DEAR AMY: Five years ago a male cousin sexually abused a younger male cousin. This was a horrible time for our family. Eventually the perpetrator admitted his guilt and was incarcerated until he turned 21. The two families have attended several mutual family events over the past few years. Things have been cordial, but cool. The abuser was just released. There is a family function coming up -- another cousin is getting married. Do you think it is appropriate for the offender to be invited? His mother says she will not attend if her son is not welcome. She says the abuser has served his sentence and shouldn't have to be hidden away. My concern is for the victim. It seems wrong and selfish to put him in the position of having to be around his abuser. His parents have also said they won't attend if their son's molester is invited. I'm sure many family members will be uncomfortable. Some have severed ties with the abuser. The wedding itself seems secondary as, once again, our family is being torn apart.
DEAR BEWILDERED: I shared your question with Christopher Anderson, executive director of the support group MaleSurvivor (malesurvivor.org). Central family members aside, the most important people in this very challenging family dynamic are the two cousins.
Anderson says, "Sexual abuse is the most disempowering experience a person can have. The fact that the offender served time in prison does not entitle him or his family to expect that all is settled between him and the cousin he harmed. Under no circumstances should a person who has been abused be compelled to reconcile with an abuser. If an offender tries to make amends, it is the survivor's choice to offer forgiveness. If the survivor does not want his abuser there, he should not be invited -- though the marrying couple will ultimately be in charge of the guest list." The offender's mother's need to move on from a traumatic event places a lot of pressure on the abused boy. Healing takes time. And the worst place to force a family encounter of this magnitude is at a high-octane event like a wedding.
Both cousins should receive ongoing professional support. In addition to reaching out to MaleSurvivor as a resource for the abused, Anderson recommends that the family of the older cousin contact the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (atsa.com).
DEAR AMY: My 15-year-old daughter chose to attend a private/prep school in the city. She gets up at 5:45 every morning, takes a train and a bus to school, and reverses the commute at the end of every day. On weekends she stays up late (probably like most teenagers) and does not wake up until 11 a.m. or so. I'm not sure if I should be letting her sleep or getting her up early. She does do some chores around the house: cleans her room, her bathroom, does the dishes, etc. My husband and I don't want to burn her out, but we don't want her to get away with sleeping in. Any advice?
DEAR DEMANDING: According to the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers need approximately nine hours of sleep a night.
According to me (I've observed several teens' sleep patterns), they rarely get it. It is possible to "make up" for lost sleep; doing so on the weekends helps teens to recharge for their workweek.
Pick one weekend day which is basically a "free" day for your daughter, where she can sleep late. Although I have known many young people who violate this dictum, in my opinion no teenager should ever stay in bed past noon.
DEAR AMY: Your response to "Inquiring Wife" seemed to place blame on the husband, who said he was no longer attracted to his wife after she stopped dyeing her hair. Marriage is all about compromise. Does he wish she would go back to dyeing her hair? Then maybe she should!
DEAR DYED: Great point. And he might be able to influence her by asking nicely.