February 21, 2024
Assault survivor wants to keep trauma private



Dear Amy: I’ve been assaulted by multiple men in my life, mostly in high school and college.

I have been in extensive therapy to work through the lasting effects of these assaults. I’m very proud of the progress I’ve made.

No one in my family is aware of my experiences, except for my grandmother.

A couple years ago, out of the blue, she asked if these things had happened to me, since it had also happened to her, and she could see the signs.

I don’t mind that she knows; it’s actually nice not to feel like I’m hiding something.

The issue is that ever since she found out, she has been pressuring me to tell my parents.

Even though I’ve been in therapy for years, my therapist and I have talked about when and how to do it, and it just doesn’t seem like I’ll be ready anytime soon.

Recently, my grandmother been getting more and more persistent and I’m afraid she’s just going to tell them herself, causing an even bigger mess with hurt feelings for all parties.

While I don’t like hiding part of my past from my parents, I also feel like it should be up to me how and when I tell them.

Am I doing something wrong by hiding my trauma from my parents for now?

— Woman Who is Not Ready

Dear Not Ready: You’re neither wrong nor right to keep knowledge of your trauma from your parents. You are making a choice, and it is yours to make.

Your grandmother’s own trauma occurred (presumably) long ago, and yet she recognizes you as a fellow survivor.

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She may regret a choice to hold her own story privately and believes that she would have relieved some of her own suffering if she had talked more openly about it. You should ask her.

In my mind, the primary issue you face is to figure out how you will respond if — or when — your grandmother jumps the gun and does your talking for you.

I’d like to suggest that even if your grandmother violates your privacy in this way, you still own your own story. It will always be yours, and you — and only you — get to write the ending.

I also want to emphasize that what happens to you affects your family in sometimes profound ways — because the burden of the pain you carry from your experiences affects your relationships.

If your folks are compassionate people, knowing about your trauma will give them opportunities to love you fiercely and support you as you continue to heal. Your disclosure might also reveal layers of confusion and a poor or inadequate response.

In addition to therapy, a virtual or in-person support group for assault survivors would be helpful.

Dear Amy: I have two children, ages 11 and 14. Their dad and I both work and share the household chores before and after work.

I’d say that our lives run pretty smoothly, but I’ve noticed that we each seem to be in separate bubbles, retreating to our screens during most of our time at home.

I’m so sick of this that I’m thinking about trying to completely prohibit screen use at home.

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Obviously, nobody likes this solution, so my husband and I decided to get your thoughts.

— Screened-Out

Dear Screened-Out: Before trying to completely prohibit screen use at home, I’d suggest finding ways to limit screen use.

One idea may seem to run counter to your goal, but this is to actually share screen time as a family, where once a week, each family member gets to choose one “family friendly” thing to watch together, and phones are turned off.

In my opinion, competition shows like “America’s Got Talent,” “Top Chef” or “American Idol” can draw everyone in to follow their favorite contestants, week-by-week.

Otherwise, you can lessen screen time by agreeing to limits.

This means that you as parents have to abide by whatever limits you set, and that you focus on each other — and your kids — during this time.

Dear Amy: “Really Tired” reported that her spouse and his family make mean “jokes,” and that he makes jokes at her expense.

I come from a family that has a history of joking at each other’s expense.

My wife told me very early on that she is my wife and not my sister, and not to confuse the two.

Thirty years (and going) of marital harmony have ensued.

— No Punch Line

Dear No Punch Line: You are a wise person to heed your wife’s brilliant response.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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