Dear Abby Advises: If an Attempted Rapist Was Gonna Rape, He'd Have Done It By Now

Illustration for article titled Dear Abby Advises: If an Attempted Rapist Was Gonna Rape, He'd Have Done It By Now

In April, I wrote this lede: “Dear Abby, the widely syndicated advice column written by Jeanne Phillips (daughter of original Abby, Pauline Phillips) has had a long, uneasy relationship with what rape actually is.” Here we are a-fucking-gain.


In this week’s column, buried under letters about lesbian porn and a fraught pregnancy, is a short letter with an even shorter response. Advice-seeker Never Forgetting In Pennsylvania wrote:

When I visited my sister 15 years ago, my brother-in-law tried to rape me. He was drunk and my sister was out with her friends. I have not revealed this to my family or my sister, who is emotionally and financially dependent on him.

My niece is now 20 years old and in college. I feel I should tell her what her dad did to me and warn her to be careful. What do you think?

Phillips’ entire response is one sentence of ghastly non-advice: “Frankly, I think that if your brother-in-law was going to assault his daughter, it would have happened already, and you should have told your family what he tried to do to you at the time it occurred.”

Solidly the worst thing you can say to a victim of an attempted sexual assault. Mazel to you, dear Abby.

Image of Jeanne Phillips via Getty.

Senior Editor, Jezebel



Sweet Jesus - if not for the Pennsylvania, I was certain this letter was from my wife. The only difference is that her niece is only 19.

My wife - then 20 - woke up to find her brother-in-law trying to put his fingers inside her. In a staggering display of bravery, she screamed at him, cornered him in the bedroom, and told him if he didn’t tell his wife - her sister - exactly what he had done after she left, she would call the police.

He did. Unbelievably, they are still together. Even though I didn’t even meet my wife until 10 years later, I still want to beat the crap out of the B-i-L every time I see him at family functions. Moreover, I think my wife is a total badass.