How to handle my brother being raped.
October 14, 2011 9:31 AM   Subscribe

My brother was raped. What the hell do I do?

I know that the answer is basically "be there for him," since I can't go out and exact Kill-Bill-style retribution like I would like to do, but I would very much love some advice on how to think about this and what to say to him, as well as a couple of other issues I will mention below.

My brother is a very gruff, country sort of guy who lives in an extremely small town where we both grew up (a place I avoid as much as possible). Over the past year, he has been referring to one night at a bar when he got "beat up" over and over again, talking about taking revenge (which confused the hell out of me). He finally told me a few weeks ago that, actually, he was raped that night. I don't know every detail, but he had taken some medication and then drank a lot on top of it, and was apparently arguing with everyone in sight. He went outside to fight some people, where he was held down and raped with an object.

He is vague on the details, either because he can't talk about it or because he can't remember, but there were apparently several people involved, and at least one of these people has had an important role in his life for a long time.

He feels almost like there is a conspiracy of silence around this, and he absolutely will not go to the police about this, because he is pretty sure that at least one person who is a cop already knows, and someone who was involved is closely related to other police officers in this town. In any case, I am not sure I wouldn't feel the same--it seems akin to going to Roscoe P. Coltrain for rape crisis help. He also will not consider therapy, and I am not going to gently urge it any more. Instead, he mostly seems to fantasize about some kind of violent retribution. I am fairly certain that he won't do this. However, he is very much seeking some kind of resolution and a way to live with this, and I am the only person he feels he can trust.

He wants to call me tomorrow and then ask one of the people involved about it. He just wants me on the phone in case the person he is going to confront tries to hurt him in response. I told him that he could, of course, call me, but a part of me is really nervous and worried about this.

A complicating factor here is that my brother has had serious drug problems since he was a young teenager and only recently (a couple of years ago) stopped doing the more serious drugs (he still smokes a lot of pot, but pot >>> crack). The drug problems and some family history initially made me wonder if he'd lost his mind a little, but upon reflecting and discussing this with my therapist, I do believe that he's telling me the truth, and truth based in reality. This belief rests in the way he told about the rape; it took him a whole year to work up the courage to tell me this one thing. That is not how someone with delusions behaves.

But: He is pretty fixated on there being some kind of conspiracy to cover this up, and he feels as if his life has been threatened a couple of times since that night, basically if he makes any hint that he's angry about what happened. Which I get: Good old boys doing something kind of gay might feel really weird about it. It just seems so crazy, like a Lifetime movie or something.

I think that his drug problems, and the fact that he barely talks at all, has convinced a lot of people that he is really stupid, or so stunned from all the drugs that he's barely there. He is there. He's been calling me a lot in this past year, and while he's a little emotionally immature from being on drugs for so long and certainly has a few other things that worry me a little, he's not spaced or stupid. I have wondered a bit if these people were essentially attacking someone they saw as witless, as monsters sometimes do.

He mentioned this to my mother, recently. I am not sure if he told her everything. Her response was, "You need to get your head clear." Which made him worry that she already knew all about it and never said a word. He also told me that he feels like she hates him and thinks he's everything she ever disliked about our father. Do I talk to her and tell her to not be so horrible? I don't really trust her at all, for what it's worth, but my brother feels so alone right now, and I wish someone else was on his side.

What I WANT is for him to leave that town, forever. He tells me that he's not interested in leaving, that it's his home. I ache for him. I don't know exactly what's going on, but I want him out of there so badly.

I also want to stop feeling crazy about this. A part of me still wonders how much of this is true, and if I should be worried about my brother's sanity. Another part of me worries for his safety. Upon hearing this story, what do you think? What is your reaction? I worry that I'm too close to this to have any perspective at all, and I cling to the conversation I had with my therapist about this as a kind of touchstone that tells me that I have not been sucked into a small town, drug-addled Twilight Zone.

Oh, another complicating factor is something he told me tonight: One of the things he got into a fight about is someone talking poorly about me. I'm a lesbian. He even said, tonight, that he was raped because I'm a lesbian. My partner says that this makes her feel unsafe in that town, and she wants to get a hotel in a nearby town whenever we visit, rather than staying in my mother's house. Is she overreacting? I am not sure. I grew up there.

Help? Advice? It's possible that I just really, really need to tell people about this, and an anon AskMe post is perfect for that, but man, some feedback would help me a lot. How does someone like him process something like this and get past it? What can I do to help?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (37 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
A part of me still wonders how much of this is true, and if I should be worried about my brother's sanity.

