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“My Girlfriend was Raped by Her Brother”

My girlfriend and I have been dating for over a year. A few months into the relationship, she told me that she had been raped repeatedly when she was younger. When she told me this, we were actually going through a tough time in our relationship, but hearing about that instantly brought me closer to her, and I realized I already loved her. It’s hard for me to console her since she’s a plane ride away right now. She says she is mostly over her past and it’s not something she thinks about every day. She talks about being thankful for the way her life has turned out because she realizes her calling in life is to help others. She’s a really motivated and strong young woman, and those are some of the qualities I admire most in her. When she told me that she was raped, I asked her if it was someone she knew or if it was a stranger, and at the time, all she would tell me is that it’s someone she knew but didn’t want to tell me who yet. I was confused, but I wasn’t going to press the issue.

Fast forward to the present, and she told me who raped her, and I am stunned. And at a point where I don’t know what to do. It was her brother, who happens to be one of my closest friends. She told me that she was trying to protect my friendship with her brother by not telling me, but knew that if we became serious like we are now, that she would have to tell me, and that she felt horrible about the situation. Now that she has told me, I wish she didn’t feel like she had to protect my friendship with her brother, because that’s not her job. On the other hand, I am disgusted and conflicted about being friends with her brother still. He’s been a friend of mine for a long time, and I don’t have a whole lot of close friends like him. When I first showed interest in her, he told me to stay away from his sister, and that he didn’t want her dating any of his friends unless it became really serious. We kept our relationship more subtle at first, but he seems to be okay with it now. My girlfriend made it perfectly clear she doesn’t care if I remain friends with him, and in fact, encourages it. She’s very close with her brother and has forgiven everyone in her past that has hurt her, because she’s said that was the only way for her to move on. But, as a guy, I have this desire to protect my girlfriend and I would never want to be friends with someone who is essentially a rapist, let alone someone who hurt my girlfriend so badly. I don’t know whether I should stay friends with her brother. Any advice or help is much appreciated. — Friends with a Rapist

Oof, this is a heavy one, and to be honest, too over my head to give you advice I feel confident in. But you’ve reached out for help and I hope that by publishing your letter, we as a community here can provide you some words of comfort that may help you move forward. First, you need to know some more details about the situation. How old was your girlfriend and her brother when the molestation took place, and how long did it go on? Are we talking about a teenage boy raping his sister, or a young kid who perhaps didn’t understand what he was doing? How much did the parents know what was happening and what was the extent of their involvement? How, and at what point, did the molestation end? Did the whole family go to therapy? Did your girlfriend? Have she and her brother spoken about what happened? Has he apologized? How was she able to get to a place of forgiveness? Having answers to all of these questions will help you to not only digest the information and offer your girlfriend support and compassion, but also figure out where to go now with your friendship with your girlfriend’s brother.

In regards to him, you need to accept that your friendship probably won’t ever be the same. You now see him in a different light and the angle of that light casts a pretty dark shadow on the relationship you once shared. It doesn’t necessarily have to mean you can’t be friends anymore, but it will take a lot of compassion on your end — compassion that can only come after gaining some more knowledge about the situation, and perhaps even speaking to a professional about your feelings. Ask your girlfriend what her thoughts are on how you can continue a friendship with her brother. After all, she somehow has managed to navigate through her experiences and emotions and maintain what you say is a “close” relationship with him, despite their terrible history. Ask her how she was able to get there and what advice she has for you. Does she see a therapist? If so, would that therapist recommend you accompany her on an appointment some time? Would her therapist be willing to see you individually? Does he or she have a referral for you?

Obviously, this is a complicated situation — one that will probably take a while to process. I would highly recommend getting the help of someone with the proper training and experience to guide you through the emotions you’re feeling and to help you figure out how to move forward both in your relationship with your girlfriend as well as in your friendship with her brother.

Readers, what advice can you add?

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com and be sure to follow me on Twitter.

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avatar Moe April 26, 2012, 9:13 am

I think that raping someone is not something a small child does without knowing it is wrong. If she had said “touched my breast” than maybe, but raping someone *repeatedly* is the act of a predator. I agree that they need counseling. Also, if they one day have children, he is not to come near the child.

avatar SweetPeaG April 26, 2012, 9:43 am

I tend to agree with you (especially about the brother not being allowed near any future children, at least not ALONE with them in any way, shape or form!).

