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Annie's Mailbox

Ask Amy column

Q. After almost 20 years of marriage (half of it miserable), I am just days away from a final decree. We kept the process civil, but we are not able to have a conversation. He suffers from a mood disorder, which destroyed our relationship and continues to make me very uncomfortable.

We have two children, ages 16 and 18, who live with me in the home we all shared for 16 years. The house belongs to me as part of the property division.

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My ex picks up one or both kids for dinner every week. Usually I am home, but not always. Recently one of my kids vented his annoyance that “Dad snoops around the house” when I am not home.

It bothers me. If he would not wander around the house when I am here, he must know it’s not appropriate. It feels like an invasion of privacy. How should I handle this?

A. This is definitely a violation of your privacy, but it is also trespassing.

Your ex might create some wiggle room by telling himself that the kids have invited him inside, but your son has reported that this bothers him. Your son told you this because he thinks (correctly) that you need to know and because he can’t police his father’s access.

You shouldn’t involve the kids, or expect them to control their father. Speak to your lawyer. Ask if she could send a letter to your ex and his attorney along the lines of: “Now that this divorce is nearly final, I’d like to remind you that neither party should enter the home of the other unless directly invited by the homeowner.”

Q. I am 76 years old and in the process of writing my life story (autobiography) to leave to my children and grandchildren.

When I was young, I was the victim of two incidents of sexual molestation: by a well-known church minister when I was 9 years old and by a high school principal when I was 13.

I have never disclosed this information to anyone and wonder if I should include this information now or keep it hidden. What would you do?

A. I think you are very brave — first to write to me, and second to contemplate telling your family. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to hold this secret close for so many years.

Sexual abuse is a crime against a person’s humanity, which hides (and thrives) in the shadows. The truth is the truth. I think the increasing awareness of (and willingness to discuss) this crime in our culture is a good thing, because every time someone comes forward, somebody else gains a teardrop of courage to disclose the truth as well.

If you’d like to talk to someone outside your family, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-4673 and www.online.rainn.org) for confidential help 24/7.

Q. Sometimes — often, really — I think you are an idiot. The letter from a 16-year-old who calls herself “Super Sad” is a case in point. This 16-year-old went to a guy’s house, and you tell her she was raped because she had sex with him. She didn’t say “no,” and she didn’t fight him off. What does she expect?

A. In many states, a 16-year-old is not even legally considered old enough to consent to sex. And this girl did not consent. In fact, she stated out loud that she didn’t want to. She reported that she was scared. Your response echoes many I have received, but this is really not debatable.

Send questions by e-mail to askamy@tribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 North Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.

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