Given what you describe as his character, cultural background, and where he is comfortable living (and refuses to leave)--why on earth would he fabricate being the victim of a male on male rape? I think your instict to believe him is the right one, and one of the most supportive things you can do.
posted by availablelight at 9:43 AM on October 14, 2011 [8 favorites]

But: He is pretty fixated on there being some kind of conspiracy to cover this up, and he feels as if his life has been threatened a couple of times since that night

Frankly, it wouldn't suprise me, and it wouldn't suprise me if the cops knew but didn't want to rock the boat.

I haven't been in his position but I think believing him would be a huge support, and I have heard (mostly on metafilter) that it might be useful for YOU to call the rape crisis line, and ask for advice for yourself and him.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:48 AM on October 14, 2011 [11 favorites]

It's almost never possible to know with exact 100% certainty if someone is telling the truth. But you aren't on a jury in a criminal trial. You're family. It's your job to believe him and support him unconditionally. The fact that he has other problems (which seem barely if at all related) doesn't change what happened. A rape victim shouldn't need to everything in their life in perfect order before being taken seriously.
posted by John Cohen at 9:53 AM on October 14, 2011 [9 favorites]

Seconding "believe him."

Also, give him the number for RAINN -- I strongly doubt they'd turn him away just because he's a guy. They're very good about helping survivors find advice, support, and counseling for their area. They were also sympathetic towards ME, when I had had a friend tell me about a long-ago near-rape and I was being all flaily and "but there must be SOMETHING I can do"; if they were kind enough to cope with THAT kind of low-level wibble, then they're bound to be kind towards your brother. (And you, as well, as the sister to a survivor.)

As for the rest -- see what happens when he confronts his attacker. His attacker may deny it -- but I think he may also find that having finally turned around and called his attacker out may give him a sense of relief that may help. A tiny sense, but relief.

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:53 AM on October 14, 2011 [5 favorites]

TBH, his story sounds true. "Noncredible" victims get raped too, and yeah they do get surrounded by conspiracies of silence.

What I would suggest is phoning, on your own behalf, a rape crisis line and asking them what to do for your brother. Unfortunately I can almost guarantee you that they'll have heard stories like this before.
posted by tel3path at 9:54 AM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am sure the first several times I told someone about my assault experience, I didn't sound 100% credible, and for good reason. Even with someone I trusted, it was hard to share everything that had happened, so my tale had gaps, it was obvious I was keeping something back, etc. point being, the lie may be in minimizing what happened, out of a sense of guilt or self blaming.
posted by No1UKnow at 10:00 AM on October 14, 2011 [4 favorites]

He's not making it up. Call the rape crisis center. If he doesn't want to leave the town, he might be mentally impaired on TOP of this. Try to intervene in whatever way possible to get him out of there. Staying in a small town where he was assaulted and whose police force he doesn't trust (perhaps rightfully) sounds like the worst idea ever. But yes, stop doubting him. Even if he's totally nutballs crazy, that doesn't mean this didn't happen. I agree with availablelight... what exactly about this sounds like a reason or motive for him to make this up? It sounds like it's ruining his life. People don't usually make up getting "raped with an object" -- most people don't THINK of shit like that unless it happens, come on. As a victim of sexual assault myself, I can tell you that if he knew you were doubting him he might take drastic measures against himself emotionally or physically. Please believe him. Go from there.
posted by jitterbug perfume at 10:03 AM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

God, what an awful thing to happen. I am so sorry to hear about this.

A person close to me does advocacy work for victims of sexual assault. From that person's advice, the first best thing you can do for a victim who discloses to you, is believe them, and tell them you believe them.

Your brother needs to know that it wasn't his fault. Even if he engaged in risky behaviors like drinking on medication: plenty of people drink on medication without getting raped. What happened to your brother is the fault of the people who decided to rape him.

It's also not your fault, no matter what started the fight. You should know that, too.

Male victims of sexual assault have a really hard go of it.* I don't get the impression that your brother is likely to be open to, say, getting therapy for this. That's a shame, because it sounds like your brother may really need a space where he can open up and start to feel whatever he is feeling. You can encourage him to contact a rape hotline: these are anonymous, they are staffed with trained people who want nothing more than to help your brother get what he needs. He probably won't want to talk about it because talking about it feels like re-living it, but he's already re-living it.

I hope he can overcome this. There is help, and he is not alone.

* Yes. All victims of sexual assault have a hard go of it.
posted by gauche at 10:06 AM on October 14, 2011 [4 favorites]

Check the MeFi ThereIsHelp Wiki for any other leads.
posted by Miko at 10:07 AM on October 14, 2011

From a logical stand point it sounds like believing him will have little to no negative consequences but not believing him could have serious negative consequences. Male rape is often unreported because people do not believe the victim.

