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I see nothing wrong with her response. I think seeking out therapy is the best course of action for when you need to move past something and are unable to do so on your own. He can't get his foreskin back, but he can learn to be happy while advocating against circumcision.

Seeing a psychologist after sexual assault is also important, in my opinion. People don't need to be traumatized forever. We can empower ourselves and become stronger.
 

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I have to wonder if her response would have been as dismissive had the letter been written by a woman who had been subjected to FGM. The fact that she failed to denounce the act of circumcising a child speaks volumes, in my opinion.
 

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I don't see a problem either. He asked for help managing his feelings and she advised him seek counselling. As he reported strong feelings of anger and a Hx of sexual assault that seems wholly reasonable advice.

She also recommended seeing someone about the pain which also seems reasonable.

I guess she could have offered some sympathy but no doubt space is an issue so perhaps that was an editorial decision. Or perhaps she just felt that some practical suggestions would be more useful.

For those who feel her response was inappropriate, what are your concerns with it and what do you think she should have said?


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I think that a bit of sympathy and a line condemning the practice would have been appropriate. Even though her response comprised of "practical" advice, I was left with the feeling that she felt his issues were somewhat trivial - just how I interpreted it.

His screwed up circumcision wasn't the result of an accident - it was intentionally perpetrated by those that should have protected him. Having said that, if he was born before his parents had access to the internet, then his anger is misdirected, as they would not have had access to any accurate information and his anger should be directed at the unethical medical system that actually did it.
 

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I think her advice was sound. She recommended speaking with a doctor to find out if anything could be done to help the pain - and to determine the cause. And she recommended talking with a counselor to work through the feelings of anger at his parents which he knows are misdirected.

Even if the pain is the result of a screwed up circumcision he clearly still needs help in moving through the anger and forward as best he can. I say this as someone who has suffered permanent damage from a botched surgery. If you live your life in anger you lose more than you did from the botched procedure. I'm not saying just get over it. I'm saying that he needs help to move forward.
 

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For those who feel her response was inappropriate, what are your concerns with it and what do you think she should have said?




This is the problem for me: " I urge you to talk to a licensed mental health professional to help you work through your anger because it may be misdirected and a result of the sexual assault you experienced in grade school"


Rather than validate that he is angry because part of his penis was cut off without his permission and causing him permanent pain, she states that he might not actually be angry about that at all. She really, seriously doesn't get it. He tried to explain how violated he felt by comparing it to sexual assault and saying that it was worse, and she poo pooed his feelings and said that the sexual assault is the thing that he is angry about. She completely dismisses the idea that a man could be angry about having part of his dick cut off, or having pain in the most sensitive area of his body.


There's nothing wrong with the advice to see a therapist to learn to move on, but the notion that he needs to therapy to find out that he isn't really upset about the botched circumcision is offensive.


I'd lay money she prefers her men "cut."


Also, since he is a young man in college, he is 20ish. The internet was alive and well at that time (complete with search engines). My oldest child is 19 and information on circumcision was WIDELY available.
 

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This is the problem for me: " I urge you to talk to a licensed mental health professional to help you work through your anger because it may be misdirected and a result of the sexual assault you experienced in grade school"
Exactly. Encouraging therapy for trauma recovery is a good thing, but I read it as Abby invalidating and gaslighting him.
 

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The young man said "I am filled with hate and anger toward my parents, even though I know it is unfair to them because they believed they were making the right decision..."

He said himself that understands that this anger towards his parents is unfair - in other words, misdirected. I'm not sure why you believe I'm invalidating his feelings by supporting the suggestion that he get help working through these feelings towards his parents, or telling him how to feel.

When we have something terrible happen to our body as the result of botched surgery, there are all sorts of feelings to work through. There can be grief, extreme anger and even self-doubt. Clearly this young man is suffering as the result of his pain. I hope and pray he can find a way to heal. I also hope and pray that he can find a way to let go of the anger against his parents. They must be suffering too, although in a different way.

I agree that it's insensitive to suggest that the anger might be the result of the assault without acknowledging the physical pain. I can understand why the writer made the connection though - after all he brought it up!
 

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I think that a bit of sympathy and a line condemning the practice would have been appropriate. Even though her response comprised of "practical" advice, I was left with the feeling that she felt his issues were somewhat trivial - just how I interpreted it.

His screwed up circumcision wasn't the result of an accident - it was intentionally perpetrated by those that should have protected him. Having said that, if he was born before his parents had access to the internet, then his anger is misdirected, as they would not have had access to any accurate information and his anger should be directed at the unethical medical system that actually did it.
That is the way I took it also...but that is understandable, I suppose. The "original" Dear Abby (and her twin sister, Ann Launders) were born to Russian Jewish immigrants in 1918 in Souix City, Iowa. Circumcision is an important part of their culture, so her perspective on circumcision will likely be much different...

I don't know if the current Dear Abby writer is Jewish or not...
But I agree that she could have worded her answer differently, with a little more sympathy to the young man...
 

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There is an aspect of risk for this poor guy in seeking help from either a doctor or a therapist, and that lies in how his issues are received by said professional. There have been many cases in the past where men seeking help for issues directly related to their being circumcised, have been laughed/ridiculed out of the office by the doctor. I can't think of many situations much more psychologically crushing than that.
 

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"Get some psychiatric help." It's not the worst advice in the world. But if she doesn't know to recommend foreskin restoration, she could have at least said: "Learn all you can about how intact genitals function during normal sex, so you will best be able to compensate for the missing parts."

She might have also said: "Working to protect today's children from a similar fate might help heal your heart."
 
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