You Turn: “Her Step-dad Assaulted Me. Can We Still Be Friends?”

In a new feature I’m calling “Your Turn,” in which you, the readers, get to answer the question, I’m presenting the following letter without commentary from me:

I have a friend who I was close with in high school, and we know attend the same college. She’s been having a really difficult time as of late. Her stepfather (who taught both of us in high school) was recently incarcerated for inappropriate relations and sexual assaults of some of his female students. She’s been emotionally fragile in the past, and battled low self-esteem and a very serious eating disorder when we were younger. Since her stepdad’s arrest, she has moved in with a guy who is generally kind of a dud. He isn’t in school and I have heard him talk to her in ways that concern me (like joking about how “ugly” she is and how she is so lucky that he is dating her). And she has recently started failing her classes.

Here’s where it gets complicated: I haven’t been in direct contact with her in a few months because I was one of the girls her stepfather assaulted, though I’m pretty sure she’s unaware of this. I didn’t feel like I could lend her emotional support during the arrest/trial because of my involvement and my attempts to reconcile what happened to me. I’ve been going to counseling and feel a lot better, but I’m still worried about her. None of this is her fault, and I’m afraid that she’s going to drop out of college and lose her dream. She deserves someone to treat her right and to be happy and healthy.

My question is: do you think that there is any way I can help her at all? Or because I was one of the targeted girls, should I just leave her alone out of respect for her? I want to make sure she is okay, but it’s probably pretty selfish of me to try and rekindle our friendship. Is this a friendship MOA? — Worried Friend


  1. I am sorry for what happened to you. But I think this is something you need to talk to a therapist about, not us. This is a really tricky, sticky situation. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. Yes you could try to slowly work yourself back into her life, but you need to find out if she is aware of the fact that you were targeted as well. If she isn’t, and starts venting to you about the trial and thinks that the girls were lying, that can make you feel really uncomfortable and have you questioning yourself and what happened to you. On the other hand, you were close to her and miss the friendship. I guess…..well……..i really really don’t know. I hope the other girls have better responses for you, cause I sure don’t know what to really say that would help you.
    Sorry I could not really help, I hope you are able to overcome this and become a better person because of it.

  2. WatersEdge says:

    How horrible. I’m so sorry for all that are involved in this (except the stepfather of course). My first thought is that if she’s been fragile and battled self-esteem issues and an eating disorder in the past, she’s probably also been a victim of her stepfather’s sexual assault.

    My second thought is that your experience with her stepfather is going to be processed very differently from her experience, even if you were both sexually assaulted by him. She most likely had a different relationship with her stepfather and is probably more ambivalent than you are about the situation. When parents sexually abuse children, it can be very difficult for the child to understand, even as an adult. The same person who cared for you when you were sick, bought you birthday presents, taught you to drive, and showed other acts of love, was the same one forcing you to engage in sexual activity against your will. It’s difficult to understand. So while you probably feel a pretty straightforward negative reaction to this situation (not to minimize the complexity of sexual trauma!), she has a lot of complicated emotions to deal with. Part of her may love this man, and she may still have a relationship with him. She may feel the need to defend him or remind you of his positive traits. She may be visiting him in jail, bringing him things to make him comfortable during his stay, which you won’t be able to relate to at all.

    I don’t think that you guys can be friends right now. I think that you won’t be able to relate to some of her reactions to this situation, and you might even be downright offended if she ever tries to defend him. I think you should reach out and tell her that you were one of the victims, that you in no way hold it against her, and that therapy has helped you to process these events. Then urge her to get therapy as well. Maybe down the line you can rekindle a friendship, but until your friend is in a better place, I don’t think it’s good for your emotional health to be around her.

    1. I agree with this, and I think it would be ok for you to simply contact her with your story and your support and love, so long as you are prepared for anything from a “thank you” to a “I think you’re a liar” to no response at all. She should know that you were one of the victims before you could ever have an honest, real friendship down the line anyway. But a full on friendship right now would be too wrought with negative emotions and potential for disaster.

