Can't Talk To A Psycho Like A Normal Human Being
February 9, 2009 5:30 AM   Subscribe

Trying to find a way to convince my alcoholic, abusive, psychopath older brother to move out of my basement before my baby is born. Bribing him with a house of his own didn't work, and now I'm stumped.

About a year and a half ago, my mom suffered a devastating stroke that left her permanently disabled; she will need to live with someone for the rest of her life. I am her chosen legal guardian; she gave me power of attorney, put my name on all her accounts, etc. ages ago.

We are currently living in my childhood home, a house that has been unofficially "mine" for about three years. When Mom inherited my grandmother's house, she wanted to live in it instead... and around the same time, the house we currently inhabit was condemned for demolition by the city as a health hazard (more on that in a minute). To help Mom out, I moved back home, started paying the mortgage and bills, and renovated the house enough to get the condemnation called off. In gratitude, and to get the still-too-crappy-to-sell house off her financial back, she "gave" it to me. Only, she couldn't actually put the title in my name, due to a government lien on the property that means it can't be sold until mid-2011.

A few months ago, life threw me another curve ball... after being told I was sterile, I found myself miraculously pregnant. Even more miraculously, my boyfriend "Matt" is ridiculously thrilled about this and is determined for us to live together and co-parent. To toss one more miracle into the pot, Matt is a childhood friend of mine who adores my mother like she was his own and doesn't mind the thought of her living with us forever. Mom loves him just as much (and adores his son from a prior marriage) and is overjoyed at the idea that they might live with us.

So there's an easy solution here. Matt and his son move in with me and Mom and the fetus. There's plenty of room, and Matt and I would both benefit hugely financially from sharing expenses rather than maintaining two expensive separate households.

Of course, if this were actually an easy solution, I wouldn't be querying the hive mind, so here's the big catch.

My 41-year-old brother "Frank" has lived in the basement of this house his entire life. He's an alcoholic pothead who is overqualified for a diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychopathy. Every romantic relationship Frank has ever been in has ended because he beat his girlfriends up; he abused me when I was small (I'm nine years younger) and has been arrested numerous times for assault and battery, drunk driving, domestic violence, etc. Frank has a terrible and irrational temper and has hurt me and Mom on many occasions, including an incident a few years back where he strangled me, threw me into walls, and eventually pulled a loaded gun on me.

Even beyond the scary bits, Frank's hell to live with. He's never held down a job more than a few months, doesn't contribute to the household expenses at all, and survives by bullying me and our father (mom and dad are divorced) for "loans" that he never pays back. Frank is a hoarder who has turned the yard and house into something out of Sanford and Son; he is the main reason that the house was condemned as a health hazard. Frank is a "handyman", and when anything breaks in the house, he wants you to pay him to fix it. If you do, he won't ever fix it and will rage out if you nag him to. If you hire someone else to fix it, he also goes into a rage, because that means you don't trust him to do it.

He lets his dog crap in the foyer, Frank himself pees in the front yard, he throws beer cans in a pile in our driveway next to the three dead cars he's going to fix someday. I'm pretty poor and I struggle to buy groceries; whenever I do, Frank binges on the most expensive and nutritious items in the middle of the night so that Mom and I are forced to eat crap until my next paycheck. His basement is a disgusting, reeking hellhole wallpapered and stacked with hardcore porn. He brings home horrible meth-head bar skanks who steal my stuff, he plays his music so loud you can hear it from three houses away... I could go on and on and on.

The worst bit, however, is that Frank is enraged that Mom passed him over in the chain of responsibility and gave the power of attorney etc. to me. He demands equal say in everything I do regarding Mom and constantly harasses me over every decision I've made. He's basically been the ultimate roadblock in me taking proper care of Mom's business; his interference in my attempts to get my grandmother's house sold have resulted in total financial ruin for me and Mom and a massive amount of damage to my grandmother's house, such that it can no longer be put on the market without a huge amount of repairs that I can't afford.

Matt, quite understandably, refuses to move in as long as Frank is here and does not want either of his children around him. I completely agree with Matt about this; I'll be damned if I'm going to put my child, or my beloved quasi-stepson, through the violent, miserable, Frank-infested childhood I went through.

Flat-out kicking Frank out is not an option for several reasons. One, I'm genuinely worried that if I tried it, he would beat the crap out of me. He's already spent my entire pregnancy trying to convince me to have an abortion and has been telling family members that he hopes I miscarry. I've seen Frank walk right through restraining orders, so that wouldn't faze him one bit. When Frank's angry, he's kind of like the Terminator: he can’t be bargained with and he doesn’t feel pity or remorse or fear.

To top it all off, my mother is in total denial about how screwed-up Frank is and doesn't see any reason why we can't all be one big happy family. If I kick him out, I can 100% guarantee you she will both be furious with me and will let him back in. Dad's not quite as head-in-sand as Mom, but he wouldn't back me up on a flat-out kick-out either, especially since he'd be the one Frank would go running to and the one whose life Frank would start ruining (more).

Dad did, however, help me come up with an alternate plan that we really thought would work. Dad offered to buy my grandmother's house for a reduced rate that will take into account the repairs it now needs, with my Dad's cabin as the down payment. Frank loves my Dad's cabin and, like anything he likes, pretty much considers it his. I would then turn around and give the cabin to Frank, so he'd have his own, totally-paid-for place to live.

Dad and I both thought Frank would love this plan. I mean, he gets his dream cabin for free!

Unfortunately, Frank isn't going for it. He likes the part where he gets the cabin, of course... but he is insisting that he be allowed to continue to live in the basement as well.

Frank's argument is that he wants to be able to spend the night and visit Mom, and that since the cabin is about an hour away, it will be too far to drive when he gets a job in town (not bloody likely). He's been telling everyone in the family piteously that all he wants is to be able to come sleep in the basement occasionally, why would that be so bad, he's my brother after all, and what kind of bitch tries to force her brother away from their mother?

Matt and I both hate the idea of an alcoholic psychopath having free rein to come into our home any time he feels like it, and we both agree that Frank won't be "visiting Mom" so much as he'll be showing up for free meals and to badger us for cash. Plus, if Frank still lives here... even part-time... he's not going to move his dangerous, nasty stuff.

Matt said he'd just buy a house for the five of us, and Frank could have the childhood home, but then we realized that as long as Mom's with us, Frank will feel entitled to know where we live and to show up whenever he feels like it to "visit" her. Not to mention that we'd be completely broke, as we'd be paying a mortgage and all the bills on a house in which we did not reside.

I need a way to not just get Frank to move out completely, but to make Frank WANT to move out completely and think it was his idea. I really thought this thing with the cabin was the answer, but now I'm at my wit's end.

Anyone been through anything similar or have any ideas?
posted by Gianna to Human Relations (76 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
I haven't been through anything similar, but you need to start by thinking about your problem in a different way: what would happen if i) he wasn't your brother? ii) what advice you would give to someone else in your situation?

It sounds to me like a lot of talking needs to be done.

In the end the person who owns the property or has power of attorney for the owner gets to decide, and he has to do what they say. If you can get him on your side somehow then that will help a lot. Do you have someone else (i.e. not pregnant), an independent third party, that can help?
posted by devnull at 5:43 AM on February 9, 2009


Call the cops the next time he "rages out", and then get a restraining order and an eviction the time after that. Frank needs to grow up now, he's 41, and lives in the adult world with adult rules and responsibilities. If he beat you up, he'll beat up your aging mother, he'll go after your partner and he'll be danger to your baby, bet on it. Get him out of the picture. Now.

Mom can go visit him, but he can't go visit mom and sis and the niece/nephew until he gets some self control. Maybe when he settles down and gets some perspective, you can bring him back into your life. Until then, he's a direct and physical threat to your family's prosperity and safety. Treat him like one.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:50 AM on February 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


You want to find a way to make him want to give up the sweet situation he's got now? Not bloody likely. I think you need to draw some boundaries around what you are and are not willing to tolerate. That Frank and your child will not live in the same house ought to be non-negotiable. If you don't have the power to throw Frank out and make it stick then you have to be prepared to leave. If you do have the power to do it then you have to be prepared to use it, regardless of how your mom feels about it. It doesn't sound as if there's an easy way out of this.
posted by jon1270 at 5:51 AM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Matt said he'd just buy a house for the five of us, and Frank could have the childhood home, but then we realized that as long as Mom's with us, Frank will feel entitled to know where we live and to show up whenever he feels like it to "visit" her.

Yes, but your house would have locks and things, preventing Frank from moving in. And if he tried to do so forcefully, you could call the Police. Fuck Frank and his feelings. Plus, I really doubt that Frank will be all that interested in constantly pestering you guys, especially if you move relatively far away (at least a half hour or so). He isn't going to leave the house you live in now. Ever. He's spent his entire life there and clearly is attached to it.

