8/29/2022 | By Amy Dickinson

A 73-year-old woman was molested when she was 11 but has kept her story to herself. She has a happy life but wonders if therapy can help, and how. See what Amy Dickinson advises in this edition of Ask Amy.

Dear Amy:

I am a 73-year-old woman. I was sexually molested by my older sister when I was about 11 years old. She was greatly influenced by her “friend” who sexually molested my 10-year-old friend at the same time.

It happened once to me.

I did not tell anyone. Our father (who was my sister’s stepfather) was very physically abusive toward both my mother and my sister.

I truly was afraid that he would hurt or kill one of them if I told.

After my parent’s divorce when I was 17, I continued to keep the secret and have done so until this day. I often told myself that I would confront her after our mother passed away.

I never wanted to hurt my mother since she had a very tough life.

Well, our mother died four years ago and I did not confront my sister. I’m sure she would deny that it ever happened.

My sister has health problems, largely due to her lifestyle over many years. She has had a rough life.

sad contemplative older couple. Photo by Ruslan Huzau, Dreamstime. A 73-year-old woman was molested when she was 11. She has a happy life but wonders if therapy can help, and how. See what Ask Amy advises.

We have never spoken of the incident. However, I never allowed our daughter to spend time alone with her. My husband and I frequently come to her aid when she needs assistance.

I am now in my elder years and find myself thinking of the incident a lot.

It certainly changed my feelings toward my sister, as I find her rather pathetic.

The only thing I know for sure is that I will NEVER serve as her caregiver when/if she becomes incapacitated. (My husband agrees with me.)

My question for you is: Is there any benefit to counseling or therapy?

I have a comfortable life, with a caring husband and daughter.

What would counseling do?


Dear Wondering:

Here’s how therapy can help you:

  • Allow you to tell your story freely and completely.
  • Encourage you to describe and process your feelings and reactions as they have changed over time.
  • Discuss your dilemma regarding talking to your sister about this.
  • Encourage you to talk about your family of origin, describing the violence, your fears and vulnerability, and your strong and protective instinct toward your mother, your sister, and also your daughter.
  • At this stage of your life, therapy can help you to integrate all of the varied strands of your past, and finally – to celebrate your impressive survivorship!

Triumphing over extreme dysfunction and creating a healthy life for yourself is truly worthy of celebration.

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers – ranging from how therapy can help – at any age – to grandparenting to DNA surprises. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. 


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© 2022 by Amy Dickinson

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