Woman Backed for Not Apologizing for Writing Diary That Traumatized Sister

A woman is being supported for her decision not to apologize for writing the diary her little sister secretly read that traumatized her as a kid.

The woman, who told Newsweek she wanted to be identified as "Rosie", polled the popular Reddit forum r/AmITheA**hole, asking "[Would I be the A**hole] if I told my sister that her trauma from reading my diary is not my responsibility?" The original poster (OP) earned over 5,200 upvotes and 600 comments for her post.

Rosie, now 22, opens by saying she had a "very sad conversation" with her little sister, now 18. Rosie says that at as a young teen, she "struggled greatly" with her mental health. She's doing better now after multiple years of therapy and cutting off an abusive family member, but said that her diary from that time was full of "very intense and horrible things" and "angry, terrible rants."

When Rosie was 14, her sister, then a 10-year-old, started secretly reading her diary. She hadn't told anyone she was doing so until recently, and told Rosie that though she was "very traumatized," she kept reading the diary for more than a year in order to keep track of how her older sister was doing.

Rosie says she feels "absolutely horrible" that her sister was so bothered by what she read, but she's also frustrated because it was her outlet to express her anger and other feelings. She had no intention of sharing this writing with anyone. She also said that her sister's trauma could have been resolved earlier if she had either confronted Rosie at the time or even told an adult.

"I feel like what I wrote in my private diary was my business. Writing angry, terrible rants made me feel better and helped me get through my very difficult emotions at the time. I am not proud of it, and it's not how I would handle things today. But I do feel like I should have been allowed to have my private coping mechanism and outlet for my emotions," Rosie wrote, pointing out that she realizes too, that it's common for a 10-year-old to snoop on her sister, but it was still a violation of her privacy.

Rosie said that during their conversation, she was sure to validate her sister's feelings and apologized for causing her distress. But Rosie also says that she feels like it's her sister's own fault, and she shouldn't have to apologize for writing her diary in the first place. While Rosie's sister describes reading the diary as "something that happened to her," she points out that she tried to hide the diary to keep it from prying eyes.

"She is angry at me for having written those things, but I don't want to apologize for writing out my emotions. It is clearly a tragedy that she read it. But to some degree I feel like she is responsible. I would like to be available to her to help process the trauma, and have apologized multiple times for being the cause of so much distress for her, but I do not want to apologize for the fact that the diary existed at all," Rosie wrote, asking the Reddit community if she would be in the wrong for refusing to apologize.

diary trauma snooping teen child reddit aita
A woman is being backed for her decision to not apologize for writing the diary that traumatized her younger sister when she secretly read it as a 10-year-old. Anna Gorbacheva/Getty

Keeping a diary is recommended by many therapists as a way of dealing with trauma. Matthew Tull, Ph.D. wrote a piece for VeryWellMind.com explaining how journaling can help people suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Tull recommends "expressive writing," saying that it can help people manage their anxiety and anger, as well as lessening tension in the body.

In addition, Tull writes, some studies have shown that journaling by PTSD patients can also help post-traumatic growth, which he describes as the "ability to find meaning in and have positive life changes" after trauma. He says it's best to start journaling at a time and place with few—or ideally no—distractions, to start by thinking about the trauma and its impact and write about the thoughts and feelings the trauma stirs up.

It's important to also make sure to have a plan for aftercare, as writing about trauma can cause troubling thoughts and feelings. It's also important to read what's written to help process these thoughts—and be sure to pay attention to how these thoughts and feelings change due to the act of writing them out.

Of course, it's very important that these diaries remain private, no matter the age of the person reading. Writing for Psychology Today, Nancy Darling, Ph.D., urges parents not to read their children's diaries. She was moved to write her piece after reading a woman's letter to the New York Times in 2017 saying she finds it "important" to read her 9-year-old's diary, so she can help her manage fears and encourage her.

"Even in brief, there are at least three fundamental reasons why most of us would feel sneaking a peak at a private diary is wrong: it violates privacy, it violates the integrity of the child's self, and it undermines the trust that is the basis for a healthy mother:daughter relationship," Darling writes.

Darling does say that if a parent believes their child is suicidal or the victim of abuse, it may be necessary to read their child's diary—but only in these deeply serious situations. And of course, a parent reading their diary is much different than a little sister snooping on their sibling—which, while sometimes common, is not ever appropriate.

In some cases diaries may be revealed. For example, Newsweek has previously published stories about a woman's diary discovered decades after the fact in a thrift store, or a woman who found the identity of a World War II-era spy in her grandmother's journal that was passed down through the family.

But in both these cases, consent was given—via the grandmother's giving away the diary as a heirloom—or implied, in that the diary was sold to a thrift store. And, of course, the diary author may decide themselves to share their words, as a woman did with her childhood diary entry written on 9/11.

Redditors took Rosie's side.

"[Not the A**hole]. Stop saying sorry, like I know there's this whole thing about we need to validate other people's feelings, but you actually don't. She doesn't get to ingest the idea that she is in any way victimized by the fact that she was reading your diary. She shouldn't have been reading your diary," u/JCBashBash wrote.

"You are the only person here who is actually violated, she's not to some degree responsible, she's completely responsible for the fact that she saw something of yours that was private, and for a year with secretly reading it. It is not normal for a 10-year-old to spend a year stalking another person and reading their private thoughts," they continued.

"Diaries are also only meant for the writer. Often they are full of their deepest thoughts, often their darkest as well. Without the context of their specific life experiences, no one, especially a 10 years old, is going to have to judge what's in there in the proper context and sometimes, the adult version of the teen that wrote it will lose that context with time," u/letstrythisagain30 agreed.

"Considering the sister had to jump through several hoops to expose herself to the diary, she is the one who actively and knowingly violated OP's privacy and consume the diary's contents," u/otakuchips wrote. "OP, she does not get to play victim to YOUR feelings and circumstances."

Others felt there was no one at fault.

"This is definitely a [No a**holes here]. She was young and trying to keep tabs on you, you had a health outlet for your feelings. It's unfortunate, but nobody really did anything wrong (if she'd been older it would be a different story)," u/TWAndrewz wrote.

"[No a**holes here]," u/jstnrgrs agreed. "What does she think you did wrong? The only thing I can think is that maybe you should have done better to keep the diary locked up. But as a 14 year old, I can't really fault you for not doing that. As a 10 year old I don't think she can really be held fully accountable either."