      I’m really sorry this has happened to you. I wish you all the best continuing down the positive path you are on.

    2. ReginaRey says:

      I also agree with your assesment of the stepfather. It would explain her struggle with an eating disorder, as well as her relationship with the boyfriend. If she was in fact a victim a well, it could definitely make any relationship between the LW and the friend next to impossible. 🙁

      1. I disagree with one statement, that if she was assaulted as well the LW would not be able to rekindle a friendship. I think it is the opposite, actually. If she was assaulted she most likely does not love or respect her step-father. She probably thinks of him with disgust and would feel sorry for anybody he hurt as well. If she was not assaulted she would be more likely to defend him and say other girls during high school were lying about him.

        I agree that LW should contact her if she wants to rekindle the friendship but should be prepared for the worst and the best scenarios. The initial contact should be more of a greeting though, I do not think she should start out with the fact that she was a victim of her friend’s stepfather. That would be sure-fire way to cause a fight. Maybe start being friends and then after a week or so tell her you have something difficult but important you need to say. And be prepared for a meltdown, denial or confession that she too was hurt. You never know how someone will respond and you can only control your own actions. If this girl was a true friend it sounds like she needs someone in her life now. From the letter it sounded like you pulled away from her during your difficult time (and I believe that was the right choice since she was his stepdaughter) not the other way around. You never know, she could have been hurt and wondering why you didn’t confide in her when all of this was going on.

      2. @ Hana, respectfully, I have to say that something about your reply doesn’t sit well with me, and I can’t put an exact finger on it. But I guess your approach to this seems a bit too superficial and presumptuous. Go back and read what WatersEdge had to say about the complicated feelings the stepdaughter most likely has, whether she was a direct victim or not. It’s not as black and white as ‘someone hurt me, now I hate their guts.’ It’s so much deeper than that.

        Also, being worried about starting a fight? A fight is something that happens over an un-returned sweater or a perceived snub at a cocktail party, or some random disagreement. A sexual assault and arrest of a family member is just so much bigger and more complex.

        I also do not agree with rekindling a friendship with a completely obvious white elephant in the room. This would HAVE to be addressed. It’s just not something you can slip in later, after you’re in someone’s good graces, with a ‘whoops, forgot to mention, my bad!’ It’s so far beyond that.

        Anyways, I don’t mean to get all up on you about this, seriously, no disrespect. I just feel that maybe you haven’t had to deal with truly major, life-altering issues before and that’s why your advice seems less than informed. Also, you’re getting thumbs-down-ed and I felt like at least explaining myself for that.

      3. christina says:

        it is a lot for you to assume that hana hasn’t, “had to deal with truly major, life-altering issues before…”

      4. I disagree with Hana. The relationships that people have with their abusers, especially parents (and people in parental roles such as the step father) are some of the most complex. Even at the height of my mother abusing me I was still able to love her. You know that this person has done a terrible thing to you but for some deep-seated reason you are still able to love them in spite of their egregious acts.
        Everyone is different. Healing from a sexual assault or rape is very similar to the mourning process: it’s different for everyone. It’s admirable that you want to help your friend, but in light of what you are working through, you probably are not the person who should be supporting her. If you did step in and help her what would be the cost to you and your recovery? What are the chances you could save her? How would this help with your closure? Could this prompt you to relive memories of the assault(s)?
        If you do choose to rekindle a friendship with this friend be completely honest about why you pulled away from her and your assault. Set clear boundaries for yourself early on with the mindset that you will put your mental health and well being first. Ask your counselor for guidance and suggestions. Even though you want to respect her, make sure you are respecting yourself and your feelings in this.

    3. Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com says:

      It’s a good point about her relationship with the step-father. I think I made the assumption that he may have come into her life when she was a bit older (a teenager) but LW doesn’t say. For all we know, he’s been her dad since she was 2.

    4. I disagree that LW should tell her friend that she was one of the victims if she doesn’t intend to rekindle any friendship. This girl is already struggling with the pain, confusion, and embarassment of the situation. Adding the guilty feelings (regardless of how totally innocent she is) from the finding out that one of her good friends was also a victim seems downright insensitive.

