Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: Twenty years ago, when I was 15, I was sexually assaulted by two men. I met a man online who lied about his age. We spoke on the phone for a couple of weeks. He convinced me to sneak out of my house to go to a party. Against my better judgment, I met him and he drove me to his house, where his friend was waiting. The attack was brutal and traumatic. After the incident, I never heard from him again. I spent many years blaming myself for the crime. My mother blamed me as well. I did not get counseling until much later. I never reported the crime. After counseling, I have healed and no longer blame myself. However, I have a lot of guilt, knowing that I did not report the crime and because I didn’t, this might have happened to someone else. It has been 20 years. I only have one of the perpetrators’ names. It is a common name and, quite honestly, might’ve been fake. I would have to do a lot of searching to find him, almost like searching for a needle in a haystack. Do you think there is more that I should/could do? Should I try to find this man and report it now?

Two Decades of Guilt

DEAR GUILT: Let’s stipulate that at age 15, you probably didn’t have “better judgment.” Your reasoning at the time reflected the very typical cognition of a young teen. This was not your fault, and I’m so sorry it happened.

I applaud your desire to do something about this now. Your impulse is an adult’s instinct to create meaning from trauma, and you should go ahead and try to bring a case.

You should not play detective and try to locate this man. Different states have different statutes of limitations regarding sex crimes. At this point, you should take your story to the local police department in the town where this happened. Give law enforcement all of the details you remember, including the name the man used, his email address, the online platform he used to contact you, identifying characteristics, the address or street where this happened and any records you might still have of your contact with him.

Also, be aware of the possibility that this search might be a triggering event for you. It would be wise for you to check back in with your counselor as you go.

DEAR AMY: About two years ago, one of my very good friends stopped talking to me. Two months later, I saw her at a mutual friend’s party, where she ignored me the entire night. She made an effort to speak to everyone else, including my boyfriend, but not me. I tried to talk to her but she literally turned her back to me and started speaking with someone else. Practically everyone noticed this. I asked her what was wrong via texts and emails, but I never got an explanation from her, just radio silence. I decided not to pursue the friendship further. I was tired of being the one making the effort. I haven’t seen or heard from her in two years, but we do have a mutual best friend, who has stayed neutral. Our mutual friend will probably have an event next year that both of us will likely attend. If I do see her, how should I act? Should I ignore her or just politely say hello?

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Still Has Many Friends

DEAR STILL: You’ve been ghosted. People who do this simply disappear without explanation. They ignore or resist attempts at reconciliation.

You should treat this friend with polite semi-regard when you see her. Basically you should interact with her as someone you used to know.

When faced with awkwardness like this, I often refer to the politeness you might have noticed on “Downton Abbey”: Cordiality with perhaps just a hint of frost.

Example: “Hello, Carol. How are you? Isn’t this a nice occasion? (pause) Oh, I see Betsy over there, so I’m going to say hi. I hope you have a nice time today.”

DEAR AMY: “Lost” complained that his wife brought up his past mistakes “whenever I repeat a past mistake.” You agreed with him that this was something she shouldn’t do. Why not?

Confused

DEAR CONFUSED: Pointing out patterns is genuinely helpful. Relitigating things that happened 20 years ago is not.