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 [email protected] and be sure to follow me on Twitter.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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 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 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….
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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 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 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 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 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.
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 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)
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 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
Suzanne April 26, 2012, 10:17 am
Uhhh nevermind. Somehow I missed Wendy’s answer. If I could delete that last post, I would.
ReginaRey April 26, 2012, 10:17 am
Wend DID answer…
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.
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?
Addie Pray April 26, 2012, 11:52 am
i’m also really good at making eggs. but that’s about it.
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 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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 April 26, 2012, 10:36 am
I agree with you 100%
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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…
lets_be_honest April 26, 2012, 2:04 pm
I’m telling you Mark, full moon!
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 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.
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
_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 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.
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.
sarolabelle April 26, 2012, 11:31 am
All I want to know is why isn’t the brother in jail?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
ele4phant April 26, 2012, 1:02 pm
Maybe he was a minor at the time too, and went through the juvenile system?
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.
Hurricanem April 26, 2012, 11:33 am
As a survivor, I will share that I don’t think I personally would ever be able to forgive my rapist, or begin a relationship in the first place with one of his friends. That being said, LW, you sound like a wonderful, caring, compassionate and supportive partner. No matter how far a survivor has come in their healing, it is always a risk to disclose that information to someone, so kudos to you for being trustworthy and great enough to be worth the risk. Further, you are doing a great job of reaching out in what is a totally confusing and difficult situation. My opinion is that you should support your girlfriend in whatever she needs to do to continue her healing (within reason, obviously). This does not mean that you personally need to continue a friendship with her brother if you are not comfortable with it. Everyone processes these situations differently – and you should not feel guilty if you can’t or choose not to remain friends with the brother. You are a secondary survivor now too, and you get to decide how best for you to move forward and how best for you to support the woman you so clearly love.
Frankly, I personally wouldn’t bombard her with a lot of questions or sit her down for a serious talk in order to determine what you are going to do about your friendship. That is a decision you can reach without having to pry into her past trauma. Of course, if she discloses freely, no problem, but it sounds like it’s not something she talks about in too great of detail.
It seems to me like you’re doing a great job handling this so far. I would just like to remind you to let her know that you are there for her, and that what happened was not okay, but that you respect and support her decision to continue her relationship with her brother, even if you don’t understand it. I know that for me, it is helpful when my boyfriend verbalizes these types of things to me. I hope this was somewhat helpful to you. My thoughts are with you, and your girlfriend.
TaraMonster April 26, 2012, 12:11 pm
“Frankly, I personally wouldn’t bombard her with a lot of questions or sit her down for a serious talk in order to determine what you are going to do about your friendship.”
THIS. As a survivor myself, that part of Wendy’s advice was really jarring to me- I’m not getting on Wendy; I know first hand how difficult it is to process a story of abuse, and she did a great job giving advice all things considered.
I’ve only disclosed the details about what happened to me to three people: my mother (at the time), my boyfriend, and my therapist. If someone tried to pry that information out of me -even with good intentions- I’m not sure how I would react. It’s making me uncomfortable just thinking about it.
I don’t really know what to say about LW’s friendship with the brother, but your words, Hurricanem, are spot on. All LW can really do is support his girlfriend, and it sounds like he’s doing a pretty awesome job of it so far. My boyfriend’s support has been hugely instrumental in my healing process, and it’s always going to be a process.
BettyBoop April 26, 2012, 6:34 pm
I agree that he should not pry, but it is completely acceptable to approach the subject to see if she’s willing to disclose more details to help him understand the situation and move forward appropriately. I, too, was raped and have no problem sharing the details of my experience. I would never expect anyone to have my comfort level, but there are many women comfortable discussing it.
pennylane April 26, 2012, 11:42 am
I know this may be controversial, and probably the complete opposite of what everyone is saying here – but I don’t think you need to turn your life upside down about it. I’ve been in a similar situation as the letter-writer’s girlfriend and I’ve come to terms with what happened and it has been dealt with, handled, and put to rest.
Of course, I don’t know the severity of that which happened, and my situation may be completely different than hers, but she has told you that she has dealt with her demons. She clearly knew you were friends with her brother before she entered into a relationship with you. If she wanted a complete separation from her brother, she would have never considered you – I’m certain of it.
She confided in you because she trusts you – and if you cause a huge uproar of “I’m not going to be friends with you because you raped my girlfriend when you were kids!” it will actually cause your girlfriend a lot more distress now than she’s dealt with before. Why would you want to bring all of that up again? Why would you want to cause more suffering?
I think you need to trust your girlfriend when she says that she is mostly over it. Don’t stir things up, don’t make a huge deal of it, and certainly don’t pry for additional information and get her to talk about it if she doesn’t want to.