But, what I would like to add that young children who have been themselves molested often act out sexually. So, if something were happening to her brother at the time, he may have been reacting in this way… even as a young child. Which, I guess could help us better understand the situation or garner some sympathy for the brother.

avatar SweetPeaG April 26, 2012, 9:53 am

That may have come out wrong. I am not trying to say we should “feel bad” for the brother. The LW’s poor girlfriend is the TRUE victim. It’s just that sometimes it helps to know the background to a story like this.

avatar kerrycontrary April 26, 2012, 9:56 am

No I agree with you, if he was doing this in his younger years it was probably as a result of him being molested by a man/woman. Most of the time people in those positions want someone else to feel the same pain as them so they assault others. It’s a painful cycle.

theattack theattack April 26, 2012, 7:51 pm

Like the others have said, children who are sexually abused themselves sometimes sexually abuse others. And even beyond that, children who grow up without learning that something is socially wrong often don’t know it is. I’ve had clients who have willingly had sex with their brothers their whole lives and then later get a big shock when they casually mention it to an outsider later who judges them for it. You don’t learn that something is wrong unless someone tells you. If your family members actually promote something, then you don’t learn to associate any negativity with it.

avatar bethany April 26, 2012, 9:22 am

Like Wendy, I feel totally unqualified giving any kind of advice in this situation- But I did want to say one thing… LW, you sound like a really stand up guy. You want to protect the woman you love, you want to respect her wishes and you want to make sure you do right by her.
No matter what happens of this situation, know that there really is no easy way to go about this, but depsite that you wanted to do the right thing. That shows a lot about your character, and I think you’re to be commended for that.

avatar bekahtravels April 26, 2012, 9:26 am

This is certainly a messed up situation and I really admire Wendy for her reply. I agree talk to a therapist who can help frame the situation, ask the right questions, and help direct the right future moves. Good luck!

avatar kerrycontrary April 26, 2012, 9:34 am

oof…Like Wendy I can barely begin to tackle this one. I am just 98% sure that I couldn’t be friends with a rapist, and that’s what the LW’s best friend is. Even if that person had been in my life for years and I loved them like a sibling, finding out something like that is a dealbreaker for a friendship. I would ask your girlfriend the questions that Wendy suggested, go to therapy alone or together, and keep your friend away from children. Chances are that your girlfriend is not the only woman/child he has assaulted and he will continue to sexually assault people. Perhaps he was assaulted as a child and there is a history of sexual assault in their family. Lastly, LW, I know you are committed to your girlfriend but there is no shame in walking away from a situation like this if you feel that you can’t or don’t want to deal with it.

avatar amy April 26, 2012, 9:36 am

All I have to say is wow, poor LW. All I can say is that I agree with Wendy. I also agree that you should probably seek professional advice.

Hmmmm… once the shock wears off, it will be tough with your friend, I don’t think that relationship will ever be the same.

Just know that it’s ok if the friendship falls apart, even the closest of friends part ways at some point in time. And you will probably never view him the same again.

Also, has the brother talked about it at all? I know he might never admit anything, but if you ask him, you might be able to judge his reaction. You are hearing one side of a (very tragic) story and you might not have all of the details.

Your girlfriend sounds like a very strong person, kudos to her for being able to move on in her life, but I agree with Wendy, get more info from the girlfriend, maybe even the brother?

Brad Brad April 26, 2012, 9:36 am

Kudos to you for resisting the urge to beat the crap out of him after learning what happened.

Budj Budj April 26, 2012, 9:52 am

I just don’t see how it is possible to have a close relationship with him after finding something like this out….

avatar amy April 26, 2012, 9:53 am

I don’t see the friendship lasting. I think LW is in shock, and it’s probably really painful for him to see his friend for what he really is.

avatar Mel April 26, 2012, 10:33 am

I don’t see it either, but how would you go about ending the relationship? You just tell him the truth? She said she was close with her brother, and he doesn’t seem to want to interfere with that. Would you just ignore him until he gets the point? I think he’d suspect something. Would you just burn his house to the ground? ‘Cause that’s what I’d feel like doing after finding out something like this.

avatar Michelle.Lea April 26, 2012, 9:55 am

Keep her away from him and vice versa. And no, he does not deserve to be friends with you. I dont care when it happened, i dont care if he was assaulted first (i do realize this can have a domino effect, perhaps he was assaulted first).

rainbow rainbow April 26, 2012, 10:02 am

“I am disgusted and conflicted about being friends with her brother still. He’s been a friend of mine for a long time, and I don’t have a whole lot of close friends like him”

I could definitely understand being conflicted about the brother because he was very young (say, under 14), abused too, or had a mental illness that prevented him from seeing how wrong raping someone is. But being conflicted because you’ve known him for long and don’t have many friends to spare? This is NOT about you. And maybe you should let this girl go so she can find someone who understands that.

