Husband is anguished over wife’s long-ago assault
DEAR AMY: My wife and I have been happily married for 26 years. We have raised two terrific daughters. I continue to struggle with an event that happened while we were still dating. While at a business conference, my wife (girlfriend at the time) was sexually assaulted by a client. She was concerned about the impact on her career, her reputation and the public nature of reporting the crime. He was also deemed to have very powerful friends across the industry that would protect him. She made the very difficult decision not to pursue this individual for his crime, and was able to resolve the suffering and pain he caused. While I fully supported (and still do) my wife’s decision not to proceed, I was torn by the fact that a man was (and is) walking the streets unaware or indifferent to the agony and suffering he caused. For years, I have buried these conflicting feelings, however with all of the recent coverage of sexual harassment — these feelings have resurfaced, and my desire for justice grows louder every day. I have seen a counselor, and he has been helpful. I persistently worry: How am I going to protect my daughters when I wasn’t able to assist their mother? Amy, I am struggling to reconcile my promise to my wife with my overwhelming desire to see some form of justice served. I feel an intense sense of rage and agonize over his ability to get away with his crime. I will not break my vow to my wife, as I realize that she is the one who has endured the real trauma. I realize there is no easy answer.
DEAR STRUGGLING: Here is a quote from Pema Chodron: “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”
You don’t mention if the “Me Too” movement has triggered your wife’s experience of her sexual assault; I would assume that it has — no matter how successfully she has put this event behind her.
Your question is a perfect illustration of how the pain and trauma of assault radiates outward and affects many people, including family members, friends, colleagues and other witnesses to the consequences of sexual violence.
I agree that you should respect your wife’s needs and choices here, but I also think that you should advocate — but not pressure — her to explore her options regarding reporting this assault, including telling your daughters about it.
You can relieve your feeling of powerlessness by becoming an advocate for survivors, by believing them, even if it takes decades to report their experience, and by making sure your daughters feel empowered. Even empowered people can become victims of crime, and that’s why removing the shame and stigma is so important.
I hope that as you move through this you will turn your focus from rage toward prevention and empowerment.
DEAR AMY: I work as a caregiver for an elderly man with dementia. His health went downhill recently after a fall, but he’s slowly recovering. In the meantime, his well-meaning granddaughter temporarily moved into the basement of his house to help take care of him (although I never asked for help or said I needed it; I have other fellow caregivers who also take care of this same client). When she moved in, I noticed behavior from her toward my client that made me feel very uncomfortable. She’s overly affectionate and constantly touches and kisses him. She even “snuggles” with him in his bed every night. I don’t know how to tell her that this is too much, especially considering the fact that he has dementia and isn’t “all there.” I want to tell her to back off without losing my job. What should I do?
DEAR CAREGIVER: All states have mandatory reporting laws protecting elder citizens. As a caregiver, you are a mandated reporter. You must report this to your supervisor and/or adult protective services/law enforcement in your area.
I can’t state unequivocally that this is abusive, but you are a professional, you know the client and his capacities for consent, and your instincts are screaming. Do the right thing.
DEAR AMY: Thank you for your answer to “Want to be Grandpa,” who wanted to be called “Grandpa,” but had never acted like one to his own grandchildren. I am always astounded at some people’s insistence that their age alone should confer special status. I’m glad you called him out.
DEAR GRANDPARENT: People demanding a pass rarely deserve one.