      That being said, If the LW does want to rekindle the friendship then honesty is the best policy.

  3. honeybeenicki says:

    I honestly think that if you were close to this girl before, you can salvage a friendship. I agree with Emjay that this is something you should really speak to your therapist about because it could have consequences that can set you back. I am wondering how she feels about the situation with her stepdad (for example, does she think all the girls lied) and the first thing I wondered was whether or not she might have been abused – that would be a big issue regarding her current relationship that you are concerned about. I would say, so long as the therapist is ok with it, you can start trying to reconnect with her. I would avoid discussing specifics about her stepdad with her. If you don’t want her to know you were one of his victims, then you can easily say that subjects like that make you uncomfortable and hopefully she would be willing to back off. I don’t know if this helped much, but its all I could really offer. This is a really tough situation. I’m sorry you went through what you did and I hope you continue seeing a therapist.

  4. ReginaRey says:

    First of all, I’m very sorry for what happened to you. I’m glad that this man is now incarerated.

    What struck me the most is this: “It’s probably pretty selfish of me to try and rekindle our friendship.” Why do you say that? Do you feel that she harbors some sort of resentment toward you because you somehow were ‘responsible’ for her stepfather being sent to prison? Nothing in your letter leads me to believe that this person would have any reason to not want to speak to you. On the contrary, I think you could be quite a HELP to her. You’ve gone through counseling, have taken steps toward healing, and have a genuine concern for her well-being; as in, you don’t seem to want to reach out to her for the wrong reasons.

    What would happen if no one ever acted when they saw a friend slowly drowning? Sometimes, the absolute right thing to do is to throw someone a life preserver. My advice -Kindly ask if she’d like to talk. Tell her you miss the friendship, and that you’d love to catch up. Ease into it, and takes cues from her about what topics are ok to start with. She may be a bit skiddish at first. Eventually, perhaps you’ll be able to broach the more serious issues you shared with us.

    I think the mark of an amazing person is someone who can suffer through a very difficult time, as you surely have, and still be more concerned about OTHER people. That is TRULY selfless, and I think you are quite remarkable.

  5. I am going to have to second Emjay on this one. Regardless of whether or not you choose to reconnect with your friend, finding a good therapist to help you through your own experience will be invaluable even if you feel like you are handling it okay on your own. I cannot help but feel like there is a good chance that your friend’s step-father also abused her, perhaps long before his actions at school came to light. It would be very generous of you to take the time to try to connect with her about it, but you will have to be careful about keeping your own well-being intact in the mean time. Also, I think that before you do approach her, should you decide to, it is very important that you be in a place mentally where you can walk away without judging yourself, in case reconnecting with her becomes too difficult or negative.

  6. I’m very sorry! I applaud you for reaching out and going to therapy. It really does help you work through the roller coaster of emotions.

    I do not believe this is a MOA relationship. You can try to tell her she deserves a better man/relationship but she has to believe it too. Sounds like her self-esteem is very low. I would suggest that you talk to her about going to therapy. She has to learn that she is not “ugly” and deserves great things. I was a once a person that believed she did not deserve a good man, now matter how many times I was told by friends and loved ones, I never believed them.

    I would suggest growing your friendship slowly. Make sure you can deal with the actions that have happened to you in the past and take it slow. Let her know you care about her and want to keep her friendship but do baby steps. OR just ask your therapist the best way to handle this situation.

    Best of luck to you and your friend!!!!

  7. If you want to keep this girl in your life, I think you’re going to have to be up front with her about what happened. I just don’t see how else either of you can move forward. If you do decide to contact her, lay it all on the table, then leave it up to her whether she wants to contact you again. I’m thinking Jess here might be right – a letter would be a good option. I would recommend the letter over an email, though. Sometimes the old fashioned method is best, and I think it would reflect the gravity of the situation.