What if she hasn’t actually moved on? What if she’s still friends with her brother because she hasn’t yet processed the abuse properly and doesn’t know how wrong it was? It sounds sick, but it happens all the time to people who still haven’t healed, and you’re not helping the situation by hearing “so, my brother raped me, but I think we should be friends with him” and going “well, ok! I don’t have many other friends anyway!”. Maybe she needs some outside validation to finally understand that it wasn’t ok.

I’m not saying you should get a gun and shoot him in the head. I don’t know how old or in what condition he was. But the fact that you’ve known each other for long and you are close has NOTHING to do with this. You’re asking the wrong questions.

Good luck to you and her. Please don’t make her rapes about you. And yes, it is necessary to say it. Everyone believes they wouldn’t, and then 90% of the people involved do so, and you’re already sounding like one of them.

I hope everything gets better.

avatar lets_be_honest April 26, 2012, 10:09 am

I really think you are misinterpreting what he’s said. I really did not take away anything you did after reading this. The only thing he is making “about him” is exactly what he should, imo. A decision about HIS friendship is about him.

rainbow rainbow April 26, 2012, 10:23 am

I was finishing my next comment while you posted this. I think this one wasn’t very kind, so I re read the letter and elaborated a bit in the next one.

rainbow rainbow April 26, 2012, 10:33 am

I don’t know. I understand what you mean and I know that I focused only in the part of the letter I had something negative to say about, but I disagree that at this point the decision about his friendship is about him. I think it would be about him if the brother had had a fight with the GF, or ruined her birthday party or said something mean, but he raped her. Several times. I believe seeing the decision as something that’s about her, forgetting he was ever friends with this dude, and treating the brother like he would treat any stranger who had done the same would be basic loyalty at this point.

avatar lets_be_honest April 26, 2012, 10:37 am

Let’s give him time though. I don’t know how I’d react if I were just told my best friend raped anyone. Sounds like he just found out who it was, I can only imagine how hard it’d be to process that. And then add into that she is forgiving of him and trying to foster the maintenance of their friendship.

avatar lets_be_honest April 26, 2012, 10:39 am

I think the LW would have an “easier” time knowing how to feel if this were a complete stranger, obviously. Anyone would. This though, extremely intertwined relationships, has to be mindblowing.

rainbow rainbow April 26, 2012, 10:42 am

Yes, it’s a very fucked up situation to be in, I don’t blame him for being terribly confused.

rainbow rainbow April 26, 2012, 10:17 am

Ok, that sounded a bit harsh and it wasn’t what I had in mind, so let’s do it this way:
I believe, LW, that if she had already done the whole cycle, and worked on her past properly, and healed, and AFTER THAT forgiven her brother and decided to leave everything behind she wouldn’t have told you it was him. I believe she’s telling you because she’s never broken this sick bond they had, and she wants you (his friend) to see him for who he is, and she wants your permission to consider him a bad person and cut the twisted connection they have. And you’re not giving it to her if she says “oh, but it’s no big deal, really, you should totally be friends still” and you say you’ll think about it like you’re considering to change your weekend plans or something that unimportant.
It’s a very common situation. And I believe if he had been under 14 or had a mental illness or something like that you would have mentioned it, so it doesn’t sound like there’s a reason to be friends with this guy besides your own comfort and the guilt your GF feels about making you lose a friend.

Fabelle Fabelle April 26, 2012, 10:39 am

rainbow, I definitely agree that she may not have completely healed. It’s one thing if she’s been through therapy, if her brother’s been through therapy, if he has admitted and expressed remorse for what he did, and AFTER ALL THAT, she has forgiven him. But barring those circumstances, I think it’s likely that you’re right (“she she hasn’t yet processed the abuse properly”)

This is definitely a shitty situation for the LW, and an unthinkable one for his girlfriend– like Wendy and some others have stated, I don’t really feel qualified to address it with any depth.

dabbler dabbler April 26, 2012, 10:59 am

I don’t mean this in a jerky way, but can you ever truly heal from something like this? It sounds like she’s done a remarkable job moving forward in her life, but i can’t imagine continuing to be close and just letting bygones be bygones in this situation.

avatar lets_be_honest April 26, 2012, 11:03 am

I agree. I have to imagine that this is certainly one of those ‘until you are in that situation you don’t know’ scenarios, but no I can’t imagine being close again. Forgiveness, maybe. Closeness, no.