Reading your question a second time, I'm not sure you understand the full gravity of this situation. You are asking us how to politely, cleverly trick Frank into leaving the house he's lived in his entire life. It's not possible. That's not a question we can answer. Your brother has a mental illness. You're not going to reason with him and you're not going to trick him. The dude is staying in that house. Also, you need to realize that even though you feel as though you are obligated to take care of your mother, if you continue to live with your mother and Frank, then Matt may someday force you to choose between your mother and Frank or him and your children.

Does Matt have a house? You say he already has a child, where do they live now? Can't you live there for a time until you have saved up the money to purchase or rent a larger place?

If I were you, I would consult a lawyer and lay out your problems with Frank, and start cataloging his abuses and transgressions so that if you ever did need to seek a restraining order, there would be a paper file.

Ultimately, I think you know what you need to do: find a new place to live and cut Frank out of your life completely. If not for your own well-being, certainly for the health of your relationship with Matt and most importantly the safety (emotional, physical, mental) of your children.
posted by billysumday at 5:55 AM on February 9, 2009 [22 favorites]


Oh my God. This is one of the worst problems I've ever seen on AskMe — I'm defining "worst" in terms of "hardest to solve because there are so many handicaps in the way of any possible solution".

It seems to me that the main roadblock in terms of trying to solve this problem is your mother's attitude. As long as she keeps letting Frank back into whatever house you live in, there's no use trying to kick Frank out, change the locks, move and/or sell the house out from under him. I don't know if there's any use trying to change her mind, but surely your mother has to recognize at some level that Frank cannot be trusted near her grandchildren, so I'd take that angle. Or maybe you really need to be hardline with her and tell her she can only live with you as long as Frank isn't allowed on the property.

Is it possible to do some renos to the house to make it impossible for him to have access to your part of it? Installing a heavy duty locking door, for instance? I don't know how much good it'll do if you mother just lets him in, but surely you can prevent him from coming up at least some of the time.

Otherwise it seems to me that your best hope is that Frank winds up in prison for a good long time, so definitely call the police and have him charged whenever he commits any crime whatsoever. Uttering threats is a crime.

I'm so sorry.
posted by orange swan at 5:56 AM on February 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


Matt said he'd just buy a house for the five of us, and Frank could have the childhood home, but then we realized that as long as Mom's with us, Frank will feel entitled to know where we live and to show up whenever he feels like it to "visit" her. Not to mention that we'd be completely broke, as we'd be paying a mortgage and all the bills on a house in which we did not reside.

You know, I think this sounds like your best bet. Find a way to get your mom's name off the title for the house. Tell the bank to repossess it or something. If Matt and you are willing to pay a mortgage and take care of her, I don't think it matters if her credit gets fucked up. Just, whatever you do, get out of there and leave your brother. The house itself is not worth the danger you and your children face from him.

The thing is, now that you're the head of the family and key decision-maker, you must decide to cut ties with your brother, and relocate somewhere without his knowledge of your whereabouts. I know your mom won't like it, but seriously, tough fucking beans. He's a danger to all of you.

Get the law involved with a restraining order (even though I know you said he disregards them; still, it gives you a legal leg to stand on if he shows up), and maybe also a social worker to help your mom deal with the situation, and to be helpful with resources for relocating and dealing with Frank.

This problem is, I think, larger than any individual can handle. You need to get the authorities involved, and get some help escaping the situation.
posted by peggynature at 6:03 AM on February 9, 2009 [17 favorites]


When you say "I've seen Frank walk right through restraining orders, so that wouldn't faze him one bit," I'm not sure what you mean. Was it your restraining order or someone else's? Did you or the person who had the restraining order contact the police when he violated it? A restraining order isn't an invisible barrier that keeps people away, it's a court order that needs to be enforced after the fact. You need to contact law enforcement when it's breached for it to really work. It can and will be enforced if the police are notified, and Frank will not walk away from that, believe me.

First, I think you should talk these issues over with local law enforcement. Go to the police station and talk to an officer on desk duty. Your description of your surroundings sounds small-town, so, honestly, if your details about your brother are accurate and faithfully reported, the local police already know all about him. If you give the police a heads up prior to petitioning for another restraining order, they will have your situation on their radar and will probably be more prompt in responding to an emergency call should your brother violate the order.

I've had issues with clients previously regarding placing restraining orders against family members under the same roof. Some judge's aren't willing to place an order against someone where compliance with the order would require them to forfeit their housing. Just an FYI.

Either way, sometimes jail can be a powerful teaching tool. Frank is not the Terminator. He won't walk out of jail if the judge puts him there. And if the judge keeps putting him there for violating a restraining order, Frank will get the message. Jail fucking sucks, even your anti-social psychopath brother is likely capable of comprehending that, and he will eventually alter his behavior so that he can avoid that outcome.
posted by The Straightener at 6:09 AM on February 9, 2009


peggynature brings up a good point. Here's what you could do: first, sell the house you're living in now. If you have power of attorney, then I'm assuming you legally own the home, which means, as peggynature points out, it's your decision. Time to start calling the shots. Your survival instinct needs to kick in, that "I will do anything to protect my goddamn children," laser focus. In the process you might step on some toes but ultimately you know you're doing the right thing. So, with the money that you would receive from selling the house, and after consulting with a lawyer, perhaps you could give Frank some money to purchase a new place or pay for his rent for a few months. This would be the deal you make with your mother when she asks why you are doing this. "Mom, Matt and I are starting a family and we need our own house to fit our needs. I want to take care and will continue to do so, but I can't do that in this house where Frank is a threat to you, and me, and my family. So we're selling the house and moving to a newer place, you'll have your own room, etc... But I want you to know, I've talked with Frank and we're going to help him move into a new place." This isn't going to solve the problem of Frank - only complete disengagement with him will solve that problem - but it might help assuage your mother's concerns about Frank's well-being and you will have made a good faith effort to set up Frank in a new environment.
posted by billysumday at 6:12 AM on February 9, 2009


I just realized a flaw in my little idea: it would be nearly impossible to sell the house with Frank still living inside it. Even if you did sell it, he may not leave. I think that action #1 should be to find a way to get Frank to leave the house, perhaps through the enforcement of restraining orders as The Straightener suggests.
posted by billysumday at 6:18 AM on February 9, 2009


Matt says he can buy you all a house? Jump on it. Buy a house far away (i.e. several states away). Take your mother with you. Give your brother the house.

Don't ask his approval for the plan. Just execute and tell him: "I'm leaving. The house is yours." If he refuses to sign the paperwork, sell it "as is" out from under him for chump change (a price so low that anyone would pounce on it, like $5,000). Once you've sold it, it's not your problem.

After you're gone, he will make noises about wanting to see mom, but his fundamental laziness will prevent him from actually ever doing anything to come and see you. If he does, get law enforcement involved immediately.

You'll be giving up a lot, but you'll be purchasing your freedom.
posted by DWRoelands at 6:18 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay, apologies for not reading thoroughly enough, but now I see that you can't sell the house until 2011. Ultimately, I think the house you are living in is bad news just as much as Frank. Getting Frank out of the house should be a top priority, but so should finding another place to live. Frank will always feel ownership of the house even if he's forcibly removed from there.
posted by billysumday at 6:21 AM on February 9, 2009


I think Peggy is on to something. Buy a new house that belongs to you and your SO - not Mom - and move in with the SO, the kid, the fetus and Mom. Sign the house over to your brother if you can, thus satisfying his peeve, or at least say "You want the house? It's yours. Have fun." Let the bank and, in due course, the sheriff deal with your batshit insane brother when the house is inevitably repossessed and they foreclose and evict him.

Your mother will be unhappy, but not as unhappy as she would be if you threw him out of the house you all currently live in. You can work out if, when and under what circumstances Frank can visit your mother at your home in due course, but they key here is that it's not his house and not a property he has any legal or make-believe moral claim on. It moves the balance of power entirely to you.

Plus you can alarm the snot out of it.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:21 AM on February 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


Take your mother and Matt and move very far away. Don't let Frank, or anyone who would tell Frank, know where you've gone. After you are safely removed sign the house over to him since it sounds nearly worthless in its current state, and if he won't accept it then sell it out from under him. After it's sold it's not your problem how he gets evicted. Look for resources and support for people trying to escape from an abusive relationship.

Or, put your mother in a care facility and move in with Matt. Moving far away is a good idea in this scenario too.

