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Sexual abuse not always physical

Dear Abby: Is there such a thing as non-physical sexual abuse? When I was young, my father would fondle my mother when I came to sleep with them when I had a nightmare. (She would rebuff his advances.) He would also watch porn in front of me.

As I matured, he made comments about my figure. He would barge into my room without knocking and insist he didn't have to knock. He'd tell dirty jokes or talk about sexually inappropriate things. (The day after my wedding he asked my husband how our wedding night had been.) But with all of this, he never touched me or assaulted me.

His actions affected my self-esteem and relationships because as I grew up I thought the only thing I had to offer was being sexy. Thankfully, therapy and my husband helped me to see myself as a fully dynamic person.

I recently began seeing a new counselor who thinks my father was just a dirty old man – nothing more. Was I abused? Any information you have would be appreciated. – Wondering in Wisconsin

Dear Wondering: When a parent attempts to initiate sex or watch pornography in front of a child, it is sexualizing behavior and it could also be considered "grooming" behavior. Your father's actions were so far out of the normal boundaries that they were off the charts. And yes, it WAS a form of abuse. My advice is to change counselors.

Dear Abby: My daughter is mentally ill, homeless and on meth. A year ago, when she wasn't so bad, she asked if I would take her 3-year-old daughter, "Lucy," so she could get herself together. Unfortunately, she went the other direction.

It was fine when I thought that the arrangement was temporary, but when I realized I would be raising Lucy as a single parent at 49, things got hard.

My so-called friends have abandoned me, and so has my much younger boyfriend. But what is actually killing this is that I get no respite. I am an extreme introvert. Constant contact drains me. When I don't have my "recharge" time, I tune Lucy out, and the next thing I know she has cut up the curtains or hidden my shoes. I'm afraid I'm just going to lose it. Work doesn't count; there are people there, too. Bad thoughts are going through my head because I feel such resentment.

I know if I had time for my own mental health, I could be a good surrogate mother to Lucy, but if I can't, I'm starting to think I may have to give her up, and that breaks my heart. I want to scream, to throw things, to just leave the house and walk until I drop. Please help me. – End Of My Rope

Dear End: How much time do you need to recharge? Would it be an hour or hour and a half at the end of each workday? Would an afternoon during the weekends suffice? Have you discussed this with Lucy's grandfather or her paternal grandparents? They might be willing to get involved and lighten your load. Would a neighbor watch your grandchild on a regular basis if you compensated her or him? How about the person who already takes care of Lucy while you're at work?

Please explore these options if you haven't already. Screaming, throwing things and leaving the little girl alone are not viable scenarios. However, if you feel that you might harm her, it would be better if you placed her for adoption or in foster care.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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