    Just make sure it’s right for YOU. Are you really strong enough to handle it if she decides to blame you? If she tries to defend him to you? I would definitely run through all the scenarios before putting yourself in that situation. \

  8. I really wish Wendy commented on this one, I would love to read her advice on it. But one thing I want to say to the letter writer that I didn’t mention before. I think you are a really great person for wanting to reach out to your friend despite all that has happened, and that you are not holding a grudge against her (even though it was not her fault). Continue with the therapy and make yourself stronger, then spk with your therapist about how to approach the friend. Your therapist should be able to tell if you are strong enough to face this friend or if it will undo what years of therapy has done for you. All the best luck lw! Happier times are ahead! 🙂

  9. I’m so sorry you are having to go through this. I second what ReginaRey said about how much character you’re displaying by still being concerned about someone else right now. I really have nothing useful to add but if you do choose to communicate with her I STRONGLY recommend an old-fashioned letter. Just think if you got this info in an email in the middle of class or work or something. I’d much rather be home for the evening when trying to process something of this magnitude. And if her guy is potentially abusive or controlling (which the douchey comments could signal) try to hand it to her in person, when she’s home, so he can’t intercept it. Even slipping it under the door and ringing the bell is OK if you can’t handle a short conversation.

    Good luck and best wishes to all involved and affected.

  10. I think the best way to decide whether or not to reach out to her is to examine her relationship with the stepfather and your relationship before the arrest. I agree with some of the other commentors that based on what the LW said about her past history or mental problems it’s likely that she suffered abuse as well. If you were close before there’s no reason you can’t be in the future, the key is to just move slow, ease back into the relationship. Always be honest but don’t push if you feel you hit a wall. Try having a conversation with her to gauge her feelings, tell her that you’ve been thinking of her and are worried, that you miss her and you love. Reassure her that she’s in no way to blame for what happened but don’t push and be genuine. Also, don’t forget your own emotional well being. Remember that you were a victim too and while you need to be supportive of her, you also need to take care of yourself. I’m sorry this happened to you and I’m glad you’re getting help for it. This is something that will probably stay with you so remember that it’s always ok to reach out.

  11. caitie_didn't says:

    LW, like other commentors have said I think it’s incredibly admirable that after the degree of trauma you have been through you are so genuinely concerned about your friend. It’s indicative of amazing character and you sound like the type of person that anyone would be lucky to have as a friend.

    I also agree with other people that this girl was a victim of her stepdad- it would certainly explain her history of eating disorders, low self-esteem and poor relationship. I can’t really offer anything in terms of advice- I think this is something you need to discuss with your therapist and your close friends/family.

  12. If you both attend the same college, could you possibly go to the counseling center or other resources at your college to express your concerns about her? While you might not be able to talk about the specifics of the case (or perhaps you can), you can say you are a victim of assault, your friend’s stepfather was the perpetrator and your friend seems to be in a downward depressive spiral that is likely affecting her student performance.

    I’ve been a college instructor and colleges/universities will often go the extra mile if they know there are real issues at play including being much more flexible about academic probation/taking classes over/being accepted back if the student needs a leave than they will be for a student who just can’t get their act together because of immaturity or lack of follow through. (I’ve had students of both types).

    You can’t save your friend, it’s not your job to save your friend, but making administrators aware there is an issue can be the difference between a temporary bump in the road and dropping out permanantly.

    1. I really like your advice however I would be upset if somebody told counselors about my issues and they in turn told my professors. Maybe she went to college to try to not be known for her stepfathers actions. Perhaps she should see if she can be friends with this girl and if that is possible offer to go to the counselor with her.

      1. Well, she doesn’t have to tell the whole story and it’s likely that the admins are not going to tell the professors the gory details either, but it is imperative that they know the situation is serious if she is failing her classes.

        I had a student once that suddenly stopped coming to class the last week (in a class of less than ten) and all of his classmates had said he hadn’t been in his other classes either. None of them bothered to check in with him (and in fairness, they were very busy), and when his reluctant email response indicated severe depression issues, I contacted the next person up in terms of student affairs. I don’t know if he came back to finish his coursework (I no longer work there), but he did email me to thank me later. I was never told what happened to him or what his issues were, we were only told that it was something serious and that we should consider that when we asked for guidance as to whether to give him a passing or failing grade as we were deciding grading cut offs.

