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Dear Abby 2/16
Burden of sister's secret weighs on teen's mind
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    DEAR ABBY: I am a 14-year-old girl. Lately I have been dealing with overwhelming feelings of sadness and depression. Just recently I found out that my sister's ex had physically abused her and her daughter. When my sister told me, she made me swear I wouldn't tell our parents. Not only do our parents not know, but she refuses to take it to court or to report it. When I confronted her, she told me she would rather put it behind her and forget about it.
    I don't understand how she can let this man get away with what he did.
    I don't know who to turn to. If I tell my parents, my sister will never trust me again. But if I don't tell, he might come back and hurt them. Please tell me what to do. -- TERRIFIED FOR MY SISTER
    DEAR TERRIFIED: Your sister, like many victims of domestic violence, may blame herself for what happened to her and feel too embarrassed to report it. It is also not uncommon for men who beat up their partners to also abuse their children.
    For her daughter's sake, the crime(s) should have been reported when they occurred and there was solid proof. However, because she didn't do that, I can only hope that she will keep the child away from her father — who obviously hasn't enough impulse control to safely act as a responsible parent.
    Some secrets are meant to be kept, but this isn't one of them. There is no reason you should carry this burden alone. Tell your parents and don't feel guilty about it. I have been advised that depression is anger turned inward. You are sad because you feel helpless to do anything about your sister's circumstances. Once your parents know what happened, they can help your sister ensure her safety and that of her daughter.

    DEAR ABBY: Marrying one's high school sweetheart is common in my family. My parents, both of my aunts and two cousins are happily married to the people they began dating exclusively when they were teenagers.
    Now my older brother, "Aiden," has joined their ranks. He recently married a girl he had dated since eighth grade. They are only 23, but blissfully happy. I'm glad for my brother, but now my relatives are wondering why I haven't followed suit.
    There is no going back to high school for me, so I find myself trapped in awkward blind dates as loving family members — especially my mother — desperately try to find someone for me.
    How can I make them understand that I really don't want to go out with the neighbor boy who is three years younger than I am? Also, is there something wrong with me because I haven't found "the one," as my other family members have? -- OLD MAID OF THE FAMILY, MANSFIELD, TEXAS
    DEAR OLD MAID: The surest way to make your family understand is to keep your sense of humor about their attempts at matchmaking and not to become defensive. There is nothing wrong with being single — people are remaining single longer now than ever before. Some men — and women — remain single their entire lives, and happily so. So please don't allow yourself to be made to feel time is running out because you haven't rushed to the altar. It takes some people longer than others to find that perfect match, but in most cases, "there's a pot for every lid."
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