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Lifestyle

February 11, 2014

Dear Abby: Best friend’s past abuse haunts family gatherings

Dear Abby: My best friend of 20 years, “Claire,” has suffered bouts of depression ever since I have known her. She recently confided to me that her brother had repeatedly sexually abused her as a child.

When she went to her mother for help, her mother told her she needed to “thank God that it was happening because it would make her a stronger person.” Her mother is dead now, but her father is still alive. I am furious at him for allowing the abuse to happen under his roof.

Abby, the family acts like it never happened! Claire invites her dad to events we plan together, like birthdays. How do I attend knowing what I know? I don’t want to sit across a table from him.

My husband is an abuse survivor and feels even more strongly than I do. It has made get-togethers miserable for us. Should we just smile and pretend we don’t know, because we can’t fight my best friend’s fight for her? How do we get over the anger? — Confused In Oklahoma

Dear Confused: Years ago, someone explained to me that depression is anger turned inward. Your friend is enduring these bouts of depression because she was never allowed to express her anger where it belonged — at her brother and her mother. Whether the mother ever told her husband what was going on, or whether it was the continuation of a long family tradition of sexual abuse, is something we don’t know. But if you haven’t suggested to Claire that she could benefit from counseling, you should.

As to you and your husband participating in these family gatherings, my advice is to stop doing it. Celebrate special occasions with your friend right before or after these occasions; many people have pre- or post-birthday get-togethers, and that’s what I recommend in a case like this.

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