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Ask a Therapist: How Do I Hold My Abuser Accountable?

From the time I was 8-12 I was sexually abused as well as my brother who is 4 years younger than I am . As I am getting older I am learning the thread of lies that I was told from my family regarding the situation. Growing up I believed my grandmother adopted a child from Haiti, he was 8 years older than I am. Through the time he was 19 he sexually abused myself and my younger brother. I repressed much of my memories from childhood due to this but I vividly remember the abuse. My mother took me to the University of Massachusetts sexual abuse center where I was tested for rape and attended counseling. My parents moved us to Florida away from this. I assumed he had been in trouble until recently when I found out that his high school counselor told my parents he would be deported if they reported it and it was never reported to police. After we moved for years he continued to call to talk to my brother and myself but we refused to talk to him. My grandmother and father hid most of what happened. Now that I am 29 I want him to be held accountable for his actions. To make sure he isn’t hurting any other children. I am not sure what to do or how to handle it. I wanted to contact him and after much research learned he changed his name and still was not legally in this country. Because of this abuse I have sexual issues , depression and still cannot trust people. I have seen three therapists and it never helps, just knowing he is married with a child makes me sick and scared.

A: I’m so incredibly sorry about the abuse you and your brother suffered. I suggest gathering as much information as you can about him today. Then contact Child Protective Services in your state and just ask how they would handle it. It is often empowering for a victim to report and take action against the perpetrator, even years later. Watch the video for the rest of the answer.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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My Best Friend Is Depressed and Suicidal

(15 year old female) For as long as I can remember, my best friend has been depressed. She has a history of self-harm, however, the school guidance counselor and her parents know about it. She recently attempted to take her life more than once. She told me about it and said not to tell anyone because her parents didn’t know. I know she needs help so I told the school guidance counselor and the Crisis Center, both of which got involved and talked to her. She lied to them though so they’ve now dropped the subject and act like it never happened. I don’t want to wake up one day and her not be there, are there any other agencies or help centers that I can contact for someone under the age of 18? Please help!

A: I’m so glad that you wrote in for help, support, and resources to help your friend. Did the school guidance counselor and crisis center counselor contact your friend’s parents? If not, I suggest that you go to the counselor directly, tell them exactly what your friend told you about her depression and suicide attempts, and ask them to contact your friend’s parents so they can be aware of the situation. From what you’ve described, your friend needs treatment immediately and her parents are the one who can get her a psychiatric evaluation and treatment.

While your friend asked you not to tell anyone, this is a situation that is serious enough that it warrants breaking her trust for her own safety and protection. I’m guessing that, as a 15-year-old, it’s difficult for you to know what to do with this kind of heavy information. I encourage you to talk to your parent/guardian about your friend’s depression, and how scared you are that one day she may not be here one day so you aren’t carrying her burden. Your parents can help you and can contact your friend’s parents about your concerns.

Take good care of yourself!

Warmly,

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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Ask The Therapist: How Can I Heal My Friendship?

I have a friend that I care deeply for. Over the last two years since she has known me I know that I have emotionally been dependent on her. I haven’t been as bad at this as I have been in the past but now she has let me know that she doesn’t want any contact with me. I know without much background information it would be hard to answer this question. I have been told that I do have some traits of Borderline Personality Disorder and I do recognize that I have fears of abandonment, right now it’s a fear of her abandonment of the friendship. We do go to the same church so I do see her there. I want to heal this relationship but not sure how. I want to respect her wish to not have contact with me but I would do anything to help heal this relationship.

A: Thank you for writing in. What a difficult situation to find yourself in. You are being faced with the very thing that you are afraid of. This “time out” from your friendship can be an opportunity for personal insight and growth. Please respect your friend’s boundaries and need for space right now while you take time to reflect and identify your emotional patterns that have pushed her away.

Click the arrow below to hear my full response.

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Take good care of yourself,

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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