Dear Abby: When I was 12, my cousin "Larry" gave me a hallucinogen-laced candy bar and raped me. I struggled with depression and anxiety during all of my teenage and young adult years. The herpes I got from him left me with lifelong issues.
With the support of Survivors of Incest Anonymous (SIA) and a therapist, I was eventually able to process the terrible repressed memories. My journey of recovery and healing includes living with healthy boundaries -- so when my father died, I made it known that Larry was not welcome at the funeral. My cousin "Janet" was very upset by my choice. She has been ignoring me since. I am hurt by her behavior, but not devastated.
Abby, I'd appreciate your printing this letter to encourage other survivors so they, too, can live full lives with boundaries. We do not have to allow ourselves to be ruled by dysfunctional family issues. Thank you.
-- Grateful Recovering Survivor in New York
Dear Survivor: You're right, you don't. And because funerals are to comfort the living, and Cousin Larry's presence would have been upsetting, you were right to exclude him.
Survivors of Incest Anonymous, a 12-step program for people 18 years or older who have been victims of child sexual abuse, has been mentioned in my column before. It has been successful in helping people who were traumatized by childhood abuse become -- as the name indicates -- survivors. It offers assistance in starting groups, a volunteer information and referral line, and also sells literature and a newsletter. Its website is www.siawso.org.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.