Or, move in with Matt and stay close enough to visit your mother in her home but far enough away that Frank wont want to visit you. This option is obviously not idea for a variety of reasons. The bottom line is you need to move away from Frank since he's not going anywhere, and halfhearted attempts to ditch him or land him in jail are likely to put you in jeopardy.
posted by CheshireCat at 6:21 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


As far as I can see, the problem is your mother. She is the free entry Frank gets into your life, whatever you decide. Which means you can't live in the same house as her if you want the life with Matt (or any sort of life, really). If you could set her up in a small unit (one bedroom, no basement!), and find a place to live near her, you would have a great deal more control over the situation. Of course, that means giving up your Grandmother's house, but does come with the bonus of leaving Frank there to wallow in his own filth.
posted by kisch mokusch at 6:22 AM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Nthing a view that there is vast value in physically getting away from him at darn near all costs, that the BF-buying-house option comes across as the best choice in an extraordinarily difficult situation, that a coversation or additional conversations with law-enforcement personnel is a smart choice.

In the shorter term, given the gravity, hideousness of various things, much as you might have already considered this, dislike this, it seems worth thinking seriously about getting and learning to use a means of self-defense, be it a Taser or a handgun.

There are no limits in you protecting yourself.
posted by ambient2 at 6:25 AM on February 9, 2009


Right, after reviewing I see you can't transfer the title to the house for a few years. Any chance you could move away and then petition for it to be condemned again? Or just tell the government they are free to repossess the house and sell it.
posted by CheshireCat at 6:29 AM on February 9, 2009


I'd contact an interventionist and have them come over - do a family intervention with him - either or - either he gets treatment NOW - or he will be the recipient of an immediate restraining order against him on the grounds of being an immediate danger to himself and others.
posted by watercarrier at 6:33 AM on February 9, 2009


Gianna, I'd also like to say to you that, based on some of your past posts, I think you've dealt with an unusual amount of severe abuse in your life. As a way of dealing with it, I think you have come, in some way, to accept abusive situations as almost "normal." I agree with billysumday's statement that I'm not sure you understand the full gravity of this situation.

I don't know if you've sought counselling for the abuse, but I definitely think you should. I also think you should attempt to view your current situation through the eyes of someone who doesn't expect abuse as a normal part of life. For a sharp example: you are currently living in a situation in which another person (Matt) absolutely refuses to enter into -- because the situation you're in is one in which NO ONE should ever have to be in. It is categorically untenable, and you must get out of it as quickly and as completely as you can.

By even asking the question, some part of you realizes your situation is totally unacceptable. That part of you is what will save you...don't ignore it. You know what you need to do in theory, even if the actual steps to take are still uncertain. Luckily, there are services to help you figure out those steps.

My personal, nonprofessional opinion is that you should abandon the house and move out without Frank's knowledge. Don't bother to tell him you're leaving, just do it. Get police protection while you're moving out if necessary. Or, if Frank ever goes anywhere, move out your stuff while he's gone. Get your mom out beforehand to a safe place, even if you have to use a ruse to do so. Tell her that Frank has agreed to the arrangement and that you're keeping in touch with him if it will help keep her calm. Under no circumstances should your dad reveal your new location to Frank.

If the bank repossesses the house, Frank will be forced to move into your dad's cabin, and perhaps he will be happy there. I don't think you need to make any further efforts to help him. He will be fine. Your family now consists of Matt, your mom, and your children. Frank is in no way part of your family.
posted by peggynature at 6:33 AM on February 9, 2009 [14 favorites]


A lot of times people in various situations don't really realize how bad they are, and it just seems normal to them, but this situation is totally unacceptable. You should really be talking to the police or a lawyer here. If the police can't help, you really do need to move away.
posted by delmoi at 6:34 AM on February 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


I need a way to not just get Frank to move out completely, but to make Frank WANT to move out completely and think it was his idea.

This is a dead end. Frank can't be reasoned with, so there's no point in wasting any more energy trying.

Your mother, on the other hand, is another story. If she's going to live with you and your children, then you must set -- and enforce -- boundaries about the access she gives Frank to the home you share. Kick Frank out, move to another state, whatever, but make it clear to your mother that she gets to live with you on the condition that Frank no longer lives in the basement. Anything else is unacceptable.
posted by junkbox at 6:37 AM on February 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


There are several points in the story where I am wondering what happened after you called the police (the rage, the strangling, the threats, the "walking through" restraining orders). It seems you are not making use of what is probably you best option at this point, short of taking your mother and everyone you love and moving several states away with no forwarding address.

Get a restraining order. Then when he violates it enforce it. Then enforce it again when he violates it again. Soon his main residence will be jail, not your basement. Rent a dumpster, don hazmat suits and clean out the basement.

You mention bullying and badgering and interfering, etc. preventing you from doing things you know need to be done for your and your family's safety/well-being. These things have no force of law or supernatural hold over you. Do what you need to do, and bring in the authorities to help you as needed.
posted by mikepop at 6:40 AM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


If I kick him out, I can 100% guarantee you she will both be furious with me and will let him back in.

Having her furious with you is better than living with Frank.

Putting her in a position where she does not have the ability to let Frank back in is the key.

So it sounds like getting a new place with Matt & Mom, giving Frank the house and then watching as it gets repossesed or condemned or whatever, and moving on with your life is the only answer.

I am so sorry you have a Frank. What a terrible burden. I wish you lots of happiness with your new family.
posted by agentwills at 6:43 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm so sorry.

Please move out and take up your boyfriend's offer on purchasing a new house, and please do move as far away as possible with him, foetus, kid and partner. Better be happy and dead-broke with two lovely kids than afraid 24-7 for your baby's safety and slightly less poor.

Comes 2011, sell the house right the fuck away and never look back.

Best of luck - you are in my thoughts.
posted by Sijeka at 6:43 AM on February 9, 2009


Matt is not the priority. Clean the crap out of the yard, have the cars hauled away and focus on the needs of your new family and mother. As Frank presents obstacles, deal with them – toughen up. Every state in the union has clear laws concerning domestic violence and threatening behavior, use these to your advantage. Lean on your SO a bit and consider his suggestions. If he doesn’t have any (and the situation is as serious as you have stated) then consider raising this child on your own.
posted by rotifer at 6:52 AM on February 9, 2009


I meant Frank is not the priority, sorry.
posted by rotifer at 6:53 AM on February 9, 2009


This isn't a problem to be worked out, this is a crisis to be dealt with. I'm chiming in with everyone above who's reminding you that restraining orders are to be enforced.

Evict him. Have a police officer present when you do it. They can be an important witness when it the inevitable restraining order follows. Report every single breach of the order without fail.
posted by hermitosis at 7:06 AM on February 9, 2009


Frank belongs in prison. If he pulled a gun on you, that's assault. If he smoked weed, that's a possession charge. I know you're not exactly in a position to call a lawyer, but the next time you're in a position to call the cops, do it. Don't give up the house for his sake because, as you said, he will follow you around. As long as he walks free he is a danger to you and others. Go to the police.
posted by Electrius at 7:10 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe talk to a lawyer- see how you can go about evicting him from the house. He's not on the title, so he is a sort of tenant. So, you'd do this:

1- Disappear for a while. Move somewhere where he doesn't know.
2- Start the eviction process.
3- There will come the moment where the sheriff shows up to actually do the eviction.
4- This is when Frank goes nuts, probably gets arrested, thrown in jail and your problems are over.

Now you can do what you want with the place. Install good doors and locks so he can't get in. Get rid of all his stuff. There will probably come a time when he comes back and causes a scene. Immediately call the cops and have him arrested for trying to break in. Sell the house when you can.

If Frank wants to visit mom, you all can meet for lunch at McDonald's, or a willing relative's house.

Sounds harsh, but you've tried all the civilized ways of dealing with him.
posted by gjc at 7:10 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nthing the view that you, your partner, your kid and kid-to-be, and your ma need to run, and run now. Get into another house, get your mother settled, have your baby, get your life on track, and get some counseling for your abuse issues first. That's your priority.


Nthing your need to lawyer up: you absolutely should not proceed without legal advice about your situation and the best way to get out from under the property/debt obligations and the threat of abuse.


And absolutely nthing that you don't seem to grasp the gravity of the situation. Frank is mentally ill, and you will not be able to reason with him. You're own subject line to your post is more true that you seem to realize. You need to accept that you're dealing with a harsh, unreasonable person, and be prepared to use harsh, unreasonable methods to get out of this mess.



Good luck. You have my prayers.
posted by magstheaxe at 7:11 AM on February 9, 2009


First, consider the various police suggestions above. They are eminently reasonable.

Next, if you find that you are unwilling to get the police involved, then in my view you & Matt need to simply walk away from all of it. You may love your mom & dad, but if they're not willing to stand up to Frank then they're just collateral damage.