If you feel that you can’t be friends with the brother, don’t be. You and your girlfriend can have a great life together (forever, even) while maintaining appropriate boundaries with her brother. I know that if I have children, I wouldn’t leave them alone with by brother, but that is based on my personal experience. Do I think he is a child molester because of what happened when we were children? (we were only 2 years apart) Absolutely not. And honestly, not leaving children with him doesn’t really have much to do with that, but more to do with him in general not being responsible or trustworthy.. (sorry, getting off topic)
I guess what I’m trying to say is this: don’t cause a rift in an otherwise close family just because she confided in you.
Leroy April 26, 2012, 12:03 pm
I think that’s actually good advice. This isn’t his issue, or his family. He doesn’t fully understand what’s happened. And she seems to have dealt with it admirably. So follow her lead and don’t let this define your relationship with her.
Moneypenny April 26, 2012, 12:41 pm
Well said. I think this is great advice.
FireStar April 26, 2012, 12:50 pm
I agree with you. I kept thinking the ages were so important to know. Would the responses be the same if he was 7 and she was 5? To commit a crime you need the intention – could a small child even know what they were doing at that age? Would it matter to you if he was that young? Would you feel differently? LW you can just offer her support when she needs it but take your lead from her. The last thing she would want would be for you to react so strongly that you cause conflict in an area of her life she has made peace with. If you can’t be as close to her brother then dial your friendship back. If she hasn’t had any therapy I would gently suggest it to her though.
Hurricanem April 26, 2012, 1:23 pm
Thank you! That is exactly what I couldn’t put into words, but thank you! You’re right on Pennylane.
PS. LW, Pandora’s Aquarium is the online forum I have found most helpful for me. There are several great boards for secondary survivors as well, so sharing this there might help you find some support.
Samantha April 26, 2012, 12:47 pm
Good advice, pennylane. Let her share as she feels comfortable, LW, and take your cues from there. Perhaps her family has taken a long time to get to this point. Perhaps her brother was young and found help. Keep children away from him, certainly, but don’t be too outwardly concerned about this with her. Your girlfriend has been through a lot, and she’ll share in her own time because it’s obvious she trusts you.
My family has gone through this situation, and while I didn’t “marry into it”, I was born into it, and it’s best to just take your cues from the primary victims and speak to a therapist on your own for how to deal with your own concerns and issues. Dredging up old hurts can re-victimize those who have mostly healed, and it can make you seem like an aggressor, even if that’s not your intent.
If you feel you can’t maintain a friendship with the brother, then distance yourself, but for your girlfriend’s sake, remain cordial.
This is such a sad situation, and I think you’re doing the right thing by reaching out to help her. You sound like a really stand-up guy.
Lucy April 26, 2012, 2:09 pm
I hear what you’re saying about not pushing her and not causing drama if everything in the family has been worked through. But the LW is going to have to ask at least some questions to determine if that’s the case. If it is, then it’s not his place to try and get in the middle of it, although depending on the specifics, it seems almost certain that he’ll end up dialing back his friendship with the brother. I mean, how do you not?
I also think he has another good reason for needing to understand more of the story and whatever reconciliation process there was. It’s a selfish reason, but in a healthy way. If the gf’s definition of “mostly over” it turns out to mean, “we didn’t go to counseling or anything, and we all agreed we’d never talk about it again,” then there’s going to be consequences somewhere down the road. The LW needs to be able to go into that with his eyes open.
Moneypenny April 26, 2012, 12:40 pm
I’ve never been in this situation before, and I think there is some really great advice given by Wendy and others. All I think I can add is in regards to his friendship with the brother. I think that, in light of what you have learned about his past with your girlfriend, you should not feel like you must remain friends with him. You sounds like a really great guy, and clearly are putting your relationship with your girlfriend first, and that’s great. But knowing this changes your friendship with the brother, and despite you not having many close friends like him, I can’t think that you won’t have more opportunities for close friendships in the future with other people.
bittergaymark April 26, 2012, 1:30 pm
This is a crazy situation…
I’d like to know more details.
Their ages and what not.
Playing devil’s advocate… Everybody assumes the brother actually did it. And while it certainly sounds like he did. I still have some questions. I mean, for starters, if I had repeatedly raped my sister I’d make damn well sure she NEVER dated any of my friends, ever. I mean that. I would NEVER be so casual about it. Because to me — logically — her dating one of my friends would be the most obvious way for this awful secret to ever come out.
I guess the only thing to do now is for the LW to confront the brother/best friend with this info and see his reaction. This should reveal the truth hopefully. If the brother is, in fact, guilty, I suspect it will show all over his face — regardless of what he says. If he believably maintains his innocence — ask him to take a polygraph test. Seriously.
Obviously, I will catch hell for this post. But a good acquaintance of mine was accused of rape in college and I was totally shocked. Just shocked. I knew them both and my stomach churned for days knowing that I had been so wrong about him… I was friends with a rapist? I was floored… Suddenly though, the girl recanted and admitted she made it all up in a rage because he dumped her. (It later came out that this was a pattern with her, and she had done this twice before with other exes in different cities…) Now obviously, this was a very rare and isolated incident… but it shook me to the core. As did the LaCross Team rape case where I was ready to lynch all the ass-hole jocks involved because I just KNEW they were guilty and in the end that, too, was all a lie… So these days, I am less quick to judge and more quick to ask to see the evidence.
