Dear Prudence: I was a bully. Now I’m tormented by guilt.

Help! A Girl I Once Bullied Committed Suicide.

Help! A Girl I Once Bullied Committed Suicide.

Advice on manners and morals.
Oct. 29 2012 2:28 PM

I Was Once a Bully

In a live chat, Prudie counsels an ex-bully now tormented by guilt.

(Continued from Page 1)

A: I'm sorry you went through this ordeal and I totally understand your decision. Thank goodness you were able to make it. I just don't understand people who would impinge on this profoundly personal choice. I wonder how public you want to go. You could be a powerful spokeswoman for reproductive rights by contacting an organization and telling them you're willing to make your story public. Whether or not you would consider that, in your personal life it is up to you in any given situation whether to offer your story—do not feel obligated. However, if the conversation turns to "real rape" (how unbelievable this is where the national political discussion has taken us) feel free to speak up. You can say quietly and simply, "I was raped and was impregnanted as a result. My rapist is in jail and I decided not to continue the pregnancy. I just wanted you to know this is not an abstract debate, but it's about real people, unfortunately lots of them."

Q. Mother of Baby With DS: Just throwing this out there, but there's a popular blogger and author whose daughter was also unexpectedly born with DS. Her post about her daughter's birth is stunning in its honesty and emotion. The blog is "Enjoying the Small Things" and the author's name is Kelle Hampton (her book about her daughter's first couple years is called Bloom). I'd definitely recommend that this mom read at least the entry about the daughter's birth.

A: Thank you. That's why the chat is so wonderful—people who have just the right answer can weigh in.


Q. In-Laws’ Spending Habits: My husband and I have been helping my in-laws with grocery bills and giving them small amount of money as they are struggling financially. Through a few poor business decisions, they are now left going through the bankruptcy process and living off social security as their only income. Recently, it has come to my attention that my mother-in-law has made some rather large and expensive purchases and it has upset me, knowing that they have no plans for their future. Since I am supplying them with as much money as I can for little things, do I have a right to question their recent purchases?

A: Yes. If people are financially dependent on others, then their benefactors have a say in what happens to the money. You are seeing why these people are entering old age with nothing. I think your husband should contact the local social service agencies that deal with the elderly and see if any offer financial consulting services that are free or low cost. Your in-laws need to be on a budget. Then it's up to you and your husband to explain to them that everyone is struggling and that you two need to start saving now for your own retirement. You can say it's one thing to help with groceries, it's another to realize your money is being diverted into a wide-screen TV. Inform them that unless they can live within their means, you two are not going to enable their living outside it.

Q. Re: Down Syndrome Daughter: What the mom who has had the little girl with Down Syndrome is going through is perfectly normal. It's natural, when parents find out their child has a disability, to go through the stages of grief. Not only should this mom see her O.B. again, but also check with your state's Medicaid offices. If her child is not eligible for Medicaid, they can still help connect her with agencies that can provide support services. Children with Down can live very fulfilling and happy lives, but that starts with a parent armed with information and education about her child's condition, and there are service agencies that provide that. I wish this mom the best. Once she is through the grieving process (a counselor could help her with that, too) and reaches a point of acceptance, she can begin to work toward giving her sweet daughter the best life possible. Kids with Down are also some of the most affectionate people around, so she will really enjoy that aspect of her daughter's condition. She just has to get through the initial difficult stages.

A: More good advice, thanks, especially about seeing what government services are available to help this family.

Q. Workplace Harassment: I work in a small office of around 30 people. At 26, I'm the youngest female employee by about 10 years. The owner of our company is in his late 70s. He's rarely in the office, but shows up for a few weeks at a time to check on things. I dress appropriately for my age and in business casual attire. No cleavage, no tight, revealing clothes, and no short skirts. Despite being appropriately dressed, the owner still finds reasons to "check me out." He isn't subtle at all in his long up and down glances or his stares in the kitchen. One time he asked me if I worked out when I bent down to retrieve a box. Prudie, it makes me so uncomfortable! I don't know if I should speak up to someone about it, since he hasn't physically done anything to me. We don't have an H.R. department or really anyone who fits that role, so I'm not sure who I would talk to. Any suggestions on how to handle this old gawker with tact?

A: He's the owner, there's no H.R., he likes to gawk. I think you've got yourself a perfect storm here of having to put up with occasional unpleasantness. Fortunately he's not around often and he keeps his hands to himself. I am not defending this disgusting old coot, but I don't see a way to make this stop except leaving the company. When you interact with him be cordial and professional. If he asks questions that lead to conversations about your body cut them off. Boss: "Hey, do you work out?" You: "No. But I do have a lot of work, so please excuse me."

In a new approach, we’re publishing the chat transcript in shorter, more digestible pieces. You will still be getting all the questions and answers, and we may even publish bonus letters Prudie didn’t get to address during the chat hour. Check back tomorrow for another edition!

Emily Yoffe is a contributing editor at the Atlantic.