...or is Frank more important than your child? Because if you leave things as they stand, that's what you're saying.
posted by aramaic at 7:15 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Frank belongs in prison. If he pulled a gun on you, that's assault. If he smoked weed, that's a possession charge. I know you're not exactly in a position to call a lawyer,

This is America, you can call a lawyer whenever you want. And frankly you need to find out what your legal options are. It may be possible to get a restraining order now, based on past incidents, which you could use to kick him out of the house.

If you want to be nice to him, then move out with your boyfriend and your mom.
posted by delmoi at 7:19 AM on February 9, 2009


This is a monumentally challenging situation. And to find solutions, you need to examine every element and then triage.

Though you are your mother's legal guardian, unless stipulated contractually or by court order, you are not required to live with her. (IANYL.) Right now, she's a package deal: to live with her, you must also cohabit with a disturbed sociopathic family member. You may have to consider living apart from your mother, and considering eldercare arrangements. An extra bonus to this option is that, if she realizes you won't tolerate sharing a home with Frank, she may relent and force him out... or move with you to another location. Some posters worry that Frank would refuse to leave the premises if the home were put up for rent or sale. But sheriffs deal with such situations all the time. Frank would have the option of leaving alone or escorted by people with guns.

Lastly, I agree with DWRoelands that, if at all possible, you consider moving out of state with your mother. This would protect you in many ways: the distance from Frank, the difficulty for him to litigate (albeit a seemingly unlikely action he'd take), and the fact that if he crossed state lines to commit crimes, he'd have a world of woes on his shoulders.
posted by terranova at 7:21 AM on February 9, 2009


From your question, it's clear that your father is still alive and in the picture. I don't want to pry if you're not comfortable sharing, but is there a reason why you are the primary caregiver for your mother, and your father is not?

Put another way: is there possibly a solution where you could move away with Matt and your children--far enough away that Frank is not going to drop by to badger you for money--and set your mother and father up in another location with the necessary resources to live without you present to care for your mother? (Whether that's a caregiver dropping by 3 times a week to assist your father in taking care of your mother, or Meals on Wheels if they're not able to cook for themselves, or whatever it is that is the barrier to their independent living. There are many, many resources out there to assist frail elderly people, particularly those with low income, to continue living in the community.)

It's obvious that you love your mother very much, and want her to have the support that she needs in order to continue to live outside a nursing home. However, from the story you've laid out here, it does sound like your mother is not able or is not willing to protect you from Frank. If Frank was violent towards you as a child, and continues to be violent towards you as an adult, and your mother is aware of this and yet still unwilling to throw Frank out, I think you need to come to terms with the fact that for whatever reason, she will not support any measures you take to protect yourself if that means cutting contact with Frank, and in fact is likely to allow Frank access to your children if you try to move away with her.

I don't see any outcome where you are able to protect your children (both the one you are pregnant with as well as Matt's child) and continue to live with your mother. I'm sure that it's incredibly painful to face the choice of protecting your kids at the cost of not being able to continue caring for an immediate family member that you very much love. In fact, it's the same choice that your mother faced and continues to face. I hope that you are able to make the choice that your mother has been unable to make, because it's clear that going down the same road she chose has led to a lot of violence in your home. Your children deserve better.
posted by iminurmefi at 7:38 AM on February 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


If he really is the ball of issues that it sounds like, you may want to contact a lawyer or Social Services in your state and ask about Involuntary Commitment. It would get him off your back and MIGHT get him some treatment, but he'd pretty much have to be having clear, obvious mental issues for it to stick.

Even if they let him go it would give you around 24 hours to change the locks and file a restraining order.
posted by Benjy at 7:49 AM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


You, by all accounts, have a pretty good potential co-parent, a baby on the way and a playmate for baby. You also have an inability to get away from bad things that is troubling. As your mother's legal guardian, you are not protecting her from Frank, and you're not protecting Fetus from Frank by remaining near him. You can't control Frank, he's insane which means that he's irrational, and beyond reason. Get away from him. I told you this in your last askmefi question about your pregnancy and I'll tell you it again. I also came by this knowledge the hard way. For a full decade and a few years, my family lived above my insane grandmother. She molested me and my siblings, physically assaulted me, let the house fall apart and so on. All the while, my mother, her daughter, had giant blinkers. "Granny was a pain, but she needed us." We couldn't move because we were the only family she had, etc... If that excuse was discarded, she had a legion of explanations for why it wasn't her problem, from my desire, at aged seven, not to change schools, to requiring fog to function.

And the truth is that my mother was more of a problem than my grandmother, who was less mobile, for all being near her meant assault. My mother wasn't the one with severe addiction problems and mental illnesses, but she was the rational adult I depended on to make life choices that protected me. The problem was that growing up with the same sort of abuse, my mother believed that compromising her children's safety was acceptable. This is what you're doing right now. You can't stand the idea of your mother being mad at you for cutting out Frank. What's she going to do, tell you off while you change her diaper? Get the hell out. Take mom, who is also supposed to be your responsibility, not your master, the fetus in your tummy and look for any support groups for abuse survivors, al-anon, and the sort of nice people who give you milk credits so that fetus will grow up with healthy strong bones (after a few months of eking by on ramen after Frank steals all the food, having enough to eat is a pretty big priority). If you don’t do this you are failing a pretty fundamental requirement for parenting, and by this I mean assuring to the safety of children.

This may mean restraining orders, moving and not letting mom call Frank to invite him over for tea (and if mom isn’t cool with this, maybe she should consider state assisted living instead of using you) and so on. If you can’t take responsibility, maybe you’re not ready to be looking after other people. Not your Mom, not Matt’s kid, not your baby-on-the-way. You've indentified the problem, so if you want a happy life, you need to go for it.
posted by Phalene at 7:53 AM on February 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


Lawyer up. Esp. if you can find a lawyer who specializes in family/mental health law

You don't own the house, correct? You will have a hard time enforcing anything. The homeowner, and maybe the homeowner's designated representative, can have a difficult person removed. Talk to a lawyer; it may require eviction.

Your mentally ill, abusive brother should be held accountable for his actions. Call the cops every single time he acts out. By offering him a house, you've let him know he has bargaining power. Stop negotiating. It might be possible to document his behavior and have him committed. That would be ideal, as he would get medication, and might have a tiny chance to get better. When you talk to your Mom, emphasize that the situation is horrible for everyone, including Frank. He needs serious treatment.

Do not stay in a house with a crazy abusive person. There is a lot of good advice in this thread, and posting it was a good idea. Now it's time to act decisively. If you do, your life can get a lot better. Good luck.
posted by theora55 at 7:53 AM on February 9, 2009


You cannot control others. You have to stop taking care of everyone, a kid is now involved. You have to move out and have some one else take care of your mom in her home.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:54 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


That's not how involuntary commitments work, Benjy, and I really wish that people would stop recommending them on AskMetafilter. Involuntary committments aren't tools for leveraging your position in a housing dispute, they are for intervening in a psychiatric emergency. If this poster's brother is continually tormenting her, that's a criminal matter, not a psychiatric matter, regardless of how disturbed the poster thinks her brother is. Involuntary committments are also completely ineffectual for engaging someone in mental health treatment. After being sent to a psych ward you still retain the right to refuse treatment and medication. Forced medicating is very hard to advocate for and requires another court order at the request of more than one doctor. Committing her brother (which is unlikely to happen, because based on what's posted here the county behavioral health department wouldn't approve a request for one) would basically detain him for 72 hours, at which point he would be released more pissed off than before and probably also further bent against not getting mental health treatment. A restraining order with persistent enforcement by the courts is what is needed here, not an involuntary stay in a psych ward.
posted by The Straightener at 8:04 AM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Get thee to a lawyer. You don't need to move out of your home. The legal system exists for situations just like this one, and it actually works a good amount of the time. Contact legal aid, who will get this rolling with your family services agency. They'll probably have you swear out a temporary restraining order, which if your brother violates will land his ass in jail. More than one violation can result in a pretty heft prison sentence (up to two years or more depending on your jurisdiction).

Don't listen to the people telling you to run, to abandon your mother and home. Get a lawyer. If you cannot afford one, there are legal aid clinics in just about every county in the country. You can take control of this situation and get your brother out of your life.

If your mother doesn't like this, that's her problem. Make it clear that she's more than welcome to stay with you, but also make it clear that your brother is no longer welcome in the house and that if she allows him on the property she will have to leave too. This makes it her choice as to what she wants to do.

Get a lawyer.
posted by valkyryn at 8:14 AM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


You have only two options: walk away or put him in prison. Frank is clearly a danger to your and your future child, so in lieu of murdering him, I'd choose the first option. Good luck.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:19 AM on February 9, 2009


I think several people have had good advice for you. I think there are ways out of this horrible situation that you will be able to find. But I want to address some of the underlying problems that I see that are standing in your way. My telling you the following points probably will not get you to fully understand and acknowledge them, but I hope that you will do what you can to see the world in a way that will let you get out of this.