I think what I would do is fairly simple, support, love, compassion. Support finding therapy would be my biggest immediate goal.
posted by Felex at 10:12 AM on October 14, 2011 [5 favorites]

Please believe him, or at least treat him like you do. Even if it isn't true exactly the way he says it happened, it's the way he thinks it happened, and that can be just as damaging.

There's a tendency, especially when people are using drugs, when something horrible happens to you to try to explain a lot of the confusion away by stressing or highlighting the feelings of conspiracy. Somehow it helps you feel like the world isn't such a horrible place if you can believe that just a subset of horrible people are behind bad things that happened.

(I'm sure there is some sort of medical/professional research that has come to this conclusion, but this is based solely on personal belief/experience.)

Your brother getting his "head clear" is going to be a whole lot tougher with this weighing on his mind. On the other hand -- or a similar, related backside of that hand -- getting fucked up can also be a trigger if he starts to feel close to a way he felt that night. Using drugs for recreation can be a just fine thing that gets totally out of control after something like this, and if he started out already with problems, these two issues could be pretty intertwined for a while, if not for always. For the love of your brother, if you can help him find a therapist to deal with these problems, make sure he finds one who is sympathetic and non-judgmental about his history with drug abuse. I'm always afraid to say "This must happen" in a AskMe answer, but yes, in this case, that's what I think. Therapists are all supposed to be sympathetic and non-judgmental, at least that's what those of us on the outside believe, but you might be horribly surprised how much that can change when someone has made choices -- even choices they regret -- regarding drug usage. Fortunately, this is a problem I've never had, but the stories I've been told made me want to hug every good therapist I've ever had.

I'm not really sure what you can do for him in the position you are in (not living with him or a part of his day-to-day life) but the suggestions here are a good start. That he's reaching out to you at all says buckets, and I hope you can use the strength of your relationship to help him make the next steps he needs -- which, to me, sure as hell sounds like getting out of Dodge.

As for your partner's fear? It's possible, maybe even probable, that she's overreacting. But this is one of those cases where I'd think -- so what? It's almost like a (much, much, much lesser) version of what's going on with your brother; her feelings are what matters. If she's afraid at all, a hotel seems like a fairly good compromise.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:39 AM on October 14, 2011

Believe him and be there for him. Could you maybe have him come see you for a few days? Maybe getting him out of the danger zone would help him open up and eventually realize he needs therapy.
posted by Sweetmag at 10:39 AM on October 14, 2011

The confrontation your brother plans sounds like SUCH a bad idea. It is likely to only cause him pain, and possibly physical danger as well. If you can't talk him out of it, you may want to be prepared for a full-on crisis. He is not going to get what he wants or needs out of that conversation, unless what he wants or needs is to be convinced that he needs to get OUT.


One reason, as No1UKnow alludes to, that rape survivor's narratives have that disjointed, bizzare, surreal quality is that rape itself is a bizzare, surreal experience. It can be very hard to integrate, and being raped while intoxicated only amplifies that effect.

Our culture has just a few Rape Narratives to which our personal rape narratives rarely conform. There can be an impulse, when one is desperate for someone, anyone to believe you, to distort the story to try to conform better to a cultural Rape Narrative. That can add another layer of "wait, this is inconsistent and makes no sense" to a survivor's story.

So, go ahead and worry about your brother's mental health -- he's had a traumatic experience, he's responding like a traumatized person, and isn't getting any professional help. But I'll tell you the reason his story may not feel like it makes sense to you, and the reason it has that weird nimbus of unreality about it, is that rape doesn't make sense.

Having just one person who believes you can be the difference between life and death.


On a different note -- no, your partner is not overreacting. According to one of the most direct sources she knows, her brother-in-law was just raped in a homophobic hate crime in your hometown. She may very well have some secondary trauma herself; I would. It may help if you step back from thinking about her desire for a hotel room as a judgement on your hometown, and think more in terms of cushioning her own feelings of fear, vulnerability and violation.

I am so, so sorry you and yours are going through this. I wish you all the strength in the world. Please don't forget to be kind to yourself in your own struggles with this awful experience.
posted by endless_forms at 10:43 AM on October 14, 2011 [17 favorites]

My first thoughts on hearing his story:

(1) It sounds true, merely because it took him so long to tell you. He seems ashamed of it, and of course that would make anyone unwilling to talk. Be available for him at all times.

(2) He needs to get out of that town.

(3) He needs to stop smoking pot - it affects judgment and thought. He needs to think about these things without outside influences.

