Confronting the past: facing old wounds at high school reunion

Dear Annie: I have my 20-year high school reunion coming up, and I’m planning to go, as it’s a major milestone reunion and we’ve lost some people over the years. However, I will be running into some issues with it.

The biggest issue is that I am in ongoing therapy for sexual assaults that happened in high school back in the early 2000s, and the response from the school officials was quite firmly in the “boys will be boys, deal with it” era. In other words, they accused me of making up the situation the first time so I never bothered with reporting the second time, especially since both times it was by members of the football team.

One of the assaulters is in my graduating class, and his was the one I didn’t report. I have to keep him blocked on social media, and an assault situation at a job by a client (I was working in a mental health care facility at the time) made me realize I needed therapy. These assaults still affect me to this day. I won’t date or involve myself in romantic relationships, and the assaults severely affected my mental capacity for well-woman visits.

My one and only well-woman visit with a cancer check, in 2020, triggered the overt development of dissociative identity disorder, or DID, which at its core is extreme PTSD and is usually the result of childhood abuse. It seems I had this as a child, but it is meant to be a very covert protective device to survive trauma, and you aren’t supposed to know you have it. With a lot of hard therapy work and daily meds, I can function without the amnesic events that DID is famous for. However, it has still affected my capacity to maintain gainful employment and be a properly functioning member of society.

It would be good to see everyone again, but how do I handle seeing my assaulter? A handful of classmates I trust know about the DID and what caused it. I would like to think that him now being a father to a daughter has changed his attitude, but I don’t know, especially since many times assaulters don’t remember that they caused issues and/or hotly deny such. I just don’t know what to do even though I would like to go to prove to myself things have changed, hopefully for the better, and to lessen the hold this situation has had on me over the years. — Timid in New York

Dear Timid: Since you are in therapy, I don’t want to interfere with any advice your therapist might give or any conclusions you reach after talking through this issue. But you are right not to expect your assaulter to remember, or to admit, what he did. If you can go to the reunion with that understanding, then it might be a good choice to go. However, if you are looking for an apology, you are almost certainly correct that you won’t get one.

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“How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?” is out now! Annie Lane’s second anthology — featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.


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