1. Frank is not a superhuman monster. He abused you as a child. He has abused you (I think) as an adult. He has done monsterous things to you. But many parts of your post make him sound invincible, as if there is nothing that can be done to stop him. Your post makes it sound like he is a natural force, like a hurricane that is constantly storming around you, rather than a person that can be pushed out of one's life. He is just a human being. He is not more powerful than you. Look at him as he is: a pathetic, broken device. He is dangerous, yes, but he's not powerful.

2. Frank's happiness means nothing. He has abused you. You have good reason to believe he will abuse your baby. This means that you have no. reason. to take his desires or wishes into account. Your mom complicates things, because you do want to care about her.. But teach yourself to not give a shit about Frank's happiness. He's not worth it. He fits into this picture only insofar as he is something you want to push out of your life. Don't let anyone, your mother included, convince you otherwise.

3. You do not have to compromise your child's safety. You show great resistance to allowing Frank into your child's life. That's good. But you can be stronger than that. This is your baby, and, in this situation, you can do whatever the hell you want to keep your baby safe. Put your foot down. Allow yourself to sound obstinate and stubborn. You move to a new house and Mom wants Frank to be able to visit? Tough luck -- it's your house, you will not hear of it. This makes Mom think you are being unfair to your brother? Again, tough luck. You are in charge. You have your baby to think about. You get to make the rules. Allow yourself to sound like a jerk, to be mean, to make others unhappy. Their unhappiness is less important than your baby's well-being. Say it: "Everyone can go to hell if they think I'm going to compromise with Frank."

There are solutions, though they may be difficult. There are ways out of this horrible situation. Listen to those who are giving you advice about all the practical matters. But don't forget that you have the power in this situation, and you deserve to do whatever it takes to raise your child in a safe, happy environment.
posted by Ms. Saint at 8:19 AM on February 9, 2009 [10 favorites]


Living with Frank is not an option. If he won't leave then you have to. I think you'll have an easier time convincing your mom that Frank is worthless than convincing Frank to leave.
posted by valadil at 8:27 AM on February 9, 2009


Ok, everyone has given good points but none of them are directly dealing with the biggest problem. Everyone seems to want to please your brother, run away, have someone else deal with him or not just deal with him altogether. You have several options but first you have to take this philosophy to heart:

You have to fight fire with fire. He does not love you or care about any of you. He is a selfish asshole who only cares about himself. So get any idea of his brotherly love for you out of your head right now. Do what needs to be done to him. Don't run away, he will follow. You are his meal ticket. Your family has enabled his behavior. He does whatever he wants and no one does anything about it. His iron grasp on your family has to be broken. No one else can come in and fight this battle for you. This is why you and your family need to stop him. Here are a couple ideas:

1 - Call the police before hand and let them in on your plan. When he is not home. Pack his shit up/throw away everything. Take those cars to the scrap yard. (you can get about a couple hundred bucks for them). And when he sees this have the police there. Instant asshole rage. Police see this. Fawktard is probably stupid enough to assault a police officer. 10+ in jail. From what you described, he won't last very long in prison. If he is stupid enough to assault a police officer then a guard will be no problem. He will make enough enemies in prison to where you will never ever see him again.(I normally don't laugh at prison rape but the thought of the guy that you described getting what's coming to him is funny).

2 - Find out if he has done anything illegal and call the police and get him arrested. As big of a fawk up as he sounds, I'm sure he has done a host of things that can have him thrown in jail for a long time. See above for outcome.

3 - Have a mefi meet up invention. Tell him you want him out for good. Get about 100 of us there. If he tries anything.... we know how to take care of our own.

4 - Pray he pisses off the wrong person one of these times and nature takes it's course.

I'm sorry if I seem cruel but I hate abusers. I have no mercy in my heart for them. For someone to take some of the sweetest, kindest people our society has to offer and mentally, physically, and verbally abuse them is worse than any other crime in my mind. If you ask me abusers should be put in jail for 25 + years. Let them rot.

I hope for the best for you and your family. I'll say a prayer for you.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 8:27 AM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Frank has beaten you and pulled a gun on you? I would be incredibly cautious with whatever move you make now - it is possible that he could respond with violence. I don't think I'm the only one in this thread who is worried for your life. And I don't think any sort of direct confrontation with Frank is a good idea.

My recommendation would be to take Matt up on his offer of buying a new house. I would get one as far away as possible - leave your town, or even better, your state. Don't let anyone you don't trust 100% know where you're going, and don't let Frank know ahead of time that you're planning on doing this. You don't want him to follow you. If you need help doing this, advice or support, I would suggest contacting a local domestic violence shelter. They are used to helping people relocate quickly and quietly to get away from their abusers.

Let Frank keep the house. It doesn't sound like it's worth much, anyway, and as long as he has it he may be loathe to leave it and try and find you. Even if the house was a mansion it's not worth risking your life for.

As others have pointed out, your mother is the sticking point. If she refuses to see how dangerous Frank is, you have no choice but to place your own safety, and the safety of your new family, above your desire to take care of her. You can try to persuade her but you cannot make her see reason and you'll need to be prepared for that. Tell your mother that you would like to bring her with you but will only do so on the condition that she not contact Frank and tell him where you all are. If she refuses to do so, or if you suspect that she is lying, leave without her. Do your very best to arrange for someone else to take care of her.

You haven't said much about your dad, but if you trust him, you can keep in contact with him. Perhaps you can work out a way for your mother to visit Frank without revealing your location to him, or if your mother has to be left behind, you can use him as a go-between so you can visit your mother.

Bottom line is that you need to protect yourself, your unborn child, and your quasi-stepson. That has to be your number one priority.

I'm so sorry you're going through this. You did nothing to deserve it, however much Frank might try to convince you otherwise. I think you're incredibly brave and I hope you are able to make the choices you need to.
posted by shaun uh at 8:34 AM on February 9, 2009


Adding to the chorus, your mother is your Achilles Heel. You don't realise it, because you've spent your life being made to feel powerless, but all the power in this situation resides with you. Everyone else is feeding off you in one way or another.

- Your mother needs you to take care of her. Frank's not going to do it.

- Frank needs you to buy him food and give him a place to live.

- Frank needs you not to call the police and get him put in jail.

- You're the one (in conjunction with Matt) with the resources to create a new home for your family.

- You're the one with the child that's going to be the new focus of the family (that's a hell of a card to have in your hand, BTW - both from the "think of the safety of the children" point of view, and the nuclear "I'll take your grandchild to another state" option).

Who is the head of your family? I bet you don't say "I am". But in every meaningful way, you're the head of your family now, not your mother or father. You have the resources, the authority and the duty to make tough decisions on your family's behalf; you just need the mind-set.

Move. Do it quickly and quietly, leaving your mother behind if necessary (she is an adult, after all; you can't force her to move, but by the same token she can't force you to stay). Frank won't take care of her, so pretty soon she'll have no choice but to follow you.

When she does, make sure that she understands that this is your roof, and everyone under it lives by your rules. House rules are not up for debate. Especially the No Frank rule. Expect every technique that ever worked on you in the past to be thrown at you, but it will be easier to deal with without the threat of violence hanging over your head.

You'll probably think of a thousand reasons why moving is simply impossible... that's the defeatism that's been hammered into you talking. Long-term, you need to develop that "leader and decision-maker" mind-set, rather than "helpless victim of other people". Therapy may help, but that's a decision for another day. Ditto how to deal with the house. You may decide to sign it over, you may decide to bulldoze it at 7AM one morning, and video the whole thing. But that's a decision you can put off until you're no longer living in immediate physical danger.

You'll notice that I haven't focused on Frank... that's because he's not actually a problem. His only power is physical, and a solid brick wall between you and him will make that power evaporate.

(BTW, sounds Matt's a good guy - he hasn't run away, and he hasn't gone into neanderthal, protect-my-woman-at-all-costs mode)
posted by Leon at 8:54 AM on February 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


Who is the head of your family? I bet you don't say "I am". But in every meaningful way, you're the head of your family now, not your mother or father. You have the resources, the authority and the duty to make tough decisions on your family's behalf; you just need the mind-set.

Reposted for emphasis.
posted by footnote at 9:02 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Your brother isn't the only insane person here.

You love your mother but she hasn't been mentally fit for a long time.

You need to wake up to how abnormal it is, that she allowed the situation in the basement to devolve to this point. She is the main element of this equation that is hampering your ability to provide a safe environment for our child. You need to look at what public care options are available to her. Her current health may not last long and she could quickly go down hill again and the stress would certainly be enough to destroy the new living arrangement you're trying to set up. What if your Mum soon needs lifting and round the clock attention? She will probably need institutional care at some point soon, so you need to set that up NOW. You need to explain the situation to a social worker. Finding a way to get her into a public care nursing home is what you need to be putting your energy into. That will may require selling her property but so what?

