Dear Annie: Over the summer, my sister was raped. She chose not to report it. She was at a house party when it happened. She doesn't know who did it. She confided in me the morning after, and I urged her to report so that the person who did it could be prosecuted and, hopefully, kept from harming more people. But I also saw that it was ultimately her decision and she needed to do what was best for her psyche. I'm still in a very dark place about all this, but I can't talk to her about it.
First of all, I'm sure talking about it would trigger her, make her more anxious than she already is. Secondly, if I tell her I'm really distressed over this, she'll feel like a burden, like she shouldn't have confided in me.
What should I do? I want to do what's best for my sister, and I also need to restore my sanity. I feel sick just thinking about all this. — Saddened Sister
Dear Saddened Sister: My heart goes out to your sister. I am so sorry that she had to endure trauma. Your feelings of sickness are completely valid. The repercussions from rape can literally be sickening to all those affected by it.
The first step is to do exactly what you did: Listen without offering any judgment. Simply listening and validating whatever she tells you are the right steps. If she decides later to report the incident, you can offer to take her to the police station. While she is processing her emotions, talking through her things with trained professions could also help. The National Sexual Assault Hotline is 800-656-HOPE (4673).
You sound like a very sensitive sister, and one thing I would like to point out to other readers is that if your friend or family member is the victim of sexual assault, avoid any possible victim blaming questions. For example, "What were you wearing?"
I am so glad that you took the time to write, not only because you bring up an important issue but also because it is important that you take care of yourself. Helping your sister can leave you feeling depleted and exhausted.
Dear Annie: I am a member of an artists' coop gallery. We take turns gallery-sitting and generally get together for a monthly meeting. One difficult topic I don't know how to address is that one or some of the men pee on the bathroom floor.
Personally, I don't clean up after men, but this situation bothers me. I would like to address it but do not know how. I welcome your thoughts. — Not a Handmaid
Dear Not a Handmaid: The way to address this situation is head on.
Hold a meeting with all members of your coop and explain the problem. This will give everyone the chance to know about the problem, and to air out any other cleanliness concerns. Tell the men that if they miss the bowl and some of their spray winds up on the bathroom floor, they need to clean up after themselves. Violation of this will result in being asked to leave the coop. Hygiene is important in any work place.
Perhaps the men are not aware that they are doing it. So now that you have made them aware, there should be no more sticky floors. Keep some baking soda and vinegar in the bathroom. If there are reoffenders, they should make a paste with these ingredients to clean up their mess.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]