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Woman fears backlash for forgiving father's actions

DEAR AMY: Seven years ago, my father was arrested for having sex with a 16-year-old girl. He was sent to prison for 7 years and will be released in about a month. No one (including my family and me) has had any contact with him since his arrest. No one knows the reasons why he did what he did. My mother, sister and brother have decided to have nothing to do with him. My husband is encouraging me to do the same. I still have feelings for him; he was a very loving father to me and never did anything inappropriate with my sister or me. Even if I can forgive him, my husband and family will most likely disown me if I contact him. What would you suggest?

-- Forgiving Daughter

DEAR FORGIVING: The kindest assumption is that these family members worry you are at risk (emotionally, at least) if you are in touch with your father.

The more likely assumption is also more complicated: Your family members don't want to have anything to do with him and would like to punish you for having a more forgiving and nuanced reaction to your father because this calls their judgment into question.

Your mother and siblings are on one side of this equation. Your husband, however, is the person who should hold your hand through this. He should not threaten to disown you but should be willing to support you through your decision-making process.

Your father is a convicted sex offender. Please understand that your husband has reason to be worried, confused and protective.

At the end of the day, other people cannot tell you what relationships to have. If you are determined to pursue this, you should do so knowing you have every right -- but you might be quite lonely doing so. Be aware, also, that the process of reconciliation is a crooked path. It can be extremely painful and may not end in a tidy resolution, but in more heartache. I think you are brave to try.

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