(4) You need to tell him, as gently as you can, that the only people to blame for this are the people who did it. Not him, you, your partner, the rapists' parents or the cycle of the moon. They chose to do this to him, and he has to choose to remove himself from an environment where it could happen again.

(5) I think your partner is right for being afraid to stay there.

(6) If he leaves, it will help him to gain some control over his life again.

I wish you and him the best of luck. That shouldn't happen to anyone, but it's got to be tremendously harder to get over it if the harm isn't acknowledged.
posted by doyouknowwhoIam? at 10:49 AM on October 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

You need to tell him, as gently as you can, that the only people to blame for this are the people who did it. Not him, you, your partner, the rapists' parents or the cycle of the moon. They chose to do this to him, and he has to choose to remove himself from an environment where it could happen again.

I'm reposting this in case you show your brother this thread, because it bears repeating. It's been said throughout this thread, and it's true, and he needs to believe it.
posted by gauche at 10:56 AM on October 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

he has to choose to remove himself from an environment where it could happen again

And to remove himself from an environment where he is being constantly retraumatized by ongoing contact and fear of contact with the perpetrators.
posted by endless_forms at 11:02 AM on October 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also: in a small town, in the case of any rape case where one of the perps might have connections to the local police force, this doesn't sound so crazy:

But: He is pretty fixated on there being some kind of conspiracy to cover this up, and he feels as if his life has been threatened a couple of times since that night, basically if he makes any hint that he's angry about what happened.

...if the victim is also male (implicating the perps as potential "homosexuals" in a small, backwards town, as well as setting them up for possible charges), doubly so.
posted by availablelight at 11:29 AM on October 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

I totally second everything other people have suggested about counseling resources. On the hand of helping your brother maybe move somewhere new, could you invite him to stay with you for a while? Even just for a weekend or something if he can't get off work? He might feel safer around family that supports him and being far from his attackers, and if he does, he might feel better about eventually moving.

I would just make sure you were totally honest about wanting him to move and having him stay with you so he can see what it's like to be farther away, just so that he doesn't feel like someone ELSE is lying to him/denying what he knows and feels is true.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:30 AM on October 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

It sounds true, yes. But the conspiracy theories, the fact that he thought your mother knew about it, and the history of drug use are (to me) warning signs that he's got some more serious underlying mental health issues that might have been exacerbated by these events.

I'm no expert, but I don't know if 'regular old rape counseling' is the best forum for him to work through this. He needs therapy, but my gut says there's more going on here than the rape and the drug history. Maybe (probably?) more than he's even let on.

I don't have any great advice to offer that hasn't already been said. Definitely do anything you can to convey to him that this isn't his fault, that lots of people have had things like this happened and gone on to have good lives, and that he should leave town. Good luck. :(
posted by pjaust at 11:38 AM on October 14, 2011

There's some good advice above. I want to add a personal anecdote that may or may not be of help:

A member of my family went through a somewhat similar traumatic experience and also couldn't report it, and was forced to be in daily contact with the perpetrators for a long time afterwards. This family member also became convinced of conspiracies, and carried this mindset with them even after they had left the situation, and again after they had moved 2000 miles away. There is a family history of Paranoid Schizophrenia, and we were really starting to worry that this was what was going on. This person tried herbal medications, a handful of therapists, several prescription meds, and nothing helped. They were eventually unable to hold a job, and the situation got very scary. However, what finally worked, believe it or not, was acupuncture. I have always been on the fence about acupuncture, but I can't deny that it has worked for my family member, whether it's the placebo effect or not. I do agree that your brother needs to get out of that town, but I wanted to mention acupuncture as something he might want to consider at some point.

And I agree with everyone: believe him. That's the most important thing you can do right now. And make sure that he can always trust you.
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:39 AM on October 14, 2011

He tells me that he's not interested in leaving, that it's his home.

This reminds me of the reasoning of many battered wives, who stay on for decades in hell because it is "home". Resources for such situations might be helpful here, too. Because I can't see how this is going to work, him staying in a small town where something so unspeakable happened to him, with daily reminders of being raped and having no support whatsoever when trying to deal with it. This will destroy him. I don't know him, or you, but hearing this makes me feel so angry and pained and frustrated, I can't even imagine how he feels, and how having to continue with that anger and agony every day must be like. And what is to say that these people won't do it again, next time they deem your brother too cheeky or forward, or maybe just for the heck of it - after all, they got away with it once.

