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by Abigail Van Buren

Story of Long Ago Abuse Causes Family New Pain

DEAR ABBY: My parents divorced when I was 6, and my father remarried when I was 8. My father got custody of my brother and me. A year later, my half-sister was born and that's when my stepmother began physically and mentally abusing me.

My brother told family members about the abuse, but nothing was done. My father didn't believe us kids. The abuse finally ended when my grandparents -- my mother's parents -- saw the marks on my body and took me to an attorney. My mother got custody of me when I was 12.

My half-sister, "Liz," was only 4 when I left, so we were never close growing up. I'm now in my early 40s. Last summer, while I was visiting family, I went shopping with Liz and her daughter. Tired of all the secrets, I told her the reason I left when she was little. It came as a shock to her because her mother had never abused her.

Now my father and brother are mad at me for telling. My brother even told Liz it wasn't true to "protect" her. Was I wrong for disclosing something that happened long ago? The memories are still fresh after all these years, and doesn't it send a message to protect the abuser? -- TIRED OF SECRETS, CORONA, CALIF.

DEAR TIRED OF SECRETS: What your stepmother did was disgraceful, but you were wrong to try to exact revenge through her daughter. All it could do was cause your half-sister pain. As to your brother accusing you of lying after having revealed the truth -- that was wrong, too, because it victimized you twice.