DR. WALLACE: My parents divorced a year ago because my mom was seeing another guy. My dad has moved back to Mexico, and I haven't heard from him since he left our house. The other guy mom was seeing back then eventually became my stepfather, and he has me scared to death.
When my mom is not around, he is sexually aggressive with me. I don't want to tell you everything he has said, done or tried to do to me, but it's horrible. Every day, I live in fear of what he is going to try to do next. I don't know who to turn to for help. I want to tell my mother, but I don't want to ruin her new marriage. Plus, I'm not sure she would believe me. So far, when there have been small arguments or disagreements in our house, she has taken his side over mine every time. I'm worried she either won't believe me or she'll say I'm exaggerating, which I am not! If she truly knew what he's doing, she would be shocked and disgusted. What should I do? — Anonymous, Tucson, Arizona
ANONYMOUS: My advice is to first tell your mother about this right away, and if she hesitates at all to help you, immediately tell another trusted adult. Do not wait one day to take this action. No young person should ever be subjected to abuse, ever. It can and will be stopped once you speak up to adults in positions of authority and expose the situation. Please also read the following letter from someone who has suffered a similar terrible experience:
DR. WALLACE: I'm writing this letter to tell all the young women who've been abused by their fathers or stepfathers that this abuse must be stopped!
First, tell your mother what has happened. If she believes you, she'll take immediate action. But don't be surprised if your mother doesn't believe you. She's likely to think it's impossible that her husband would do something so horrible, especially after he denies everything. If that is the case, immediately tell a teacher, relative or clergy person; if need be, contact the police. It might be wise to tell all four. When you do this, the proper action will be taken.
Please, allow me to tell you my sad story. My stepfather started molesting me when I was 13, and this nightmare continued until I joined the Navy the day after high school graduation. At 13, when I told my mother, she called me a liar and said I was trying to break up her marriage. I then went into an emotional shell and stayed that way until I entered the Navy. I didn't tell anyone else about my problem because I thought they wouldn't believe me, and I'd be in trouble if they contacted my parents.
After I left home, my stepdad started abusing my 14-year-old sister. She told me all about it when I came home on leave. She also said she told our mother but was accused of lying. I immediately took my sister to the police station. The following day, our stepfather was arrested, and my sister was placed in my aunt's house. Mom finally got the message that her husband was molesting her daughters. She was devastated, but she has only herself to blame.
When confronted by the authorities, this man admitted everything and said he was sorry. Unfortunately, sorry wasn't enough. My life at home was worse than the worst nightmare. No child should ever be subjected to such terror.
My mistake was telling my mother and not another trusted adult when she didn't believe me. If you are under 18, are being abused, and your mother doesn't believe you, ask for help immediately. There are other adults who will quickly step up to intervene and put an end to the nightmare. The key is to take action without hesitation, as the situation will never become better on its own.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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