Warning: the following column contains rape themes that may be a sensitive topic for some readers.
The really short version is that she was at a party with her husband and our brother and she either got way to drunk or was drugged and was raped. My brother doesn’t believe her and neither, really, does her husband. They don’t think she necessarily cheated, but they don’t believe she was traumatically raped either. Not being believed sent my sister on a self-destructive path that resulted in her having a brief affair with a friend who was listening to her and believing her. Sis is trying to right herself with counseling, support groups, etc., and I’m trying to be there in whatever way she needs when I can.
I don’t know what to do or where to go with my brother. We’ve never been super close but I thought he was a stand-up guy and we had a good relationship. 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.
The weekend I was up there he offered to pick up my sister and me from our happy hour because he was worried I would encourage her to hook up with random strangers. I’m trying to separate all of this from my past anger at him for being quick to jump in with “tough love” and “accountability” when I got divorced without actually asking me what was going on in my life then. I’m just not sure how to move forward. — Mad a Brother
Your last couple of lines really say it all. Your brother was a jerk to you when you got divorced and you haven’t truly moved on from that hurt. And now that he’s behaving equally hurtful to your sister as she deals with her own traumatic situation, it’s bringing up that pain all over again. You may be trying really hard to separate the anger you have toward him for how he treated YOU from the anger you have toward him for how he’s treating your sister, but the two situations are so strongly connected, I don’t see how you can really separate them.
So, I say don’t separate them. Just be angry at your brother. But separate the anger you feel for him from the sympathy and empathy you feel for your sister. And don’t just separate those feelings, but prioritize them. Right now, your sister needs you. She needs you to believe her, to trust her, to listen to her, and to just be there for her. And you can do much more good being there for your sister than you can in focusing your anger on your brother. The anger is a wasted emotion right now when your sister’s emotional needs are so great.
If you can, try to ignore your brother for the time being. His asshole behavior is separate from your relationship with your sister and THAT is the relationship that needs your attention right now. Eventually, when your sister is on her feet and further along in the process of healing from everything she’s been through, you can again turn your attention to your brother. And, when you do, try to focus on YOUR relationship with him and not your sister’s relationship with him. Maybe the best way to deal with your issues with your brother is to talk them out in therapy. Maybe you would benefit from talking to him. Or maybe you have to finally accept that he isn’t perfect — that he’s as flawed and human as the rest of us and he wasn’t the brother you wanted him to be when you needed him. Is it the end of the world? No. Have you survived the hurt feelings he caused you? Yes. And so will your sister. And she’ll have an easier time moving on with you giving her the kind of support your brother seems unable or unwilling to give.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].