Fabelle Fabelle April 26, 2012, 11:11 am

Yeah, I don’t even know– I’m just thinking the situation would be more difficult to process and heal from if say, the whole family is still pretending it never happened (which is often the case)

avatar V. April 26, 2012, 11:25 am

yes, it is possible to continue to be close to a sibling (when I say “close” I don’t mean creepy close, but like a normal brother-sister relationship, holidays, etc.) after something like this has occurred.

theattack theattack April 26, 2012, 7:54 pm

It’s certainly possible to heal from it. People do it all the time. It takes a lot of hard work, but it happens. I help my clients heal from this sort of thing every day.

avatar ele4phant April 26, 2012, 11:17 am

I don’t know if that’s a fair assessment. Maybe she figured since they were getting serious and he was becoming closer to not just the brother but the whole family, the full story would come out and wasn’t something that could be hidden as easily when he was just friends with the brother.

Maybe because they’re getting serious and there’s even a chance that kids could be on the agenda, she felt the LW had a right to know.

Point is, I think there are a number of reasons that she legitimately could have processed her abuse and moved on, its not fair to immediately say “She’s obviously still not healed.” Maybe she is, maybe she isn’t.

The only way for the LW to know is to sit down with HER, and talk to her about what she went through, and how she dealt with her abuse.

dabbler dabbler April 26, 2012, 11:31 am

Also, I’m sure this isn’t a conversation she would want to have with anyone she’s just casually dating. It makes sense that it has taken this long to come to the surface. The fact that the LW has his own close, personal relationship with the brother adds another layer of complexity in the situation. But take that detail out, and it’s just like anyone else that has suffered a trauma, and didn’t want to share the details until they became serious. I don’t blame her, especially that knowing by sharing her secret, it’s more than just her relationships on the line.

rainbow rainbow April 26, 2012, 7:08 pm

“I don’t know if that’s a fair assessment”

I don’t know either. I’m mentioning it in case LW feels weird about the request to stay friends but doesn’t think it would be useful to make noise about it if she’s not making it herself, because that happens a lot.

And I agree that he’s not going to be able to make a decision unless he gets some more data on how everyone dealt with it. I find it weird that he would ask Wendy before asking her for some basic info, though, which makes me think he already has it and it’s not promising.

avatar ele4phant April 26, 2012, 7:15 pm

“And I agree that he’s not going to be able to make a decision unless he gets some more data on how everyone dealt with it. I find it weird that he would ask Wendy before asking her for some basic info, though, which makes me think he already has it and it’s not promising.”

Sure, we really don’t know anything. But I could see one being shocked when hearing something like that, so I could just as easily see him being completely unsure of what to do, hence the letter, and it would have nothing to do with her reaction or state of mind. I mean, who would think your girlfriend was repeatedly been molested by her brother (someone you thought you knew really well!)? It’d be like your whole world shifted on you.

But I think we both agree, at this moment its not for him to jump in and save the day, at least not until he knows, really knows, his girlfriend’s stance on things.

avatar Suzanne April 26, 2012, 10:16 am

Just curious why Wendy didn’t answer. Wasn’t yesterday’s column was a Your Turn as well? We seem to be getting a lot of those lately.

avatar Suzanne April 26, 2012, 10:17 am

Uhhh nevermind. Somehow I missed Wendy’s answer. If I could delete that last post, I would.

avatar ReginaRey April 26, 2012, 10:17 am

Wend DID answer…

Dear Wendy Wendy April 26, 2012, 11:45 am

You know, even if I DIDN’T answer this one, I’d hope people wouldn’t be so quick to criticize me for it. Someone else yesterday made some snarky comment about me posting too many Your Turn columns. Yes, I post more than I used to (two, a week, usually), and I answer fewer letters these days, but in the last six months my life has become overwhelmingly busier. I hire a babysitter six hours a week and squeeze as much work as I can into those hours. During the rest of the week, I get work done when Jackson’s napping. In the first few months, I literally made myself crazy trying to keep up with the work load I’d always been able to keep up with before his birth. But that wasn’t healthy. And now I’m kinder to myself. And I’m grateful to you loyal readers who are kind to me as well, and cut me a little slack.