JK April 26, 2012, 1:37 pm
The LW does say that at first the guy didn´t want him dating the sister: “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”.
bittergaymark April 26, 2012, 1:40 pm
Oh, I know, I know. I saw that as well. And that STILL struck me as casual… Very. All I’m saying is I’d have been much more vehement. It’s not at all uncommon for people to not want their friends to date their siblings…
lets_be_honest April 26, 2012, 1:43 pm
All that says to me is the brother just didn’t want his friends hittin & splittin if you will. You can’t become serious without it being casual first.
bittergaymark April 26, 2012, 1:47 pm
My take exactly… Additionally, being in the middle of a break up between a sibling and a good friend is a NIGHTMARE!! (I know from personal experience.) So a guy not wanting his best friend to date his sister isn’t exactly that big a red flag to me…
lets_be_honest April 26, 2012, 2:03 pm
I have one older brother. His friends were always off-limits. My friends…always found in his room after a sleepover.
(that’s not to say I obeyed his off-limit friend rule, but that’s a story for another day, a very long story, actually.)
bittergaymark April 26, 2012, 2:10 pm
I can’t believe you had such brazenly slutty friends!! 😉
My sister and I never experienced such problems while we were growing up as she’s five years younger than me. But when she moved out to LA and lived upstairs from me (literally, I helped her score an apartment in my building…) it finally happened. I introduced her to one of my sketch comedy buddies, who I was worried she’d hate as he was kinda goofy. Far from it. They dated for almost a year… It was an ugly break up. Worse, truth be told, I had been secretly jealous the ENTIRE time as back then I had this horrible habit of falling in love with my straight best friends…
lets_be_honest April 26, 2012, 2:18 pm
Ha! None of them actually dated my brother which was good by me.
Funnily enough, all these years later, I just had my 30th and he came home for it. The after party at my place lasted til about 5 am and sure enough, some things never change…my one girlfriend that stayed over was found in my basement with him the next morning!
painted_lady April 26, 2012, 1:32 pm
I understand and respect your desire to protect your girlfriend, and I also respect that this makes you feel so uneasy about being around her brother. I want to share a little bit of my own story with you so maybe you can have a clearer picture of how to handle this situation.
I was abused when I was 3 or 4 by my cousin who was closer to an older brother. Not to the degree that your girlfriend was abused, but there’s no mild form of sexual abuse. My cousin and I are close today, and though we’ve never talked about what happened, I know based on other things he’s said about that period in his life it was a result of some pretty hideous abuse.
I told my boyfriend for basically the same reasons your girlfriend told you – I couldn’t have the man I love not know that about me. His initial reaction was the sort of silent rage where he actually didn’t want me to talk anymore. It was understandable. And it was also understandable that he wasn’t sure if he could be around my cousin. But here’s the thing – if he can’t be around my cousin, whom I’ve forgiven, then I continue to be punished for abuse that wasn’t my fault in the first place. It will be awkward and unpleasant to eventually have to explain why he never comes around when my cousin’s there, and I don’t want my life partner to make me choose between him and a member of my family – especially when it’s for my own sake that the choice even exists.
Take your girlfriend’s lead on this. And yes, you may need to distance yourself from your former friend, but make sure you don’t do so in a way that robs your girlfriend of her choice to respond to this ordeal in her life the way that she needs to. She doesn’t need another man taking away her power.
And I think it’s okay to ask questions, as long as you make clear that she doesn’t have to answer. A few questions at a time, rather than a whole “Let’s Sit Down and Hash Out How Your Brother Raped You” talk where you clear the air on everything. After my boyfriend got over the initial shock, he asked some low-stakes questions that actually made me aware that there was some stuff I hadn’t processed – for example, I know my Dad knows, because he was the one I told, but I have no idea whether my mom knows. We’ve never discussed it, I think mostly because they hope I don’t remember, and I’ve realized that I should have brought this up with them long ago.
Most of all, I think the most important question you can ask her is,”What do you need from me?” both in terms of how she needs you to treat her and how she would like you to react with the family situation. I’m not saying all of your needs must take backseat to hers, but taking them into account is especially important in this kind of situation, where someone’s power was robbed of them to begin with.
parton_doll April 26, 2012, 1:49 pm
Excellent persepctive. Thank you for sharing your story and best of luck to you.
ele4phant April 26, 2012, 1:50 pm
“Take your girlfriend’s lead on this. And yes, you may need to distance yourself from your former friend, but make sure you don’t do so in a way that robs your girlfriend of her choice to respond to this ordeal in her life the way that she needs to. She doesn’t need another man taking away her power.”
I am not an abuse survivor, but I could see how being having someone who had not endured the trauma, such as a boyfriend, dictate or try to control how you should respond would also be traumatic.
ktfran April 26, 2012, 2:02 pm
Actually, that statement could be applied in every day life as well. For both males and females.
ele4phant April 26, 2012, 2:12 pm
Good point. If my BF tried to dictate how I responded to something I had experienced, no matter the severity or magnitude, it would not be met well. And undoubtedly he would feel the same.
painted_lady April 26, 2012, 5:27 pm
It’s actually sort of exhausting, the handful of people I’ve told – a couple of really good friends and a couple of boyfriends – usually want to tell me I’m feeling the wrong way about it. My general feeling toward it is kind of ambivalent – I don’t necessarily like thinking of myself as a “sexual abuse survivor” simply because it implies far more trauma than actually happened to me. Not like I’m squeamish about it, but I’m not sure what I experienced even compares to what happened to the LW’s girlfriend – it’s like I’m insulting people who suffered far worse by even putting myself in the same boat. But I’ve had people assure me that just means I’m in denial – nope, that totally happened, it was totally inappropriate, and it still is one of those things I still kind of deal with, but I’m still not going to go up to some woman who was impregnated by her father at age 11 and be like “Yup, happened to me, too.”
And yeah, I really hate being told I should get some therapy to deal with it as I never sought professional help nor did my parents. I probably need therapy for other reasons, but that? Totally fine. And yet somehow my insistence that I’m fine is proof that I’m not. It’s frustrating because I know people mean well, but just because I didn’t try crack at age 9 doesn’t mean I’m repressing it all and will result in a nervous breakdown the next time I have sex with my boyfriend. In other words, I’m tired of people with the best of intentions still making my ordeal about them.
Fabelle April 26, 2012, 7:11 pm
Thanks for providing this perspective
Taylor April 26, 2012, 1:10 pm
LW, there are support groups for partners of rape/incest survivors, and a lot of web resources. There’s an extensive resource list at:
I’d talk with some people who are professionally licensed in these matters.
jubietta April 26, 2012, 2:27 pm
I haven’t heard anyone say this, yet…
LW, it’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to be disappointed in your friend. It’s okay to be confused and even scared. Every emotion you feel is valid, even if it’s fleeting. Often the best thing for dealing with such an unusual (thank goodness) situation is time and I hope you’ll give yourself as much as you can before making any decisions. And, if you find yourself fantasizing about possible avenues of recourse (and you can keep it to fantasy) realize that’s just the brain’s way of “trying on” different outcomes — a form of bargaining, if you will. I think it’s healty if you can keep it from hurting anyone around you.
When you do feel ready to start making decisions, remember that except for death everything else can be reframed/clarified/changed as we move through life. If you decide to put a great deal of space between you and GF’s brother, and later that seems like a less-than-optimal situation, you can change it. If you are able to follow your GF’s lead, as advised above, remember that your choices are a measure of generosity to her — feel good about them if you can. And if you can’t,be really clear about it with her and together you can try a different tactic.
As long as the situation is among adults who have maximum freedom in their choices — you have lots of leeway to make this situation into what you and GF need. Once there are children involved, anyone’s children, I hope that you and GF and GF’s brother will all be protective of them…because there’s been enough child vicitmization in this family already.
Anonymous April 26, 2012, 2:36 pm
Staying anonymous because it’s not exactly something I’d like to shout from the rooftops, but I was in a very similar situation as LW’s girlfriend. My brother was only 2 years older than me, but he was bigger, stronger, and no matter how hard I fought, I could rarely get away. I don’t remember when it began, but it ended when I was fourteen and I showed him a knife I had found and I told him I would kill him in his sleep if he ever touched me again. He hasn’t touched me, not even a handshake, since.
I often wonder what terrible thing happened to turn him. As an adult, he was diagnosed with schizoeffective bipolar disorder, he has occasional psychotic episodes where he completely loses touch with reality. It is possible that he was also victimized. I limit my contact with him, so I will likely never know why.
I went through a phase in college where my brother and I were friends. I never told my boyfriends about the abuse and they always hit it off with my brother. He was kind of like the pedophile on workaholics, just seemed like a super cool guy. I don’t know why I felt the need to be friends with my brother. Maybe it was some sort of Stockholmy type thing. My wake up call came when he knocked up a friend of mine. The thought of him having access to a child terrifies me. When I found out about the pregnancy, it brought back all the negative emotions from my childhood and really made me wonder WTF I was doing. I cut off contact. He eventually moved in with my parents, so I’m not able to avoid him completely anymore, but I do everything I can to avoid him.
I told my husband everything pretty early in our relationship. He is polite and semifriendly to my brother at family events (at my request) but has no interest in any sort of friendship.LW, It’s nice that your gf seems to have made peace with the situation but you must keep in mind that pedophiles often groom parents, not just their victims. You must make absolutely sure that your girlfriend agrees to keep any children you may have away from him. It is foolish and dangerous to assume she is his last victim. The horror of your newfound discovery will fade, and that is when the danger begins. You must not forget, ever, that he is a threat to your children. It would be wise to distance yourself from this guy, even if your girlfriend tries to pressure you into staying close to him, it just isn’t a good idea. Be polite, but try to avoid interacting with him as much as you can.
