This is behind a cut for sexual violence and violent threats.
I barely know where to begin. I (she/her) used to be close to my brother (he/him), but we no longer have a relationship.
When I was 19, I was sexually assaulted twice, by two different men that I knew. I went through very helpful therapy and essentially felt like I moved on with my life. Then, when he was 19, my brother raped someone – a friend of mine, younger than me. It happened in exactly the same way that it happened to me. I was horrified, but glad she confided in me so I could confront it (with her permission) head-on. It traumatized me as well, and to this day I have nightmares about it.
He reacted… badly. He cried, and self-blamed, but in the ‘now I am so distraught you need to comfort me’ way. I tried to talk to him about accountability, but he was having none of it. Our relationship disintegrated.
Unfortunately, this coincided with me meeting my current partner (he/him). My brother became obsessively convinced that this was the fault of my new partner ‘poisoning’ me against him. Through a series of small escalations, this led to my brother threatening my partner’s life. Since he owned a gun and was making very vivid threats, I took him seriously.
My parents did not, and to this day do not, believe that Brother could ever harm someone, which I found patently ridiculous given that he had assaulted a friend of mine (plus some other clear indicators). They refused to discipline him, send him to therapy, etc. So, I filed a restraining order, which I ultimately dropped due to family pressure (I still regret this).
Four years later, Brother is still living with Parents, now with a girlfriend. My parents and I have been through therapy, and have established a tense/sad relationship. I have left the door open for Brother – I have made it clear that I am perfectly willing to meet with him in a mediated space, specifically with the therapist that guided my parents and me through this. He has known this for a year, and has not reached out.
The ball is in his court – but I still get pressure from extended family and friends about ‘just letting it go’. When I use scripts taken from other CA posts, I get told “I’m just asking a question” or “well you should think about it.”
How can I respond to quickly end the conversation, and make it clear I never want to talk about it again, without then being crucified in the court of public opinion?
Tired of Being Accountable For Everyone’s Feelings
Your family has identified you as The Reasonable One (the one who does’t rape people or threaten people with violence) in the situation. It’s safer in their minds to approach and pressure you than to walk into the lair of the rapist and say “y r u so horrible?” They have the mistaken idea that there is a middle ground to be negotiated between “don’t rape people and threaten to murder them” and “wanting to be safe from rape & violent assault.” There isn’t.
They can’t undo the wrong that was done to you or the wrong that your brother has done. That is painful and awful, but they need to sit with that awfulness and not try to make it your problem to smooth over. I am tempted to advise you to make the next time someone in your family sidles up to you and tries to broker a peace deal upsetting and unforgettable, for them. To this end, naming the behaviors is incredibly powerful and important. Don’t let people get away with referring to what happened with euphemisms like “all that business.” For example:
- “My brother raped my friend and he threatened to murder my partner. How do you suggest I make peace with that, exactly?”
- “My brother is a rapist and he threatened to murder [Partner Name]. I’ve done all the reconciling I intend to do.”
- “My brother raped my friend and he threatened to murder [Partner name]. Instead of asking me why I won’t reconcile with him, let me ask you: Why are you so interested in me making some strange peace with a rapist and would-be murderer?”
- “You go hang out with him if you want to; avoiding him is how I ‘let it go.'”
- “Yes, I will be angry about this forever. Yes, I will be afraid of him forever. If you’re so anxious for peace in the family, you can go hang out with him – nobody is stopping you. Me keeping clear of him is how I ‘let it go.'”
- “You want me to ‘let it go’, but you’re the one who chose to spend [holiday meal] pressuring me to forgive someone who raped my friend and threatened the person I love with murder. What are you getting out of this?”
- “I do still have a problem with the person who raped my friend and threatened to murder my partner, yes. If you keep bringing this up every time I see you, I’m going to have a similar problem with you.”
- “You seem to have a lot of feelings about what I do about my rapist brother – maybe you should go tell them to your pastor or a therapist, I’m not really responsible for how you feel about it.”
- When they talk about making peace for the sake of your poor poor parents, you can say: “I do feel for my parents. It’s not their fault that he raped someone or threatened to murder my partner, but they chose to enable him once they knew what he did. There is a reason our relationship is strained and I have the therapy receipts to prove it. That said, it is really, really none of your business, so if you’re done talking I’m going to go say hi to Grandma.”
When someone won’t take no for an answer, it can be psychological and strategically beneficial to lose your shit, selectively. Raise your voice if you want to (practice with a friend or a counselor or your partner beforehand, sometimes that can help). Make it super fucking awkward for them to bring this up to you ever again. Show them that the amount of polite you have been before now is a gift that you have given them, a gift that can be rescinded if they can’t behave themselves. It’s okay to make a scene, to get as angry as this question makes you feel. Let them think you are “shrill” and/or unreasonable for a hot second. “Ruin” everyone’s day the way your day gets ruined every time someone close to you becomes an apologist for your rapist brother. You might not change their minds about who is right and who is wrong, but you hopefully will communicate that continuing to beat this dead horse in your direction will strain their relationship with you.
I don’t think a comfortable relationship is possible in a family that enables a violent person in this way. I think you’ve been doing your best up until now to deal with an impossible situation, and if what you need from me is permission to stop working on this or trying to make right a thing that might never be right, a thing that is not yours to make right, well, you got it.
Here’s a song: