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Lauren Forcella: Sibling cruelty makes children disdain helping each other

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Posted: Friday, June 12, 2015 10:00 am

Dear Straight Talk: I hear repeatedly in Straight Talk about telling on siblings in danger, but I don’t see why I should when it would only make trouble for me. My stepsisters huff (inhale toxic household chemicals) in their room and their mom has no clue.

They resent sharing their room with me on visitations and make fun of my overweight body when I’m changing — and if I change in the bathroom, they make fun of me again since “we’re all girls.” They say I’ll be sorry if I tell their mom about the huffing and I believe them. Why should I make a bad situation even worse for myself? — L.T., 16, Petaluma

Karlee, 18, Bentleyville, Pennsylvania: This abuse often comes with blended families. You need to stick up for yourself. Huffing is an incredibly dangerous, life-or-death situation. You have to tell. They will lash out at first, but all of you will grow from it. Eventually they will realize you saved them from a far worse fate than getting caught.

Ryann, 18, Tustin: Being made fun of is awful and I can see why you don’t care about them. That said, your stepsisters are abusing their bodies and you because they don’t feel good about themselves. Telling might save their lives and allow them a brighter future. Be sure to also tell about the threats and bullying. You carry a lot on your shoulders, but you have the power to do good — and I think you will!

Samantha, 23, Toledo, Ohio: Are your stepsiblings aware that one “wrong” huff can kill them instantly? I know from experience the danger. If you won’t do it for them, do if for their parents. As awful as they are, their parents love them and it could save their lives. Report their bullying and threats as well and consider postponing visitations under these circumstances.

Lisa, 23, Eugene, Oregon: I get how poorly they are treating you, but the consequences of something horrible happening are far worse than the consequences of telling. Can you tell your stepmom in confidence so she can “figure it out” independently? If you don’t trust her, tell a family member you do trust.

Shel, 17, Pleasanton: Be indirect. Casually ask Stepmom what the punishment would be for huffing. Dropping “legal” bombs like this (you’re not actually telling) might scare your stepsisters into quitting. Or the parents will pick up on it. If things don’t resolve, work your way to full disclosure.

Icis, 17, Lehigh Acres, Florida: The evil stepsisters hate Cinderella for her natural beauty and purity. Even without a prince awaiting, don’t allow these girls to criticize your beauty. The casing makes no difference when the soul is strong. Immaturity and cruelty will fade, but death from huffing won’t and the feeling of “what if” is the worst. Informing their mother about the huffing could prevent a horrible outcome. They might swear at you now, but will thank you later.

Dear L.T.: We get frequent protests from bullied peers, siblings and stepsiblings demanding: “Why should I tell?” I hear your point and to be clear nobody is to blame for someone else’s self-destruction. Nonetheless, we tend to blame ourselves for the things we did or didn’t do that result in tragedy. Right now, caring is difficult, so I hope something we wrote touched your fear center and you’ll tell for yourself. Everyone wins and you’ll sleep better at night. (That someday, these sisters may have your back like nobody in the world is another good reason, but that’s for then ...) We covered huffing in May and it is indeed a high-death-risk activity. If you’re not feeling strong, inform an adult confidentially. They will be glad you did. — Lauren

Ask a question at www.straighttalkadvice.org or P.O. Box 1974 Sebastopol, CA 95473. We are a youth-helping-youth nonprofit. If today’s column was helpful, please consider a donation!

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