Being a stay-at-home-mom/ housewife (i.e. the cook, the housekeeper, the grocery shopper, and errand-runner) is really hard. Add a part-time, work-from-home job to the mix and it’s an even bigger challenge. As revenue on the site increases, I hope to be able to hire more help — more hours from a babysitter, and maybe even an assistant eventually — but until then, I do appreciate people’s understanding that I simply can’t post as much as I used to if I want to keep a healthy balance in my life and give my baby as much attention as he needs.

avatar Addie Pray April 26, 2012, 11:51 am

oh oh i wanna be your assistant! unless you’re looking for an assistant with, like, technical skills, or blogging skills, or marketing skills – yea, i don’t have those skills. but i can organize your closet, i’m great at that. and of course i’m just a really fun person to have around, to shoot the shit and be sassy and negative, in a positive way, of course. so do i get the job?

avatar Addie Pray April 26, 2012, 11:52 am

i’m also really good at making eggs. but that’s about it.

avatar lets_be_honest April 26, 2012, 11:53 am

You don’t need to defend yourself.
Your second paragraph, combined with the letter the other day with some cmments focusing on SAHP, got me thinking though–I think your jobs of SAHM and part-time work from home has got to be the hardest combo of them all. I wish I were a SAHM sometimes, but I know I get to keep my sanity by coming to work. I can’t imagine not only working and being a stay at home mom, but also having to work from home, getting no break from either role basically. Kudos.

cmary cmary April 26, 2012, 11:54 am

Given what Wendy’s been willing to share with us about her feelings and situation, I appreciate the Your Turn columns because I tend to think it gives her a break- however small it might be. I enjoy reading Wendy’s advice to the Letter Writers, but I understand she’s not a machine. Everyone has a limit; I’d hate to think a site that’s so enjoyable for the followers would bring Wendy to hers. It’s her site to do with as she pleases.

avatar SweetPeaG April 26, 2012, 12:12 pm

I feel like even when you aren’t able to personally answer many letters, you are still providing a forum… and that is good enough for me. Don’t get me wrong- I love your advice. But, the community is what Dear Wendy is about… and what keeps me going on some days when I’ve been sitting at this desk for too long.

So, no need to defend yourself… you’re doing a great job!

Heather Heather April 26, 2012, 12:34 pm

Oh Wendy, no worries. Honestly, and I think I speak for most when I say this, we do love when you answer letters. But personally I understand that you can’t do it as often as you used to. ESPECIALLY considering you’re doing what’s best for your well being. I hope whoever said that to you yesterday was just teasing (even if it wasn’t very funny). But I can assure you that I certainly don’t feel that way and continue to visit your site daily, excited to see whichever content you choose to put on here.

Lianne Lianne April 26, 2012, 12:59 pm

Agreed – no need to defend yourself. This is YOUR site, to which we have all been invited into. If people are criticizing they should 1) get a life; and 2) find a site that caters more to what they are looking for. My motto this week is: who gives a shit. do what you can and fuck everyone who has something to say.

avatar demoiselle April 27, 2012, 12:50 pm

Wendy, I applaud you for finding a way to have a healthy balance (or a healthier balance) in your life. That’s something I’m still working on. It is VERY difficult to make the changes needed to take care of yourself, sometimes, especially when you are by nature a caretaker.

avatar ReginaRey April 26, 2012, 10:17 am

LW, this may just be an editing glitch, or me nitpicking over semantics, but your friend is not “essentially a rapist.” He IS a rapist. Again, we don’t know how old she or he was, how long it went on, if her parents knew, if she went to therapy, etc. But he isn’t “kind of sort of a rapist.” He IS A RAPIST. And rapists don’t just apologize and make it all better. They don’t say “I’m sorry,” and then never rape again. It isn’t normal to rape people. It isn’t normal to WANT to rape a person. I don’t know if her brother was abused himself, or there’s a miswiring in his brain, or what happened to lead him to sexually abuse his sister…but he is not normal. The urge to rape someone doesn’t get satisfied and go away. It continues. It is a lifelong illness.

So, LW, you have a lot of thinking to do. You can be a wonderful partner to this woman, if that’s what you choose. You can be a kind, compassionate shoulder for her to lean on. You can help her get to therapy and work through what happened to her, and you can hold her hand as she pursues a better life. But the man who raped her is her brother, which means he may never go away. Forget about you being friends with him (which, in my opinion, shouldn’t even be up for discussion anymore…you find out your friend raped your girlfriend, that should be enough to convince you they’re not the kind of person you thought they were).

