They flew over there for a court date, and, when Fiance met with Ex-Wife, a social worker, and their daughter, the daughter wouldn’t look at him, said she couldn’t speak English, threw stuff at him, etc., until they removed her from the room. They were then told that Ex-wife had taken Daughter to the police station to file a criminal complaint against Fiance, alleging that, in America, he molested her and took photos, and that Linda helped him.
Linda has told me this is all untrue, and, in fact, over the past few months, she has told me many times that she and Fiance have been worried that Daughter was being abused in some way by Ex-Wife, because she would often complain about not being fed and had expressed to them her discomfort with an older family member in the other country.
Fiance can’t leave the other country until it’s over because he’s still under investigation. Since Daughter is a US citizen, they’re getting the embassy and the FBI involved; on top of that, Linda and fiance want to make their story public, and file counter-suits against the Ex-wife for the false accusations, which are a criminal offense in that country.
So why am I involved? Well, Linda contacted me to ask for help since we’ve been friends since we were teens. She wants me to help her with social media, spreading the word, getting their story out there. This is where I don’t know how to act, because I’m not entirely sure it’s a good idea.
I worry that the publicity they are seeking to put pressure on the courts could backfire on them, that their message could come across as “Don’t believe our daughter’s allegations, her mom made her say those things.” How on earth do you grab the right kind of media attention with that message? And, frankly, although I love and trust Linda wholeheartedly, I am also reluctant to discount Daughter’s allegations. I know Ex-Wife might be abusing her, mentally or otherwise, and making her say those things, sure. But what if she’s telling the truth, even if only about Fiance? I’ve had both scenarios happen in my own family, to different family members, so I know all too well that either situation is possible. And regardless of which is true, either way, Daughter NEEDS to be helped.
Though I know I sound ambivalent, I DO want to help Linda. I want their daughter to be safe, and I want Linda and her fiance to have their family back together again. I’m already on board to help them raise funds for legal fees, and to donate what I can. But I don’t know what I can do to help in the way she has asked me to help, beyond being a good ear for listening and a good shoulder to cry on when things get tough. The last thing I want to do is help them to get themselves doxxed, or set upon by internet trolls, or become the Poster Child Textbook Example for MRA extremists who will point to them and say “Look, false sexual abuse allegations! Look, an unfit mother! This is the rule and not the exception!” But maybe I’m overthinking it and the attention is worth it if it means Daughter comes home safely?
At the end of the day, how can I ACTUALLY help? — Don’t Wanna Be A Fair-Weather Friend
You’re a very good friend to be so thoughtful about this terrible situation and to consider the different scenarios and how they might affect your friend (and her fiancé and his daughter), both privately and publicly. And, of course, being the thoughtful person you are, you also know there’s a very real possibility that if you don’t do exactly what Linda is asking of you, she, in her heightened emotional state, may take offense and see you as being unsupportive. I’m afraid that’s a risk you’ll have take. If you don’t feel comfortable doing what Linda has asked of you, you have to say no.
It’s a complicated situation, but your question is actually very simple and one that almost everyone can relate to: “How can I say no with the most minimal negative impact?” Over the weekend, I read this article about the three secrets of people who know how to say “no,” and I think it could be helpful for you as well as anyone else who struggles with saying no. First, you need not offer any excuses (though you can offer your reason, especially if you think it will soften the blow). In your case, Linda may not want to hear your reason or she may think it’s simply an excuse because you feel uncomfortable or don’t want to support her. None of that is your problem. You can’t control her reaction. You can only control your own behavior. And if Linda doesn’t appreciate your motives now, at least by sharing them with her there’s a chance she will appreciate them later, after the dust settles.
Second, offer an alternative. This is a big one. Maybe publicizing the situation for Linda isn’t how you want to support her right now, but I’m sure there are other ways of supporting her that feel better to you. Is Linda still in the other country? If so, you could offer to collect her mail for her, water her plants, return library books, help take care of any pets she left behind, etc. If she’s back in the states or returning soon without her fiancé, you could offer to pick her up or drop her off at the airport. And, as you mentioned, you could offer to help raise funds for legal fees, and simply be a listener and shoulder to cry on. If she’s back in the states, you could take her to the movies to help get her mind off things for a couple hours, and you could bring her food on occasion since she likely doesn’t have the energy and stamina to cook for herself right now. These are all loving and helpful alternative ways of showing support that don’t compromise your integrity or Linda’s overall well-being.
Finally, despite your long and close relationship with Linda, you can’t let her guilt or bully you into doing anything you don’t want to do. Even if it means pissing her off or potentially even hurting the friendship, you have to stick to your guns here. Ultimately, you want what’s best for Linda and you’re prepared to make some effort to support her; you just don’t want to do something that will potentially make the situation even worse for her. Explain that to her and, if she doesn’t get it, don’t let that affect your actions. You’re clearly a good and caring friend and Linda is lucky to have you in her corner… even if she isn’t able to articulate that during this stressful time.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.