I have an older brother who sexually abused me as a child on multiple occasions over a period of many years.
My family has always sought to downplay this, and they constantly try to force him into my life. They try to force me to reconcile and/or pretend the whole thing never happened. He (fortunately) lives in another state and I have no contact with him — by choice.
I have expressed to my parents and other siblings my wishes not to have a relationship with him. It is very painful for me.
I have also chosen to not disclose this publicly, so his wife and children do not know the past history between us.
I have no desire to hurt them, as they are lovely people.
I just want to limit my glancing contact to our annual family gathering.
I was at a family gathering yesterday and — yet again — I was handed the phone to talk with him when he called to talk to everyone at the party.
I don’t know why I was handed the phone. They all know I don’t want to talk with him.
I do not know how else to express my wishes or what to do in these situations. In this case, his daughter was also in the room visiting (she had nothing to do with passing the phone to me) so I just said hello and talked briefly and passed the phone as soon as I could.
What should I do to handle these situations in the future? I have tried just about everything to communicate my wishes to my family for many years now, but no one is listening.
— Non-communicative Sister
You mention your brother’s sexual crimes against you as if he cheated at Monopoly — everybody in the family knows it, but it happened a long time ago, and they can’t understand why you don’t like the guy.
Why are you and other family members protecting him?
You are the abuse survivor. You get to choose how best you can cope with this. But you somehow assume that your brother won’t do the same thing to his lovely children that he did to his (presumably equally lovely) sister.
Your family members are complicit in covering this up. At the very least, don’t help them disrespect you.
Tell them: “Never, under any circumstances, should you ever expect, coerce, or force me to talk to my brother. Why? Because he sexually abused me and I want no contact.”
You should practice ways you might deal with forced (or coerced) contact.
I suggest this: The phone is handed to you. You wordlessly press “end,” (or hang up) and hand the phone back to the person who handed it to you.
Please contact RAINN.org to connect with a counselor so you can talk through some of these feelings and frustrations.
Wondering? Then ask
After being married to a narcissist for 21 years, I have been divorced for four years.
Even though my ex-husband and I have two children together, we have NO contact.
I have been seeing someone for almost a year and we have talked about getting married.
My good friend knows about both my past and my present. I was speaking with this friend the other day and the friend asked what my ex thought about my potential upcoming engagement. I replied that as far as I knew my ex didn’t know anything about it because I don’t talk to him.
Why would someone ask this (especially being a good friend who knows what happened)? How should I have responded?
— No Longer His
You responded appropriately to this query from your friend.
My own instinct is that your friend might have posed this question to give you a heads up that your ex-husband does, in fact, know about your current relationship.
Whenever you are wondering why someone is asking something — or framing a query in a specific way — you could respond, “I’m curious: why are you asking?”
Oh, no I didn’t, says Amy
I was surprised to see this headline over your recent column: “She’s become a tramp and I can no longer condone it.”
“Tramp?” Really? You’re showing your age.
In 17 years of writing this column, I have never used the word “tramp,” nor would I.
I supply headlines for my columns. My suggested headline for that particular column read: “Friendship falters over dangerous liaisons.” Evidently your local newspaper decided to go another way.
— Write to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.