John Rohan April 27, 2012, 5:38 am
The issue about future children is very relevant. You can’t possibly take that seriously enough. I really hope the LW listens.
LW April 26, 2012, 2:54 pm
I am the LW. To clarify a few things, since I have spoken to my girlfriend over the phone a few times about this recently, the abuse started when she was 2 and continued until she was 12 or so. He is about 2 years older. She’s 22 now and I’m 24. She has been through years of intensive therapy, but only goes every few months now to deal with the basic stresses of life. Neither her brother or her family has gone through therapy specifically for this. Because I’ve been good friends with her brother for awhile, she was the one more hesitant to date me in the beginning. And I definitely understand it now. She went through years of hating her brother and her parents for not protecting her (as she did tell them what happened when she was very young) but she says she has come to the point of accepting what happened, moving on, and forgiving those involved. While she is close with her brother, they rarely talk while she is away and are very different people to begin with. Since he lives at home right now, when she visits, they play video games together and do normal things like that. But they don’t tell each other everything that’s going on in their lives. She knows that many people think it’s screwed up for her to have a relationship with her brother, but she states she knows what she is doing. She is more careful telling boyfriends about her abuse, but all of her friends are aware of her past, and she is comfortable enough to talk about it. She told me she has no desire to confront her brother at this time because she fears if he denies it (which is likely) then it won’t really be closure and decided it’s not important to her anymore. She confronted her parents a few years ago and it was a huge stepping stone into improving their relationship, which is doing much better. She does not want me to say anything to her brother for the time being. I do believe she has moved on. She is very religious in a spiritual sense and says she doesn’t think she would be alive today without her faith. So yes, I do think she is extremely forgiving, but she says she needed to get rid of the hatred and negativity for others for her own peace.This became longer than I expected, and I appreciate all the advice from Wendy and the commenters. I’m still a little undecided about how to deal with her brother, but my girlfriend will be permanently moving back to my area in a few weeks and she’s agreed to find a therapist here that we can both see to sort these issues out.
ele4phant April 26, 2012, 8:31 pm
You sound like a loving, caring boyfriend.
John Rohan April 27, 2012, 5:03 am
Hold the phone. It started when she was 2???? TWO YEARS OLD????
Good God man, there are actually some vastly more important questions that should be asked before we even get into the issue of your relationship with this woman. Namely, the fact that this guy should be in jail right now, or at a minimum in serious therapy. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THIS BROTHER HAS CHILDREN HIMSELF?? What are you going to do then? Nothing?
Moreover, if he was molesting his own sister when he was only 4, it’s highly likely that he was molested himself, and that trail points to the parents, the same parents who have done nothing even though they know what happened. You really need to understand what kind of family you are getting mixed up with here.
JK April 27, 2012, 7:58 am
I can´t belive Ipm going to say this… but I totally agree with you, John.
Tracey April 26, 2012, 4:35 pm
I’d suggest that he (and she if she’s willing) contact RAINN (the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) for referrals to a counselor or local resources to help them through this very sad and complicated situation. They all need so much counseling, advice, and love. This group would be the best place to start.
MaryContrary April 26, 2012, 4:14 pm
I am very sorry to hear about what has happened to your girlfriend, and second, that I’m really glad that you wrote in to ask for advice. As for your feelings about the situation, I want to urge you (like many of the other commenters have) to please seek therapy for yourself. although it happened to your girlfriend a long time ago, the fact that you just found out makes it a new trauma for you, and you might need some help dealing with it.
If you go to the RAINN website, you can look to find the closest sexual assault center in your area. most offer free counseling sessions to significant others as well, regardless of when the assault took place. If they don’t, they can definitely refer you to someone who specializes in this area. Here is the website:
Also, if something comes up before then, please call the national hotline @ 1.800.656.HOPE and talk to someone on the phone about what’s going on.
I can’t tell you whether or not you should remain friends with her brother without knowing more information, but I can advise you to be very careful in your interactions, and be aware of any changes in his demeanor or personality if/when he finds out that you know.
I would advise talking to a counselor about your feelings and how to best deal with them.
Last of all, I want to remind you that you cannot go back and change what has happened to her, however much you might like, but by supporting her (and asking for help in how to do so), by believing her, and giving her time to open up to you, you really are doing the best thing that you can do for her.
theattack April 26, 2012, 8:08 pm
LW, I think you sound like a wonderful person. I wish every girl could have a guy like you. As for advice – I think you should consider what your girlfriend wants more. A few points here: 1) She hesitated to tell you about it because she didn’t want to harm your friendship with him. This is a very clear statement that she approves of your friendship with him and doesn’t want it to change. 2) He’s not going anywhere, especially if she’s moved past it. What will you do at holidays, sitting across the table from your ex friend? You are not by any means required to have a good friendship with him, but you need to at least be friendly about it. If you choose to end your friendship with him, you will be disrupting the peace your girlfriend has found, and you will be disrupting the delicate family dynamics that were likely very hard to establish after the abuse. I urge you to be friendly with him, even if you feel that you need to phase out your friendship with him. Try to have the sort of friendship where you say things like “Man, it’s too bad we haven’t been able to see each other since [the last family obligation]. Things have been so busy lately. We should try to get together soon.”