If there is any justification for a social safety net, this is it.


How can you bring your mother (and child) into another situation where you will have absolutely no power, given you won't be married and your boyfriend will own the home? If you don't get Mum into care and it doesn't happen to work out as well as you hoped in the new place and you're stuck back in that house with her and your brother. Your boyfriend (maybe under pressure from his family) would find it very easy to prove that the child was in an unsafe environment and you could lose custody. You're not in a proper position to care for your Mum. You need to be a responsible adult now and not just a good daughter. I'm sorry you have to make such a horrible decision.

Your primary responsibility is to your child. That's the only element in this equation you even have any real control over.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:06 AM on February 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Contact a lawyer. Contact the police. Get a restraining order. Move to a different location. Evict your brother. Sell the house in 2011.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:35 AM on February 9, 2009


I appreciate the fact that you have a healthy respect for your brother's physical force, but he is not actually the Terminator. The police have guns. They have lots of guns. They have sticks, they have cars, they have all kinds of things. And you should know that, while things vary from case to case, people who've violated a restraining order aren't supposed to be given a chance to do it again.

There are a lot of different breeds of police officer; some are very good, and try every day to make the world a better place, while some are very corrupt, and do some terrible things. But I can guarantee you that any police officer won't hesitate a moment when a young pregnant woman with an abusive brother who's all but threatened to cause miscarriage comes to them.

Again, I know you've been told this here already, but this is what you should do:

(1) Talk to Matt. NOW. Not tomorrow when he gets home from work, not next weekend when there's time to sit down. Call him on the phone, whatever, but talk to him now. You aren't clear on this in your question, but it's pretty clear to me that Matt doesn't understand at all what your history is with Frank or what kinds of threats he's presented thus far. If he were, he wouldn't be saying things like "I don't want my kids near him;" he'd be saying things like "put some clothes in a bag, honey, we're leaving in five minutes." Seriously. He sounds like a good man, and if he is, he'll understand the urgency here and help you make decisions on this. You need someone on your side that you can trust, and Matt is that man. Frank needs to be kicked out of the house; it's convenient that he can go live in the cabin.

(2) Once you've talked this over with Matt and thought about what the dangers and possibilities are, go with him and talk to your mother. With Matt beside you, you need to make it clear that you will not live in any house where Frank is permitted to enter. If she's in denial, as you say, she needs the strongest ultimatum you can give her; tell her that you'll have a child to care for soon, and you won't put up with that child being threatened; that, though you know it's painful for her to think about, Frank has been very abusive and probably will continue to be abusive; and that you're going to have Frank kicked out, and if she ever lets him back in, you will never be able to live with her again. It sounds harsh. It has to be the truth; the child's life is more important than her bullshit. She will have to hire a nurse otherwise. You may have obligations to her, but your obligations to yourself and your child and your boyfriend are more important.

(3) Once your boyfriend is behind you and your mom understands where both of you stands, and that neither of you will back down, you and your boyfriend need to go down to the nearest police station. You need to sit down with an officer there and tell him or her precisely what you told us about Frank above. Maybe a bit more. Explain the danger that you're in from him, the hell he's made your life, and the terrible things he's done to you and to your mom. Don't "go easy on Frank," and don't hold back because you're afraid of what Frank will do. The police will protect you - that is their job. Their job is to protect people from psychopaths; they have other jobs, but this is pretty high on the list. They will know what to do to help you. You'll need a restraining order, but you'll need more than that; you'll need the police to be around to protect you a lot at first, and you need them to be ready to come and help you at the drop of a hat for a long, long time. The police do this kind of thing all the time; they may be able to station someone in front of the house the first day that Frank is gone. Tell them what you're going to do, and tell them that you don't know how, but you need to kick Frank out of the house. The police will know how; they'll know if you can just toss him out, or if they'll need to stay there to protect you while he's moving his things. Either way, they will protect you; again, that's their job, and you need to remember it.

I understand that you want to take care of your mother - that's a wonderful thing, and you're being a truly good daughter. But you need to remember that part of taking care of someone is having the confidence and initiative to take care of yourself first. You have to make certain decisions that your mother will have to understand are non-negotiable; this is the biggest one.

Talk to Matt, talk to your mom, and then talk to the police.
posted by koeselitz at 9:38 AM on February 9, 2009 [6 favorites]



That's not how involuntary commitments work, Benjy, and I really wish that people would stop recommending them on AskMetafilter.


It's not how they're supposed to work, no, but her resources sound extremely limited. I think this goes a little beyond a housing dispute too, what with the domestic abuse and the loaded handguns being pulled and all. Involving Social Services in SOME manner needs to occur, and from past experiences telling them you're willing to commit a family member gets your case a little more attention than it might otherwise get.

An abuse of the system, sure, but sometimes you have to make a few moral transgressions in life.
posted by Benjy at 9:42 AM on February 9, 2009


The first rule of these situations is to save yourself first. You now have to extend that to your child. That means Mom, Dad, Matt, Matt's kids, Frank, the mortgage company, the opinions of your extended family are all a distant, distant second to your safety.

Move. Neither house is worth much financially and you've already sunk too much money into homes which are not yours. It's "unofficially" your house, but officially your expense and headache. Take the long-term view. Do you want to be fighting Frank over these assets for the rest of your life? Not worth it.

Mom goes to a long-term care facility. Sorry. If she's the gateway which Frank goes through, then she cannot live with you and your child. Since she's in denial about Frank's problem and she's incapacitated herself, she cannot reliably resist Frank. She didn't protect you as a child, didn't protect you as an adult and she will not protect your baby either. This sucks hard. She's probably incapable of doing more to protect you than she did. Maybe at some point in the future she can live with you again. Right now, she needs to be somewhere else.

Frank gets a PFA slapped on him. You file and prosecute every single violation. This isn't going to make you popular with your extended family. Tough. They are unimportant relative to your safety.

Good luck. Remember that you need to save yourself first.
posted by 26.2 at 9:49 AM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Benjy: If he really is the ball of issues that it sounds like, you may want to contact a lawyer or Social Services in your state and ask about Involuntary Commitment.

The Straightener is right, of course, as a care provider, Benjy: this is an abuse of the system, and it's not really ethical.

But beyond that, it's utterly impractical. It's a real hassle to get someone involuntarily committed - believe me - whereas it turns out it's amazingly easy to call 911 and say the words, "I have an abusive brother who lives with me, and I'm afraid for my life and the life of my unborn child."

In fact, the latter solution will probably have better and longer-lasting consequences.
posted by koeselitz at 9:50 AM on February 9, 2009


During your childhood your mother let your older brother physically and emotionally abuse you. She didn't protect you. Now you're pregnant and living in a situation where you will potentially carry on in her footsteps if Frank has access to your child. Get out now, do not be that kind of mother. She taught you by example to be cowed, polite, and non reactionary in the face of abuse & you need to unlearn that immediately. Matt (who sounds awesome btw) can afford a house for you and the kids, tell him to put that in motion right away. Remind mom of all the abuse you suffered at Frank's hands as a child and as an adult, tell her you fear for your unborn child's safety. Ask her to help you protect her grandchild. If she doesn't agree to do this then leave her behind, telling her the door is open for her to come and live with you and Matt once she comes to her senses.
posted by zarah at 9:51 AM on February 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


Lots of good advice is pouring in and I hope you heed it. I just wanted to emphasize that in fact you are already putting your baby at considerable risk in the hopes it will help you focus and take control of the situation:
  • First and foremost, Frank has threatened your life. If he attempts to carry through chances are your baby will not survive, whether you do or not.
  • He wants you to miscarriage. He might decide to help that along in any number of not-pleasant ways
  • He is causing you an amazing amount of stress. This is not good for the health of the baby. Granted, taking care of the problem will be stressful but with it will be stress with an endpoint.
  • By letting Frank eat all the nutritious food and surviving on the "crap" food, you are not providing your developing baby with the nutrition it needs, and you are not preparing your body for care/feeding of a newborn.
There's probably more but that's more than enough to start.
posted by mikepop at 10:06 AM on February 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


I just want to say one more time, since I realize I might not have been clear enough above: Gianna, if your brother has violated restraining orders before, the police will know him by name. They can and will take steps to prevent him from violating a restraining order again. They might station an officer outside the house; this is routine when the victim anticipates a credible threat to his or her physical well-being. They will almost certainly be willing to be present any time you have to talk to him again.

I know and work with a few cops. There are parts of their jobs that they can't stand; filling out forms, for example, going to meetings, doing routine traffic stops. But one thing all of them relish, and see as extremely meaningful, is protecting people in situations like yours from psychopaths like your brother and getting those psychopaths out of a position to do harm.
posted by koeselitz at 10:06 AM on February 9, 2009


An abuse of the system, sure, but sometimes you have to make a few moral transgressions in life.

