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* Warning: the following column may be trigger-y for survivors of physical attacks and domestic crime and abuse.
It was nearly four when I heard the front door open. My children heard my “mmphs” and found me. I was determined to put up a strong front and tried to sound casual when they got the gag off, but it was an utterly humiliating ten minutes lying on that floor while they worked to get me untied. (They were very loving and comforting the whole time).
I am certainly proud of my girls, but my own pride is totally shot. I spent almost four hours thoroughly bound and gagged in a helpless heap. I couldn’t move, could barely lift my head. I must have looked ridiculous. I don’t want my friends and family to know how embarrassed I felt and still feel about being tied up, but if we go to that get-together it will be a topic of conversation. If I treat it casually, I will feel embarrassed; if I say I’d rather not talk about it, they will all know I’m embarrassed. Of course, if we don’t go, they will probably spend most of the time discussing my “terrible ordeal.” How should I handle Passover, and, more importantly, how do I regain some feeling of dignity? — All Tied Up
I am so sorry for what happened to you, and I’m sorry you feel embarrassed about something traumatic and scary that could have happened to anyone. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that your family or anyone who cares about you who might ask about how you’re feeling is only concerned for your well-being and would never think you have anything to be embarrassed about. You probably also don’t need me to tell you that having your power stripped from you in such a primal way and then having that lack of power displayed to your young daughters isn’t something you can easily process.
I suspect you probably have a lot of mixed emotions and “embarrassment” is kind of a catch-all phrase for those various reactions. I don’t mean to suggest you DON’T feel embarrassment, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t also feel anger, fear, sadness, relief, and maybe even a desire for revenge. Above all, I bet what you’d really like is to get the sense of power back that was stolen from you — perhaps the most valuable thing the burglars stole. And it’s probably difficult to feel empowered when you know others are thinking about you in a position of such victimization.
I suggest a few things: reporting the crime if you haven’t already and working with the police to give them as many details about the burglars as you can; talking to a professional who specializes in trauma; taking steps to make your home more secure; praising your daughters for their calm and loving response upon finding you in what was probably a very scary scene for them; praising yourself for raising such mature children; taking a self-defense course and/or doing an activity that empowers you physically and mentally (kick-boxing, for example, would be great). These are all things that will help you in the long-term feel good about how you handled/are handling the crime committed against you and that will also remind you that you have much to be proud about.
In regards to Passover with your family, I would think it would give the criminals more power to let them ruin what should be a happy get-together. If you really can’t stand the idea of facing anyone, then don’t go. But this is your family. These are people who love you and want to see that you’re ok. You have zero to feel embarrassed about, and showing up and letting your family see how well you are will only confirm that. If you don’t want to talk about what happened, a simple, “I’d rather focus on this special occasion of being together” should do the trick. I really don’t think people will hear something like that and immediately think you are simply too embarrassed to talk. What they will probably think is that it was a scary, traumatic event that you don’t feel up to re-counting at a family gathering, which is perfectly understandable and reasonable.
Bad things happen to people — even people with charmed lives. Unfortunately, that’s just the reality of the world we live in. You are not the first person who has lived through this kind of trauma and you won’t be the last. The good news about that is there are plenty of people who are trained and experienced in ways to help you. I hope you won’t let your pride keep you from getting that help, especially since you now have the power to help others through the actions you decide to take.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.