        In another case, the university health services informed me that I had a student with a stressful medical issue that was to be resovled in a specific amount of time and that he needed an extension on his work, work that was already considerably overdue. I had a very restrained conversation with the health services representative about exactly what additional time would be appropriate and when deadlines would be reinstated. I was never told what the problem was, I didn’t want to know, and the only complaint I got from the student was that I wouldn’t give him an even longer extension for his sports committments on top of the health issue.

        Some schools might share this info, but many will not.

  13. Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com says:

    I’m hoping some commenters will have some good insights here because this is certainly a tough spot. The first thing I want to say to LW is that I am SO sorry that you went through this. And I honestly commend you for the compassion you feel for your friend.

    My immediate thought is that I might contact her passively by way of a letter or an email. It’s true that any friendship with her is going to be strongly affected by the fact that you both endured abuse (in one form or another) at the hands of her stepfather. Perhaps that commonality will force you to remain apart as it has during the trial. Perhaps it will pull you closer as you have a common “enemy.”

    One emotion she is likely grappling is *guilt.* In your letter, I would focus on how much you love and care for her and how concerned you are for her. I would also be explicit in telling her that your history with her stepfather has no bearing on your friendship with her. She may be very desperate to hear that.

    Offer your friendship with no deadline, terms, or strings attached. If she can’t accept it now, she may come around at some point in the future.

    I cannot see how kind words and sympathies would be unwelcome during what is surely a painful time in her life.

  14. First of all I am very sorry for what you went through…I applaud you on you getting yourself back on track after a very traumatic experience.
    I think, as difficult as time as you’ve had, if you really care for her as an individual & as a friend, you need to be there for her. You said it yourself, it wasn’t her fault. You took the time you needed to get yourself back on track & now your friend needs you.
    She’s clearly suffering a whole lot & could very well use someone that truly cares about her well being.
    From your letter, you seem to be ok at this point to reach out to her. So don’t hesitate. Be there for her. She needs you now.

  15. It’s clear that you love and care for this young woman. But it sounds like you think you owe her something…or that if you aren’t there for her she will fall to pieces. I recommend letting go of the guilt. We are all on our OWN journeys, so remember to watch out for YOU. Maybe it would be very emotionally difficult for you to rekindle the friendship. Trust her to have her own journey, and trust you to have yours. It’s ok to stay away if it’s too difficult.

    Have you ever heard of the Loving Kindness meditation? You imagine the person you want to send love to, and you say (out loud or to yourself) “May you be safe. May you be healthy. May you be happy. And may you live with peace and ease.” Wish her well, but don’t feel like it’s your obligation to see to her happiness.

  16. does anyone else feel like wendy has been leaving the tougher problems for us to answer, while she takes easier ones like the “should i turn him in” girl? i mean if i were this lw, i’d feel a little brushed aside.
    wendy should answer the harder questions, and the rest of us can still have our say in the comments. leave the “your turn” for less traumatic problems.

    1. Fair enough. I’ve actually been really sick this week and kind of taking it easy on myself, hoping no one would notice. If it makes you guys feel better, when I post the “Your Turn” columns, I almost always email the LW with my own advice, too.

      1. sorry you’re sick that’s never fun. and yes it is good to know that you still give your own advice, i’m glad to hear it, for the lw’s sake!

    2. Whoa, wait a minute – sorry, but Wendy’s made no pledge to answer everyone’s questions (I bet she gets more than she can reasonably reply to anyways). She has made no contract and is not just foisting off the harder ‘work’ on others, and also – she’s not a certified professional either (that I know of). She doesn’t owe anybody anything. The only way this should reasonably irk someone is if they’re paying for it. And to my knowledge, no one is. The letter writers are getting literally infinitely more than they pay for.

      Wendy, you have nothing to apologize for or defend. Now get better.