Benjy, I'm saying as someone who has participated in involuntary commitments and was just retrained on them by the city just last week that you're not understanding the procedure for having someone involuntarily committed and therefore aren't seeing why it's a poor suggestion. An involuntary committment of the kind you are suggesting is called a "failure to care" or sometimes a "failure to thrive" committment. Those committments are made in the absence of the usual criteria, which is an immediate threat to self or others as evidenced by plans and means. The pre-approved involuntary commitment type not based on immediate threat needs to meet an extremely high threshold of different criterias that establish that the person is in fact failing to thrive to the point of needing to be involuntarily hospitalized. The reason the criteria is so strict is because in the United States we don't just lock people in psychiatric wards anymore. It's really important that these criteria be this strict, and that the county behavioral health departments in the position to approve these orders adhere to those standards.

This situation does not meet those standards, and any county behavioral health department is going to immediately recognize that and ferret it out through questioning the petitioner. It honestly doesn't matter that what you are suggesting is ethically challenged, it would just waste the poster's time, as her request for a committment in this situation will simply be denied as patently inappropriate.
posted by The Straightener at 10:07 AM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've read (and reread and reread) your question all morning. Some thoughts:

-- Is your Grandmother's house free-and-clear (ie: no mortgage, or even just a small mortage)? Is it an option to sell it (even at a reduced amount), and use the proceeds to clear the Gov't Lein on the house and/or use the proceeds to pay the bills on the childhood home until the lien "clears" in 2011?

-- How much care does your mother need now? I do think that finding an assisted living situation for her might be the way to go here (on the path to getting-the-hell-out with Matt and not leaving a forwarding address), but not for the reasons folks upthread think: If your mom already needs a lot of personal care, it going to be well-nigh impossible to do all that and care for a newborn and (I assume) work. Something's got to give in that situation, and if you're not careful it will be you. (This could be a good approach to take with your mother -- "Mom, I love you but I can't take care of you and your grandchild.")

-- You may not realize it now (I didn't when I was pregnant) but all too soon your life is going to be overwhelmed by this tiny, beautiful, helpless, wriggling creature. And you'll be driven to protect that creature with everything you've got. Start practicing this now by a) talking to an attorney; b) making plans to get a new living situation with Matt (he's a good one, keep him); c) cutting ties with Frank and never looking back.

Keep us posted and good luck.
posted by anastasiav at 10:13 AM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm going to come in and suggest along with everybody else that you get yourself out of that house. Frank is not going to go anywhere and there isn't going to be any magic spell that makes him leave happily. More than that, he isn't going to change and you need to recognize that. No matter what your mother says (does "He means well." "It's not his fault" "You're the strong one, you have to take care of him" ring a bell? Yeah. I know.) he is not going to suddenly grow up and become a functional human being and you need to get him out of your life. I totally understand not wanting to have a big confrontation and I also get the whole if I just hide my head in the sand this problem will go away mentality but unfortunately or fortunately, you can't afford those anymore. However, you might well be able to shed both Frank and the house and I would urge you to do so, ASAP.

Looking at your previous questions makes me think you might be in TN; if so, call these people now. They can help you more than we can. So can a social worker. I know, they're supposed to be scary monsters who will take your kids and kick you out of your house and shit but, look, honey, getting kicked out of your house right now would be better than the situation you're in. And besides, they are actually mostly really nice people and they can probably come over, help you with your mother at least and give you some options on how to deal with Frank. Also, get WIC while you're there and thus kill two birds with one stone and start eating better.

You say the house cannot be sold until 2011 but what if you get a legal document drawn up leasing the house to Frank and stipulating that in 2011 his rent goes towards the purchase price and the house is voila, his. He might go for that and it gets you off the hook financially and you can move without having to pay two mortgages or anything. If that doesn't work, though, I'd just move anyway. Leave Frank behind. Then get tough and leave Mom with Frank too, just make good and sure that the social worker knows you're doing that and then s/he can help you put support in place for Mom. You might be surprised at how much help is out there when you start to look. You might also be surprised at how many people who haven't done a damn thing will come out of the woodwork and actually do something once the family rock tells them to fuck off, she's living her own life now.

It's your turn to live your own life now; yours and your baby's. Nothing and nobody else matters. It is possible to walk away from your family and you can do this.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:24 AM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


You need to make your mother make a choice between you and your brother. This isn't something I would generally recommend, but here it seems more than warranted. Your mother sounds like she is in bad shape and absolutely needs you to take care of her, therefore you have the right to tell her under what circumstances you will provide for her. And they don't have to be the circumstances of her choosing. You are offering her a very nice life with a new family and a new grandchild, you do not have to feel bad because she'll feel guilty about leaving her psychopathic son. She can be angry at you for as long as she wants, stop being afraid of hurting your mother's feelings. You are a very good daughter, but it sounds like you have to be the adult in the situation and not feed into her fantasies about what kind of person her son really is. So make a list of all the concrete reasons why your brother cannot be a part of your life. Try to make them concrete (not merely "he's violent" rather "he beat me up in and drew a gun on me) write down the specifics of every incident you can remember. Just overwhelm her with the evidence. Don't let her stop you, go through each and ever incident and reason he cannot be part of your new family's life. Keep telling her how much you and your boyfriend want her in your life. How much you want her to live with you. But tell you there is only 1 scenario where this can happen. I would suggest letting the family home go and getting a new place. It sounds like a hellhole anyway. Let them demolish it. Move as far away as you feasibly can. Do not tell your brother where you live, tell your mother that a condition of her living with you is that she can't tell him where she is living.

I really don't know what the solution is to her visiting with him. I would make an offer to take her to a neutral place once a week for a visit, maybe your dad's? But honestly he'll probably use that as an excuse for a violent confrontation. I might throw that out as a bargaining chip to get your mom on board. I know it isn't nice to lie, but it may help ease your mother's conscience in the short term. Abandoning your kid isn't easy, but sometimes it has to be done.

The thing you need to remember is that there is no "nice" way out of this where everyone is going to be happy. But you deserve to be happy and your mother deserves to be taken care of, even if everything isn't to her liking. I'm not generally one to quote Dr. Laura, but she has a point in this regard, you only have to honor your parents, that means taking care of their needs, not their wants.

Also, I would encourage you to lie liberally and frequently to your brother while you make plans (whatever they end up being). Tell him whatever you need to (and make sure mom and dad play along) in order for you to get out of the house. Do whatever you need to to avoid a confrontation with him. If he knows his days of mooching and violent craziness are coming to an end a particularly violent confrontation will probably be inevitable. So the only solution is for him to find out AFTER you are gone. Literally he should be coming home to an empty house and have no idea where you are or how to contact you.
posted by whoaali at 10:25 AM on February 9, 2009


Whatever happens, please keep us updated.
posted by Phire at 10:41 AM on February 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


This will sound harsh, but you should know: Your family is terribly broken. Other families are not like this... hopefully, including the family you are starting now.

As I see it, your dad will not act to protect you at all costs -- not normal. Your mother allows you to be harmed (by your brother, but there's also the step-father you mentioned in a previous post) -- not normal. Your brother hurts you -- not normal.

You are at a crossroads. Take one branch, and you have a fresh start with a nice man and a baby that you two co-parent. Take the other branch, and you probably lose the nice man, may get hurt, and possibly your baby gets hurt.

I think you are worth that first branch! A fresh start, with a nice man and a baby, living in safety.

All the people who have not behaved normally are now placing all their issues at your feet and asking you to choose which abnormalities you will accept -- with the hopes that you'll accept all of it.

That's not your only choice, though. I'm not sure I've ever advised someone to lose all contact with their family, but your situation seems to warrant this as the best course of action. As long as your family does not support your health and safety, and practically ensures that you and yours will be hurt again, you should reject those options. Reject your mom's power of attorney, and her housing/money woes. Never see that brother again. Tell your father a sarcastic thanks for not backing you up. Then, go off with Matt, or by yourself. Leave the family to sort this mess out by themselves.
posted by Houstonian at 10:42 AM on February 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


You need to move out.
posted by gnutron at 10:45 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


(A) Have Matt buy a house. Leave. Live in it. Give your brother control of the childhood house.

(B) Tell Mom and Dad "I am leaving. You can live with me or him, but not both."

(C) Get a restraining order. Call the cops the first time he breaks it.

(D) Don't look back.
posted by xammerboy at 11:00 AM on February 9, 2009


Whatever happens, please keep us updated.

Yes, this, please. Everyone posting in this thread will be hoping and wondering.
posted by zarah at 11:20 AM on February 9, 2009


Please, please, please leave that house.