John Rohan April 27, 2012, 6:02 am
I’m really confused why he “needs” to maintain a friendship with a rapist. If the sister wants to, that’s on her. The LW has no obligation to, and I don’t see how any sane person would want to. Even if he just decides to be publicly polite and tolerant of him, there’s still huge issues, like that the fact that he should never be allowed around children unless he’s admitted his problem and had a huge amount of therapy to deal with it.
theattack April 27, 2012, 1:08 pm
It’s more complicated than that. You can’t ignore how his decision will affect his girlfriend and their family. No one would WANT to be friends with him, but it’s occasionally necessary to tolerate people who you find despicable for the sake of people you love. I believe her choices in her family relationships take priority over his disgust here. He certainly does not have to be friends-friends with him, but I think he should let her take the lead here on what the nature of their relationship should be like in the future.
John Rohan April 27, 2012, 7:16 pm
But you also can’t ignore how her decision will affect any future victims that this guy comes across. He’s young, with no criminal record. He could easily have kids himself or get a job working with them. It’s not all about her.
the other guy April 26, 2012, 11:46 pm
Sorry to say it but this is a mess, MOA. There isn’t going to be any happy endings, if you hadn’t known the brother so well there might be a chance but your relationships are now poisoned. I can’t see any happy family reunions in the future.
You need to look to your own long term happiness and get the heck out of this NOW! This would be best for your girl friend as well as your previous friendship with her brother makes it just the more messier.
John Rohan April 27, 2012, 4:57 am
I often chide people on this site for saying “MOA” too quickly, but in this case it may be the best solution overall. At a minimum, he’s going to have to MOA from his friendship with the brother anyway. I don’t see what good can come of this. The woman claims she was sexually abused starting at AGE TWO!!!! (from the update in comments) yet she is still friends with her brother and her parents are still OK with it, even though they know about it.
The best scenario here is that the woman is lying about all this to get attention, and even if that was the case, that’s hardly a healthy basis for a relationship. Wow, what a mess.
Rachelgab April 27, 2012, 10:12 am
As a therapist reading this, the one thing that comes to mind is your girlfriend’s denial. Regardless of when this took place, she may be at peace with what happened, but maintaining a “close” relationship with her brother and encouraging you to do the same is bound to be traumatizing and confusing to her on some level. I would follow your heart/gut on this one. It sounds like you actually know the answer.
Kudos to Wendy and the commenters for acknowledging the difficulty in giving “advice” on the matter. Advice won’t work. This is a process that’s going to take a lot of patience and understanding.
ele4phant April 27, 2012, 3:40 pm
I hesitate to respond to this, I’m not a therapist OR an abuse survivor, so this is far, far, far out of my realm of experience. However, I can’t help but object to the “she’s in denial and in danger of being further traumatized.”
The LW responded a few posts up, and it sounds like she’s had years of intense counseling. It also sounds like by “close” relationship, it means that she and her brother are able to interact when together as a family (which granted is often as he lives with the parents); not that they are extremely tight, talk everyday, and hang out just the two of them. Frankly, as an outsider I wouldn’t call what they have as a “close” brother-sister relationship, just a “normal” one.
Are you telling me, in your professional opinion, that a woman who has gone through years and years of therapy, who has confronted the parents who enabled the abuse, and has forgiven her abuser to the point she can interact on occasion with said abuser, is still in deep denial? If so, what’s the point of even getting help? It would seem once damaged, always damaged. I don’t mean to call in your assessment into question (again, I’m not the professional here), but is there ever a point where someone who’s been abused as a child can move past the abuse, exist harmoniously in her family (which yes, includes her abuser) and be an emotionally healthy adult?
John Rohan April 27, 2012, 7:14 pm
If she got therapy for herself, and it worked, that’s great, but what about therapy for him? Or for the parents? (who at a minimum are in denial, or at worst abused their son themselves – his starting at age 4 is a huge red flag).
That’s the part she seems to be in denial about: That everything is OK with him, because she got therapy. What happens when he has his own kids? Or works with kids? No safeguards have been put in place – no prison time, no treatment, no listing on the sex offender registry. He doesn’t even seem to acknowledge what he did.
ele4phant April 29, 2012, 4:17 pm
“If she got therapy for herself, and it worked, that’s great, but what about therapy for him? Or for the parents?”
Well, what about it? You can’t force them to go if they won’t admit or agree to go. Legally speaking, there’s nothing to be done – the statute of limitations have long since passed, and given his age at the time he probably would have been in therapy in lieu of imprisonment or punishment. So how could that be changed?