      1. yikes. all i meant was that the lw had a serious problem in her eyes and i’m sure she wrote to wendy to get wendy’s advice, not mine or yours. i wasn’t trying to be rude or mean, i’m sure wendy has a lot going on. so excuse me and i take it back.

      2. I didn’t take it as rude or mean. It made me feel bad because believe me, I’m harder on myself than anyone else, and I always feel bad when I don’t or can’t respond to every letter or when I feel like my advice is kind of lacking. But what’s great is that there’s this awesome community to pick up the slack when I’m not at my best.

      3. WatersEdge says:

        You didn’t answer a letter I wrote in about how my husband is a disgusting slob who’s poisoning me by serving me expired food and I just want to say: My problem is not a real problem and poof! you are forgiven. 🙂 Don’t feel bad about not answering my letter! From personal experience, the ones you don’t respond to are no big deal. Plus we can always take it to the open forum on the weekend!

      4. Perhaps after publishing a “Your Turn” Column, you can also publish a “…Now Mine” follow-up, if there is one. It would be insightful to see how you handle these situations. Maybe it could also be a summary of the different points of advice given.

      5. @SGMcG – I like that idea.

      6. Eh, that’s not all that different than a regular column where I give my perspective/advice and then readers give theirs in the comments. To be honest, the point of the “Your Turn” columns is to give a place for people to lend perspectives to letters I wouldn’t ordinarily publish or publicly respond to for whatever reason. Sometimes I just don’t feel like giving a polished answer to a letter and prefer to either not answer it at all or answer it privately. But I recognize that some of those letters would make for an an interesting discussion among readers, so I publish them as “Your Turn” columns. Again, that doesn’t mean I don’t answer them at all. But it takes a great deal more energy to craft a publish-worthy response than informally emailing the LW privately. I just don’t have that kind of energy or time to invest in every letter I receive. Hopefully, that makes sense.

      7. That does, and thanks for the insight.

      8. Aw, thanks. I sort of felt that way, too, but I’m glad someone else said it. I do put a lot of pressure on myself to answer as many letters as I can — many of them not even published — and sometimes I have to remind myself that not only are people not paying for my advice, but as of yet, I’m not making money off this website either. Not trying to be overly defensive here. But maybe other people need a reminder of that too. I’m really under no financial or moral obligation to answer all — or even any — of the letters I receive. I do it because I enjoy it and I hope to eventually make it a profitable career, but I’m only human and sometimes my advice isn’t going to be as good as other times or some weeks I might be under the weather and not up to answering the “harder” ones.

        Anyway, thanks for understanding.

      9. I know you try your hardest. I myself wrote you a letter once & received a response that same day! It wasn’t published but you still took the time to respond to me. I absolutely love this website & before that, your column on thefrisky.
        Keep up the great work that we all love!! Get better!

      10. sarolabelle says:

        you need some ads on the site. We would all click on them all day because we love the site and want to make you MONEY!

      11. Aw, thanks. Well, I’m working on getting ads that make money whether or not people click on them. Hopefully, soon!

      12. I’d suggest creating a monthly pricing model based on traffic.

    3. I actually feel the opposite. I feel like we get the easier questions. Some of them may be pretty weighty, but the answers usually seem pretty clear-cut. I think it’s nice because the person still gets good advice, but without everyone disagreeing with each other about what that advice should be.

  17. but as for advice… if the friendship means a lot to you, you should tell your friend that yes, you were one of the girls involved, but that you still really value her friendship and care about her and want to be in her life. it’s really as simple as that.
    everyone needs a friend, and i don’t think what you went through should keep your friendship from continuing. if you truly think she needs someone, and you want to try to be that person, then definitely reach out to her. but be prepared for her to maybe not be so welcoming. the fact that you were involved with the mess with her stepfather could make her uncomfortable, but all you can do is give her the opportunity to accept your friendship.

  18. I’m confused about this. You say you were a victim and you were (necessarily) involved in the trial. Surely she was present during the trial or at least heard about it. How could she not know that you actually testified during the trial? As the victim in a criminal case, there is no way around your identity being exposed in a public trial.

