DEAR AMY: What happens to us in the first 18 years of our lives makes up the foundation of our lives. Molested for many months by a close family friend when I was young, I sent all the "typical" signs to my parents and was punished by them for my behavior. Almost 50 years later, I still carry the weight of this violation with me. I do not believe in forgiveness, and I am very distant with my mother, and she has no idea why as it is a subject that can never be brought up. People say, "You are an educated adult; get over it; forget it," but it stays, embedded and still painful. People who molest children have no idea that it results in a lifetime of pain. I still wish I could change this one life incident and see if there is a happy person in this body -- instead of the one who inhabits it emptily now.
DEAR SAD: One legacy of sexual abuse is the sense of shame and loneliness the victim feels.
You should explore the concept of forgiveness because forgiveness is often the last step in the journey of understanding and acceptance.
I'm not talking about forgiving your abuser. But your parents, for instance, might not have understood the typical signs of abuse 50 years ago. At that time, much less was known about childhood sexual abuse.
They missed your signals. They punished you for acting out. Can you forgive them? Can you forgive yourself for being too afraid, ashamed or confused to tell them exactly what was happening? There is another, happier person inside you. With guidance and support, you can find that person.
You can't change this incident and its historical effect on you. But you can change your present and your future by getting help for something you should not have to deal with on your own.
You can check RAINN.org for resources, information and to find a local support group.