And as far as the hypothetical contact with children goes, at this point they’re still hypothetical are they not? We really have no way of knowing whether by forgive she means forget as well. Its entirely possible that when she has kids she won’t let them be alone with her brother. We really have no idea what she’ll do because its not an issue right now – but its not fair to assume she’ll be careless or in denial when it comes to children (and to be honest, its not like she’s glossing over or forgetting her own abuse, she’s very cognizant of what happened and the pain it caused – why would you assume she would be careless when it comes to her kids or children her brother may be around through work?).
And perhaps I’m assuming too much what her intentions where when asking him to stay friends, but who’s to say when she said “Stay friends with my brother” she meant “Please don’t smash the peace I’ve worked so hard to attain with your anger and disgust” not “Hey, its not big deal – stay pals!” It could very well be that she doesn’t necessarily mean he should act like nothing happened or that everything’s cool now, but that she doesn’t want an outsider to make it about them and rip apart the tenuous sense of peace and forgiveness she’s taken great effort rebuild.
Leroy April 29, 2012, 9:23 pm
I’m not an expert on this subject, but I’m not sure that it’s appropriate to assume that the brother is a pedophile. He’s only two years older than the LW’s girlfriend, and this behavior started when they were very young. That doesn’t excuse his actions, but I’m not sure that it means that he’s likely to rape children either.
John Rohan April 30, 2012, 3:28 pm
No, she can’t force them to go to therapy, but the point is that if she believes everything is peaches and cream just because she’s right with it – then she’s in for some disappointments.
BTW, it’s not a certain thing that the statute of limitations has passed. But if it has, that’s one less excuse this family would have for not going to therapy.
And, like you, I’ll also give her the benefit of the doubt that she won’t let her kids be alone with him. But it’s less likely she would be able to keep her parents away. And how does she explain the reason for any such restrictions without bringing everything up again? (and it would come up) More importantly, how would she keep him from his own children or children he may work with? She couldn’t possibly do that and maintain this “peace” that she has built.
I deliberately put the word “peace” in quotes, because it’s more like a temporary truce that could just flare up again, not a true peace.
BettyBoop April 27, 2012, 5:41 pm
Sorry, but you don’t get to diagnose somebody as being in denial based on a third party letter. Yes, it’s very possible, and maybe even likely, that she’s in denial but I think it’s kind of cruel to tell the LW that she must be in denial if she hasn’t healed from this in the way you think is correct. As a woman who was raped, I find it fucked up to be friends with your abuser, but I don’t get to tell somebody else how they should heal.
Rachelgab April 27, 2012, 5:49 pm
Thats not really what I’m saying at all, nor is denial a diagnosis. What I’m saying is that on some level, unconsciously, it’s bound to have an affect that she might not admit to or even be aware of. I think the boyfriend sounds awesomely sensitive to the issue. It sounds she has done a lot of work and I haven’t met her so I can’t “assess” at all, you’re right about that.
John Rohan April 27, 2012, 7:24 pm
I want to add one more observation. If the LW’s girlfriend doesn’t want to define herself as a victim anymore and made peace with her brother, that’s her right.
However, she doesn’t get to change her brother’s definition: which is that of a rapist who has never been rehabilitated for his crimes (assuming her story is true). So the LW has every right to not want to be friends with him, and not just pretend everything is normal.
Personally, I would ask him point blank if it was true. If he admitted it, then I would insist he get therapy before even considering being friends with him again. If he denied it, then the LW has a serious he said/she said situation on his hands and he would just have to decide which one of them to believe, based on what he knows about them already.
ColorsOfTheWind April 29, 2012, 5:14 pm
Don’t we in the DW community constantly tell LWs to MOA from people they love over things like not liking eachothers sense of humor but we can casually slide molestation under the rug and say continue to be friends?!!! The LW’s girlfriend has a reason to need to move past her abuse and have a relationship with her brother….they are blood related after all. I don’t the the LW needs to be friends with the brother AT ALL!
Same situation April 29, 2012, 4:52 pm
Hi, So this letter hit home hard. I have a very similar situation but in my case our older (half brother) raped my two younger brothers. i HAD 5 brothers, now i have 4. They never wanted to talk about it, and it came about this way…when we found out we were all shocked.
So this older brother, G, was away and here at the house for years. He first really stayed here when he was in middle school/highschool, doing this to two of my brothers who were as young as 6 at the time (he was 16). So this went unspoken for years…he came back when he was a doctor and shit hit that fan during his last year of residency. He was about to get married. With weeks to the wedding, one brother during a drunken night spoke up. He just couldn’t understand how G could keep face knowing what he had done. That is how the can of worms opened up. This was a shock to everyone, and G just said that he thought everyone had forgotten. The same night, another brother not involved forced G to come back to the house and tell my parents what had happened as little kids. Well, at this time G wanted to throw everyone under the bus by saying that everyone smoked pot. He also admitted that while living else where with his mother, he had been raped too at school. Make a lot story short, G never apologized. His fiance found out….and basically we never saw him again. No one went to the wedding, all gifts retracted, money lost in dresses. G got married.I don’t know how the fiance/wife could live with this, and with him just turning his back on the situation. So many questions to ask, was he gay? didn’t he need therapy? what about his family, of what value were we? G is a doctor somewhere in NJ, i think with two kids. The two of them pretended like the situation never happened.