Instead, think about the future. What happens if you have kids with her? Your brother-in-law would NEVER be able to be trusted around your children. And what if, like many rape victims, she still wants to have a relationship with her brother? Will you resent that? Will it frustrate you and make you angry? Will you be able to temper yourself, even when it blows your mind that she doesn’t want to cut ties with him? These are all very real possibilities that you need to think about. If you decide you can’t handle it, that’s OK. It’s not wrong to realize that you can’t handle the turmoil and drama and emotional roller coaster that you may be facing.

Bottom line — This isn’t about you. Stop asking whether or not you should stay friends with him (I mean, really? Is that even a question? Honestly…I don’t think it is. But others may disagree), and start asking what’s best for your girlfriend and your relationship with HER.

rainbow rainbow April 26, 2012, 10:36 am

I agree with you 100%

becboo84 BecBoo84 April 26, 2012, 2:48 pm

Thank you, RR. It was mind blowing to me that he was even considering continuing this friendship, and the entire “essentially a rapist” really rubbed me the wrong way, too. Just because he’s your friend, or your girlfriend’s brother, doesn’t in some way keep him from being fully, 100% a rapist.

avatar jlyfsh April 26, 2012, 10:19 am

I think all of Wendy’s suggestions are great ones. You definitely need to know if she and her family received help for this when they were younger. I think knowing more details about the abuse will also help you move forward with your friendship with her brother. Even if the friendship ends or changes drastically knowing more of the details will help you hopefully forgive him (even if that means you are able to be civil to him at family functions for her sake and nothing more) like she has.

I would caution you though if she and her family have not received counseling. That is a lot to carry around for that many years. I would worry that the two of you might encounter problems down the road if she has unresolved issues surrounding the abuse. As well as obviously not having a presumably healthy relationship where she has forgiven him and they have worked things out with a professional.

I know that you will more than likely never be able to be friends with him like you used to. Let yourself grieve the end of that friendship separate from dealing with your girlfriend. That may mean talking to a professional about your feelings and learning ways to cope with him during holidays and other family functions.

I would also want to ask questions of your gf like others have mentioned. Is he still in therapy, has he had other issues with this, how old was he when the abuse took place. How does she see children interacting with him, etc. All of those things are obviously tied in to whether or not the family received help or chose to push things under the rug. I sincerely hope for your gf’s sake that they received help. It is hard enough to move forward from instances of abuse with a professional helping you.

avatar Addie Pray April 26, 2012, 10:19 am

I’d try to learn more about the details like Wendy said. Details like how old they were, how often it happened, whether the brother himself was abused, etc. could help you see the brother as a victim too. And if the brother was/is remorseful and sought/ is seeking help, maybe that will help you reach a position where you can one day forgive him like your girlfriend did. Or not. I don’t know. I think it’s going to take a lot of time though, and even then I’m not sure you will ever be able to forget it.

avatar lets_be_honest April 26, 2012, 10:26 am

I hope I’m not sounding disrespectful, but the fact that the brother was somewhat accepting/welcoming to the idea of his best friend dating his sister, whom he’d raped, is very, very strange to me. Especially the fact that he said he’d only be ok with the relationship if they’d become serious. Why would he want his best friend to find out about this? He must’ve known his sister would tell her boyfriend eventually. And why would she let the LW get into a relationship with her all the while knowing that his best friend is her rapist brother and that she’d likely have to tell him if they became serious.

rainbow rainbow April 26, 2012, 10:38 am

He’s probably overestimating his power over her. Maybe he thinks she won’t tell, since they’re now “friends” and all. That’s another reason why I don’t trust this brother dude, if he was terribly sorry and ashamed it would have probably come up already.

avatar lets_be_honest April 26, 2012, 10:41 am

I can get the whole need to forgive, but the fact that they are close still (the siblings) is pretty amazing to me. No?

avatar ReginaRey April 26, 2012, 10:50 am

I think it’s amazing from the standpoint of people, like us, who’ve never been there. But this happens all the time, unfortunately. Rapists and their victims, especially if they are family members, end up having a very twisted, close relationship at times. The victim can be led to believe that their rapist is the only one who really cares about them, or truly understands them, etc. It’s very warped.

