Dear Annie: Several years ago, I stayed with my aunt and uncle for a week. My aunt sent me down to the basement to tell my uncle to come upstairs for dinner. When I turned the corner, I caught him pulling up his pants in front of the computer screen. He asked me not to tell my aunt, and I didn’t.
During my time there, he did several other things that made me uncomfortable. He asked me personal questions about women’s bodies, and one time when I was alone with him, he hugged me from behind, pushing himself against me. Eventually, I told my parents about it. Although they believed me, I don’t think they ever said anything to my aunt and uncle. So I made my own rules about how close to get to him when we visited.
The reason I’m writing is because I have two younger sisters, both teenagers, and I have noticed my uncle looking at them when we visit. Even more troubling, my uncle has two young granddaughters who visit on a regular basis. While I don’t like to think he’d do anything to them, my aunt and uncle often babysit for the girls, so he has regular opportunities to be alone with them.
The situation worries me, but I don’t know what to do. I’m pretty sure neither my aunt nor my adult cousins have any idea what’s going on. My parents aren’t eager to create a rift, and the grandkids really love their grandpa. But I would feel awful if I later learned he had abused these kids.
If my parents don’t address the situation, should I tell my aunt? My cousins?
— Don’t Want It To Happen Again
Dear Don’t Want: That hug from behind was a type of molestation. Your uncle isn’t likely to change his behavior on his own, so it is important that the relatives be informed and the younger children protected. Tell your parents that if they are unwilling to handle this, you will talk to your sisters and adult cousins. Your cousins may not believe that their father would harm their kids, and they may be angry with you, but they should know nonetheless.
Dear Annie: Like “Worried and Confused in Calif.,” I am also turned off by a dear friend who allows her dog to eat off of her plates and slurp from the same glass. If it were only in her own home, it wouldn’t bother me too much. But “Beth” brings her dog to my house and does the same thing. It is very annoying.
Beth is wonderfully generous, kind and ethical. I cannot think of a way to tell her without hurting her. Do you have any suggestions?
— Love the Friend and Her Dog, But
Dear But: You have already given Beth the impression that you don’t mind, so it will require telling her directly that she either not bring her dog, or not allow the dog to lick the plates. You can be gentle about it, saying you’ve become more concerned about germs lately and would prefer that the dog eat from a dish you’ve supplied for him instead of off of her plate. You might have to remind her a few times, but if she’s as generous, kind and ethical as you say, she will comply.
Dear Annie: You often recommend grief counseling for readers whose loved ones have died, and you say to check with their local hospital.
I’d like to suggest an alternative. Not all hospitals offer grief counseling, except in the immediate aftermath of a death. But hospices throughout the country offer bereavement support, and the vast majority of them serve the entire community, often at no cost.
Please encourage anyone who is grieving to explore what is offered in their community through local hospices.
— Loyal Reader
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.