    Hate to say it, but I call B.S. on this one…

    1. Because of the overwhelming physical evidence provided, the stepfather pled guilty to take a lighter sentence (2 years jail, 8 years probation) in a lighter security prison. Also- many of us were minors when said assaults occured so none of our names were released to the local media/press. I can only assume that our my anonymity was preserved during the presentation of the evidence to his lawyers.

      If you still don’t believe me I could send you a private news link to the story. As a frequent reader and commenter to Dear Wendy, I’m really hurt that you would insinuate I would fabricate such a terrible, terrible story.

      1. Sorry, LW! It’s not that I don’t believe you, cause I do, and I know it must have been a really terrible, life-altering experience. I was just confused about the letter, because you said something about not being able to support your friend during the trial. Many times false letters are sent into advice columnists, and I mostly wanted to point that out. I really wasn’t trying to hurt you. I apologize for being harsh, and I wish you the best 🙂

  19. Green_Blessings_Goddess says:

    You could compromise the legal case by associating with her and I am sure she will not want to hang out with you as you are accusing her father of crimes that will harm his career and possible jail time.

    It’s best you leave her alone and if he is acquitted maybe reach out then but stay away.

    Getting therapy to help you cope is a good idea too, we are not therapists.

  20. The letter writer is very brave to be able to stand up to the legal proceedings and I greatly admire her for still caring about her friend.

    If the letter writer feels strong enough, she can definitely reach out to her friend through a letter or e-mail (not Facebook). She can inquire about how the friend is doing and say she misses talking to her without specifically mentioning the abuse.
    Every abuse victim needs to process these things at his or her own pace, and if the friend is not ready she will be devastated to hear the details from the letter writer. Even if the friend is not a direct victim, she is dealing with feelings of intense shame and embarrassment. The letter writer need not worry if her friend is aware she is one of the victims. If the friend is not yet aware, she will find out eventually.

    If the letter writer decides she is not yet strong enough to reach out to her friend, that is also okay. If she is not ready now, she can wait until she is ready. The letter writer does not need to feel guilty if she decides she is not ready. The stepfather is the cause of all this anguish, not her. He should have known that his actions would cause great pain to his family as well as to his victims and their families. I agree with the other commentors that discussing with her therapist is a good idea.

    The letter writer seems to be doing very well recovering from her ordeal and may be a good role model for her friend. I advise the letter writer to be patient with her friend, who may not be as far along in her healing process. To recover from sexual abuse, a victim has to learn to process her experiences while also understanding that what happened to her is absolutely unacceptable. The emotional pain is excruciating, as I know from personal experience. This agonizing process is essential for healing, yet many victims are never able to go through this process and remain in a state of arrested adolesence like my eldest brother.

  21. fast eddie says:

    Having a friendship is a two way street that requires both people’s participation. It takes effort and it could help both of them recover from the effects of the abuse. The only good thing here is that it’s out in the open and being dealt with directly. I hope they both find the means to recover from it.

  22. fallonthecity says:

    LW, I’m so sorry you had to go through such a terrible thing. You sound like a really kind person to want to reach out to your friend, given the circumstances.

  23. Theenemyofmyenemyisagrilledcheesesandwich says:

    I think rekindling this friendship with the hope that you can help your friend is incredibly brave and unselfish. The decision to tell your friend about your assault (which may come up if she is wondering where you have been) is your decision to share alone. It is very likely that she will have intense feelings of guilt about what has happened to you. Honestly, there is a very good chance your friend was assaulted. It’s very difficult to come forward against the people who act as your parents, and so I would be open to that possibility. Either way, this clearly must affect her, as it does you, and I would push her to seek out professional help as you have done. (Really, that too is brave.)

    Before you make any move though, please, please (!) take as much care of yourself as you can. This isn’t the time to take on the burden of other people’s emotions and problems. Be gentle to, and love yourself. Solving her problems will not solve yours. Give yourself time to heal and enjoy your strength before you offer yourself for her to lean on. It sounds like you have a beautiful heart.