avatar camille905 April 26, 2012, 11:51 am

This is so true. My ex girlfriend and best friend was raped by her stepfather starting when she was 8 and continuing until she was 20 (it only stopped because she got pregnant and gave the baby up for adoption, also she moved away for college). He has been in her life since she was 2. She has a much younger brother and sister and insists that they’re “safe” and has a “normal” relationship with him and even calls him Daddy. Her mother doesn’t know (which I find hard to believe). Anyway, she has never been to therapy for it and doesn’t see the ways it has effected her abilities to handle normal relationships and just her everyday life. So yeah, the LW’s girlfriend probably hasn’t dealt with these issues, especially since she says her and her brother are “close”. More details would help, but I think everyone involved probably needs some therapy.

And staying friends with him? Really?

Crochet.Ninja Michelle.Lea April 26, 2012, 12:55 pm

it does happen all the time. I have several very close friends that similar things have happened to. I do not understand it. I will not allow those people in my house, and I will not accept them as friends. I don’t understand at all.

avatar cporoski April 26, 2012, 1:08 pm

I was at a family friend’s wedding. There was a horrible scandal 10 years ago where it came out that the brother abused his daughter and the grandfather had abused all his kids before. The wierd thing was both of these men were at the wedding. So we just sat there saying hi and everyone at this wedding ignored this huge thing.

bittergaymark bittergaymark April 26, 2012, 1:57 pm

Wow. Strange. Again we see eye to eye on something. I am just now seeing your comment as I only skim the first few comments before I post… (You already chimed in on mine below.) But yeah, this is the one aspect about this letter that give me pause…

avatar lets_be_honest April 26, 2012, 2:04 pm

I’m telling you Mark, full moon!

avatar sohara April 27, 2012, 12:01 pm

I also found this letter surprising and wondered if the girl MIGHT (I stress MIGHT) be lying. It could provide an alternate explanation as to why the LW’s friend didn’t want him dating his sister – he knew she was a fantacist who made up stories. I find it very hard to believe that a girl repeatedly raped by her brother would not only forgive him but be close to him. The LW also doesn’t indicate any other questionable actions or comments he’d observed in his long-time friendship with the brother. I would think that a rapist might say things about women that non-rapists would find odd or disturbing (but perhaps not.) In addition, the girlfriend is long-distance and the LW (understandably) doesn’t want to press her on the details, so he can’t really tell if there are discrepancies in her story. In addition, he doesn’t know/want to bring this up with her brother, so he has no contrary side. I don’t normally disbelieve women who say they’ve been raped, but I do find this story very odd.

Kate B. Kate B April 26, 2012, 10:42 am

Wow. I think all of Wendy’s suggestions are good ones. The only thing I can add is maybe the LW should speak to a rape counselor himself to learn what his girlfriend is going through. It can only bring him greater understanding.

avatar ele4phant April 26, 2012, 11:05 am

Hmmm, this is a hard one. I think you are definitely allowed to sit down and talk at length with your girlfriend about what happened and how she and her family have dealt with it.

If it appears that a significant amount has been done for the family to heal and move on, its really not your place to come in and rip apart all that they’ve worked to put back together. If he was punished, if they all went to counseling, both individually and as a family, and have come to a place of forgiveness, you need to respect that.

Its only natural that you would be horrified and disgusted by this information, but it does not appear that your girlfriend needs to be “protected from her rapist”. I am assuming this family went through a great deal of pain to be able to get to where they are now, and just because you are first hearing this information doesn’t mean you get to push them all back to that place.

If you don’t want to be friends with this guy anymore, that’s fine. But you should be cordial, you should respect the rebuilding and healing this family has done

avatar _jsw_ April 26, 2012, 11:07 am

I agree that there need to be more details uncovered. It just doesn’t seem to quite jive as is. I know that siblings can be raped, and I’m not doubting the LW’s gf’s story. It just seems that something’s a bit off. Either she’s someone with a phenomenal capability for forgiveness, or she’s somewhat misrepresenting either what happened or – far more likely – how she now feels about it. She might not even really know how she feels about it, because she might believe that she is “supposed” to forgive him.

I certainly agree that therapy would be very helpful to her, because there absolutely must be (repressed?) trauma to work through.

I try to play Devil’s Advocate, but I just can’t think of a single thing to say to defend someone who rapes anyone and especially a child and relative. I’m sure he was also abused. I understand that the original abuser is most to blame, but that cycle might have been going on for generations.

