Dear Annie: My teenage sister, “Jana,” is in an abusive relationship, and my family does not know how to help her get out.
Since she began dating “Pete,” Jana has withdrawn from her friends and is constantly angry. She spends hours each week on the phone with him. I hear him berating her for not calling him back fast enough or giving him enough attention. Last night, he yelled so loudly over the phone, I could hear him on another floor. He’s a high school dropout and was mad that Jana was spending the evening working on a homework project rather than talking with him.
His abuse escalated from emotional to physical at a recent party, where Jana caught him drinking, despite his promises not to (Pete has a drinking problem). Pete grabbed my sister so violently that another boy had to pull him off her, and Jana’s wrist hurt for over an hour afterward. Jana thinks it’s OK that Pete hurt her because he wanted to keep her from walking away. My brother also saw Pete making out with another girl. Jana almost broke up with him over that, but Pete convinced her my brother was mistaken.
Annie, my sister sometimes recognizes that she is being mistreated, but she can’t keep up her resolve and she always makes excuses for Pete’s behavior. I’ve tried to get her to talk to the school counselor, but she won’t go. What can we do? Is there legal action my parents can take, since Jana is under 18? We are all very worried about her. — Concerned Sister in Montreal
Dear Montreal: It would depend on Pete’s age and other factors, but without Jana’s cooperation, the law may not be able to do anything. It’s important that Jana understand that abuse is not love. It’s all about power and control. Becoming angry when she doesn’t drop everything for him is a sign of emotional abuse. Grabbing her wrist until it is painful is physical abuse. You can find out more by going to kidshealth.org. Help is available through the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (rainn.org) at 1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656-4673).
Dear Annie: I recently had an interview for a part-time job. The interviewer asked if I was currently working, and when I responded that I wasn’t, she proceeded to ask me how I was supporting myself. I thought the question was totally irrelevant and extremely intrusive.
Due to an inheritance, I am financially comfortable right now. I’m not sure how to handle nosy people who think it’s OK to ask how I pay my bills. What should I tactfully say to them? — Perplexed in Wantage, N.J.
Dear Perplexed: An interviewer may ask such questions to ascertain the reason you are out of work (illness, jail) and whether you are supporting yourself illegally (drugs, prostitution). Some questions they cannot legally ask, so this is an indirect way of getting the information, although you are not obligated to answer. For anyone else, the tactful response is, “Why do you need to know?”
Dear Annie: You recently printed a letter from “Please Help Me,” a military wife who indicated her husband was pulling rank on her and making her life miserable. She was concerned about talking to a counselor since her husband is high-ranking. There is one person she can talk to who would be unconcerned about his rank and position — the base chaplain. She could even bring along a copy of your column. This person has his own chain of command to follow. — A Retired AF Officer
Dear Retired Officer: Thank you. If “Please Help Me” hasn’t already sought help, we hope she sees your letter and follows your advice.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. 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.
Published in The Messenger 12.31.07