DEAR ABBY: I have been married to "Nick" for 14 years. We have a beautiful 10-year-old daughter, "Betsy." I recently learned that when Nick was between the ages of 15 and 19, he molested his younger sister. My husband is now 48 and swears that, during those years, he was a "messed up, suicidal" teen.
All this was recently revealed by the sister, who is now 42. She told her parents who, in turn, wrote an ugly letter to Nick. I opened it by mistake and, unfortunately, read it all. It shocked me to the core. I feel so sad for his sister.
Nick will be seeing a counselor to work through what happened 30 years ago and to try to put everything in perspective. I know he is not the monster his sister describes, and I know he would never hurt Betsy.
I wish I could just smooth everything over. How do I explain to Betsy that her grandparents will never visit again? Nick is considering moving out to distance himself and not hurt us anymore. I know I could speak to a counselor, but I don't have much faith in what one could offer besides being someone to vent to. -- LOST IN LAS VEGAS
DEAR LOST: Before trying to smooth anything over, make an appointment with a child psychologist and take your daughter. Your husband molested his sister not once, but for a long time. It's possible that he's also done something to Betsy, but she was so young and innocent she didn't recognize it for what it was.
In cases like this, what happened cannot be ignored. It might be better if your husband did move out for a while, because your daughter is about at the age her aunt was when the molestations began. And you, dear lady, should by all means schedule some sessions with a psychologist or psychiatrist who understands childhood sexual abuse. Counseling isn't just "venting"; it can also be listening to and learning from someone with insight, education and experience. Trust me.
DEAR ABBY: My brother, sister and I grew up abused and neglected by our parents. There was never any affection or love in our home.
Now that we are grown, we have all established our own families and have little to do with our parents. Because we never discussed our home lives with anyone but ourselves, to outsiders our parents appear to be wonderful people. In the eyes of friends and other relatives, we are now "shirking our duty" because we have "abandoned" our parents.
I live far enough away that I don't have to deal with this problem, but my siblings face frequent criticism. What should be the appropriate response to those who continually ask why we don't visit our parents? -- SAFELY AWAY IN DULUTH, GA.
DEAR SAFELY AWAY: Your brother and sister have my sympathy. Unless they want to give a blow-by-blow description of what their lives were like growing up, which I'd advise against, their best response would be, "This subject is painful for me and very personal. I'd appreciate it if you didn't mention it again." And then change the subject.
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