Warning: the following column contains rape themes that may be a sensitive topic for some readers.
It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now. Today, we hear from “Mad at Brother” whose brother blamed their sister for her marriage falling apart after her husband refused to believe she was sexually assaulted at a party. “I can’t believe he’s blaming our sister for what happened at the party and actively encouraging her husband to do the same. I’m mad that he’s not supporting our sister as she tries to own her mistakes and deal with the rape.” Keep reading to see how everyone is doing now.
The party originally in question was a very large catered affair with open bars on a larger property/house so I’m not really surprised not everyone knew what was going on at all times. I think the head count was 100+.
My sister is doing much better, I think. My guess is counseling has helped as well as just the passage of time. I still see her and her family often. My sister and her husband ended up reconciling, doing counseling and are trying to work things out. They seem to be doing better and I support her (and to whatever extent, them as a couple) in trying to live up to their marriage vows of “for better or worse.” I actually think her marriage might be stronger for having gone through all of this.
The best advice I heard was to just let myself be mad at my brother. I hadn’t really before. Not even for my stuff like when he told me I shouldn’t be upset my mom’s side of the family was still welcoming my ex and his new girlfriend for holidays. So I’ve let myself be mad at him. I eventually called him out his on behavior and actions, and he acted very surprised… We haven’t spoken as much and recently only at his initiation. I’m mostly polite and we might eventually get closer again. But it’s ok to recognize he’s not the “in your corner when things are messed up” kind of family member.
What I didn’t share in my original letter (and hadn’t with anyone until later) was I was dealing with my own rape from earlier that year. Even with a lot of training in sexual assault prevention and peer counseling, I wanted to pretend like nothing happened and to live in denial when it was I. I’m also in counseling now and feeling much healthier again. My sister called me out for reacting exceptionally emotionally to her situation. It was good to finally be honest with my family and a few friends about what happened.
All in all, I think I, and likely the rest of my family, will make it through this ok and with some of us stronger people and closer than before. I do realize my family has all sorts of issues – particularly with expectations and boundaries. But for the most part we try to be each other’s support systems and cheerleaders. All of us kids have turned out functionally well in terms of keeping jobs, not getting hooked on drugs, and living independently, so there’s always that.
To whatever extent I’ve left out information, I’ll try to chime in during the comment section. I didn’t participate in the comments the first time around because I was still learning how to chime in and I wanted to be extra careful to protect the people involved from knowing strangers were talking about them on the internet.
Thank you so much for sharing your update. I’m really glad your whole family — and especially you and your sister — are doing better and getting the counseling you need to help you process and heal from your respective rapes. You’re a strong woman and you’re only getting stronger.
If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.