DEAR ABBY: Thirty-five years ago, my wife was raped in her mother's home when she was a teenager. Eight years ago, my daughter was also raped at the age of 11 in the same home. My mother-in-law blames them both for having been raped. She told them if it did happen, they probably deserved it.
I don't understand this. How can someone take the side of the perpetrator and not their own flesh and blood? How can someone who is supposed to be nurturing, loving and caring say such terrible things to her children?
I want to call her up and give her a piece of my mind, especially since both of them are passive when it comes to this woman. Can they file a lawsuit against her for mental anguish? Help! I want to help them heal from this tragedy, and I don't know what to do. -- DISTRAUGHT DAD IN TEXAS
DEAR DISTRAUGHT: It is not unusual for families to circle the wagons when this kind of sexual assault occurs, or to blame the victim. That is why the damage persists from generation to generation. It's clear that your wife's mother is either in denial or without shame.
If the perpetrator isn't in prison or a program for sex offenders, the person you should talk to is a detective in the police force in the city where these sexual assaults happened. If your wife and daughter haven't received counseling for the assaults (and I'm betting they haven't), they should find some now.
The victims didn't "deserve" being assaulted. Counseling may help them get in touch with their anger, aim it where it belongs, and finally release it along with their passivity -- which may really be fear of expressing their emotions.
DEAR ABBY: My wife's first husband died of cancer. When we got engaged years later, she decided to keep his last name (partly in regard to her daughters) and add mine to it. She continues to display some photos of him around the house and maintains her plan to be buried with him at their common gravesite.
Whoever thinks I must be jealous or resentful about this would be wrong. I haven't experienced a long marriage, raising children or nursing a terminally ill spouse for years. Instead of demanding that my wife "prove her love" by ignoring her history, I prove my love for her -- in part -- by deferring to her choices.
Soon after our wedding we learned that I, too, had cancer. My case was treatable and I am now cured, thanks to God in heaven and my wife's tender care.
We once knew someone who couldn't bear to think of his wife's ever marrying after his death. He pleaded, badgered and practically forced her to vow she wouldn't. So this is my message for men who are jealous about a deceased or hypothetical "rival": That is your own choice and it disgraces you. Grow out of it. Be a man and love your wife while you both live. -- LATECOMER IN PASCO, WASH.
DEAR LATECOMER: Your wife is one lucky woman because she married an intelligent and pragmatic man. I hope you enjoy many more happy, healthy years together.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)