I guess the best I can say about the brother is that, if this all occurred right at the onset of puberty, he was also a child, and arguably it was something he did because he didn’t know what else to do with the pain he felt. In that case – and only in that case – I feel badly for both of them, because it’s a case of two abused and traumatized children.

That would tend to explain her feelings about him, actually, if she knows the full story.

CatsMeow CatsMeow April 26, 2012, 11:17 am

I agree with Wendy and everyone else who said that knowing the details about what happened and when, and how, and what has happened since then to lead to the forgiveness is really important in helping you to determine how to proceed with your friendship with the brother. And I think there’s a good possibility that you know more than you included in the letter.

However, if you DON’T know everything – and you’re dying to ask all these questions (I know I would be) – just be careful. Talking about the details can be really hard for victims. I think what you’ve done so far is good; she initially held back a detail from you and you let it go until she was ready to tell you. All I’m saying is, IF she seems reluctant to share certain information with you, be careful and don’t press her so you don’t trigger her. I’m sure she’ll tell you when she’s ready.

avatar mf April 26, 2012, 11:25 am

I agree with everyone else that we’re missing some key details here – details which could drastically change our understanding of the situation.

That being said… If you trust your girlfriend and believe that her brother did in fact rape, I can’t fathom how you could consider staying friends with him. He’s a predator, PERIOD. Even if your GF has forgiven him, I can’t imagine that she will EVER feel safe around him. And what about the other women and children he knows? Your mutual female friends? Your girlfriend’s young cousins, nieces, and nephews?

I imagine the best possible thing you can do is see a therapist or rape counselor. They might be better equipped to help you see things from all sides.

avatar sarolabelle April 26, 2012, 11:31 am

All I want to know is why isn’t the brother in jail?

honeybeenicki honeybeenicki April 26, 2012, 12:10 pm

Cases like this often go unreported, unfortunately. Its part of the dark figure of crime and especially with a close family relationship (brother, sister, dad, mom, etc), the victim often doesn’t come forward with it for fear of being blamed or “ruining” the family, etc and by the time they confront it themselves as adults (if they do), they don’t want to drag it all up again.

avatar MissDre April 26, 2012, 12:39 pm

I was 11 years old when I was given the option of pressing charges against my abuser and I said no, because at that time I was so traumatized and humiliated by coming forward that I didn’t want to go through a trial. And my mom didn’t want to hurt me further by putting me through a trial either, so we let it be. He was ordered to go to counseling but that’s it and I don’t think he ever did. I have no idea why pressing charges is optional… I don’t know much about law. But I think it’s highly likely that this girl just desperately wanted to put it all behind her and move on like nothing happened.

avatar lets_be_honest April 26, 2012, 12:48 pm

I’m quite sure its only some states that have this, but I know with domestic violence, cops can charge the person whether or not the person assaulted wants to press charges. I think sexual assault should be the same.

avatar Sarah April 26, 2012, 9:27 pm

It’s not optional as much as that district attorneys can’t actually force victims to testify how they want them to testify. One, it’s bad for business to seem like you bully victims, and two, you really are not in control of what comes out of their mouth once they’re on the witness stand. Domestic violence cases can occasionally be prosecuted without the victim if there’s enough other evidence (cops/neighbors seeing bruises/hearing fights + 911 call will usually do it). You don’t have the same kind of evidence in most sexual assault cases where the victims are reluctant to testify.

avatar jlyfsh April 27, 2012, 10:22 am

We had this issue when my father was on trial for sexual abuse. I have repressed a lot of my memories from when I was a kid and the abuse was going on and so I wasn’t a very good witness. They wanted to put my little sister (who was 6 at the time and remembered and was able to testify) on the stand again but she was just so traumatized by the first time she was on the stand they chose not to put her on again. My father ended up taking an Alfred Plea I think and didn’t serve any time but did have to go to some sort of counseling and thankfully has to stay registered as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

avatar ele4phant April 26, 2012, 1:02 pm

Maybe he was a minor at the time too, and went through the juvenile system?

theattack theattack April 26, 2012, 7:58 pm

If he was a child, he doesn’t even have to go through the juvenile justice system necessarily. The concern isn’t about punishing a child if they’re young. The concern is keeping them both safe, finding out why they’re doing what they’re doing (because almost every single child perpetrator has been sexually abused themselves), and getting both of the children into therapy. Children aren’t born knowing right and wrong.