Dear Annie: My sister's husband sexually assaulted my 18-year-old daughter while she slept on their sofa. We kept this a secret for three years, and then it finally came out. When my sister heard, she decided to protect her children from the truth about their father by "divorcing" my family so we would not reveal the secret. She claimed her husband was "blacked-out drunk" and therefore not responsible for the assault. Because there was no intent (presumably), he wasn't at fault.
That was four years ago. My sister's sons are the same age as mine, and they used to spend many nights together. To add salt to our wounds, the rest of my family supports her decision. They no longer take my kids to her house or to her children's birthday parties. They never tell us when my sister is at their home. They celebrate holidays with her family before visiting us.
My kids and I are completely torn up over all of this and so deeply wounded, not only by the loss of my sister's family, but also by the lack of support from the rest of them. I don't understand how my parents and my other siblings could possibly support her decision. Are we wrong to feel betrayed and abandoned? We are about ready to wash our hands of the lot of them, although it isn't what we want.
My parents and siblings have told me that this is the "new normal" and that my family should be grateful for the times they see us instead of focusing on the times when we aren't included. It feels as if we are being punished because my daughter's assault was "not that bad" and she wasn't willing to shove it under the rug for the rest of her life. - Open for Input
Dear Open: We understand that your parents and siblings don't want to lose contact with your sister by openly supporting you. They know she would cut all of them off. Instead, this is the accommodation they have made in order to have a relationship with everyone. The real problem is that your sister and her husband refuse to address the assault, never apologized or tried to make amends, and blamed you and your daughter for bringing it up. We also don't know whether her husband has ever dealt with his drinking, which is no excuse for attacking another person.
You will not get the support you deserve from your family. Either accept what they offer or don't. But please make sure your daughter is dealing with this in a healthy way. Contact RAINN (rainn.org) for information and help.
Dear Annie: My in-laws, whom I adore, do not have soap in their bathrooms. My husband and I take soap when we go to visit, but that doesn't change the fact that no one else washes their hands after using the restroom. They then proceed to prepare meals that we are supposed to eat. We have tried sending decorative soap dispensers and asking "Where's the soap?" but nothing changes. - Clean Freak
Dear Clean: Everyone should wash with soap and water after using the bathroom and especially before preparing food. It helps prevent the spread of germs, some of which can be quite harmful.
Have you asked your in-laws why they don't wash properly? If nothing changes, send them this letter and tell them that Annie says they need to use soap before someone gets sick, fer cryin' out loud.
Dear Annie: Kudos to "Tapped Out" for complaining about checkout line panhandling. It's happening nearly everywhere. Why should I have to deal with solicitors when I just want to buy a hamburger? Management may think it makes their companies look good, but it causes me to go elsewhere until the campaign is over. - Already Give 15 Percent to Charity
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.