It may feel like a connection to your mom and your childhood, but it's just bricks, pipes, and a dangerous jackass in the basement.
posted by smelvis at 12:17 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


If I kick him out, I can 100% guarantee you she will both be furious with me and will let him back in.

You're participating in the drama. I don't know why; maybe you don't either. If you're serious about this, get a restraining order. He won't be allowed anywhere near you. It won't matter if your mother wants to let him back in. It won't matter if your father wants you to let him back in. If he comes back in, he is in violation of the restraining order and can be jailed.

If you aren't serious enough about this to get a restraining order, you are playing in to the drama.
posted by Justinian at 12:25 PM on February 9, 2009


I'm not sure you understand the full gravity of this situation.

Now it's time to act decisively.

you need to protect yourself, your unborn child,

you deserve to do whatever it takes

Get the hell out.

get out of there and leave

you need to run, and run now.

leaving your mother behind if necessary

She didn't protect you.

Buy a house far away

move very far away

escape from an abusive relationship

and never look back.

Do what you need to do,

this situation is totally unacceptable.

There are no limits in you protecting yourself.

It is possible

Good luck.



(BTW, sounds Matt's a good guy


Reposted for emphasis.
posted by Sova at 12:32 PM on February 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


I have relatives/friends in Chattanooga in both emergency services and law enforcement. They may be able to help or advise. Email me if you're interested. (This is, of course, assuming you're still in Chatty.)
posted by torticat at 1:21 PM on February 9, 2009


What you need, by the bucket, is legal advice. And I can't give it to you because IAALBIAANYL. As the saying goes.

Here's what IMO you need advice about at a minimum:

(1) The sale of the house. The fact that the house is encumbered by a lien doesn't necessarily mean you can't get rid of it. Talk to an actual real estate attorney and find out your options.

(2) Landlord-tenant issues/nuisance issues: Sad to say, Frank probably has some rights as a tenant in your house. However, there are also issues with the way he uses the property. You need to talk to someone who understands all aspects of this.

(3) Domestic violence. You're describing something that's really beyond the pale, here. Strangling? Guns? Comments about hoping you miscarry? This is beyond scary. You need to sit down with someone who really, really, really knows domestic violence, both from a legal perspective and a direct service perspective.

(4) Elder law:: Given that you're your mother's guardian, and that you're dealing with this particular crisis, it seems likely that you may soon be in the position of coercing her into doing some things she doesn't want to do. Get some guidance about this.

You tend to find most of these competencies in lawyers who have spent some time working for Legal Aid. Most likely, you won't qualify to be a legal aid client yourself-- but if you call your local Legal Aid referral line, you can explain all of this and ask them to direct you to a (private) attorney who's got the experience and the stones to help you get a handle things.

Feel free to memail me if you need some help finding an attorney. I'm out of the biz myself, but I can probably help you figure out who to call.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 1:41 PM on February 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I need a way to not just get Frank to move out completely, but to make Frank WANT to move out completely and think it was his idea.

As pretty much everybody else has said, to hell with that. Just get yourself out. You said that would be a financial burden, but not impossible. So what? What's more important to you-- your bank account or your and your child's safety?

Get.

Out.
posted by dersins at 1:51 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have a little bit to do with statutory child protection authorities where I live—which is not where you live. Take this advice with that caveat.
If Frank has an official history with the police, or any other organ of the State, of abuse or domestic violence, then the child protection authorities will have an interest in your case. He presents a risk of harm to your child that, if reported, the State cannot legally ignore. Every commenter who has said that you and your child cannot live in the same house as Frank is right: the Government has a responsibility to make sure that that kind of thing doesn't happen. They will intervene if they have to.
The good news: child protection departments everywhere employ very good social workers and caseworkers who spend all day, every day, dealing with situations precisely like yours. They have great resources to help you and strong laws to protect you. They will want to help you get your life and your child's life into order. They're one of the best sources of assistance out there for mothers like you.
Best wishes, Gianna. Stay safe and keep strong.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 2:26 PM on February 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


You have to ditch your Mom. She has made her bed over the last 41 years and now she's lying in it and she's lonely and she's trying to make you lie there too. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DO THIS. You can get a nice house with Matt and the children and have a puppy and a yard and a clean kitchen and BBQs on the weekend where your friends come over and you all laugh and play with the kids and go to the lake. Framed family photos, a kids room, watching movies on winter nights and having their friends for sleepovers. THAT should be your life, not living in fear and squalor and waiting hand and foot on people who've abused you for years.

Your Mom cannot be left alone in your new house because she will admit your brother. Find her a nice assisted living home, thank your lucky stars your name isn't on either one of the decrepit family homes and WALK AWAY. Stay at a shelter for battered women or with a friend until you and Matt can rent a place. Hook Mom up with a social worker to deal with all this crap so you don't have to and start enjoying the rest of your life. Never, ever, ever go back to either house no matter what your mom wants. In 6 months you'll be kicking yourself for not doing it years ago.

btw, I strenuously disagree with everyone who suggests going after Frank legally. You are pregnant right now and that is too big a risk to take imho. After the baby is born then by all means get a restraining order against him and prosecute it but right now you're vulnerable and he knows it.
posted by fshgrl at 2:44 PM on February 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Move out. As others have said, you cannot make a choice that everyone will be happy with - no such choice exists. Frank is not moving, and it is better that he be left to his own devices, he will soon run afoul of the law with his psychotic behaviour, neatly leaving someone else to take care of him and his mess. That is what the police are for.

The most important person in the world right now is your unborn child. That child is relying on you to keep it safe. Your mom has chosen of her own free will, to ignore Frank's insanity. She has a choice about how to live, your baby does not. Baby takes priority. Baby + Frank cannot be within 50 miles of each other.

Take Matt up on his offer of buying a house. Tell Mom she is welcome to come and live with you guys, but ONLY if she agrees to cut off Frank completely (actually I'm, wary even of that). If she does not wish to do so, she can either stay with Frank or she can move to an assisted living facility. Hand over Mom's house to Frank if you like, he will be sure to lose it when it is condemned again. Stop trying to please everyone, you can't. For a start, two of the players here are not behaving rationally, which makes it utterly impossible to please them. Therefore stop. Your baby deserves better than this.
posted by Joh at 3:31 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


What fshgrl said. I don't know what feelings you may have for your mum, but the fact remains that she can't be trusted. For whatever reason, she still wants Frank in her life. So, if you move, and take her with you, she *will* contact him and let him know where you are. Then he *will* show up. Are you prepared to deal with that eventuality?

Get out now. Leave the houses. They are just bricks and mortar anyway. Stuff is not important. Your baby's life is. You are entirely responsible for another human being now. You have to do what is important for him/her. That means walking away from your dysfunctional family now and not later.

My wife did the same thing with her mother and brother. Long story (and by no means as violent as yours) - but she finally realised that the only way to rid herself of them was to cut off all contact.

By all means try and arrange for mum to get into senior care, if you can. But if you can't, then leave her with the son that she loves so much. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES TAKE HER WITH YOU, wherever you go. I know that sounds hard, but she has lived her life. Your little one has the rest of her life ahead of her. She deserves better.

Oh and getting the Police onto Frank? It could work - but what if it backfires? What do you think he would do then? Best leave him to rot in his basement.

Walk away from them. You don't need this.

Best of luck.
posted by humpy at 10:51 PM on February 9, 2009


Please, please, please pack a bag and get out right now. Your brother is insane; your brother has attacked you; your brother wants you to have a miscarriage - ergo, you are in extreme danger. He knows that this situation threatens his cushy existence. He knows that the only way to make things go back to "normal" (hah!!) is if the baby ceases to exist. Stop reading, get up and walk out. Take your mom to your dad for the moment, and you go to Matt. Then figure out the rest.

I'm not (not even a little bit) the sort of person to soak in drama; I'm not a sob-sister; I don't mistake made-for-TV movies for real life, or get a little tingle from imagining danger around every corner, and I'm telling you that you need to stop reading this, stand up, and get yourself out of that place now. Sort out the rest with Matt, your dad, the police and social services in safety. Leave. Now.

The fact that you don't quite recognize this already means that you have been to some degree brainwashed by the years of intimidation and abuse and have come to point of accepting ludicrously unacceptable conditions on your existence. Please trust us over your own judgment for the moment, at least.
posted by taz at 11:38 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sorry, to comment again, but this is really disturbing me and I have to add this. If your mom won't leave with you right now, leave anyway. It's extremely, extremely unlikely that your brother will harm her, since she's his enabler and protector. If she insists on staying, leave anyway and figure out how to extract her afterward. She needs care, but you need survival for yourself and your child. You can supply both, but if you are forced to choose, choose survival.
posted by taz at 1:54 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


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