  24. It is not selfish to show concern to an individual you consider a friend. It’s commendable to still be able to empathize with her, even though her stepfather was nothing but selfish to you. When you feel you’re ready, I don’t see how a small note to open lines of communication can hurt.

    Yet I wouldn’t immediately bring up the assault her stepfather committed at that moment, unless she asks about your absence. I would also brace yourself for some backlash as she continues to go through the stages of healing trauma after such an event. It sounds like your friend is trying to put the pieces of her life together again differently after finding out what her stepfather did.

    However, her life decisions to cope with the ramifications of his crime may not necessarily be in sync with yours anymore. There may be healing in the process, but there may be damages bewteen the two of you due to the difference. Please continue to keep your counselor and those you can trust nearby whatever you decide to do. The most important thing to do is to continue to being a friend to yourself as you come out stronger.

  25. *hugs* Oh sweetie. I give you credit for still having the compassion to think about your friend considering the things that happened to you and others at the hand of her stepfather. I give you credit for realizing that she too is an indirect victim. Who knows, she may even have been another actual victim, but was too scared to come forward (which I suspect, considering the guy you’ve described).

    The relationship she is in is bad for her. I think everyone recognizes that. My 1st husband started out like that. I don’t think I need to get into how badly that one ended.

    I am assuming that she knows you were one of the victims? Has her family been alienated from her yet? How is her mother holding up? Grandparents involved? Any male relatives who would be protective of her?
    The reason I ask is this: It might be prudent to enlist their help if you are unable to make peace with her. You can try. Be slow with it. She may blame you for her stepfather’s incarceration. Or, she may be happy to have you around, as a memory of happier times. Her “boyfriend” on the other hand will not like you around. You are a person who just might be able to convince her to leave. He will probably be telling her how it was your fault that her life is so bad, that her stepfather is in jail, that everyone is laughing at her because of you, etc. Anything to alienate you from her and lower her self-esteem even more. This is why you need to be able to enlist the aid of her relatives. Maybe a male relative or two who might be able to be physically intimidating. Male abusers are typically blustering bullies until another male of equal or larger size shows up – then they are the “comedian” or “suck up”.

    Speak to your therapist. S/he may have some other ideas.

  26. You’re right to be concerned about your friend. The relationship she’s in sounds emotionally abusive. This may mean that she’s repeating cycles of abuse learned in her upbringing. It’s unlikely that her mother and stepfather modeled a healthy relationship for her, or her stepfather would never have assaulted so many women.

    Even if your friend and the dud she’s living with split tomorrow, this relationship will effect the rest of her life and it will be increasingly challenging for her to break the cycle of abuse. She needs angel friends who will open lines of communication to her, and delicately and lovingly help her to realize that she deserves better by sharing joyful experiences with her. She’s probably been under a lot of stress for an unendurably long time, and it’s hard to be rationally in touch with one’s feelings when under so much stress. When not rationally in touch with one’s feelings, it’s hard to think about whether one truly feels good or bad. She probably hasn’t felt good for most of her life.

    I agree with the others that you should continue to talk with your counselor about the assault you suffered. Your counselor can help you decide whether to tell your friend, and can help coach you on approach if that’s what you decide to do. You should not reach out only to tell her that you’re a victim of his abuse, too. There may be a time in which you should disclose that, but it’s not the reason you should reach out.

    It’s possible that with what you’re going through, you might not be the best friend for her; but you’re the best judge of whether you can do a good deed while in the midst of your healing — why don’t you reach out and invite her to get a coffee? Ask her how she’s doing, see if she has anything positive in her life to look forward to. Maybe you can call her again the next week, and invite her to join you and a few other friends on a walk, or trying a new restaurant for appetizers. If your role in her life is unconditional, then you’ll be taking an opportunity to make a true and wonderful impact in her life. Give her some hope for something to look forward to, help show her a better life — she’s probably had a pretty terrible one so far. I hope she finds a friend.

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