So what i’m saying is that we never forgave him. One because he never apologized. Two because he ran away like a coward. Three, my dad refuses to acknowledge him at all as a son. Honestly, there is no relationship that any one of us could ever have, or even have in the future. Knowing he had lied all these years, and knowing what he had done to my other siblings, knowing he had no face to come to terms with it. I mean he really did alot of damage to my brothers, to the family. This situation was so difficult. I think even if he HAd apologized, i still would never forgive him (even if my brothers did). It changed things forever. As i said, he’s a physician now, with two kids. I can’t even imagine his wife looking at his face knowing how he handled everything and what he did. I can’t imagine being his wife and trusting him with my children, or being an aunt trusting him with my own children. As a patient, i can’t imagine knowing this about him and accepting him as my doctor. As a sister, i can’t understand the pain he caused, and the little he did to somehow “fix it.” As a sister, i can’t just forgive and see him the same way. We wanted to press charges, but when/how/was it too late? These cases are so difficult. So in our case, he just stopped existing. This leaves a hole of questions and anger and confusion, that i’m okay with never being answered or dealt with. We dealt with it then, and no one wants to delve constantly in these thoughts any more. We have moved on. After everything, I think this is the easiest for all of us because now we are that much closer.
So for you, being a “simple” friend, i can imagine how terrible this must be for you, for her. Especially because he didn’t just go away, because maybe they talked about it….I think you have every right to feel as you do, uneasy. And you have the right to help him get help if you want that role. You have every right to walk away without walking away from your girlfriend. You have every right to do as you see fit. This is not light situation that can or should be blown over, and you will have a lot of soul searching to continue doing. i wish you best of luck. Be okay with whatever you decide, because ultimately what you decide is the right thing for YOU. Be there for your girlfriend and support her as you clearly have been doing. But don’t let this situation go unspoken and ignored. Please update us.
Guy Friday April 30, 2012, 11:13 pm
What complicates this, in my opinion, is the following: “My girlfriend made it perfectly clear she doesn’t care if I remain friends with him, and in fact, encourages it.” See, if it were me, I’d do what you seem to be implying you’d do: beat the crap out of the guy, assault charges be damned. But if you do that — or even if you blow him off — your girlfriend may resent the hell out of you for it because of the complexity of this for her and the ties she still has to her brother/her rapist (which, for lack of a better analogy, we’ll call it something like what you see with Stockholm Syndrome, if that makes any sense.)
I think, honestly, what you’ve done so far is exactly what you need to do. I think you just open this up to your girlfriend, and you lay it out like you’re laying it out here for us, and you say, “Look, gut reaction, I want to tell him off with words and/or fists. But whatever you want me to do, I’ll do.” And she tells you, and you do your best to do it. And if and only if you can’t abide by what she wants, THEN you decide if you can stay with her in this situation, because you may not be able to if she wants you to stay friendly with a person whom the sight of sickens you to the core. I suspect, if the relationship continues for a while, she’s eventually going to shift to not being comfortable around him, and at that point you can gleefully go along with blowing him off. But just keep all this in mind if down the road you do get married or have kids.
By the way, I don’t know if anyone else said this, but, seriously, kudos for not immediately running away when you heard this. A lot of guys would have been out the door at “I was raped”, and many more at “I was raped by my brother / your friend.” The fact that you’re not is admirable is all I’m saying.
Anonymous July 17, 2012, 3:59 pm
ive never told anyone but . I was touched sexually by my step brother at the time when i was about 5 or 6 . I dident know how bad it was at the time. he would touch my .. thing … and i thought it was okay . but im 13 now . i know what happend. hes not my step brother anymore but my mom and my brother were close to him and i dident tell because i really dont wanna make my mom more upset. shes going through a divorce her 5th and lost a job she loved . we might be moving in with my moms ex husband now friend which is my um step bros dad. he was about 15 or 16 at the time . he dident RAPE me but he TOUCHED me in places and I still think about it. he also has a wife and kid now so i dont wanna mess anything up . any advice for me ? please ? im so confused it feels good to get this off my chest
Blemangeman June 3, 2014, 12:58 am
Here’s an idea; end your friendship with this creep. At some point later, he needs to disappear, permanently. He’s not fit to be on this earth.
B October 19, 2017, 6:58 pm
My girlfriend has been sexually abused by her BROTHERS multiple, yes, from ages 1-6 her oldest brother, age 17, forced her to give her bj’s multiple times a day and her other brothers were pretty much the same, I have known her for about 5 , she is almost 17 and still remembers it, she has come to terms with it but I honestly dont think that I can, it makes me want to vomit every time I think about it, I honestly want all those bastards dead, it makes me so sad to think of someone forcing a 4 year old girl to do that for them, I hate it, I cant stand the thought of someone doing that to her