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Not Much Contact With Sexually Abused Half Sister

Published: May 14, 2012
Dear TeenHealthFX,
When my half sister was around the age of eight, my biological father sexually assaulted her for approximately three years without telling anyone. She finally told my mother and he was then sent to prison. It's been ten years since then, but I don't feel close to her..I feel like when my sister looks at me she sees my father and constantly hurts, so I don't talk to her as often as I should..does that make me a bad person?
Signed: Not Much Contact With Sexually Abused Half Sister

Dear Not Much Contact With Sexually Abused Half Sister,


Having more limited contact with your half sister does not make you a “bad person.” It doesn’t sound like not reaching out to her more comes from an uncaring, unloving, or mean part of you – but rather a part that is concerned about how a relationship with you will affect her. And perhaps there is also a part of you that is feeling unsure or anxious about how to relate to someone who has been abused by your father. If this is the reason for the distance in your relationship with her, it doesn’t have anything to do with your being “bad.” TeenHealthFX wants you to be careful about using the word “should” here because the problem with “should” is that it negates and neglects what actually is – the word “should” doesn’t take the context of your particular situation into account.

If you feel like the main issue that stops you from having a relationship with your half sister is that you are worried about how a relationship with you will affect her, you can always write her a letter or communicate in some way that you can appreciate that it might be hard for her to be in contact with you if a relationship with you reminds her of your father and what she went through with him – that you want to respect that and give her the space she needs if that’s the case, but that you also want her to know you are there for her if she needs you. That way the ball is in her court, so to speak, to proceed in whatever way feels most comfortable to her.

If you feel like part of your not reaching out to your half sister involves feelings that you have about her, your father, and the abuse she endured – if this is a concern for you then it might be helpful for you to talk to someone about how you are feeling. While you may worry what feelings might get triggered in your half sister by seeing you, it may also be hard for you to be with her because she is a reminder to you of this abusive side of your father. You may have negative feelings towards him that she triggers. If you find that your own feelings towards your father, and what went on between him and your half sister, are interfering with your relationship with her in a way that bothers you, or that these emotions cause you distress or problems in any other area, then it might be helpful for you to have someone to process those feelings with, such as a therapist.

If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.

Dealing with these kinds of family dynamics are difficult, to say the least – so try not to be so hard on yourself about how you have handled things. You have your half-sister’s feelings to consider, as well as your own. Both sets of feelings are likely complicated, so try and be patient with yourself and not beat yourself up with too many “shoulds.” And if you are ever distressed or confused about this situation and the feelings that come up for you, reach out for some support and guidance and don’t try and deal with it all on your own.  

Signed: TeenHealthFX