DEAR HARRIETTE: I admit it. I snoop sometimes. My most recent snooping was looking at my sister's online messaging conversation with her boyfriend. I was shocked by what I found. Her boyfriend was verbally and emotionally abusing her. He says she's worthless and stupid, and he calls her vulgar names. He's even been telling her to steal money and food from our parents to bring to him, which I believe she does.
I cannot believe I didn't see this before in their relationship. Admittedly, I haven't spent much time around them. I don't know where to go from here. I want to address this with my sister and maybe my family, but I don't want to get into trouble for looking through their messages. He's been manipulating her into stealing from us, though! He needs to get out of her life ASAP. -- Caught in a Bad Romance, Saginaw, Michigan
DEAR CAUGHT IN A BAD ROMANCE: Here's a time when your crossing the line may help to save your sister's life. Go to your sister and talk to her. Check in with her to see how she's doing and if she will be forthcoming at all about what's going on with her and her boyfriend. Be prepared to tell her what you read.
Start with an apology. Explain that you violated her trust by reading her texts, but since you did see them, you feel that you have to say something to her. Tell her you are worried about her and the way that her boyfriend talks to her. Express your concern that she is stealing from the family. Ask her what you can do to help her.
Before speaking to her, I recommend that you tell your parents. Though your sister will be extremely upset, this seems like a time when she will need a tremendous amount of support.