling relationships are complicated, and there is often physical fighting and hitting when siblings are younger. While we don’t condone such behavior, we also know that the physical side usually stops when the siblings reach adulthood. It does not necessarily carry over to his wife and child, nor does it seem so from her letter, although she certainly can investigate.
The fact that her brother continues to harangue her verbally indicates that he has anger and control issues. He lashes out at his sister because this is the dynamic they have had for 20 years. If speaking to a therapist would be helpful for her, we agree that this is an excellent idea. However, it also would help if she changed her response to her brother, not only because it would force him to change how he speaks to her, but also because it could improve her perception of her own strength in his presence. He is intimidating her, and she needs to stand up to him in a way that empowers her without exacerbating the situation.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.