Everybody involved in this - the perpetrators, people who should do something about it and don't, people who sort of know but turn a blind eye, or invalidate his experience and the feelings it gave rise to - are bad and toxic for your brother, and, personally, I think they should be cut out of his life. From the way you phrased it, I'm afraid this might well include your mother. But it is really good that your brother has you - you sound together and loving and thoughtful. Would it be at all possible for him to come and stay with you for a while? Might he consider therapy if it were to happen outside of your hometown - maybe where you live?

As for the drugs - he needs to know that his use is beside the point as far as the morality of what happened is concerned. But they probably made him more vulnerable, and are not helping him cope with the fall-out either.
posted by miorita at 11:50 AM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am so sorry to hear of this. Please consider contacting RAINN's online hotline, or calling them at 1-800-656-HOPE.

Remember, even though your brother has undergone such a terrible trauma, that doesn't mean you aren't affected by it. You should call and get help for yourself, even if he resolutely refuses to heal or get better. Especially then. There's little that's more painful than watching someone else hurt themselves, knowing there's nothing you can do to stop it.

I agree that you should be there for your brother, and tell him that you believe him. But don't try to do things for him that he can only do for himself. I know it's corny, but you can say to him something out of the Jeff Van Vonderen playbook, e.g. "There's nothing I won't do to help you," with the caveat that, in his present state of mind, he might interpret that as meaning that you're going to help him kill these SOBs.
posted by mekko at 12:25 PM on October 14, 2011

Your brother sounds like he lacks the basic oomph people need to move their lives along. I can completely understand why he doesn't want to leave the town that is, in fact, his home. Since you can't make that choice for him, I think you just need to accept that this is the hand you're dealing with here and let that aspect go.

The rest of it sounds completely legit and plausible in every respect. One thing I would consider is that while I'm sure there is a conspiracy of silence - as there generally is in a gang rape or assault - long term pot use can also exacerbate paranoia. His pot use is probably not helping him process what's happened constructively.

By all means, make the call with your brother if that's the support he's asking for. Yes, it will be really hard for you but it will be harder for him. Your brother is displaying a lot of courage here and really needs to hear that.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:32 PM on October 14, 2011

Please 'give in' to your partner on this one. I'm a straight female and I am terrified at the thought of staying in your town (though really, this could happen anywhere). It wasn't your fault that this happened, but several of the townies are violent homophobes and mentioned you by name that evening. Your partner honestly has every right to be terrified, and if I were her, I would never go back to that town at all.
posted by imalaowai at 12:34 PM on October 14, 2011 [12 favorites]

Hold off on trying to get him to move, "making" him do anything, or insisting that he react a certain way. It's tempting to want to protect him if he seems like he's not protecting himself, but he probably already feels powerless and unsupported and insisting that he do X or Y will not help.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:41 PM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hold off on trying to get him to move, "making" him do anything, or insisting that he react a certain way.

This this this!

I wonder if he'd be willing to see a therapist who wasn't in that town or even nearby? Because a session or two of some sort of PTSD counseling (or whatever you call it when it's only been a year) might make a lot of this a little less stuck for him.

However, you couldn't pay me money to do it in the same vicinity as he is. If there are people more gossipy than small town therapists, I don't know who they are. (Well, yes I do. Small down medical staff. Jeez.)
posted by small_ruminant at 1:20 PM on October 14, 2011

Back to say:

He also will not consider therapy, and I am not going to gently urge it any more. Instead, he mostly seems to fantasize about some kind of violent retribution.

Sounds like it's time to not be so gentle.

And one more thought on the "believe him" train - If he was trying to get them in trouble with the law, he would've said it happened yesterday. The fact that it took him a year is a pretty airtight case for his believability.
posted by jitterbug perfume at 1:37 PM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Can you afford to take him on a small vacation? Like a long weekend camping or at the beach or something where he can come down a little from the emotional tangle gym of finally telling someone what happened.

Aside from believing him, i don't think there's much else you can do. he needs to come to his own conclusions about what to do as far as leaving town, reporting to an authority, or seeking therapy. But a "vacation" aways sometimes lets people clear their heads enough to start putting one foot in front of the other and figuring out how they would like to proceed.
posted by WeekendJen at 2:14 PM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Even if his story is a complete lie, he is in crisis. You need to seek professional advice, urge him to seek help. And me sure he knows you are on his side and willIng to help him.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:02 PM on October 14, 2011

I was raped by a boyfriend when I was 19.

I had been drinking and doing drugs and felt incredibly guilty because of that.

I never even considered going to the police, they were rinky dink township cops who had recently killed two kids I went to high school with, and in 2005 the township police chief of that era was sent to prison for possessing heroin and kiddie porn, along with other crimes, so that gives you the idea of what kind of yokels they were.

I had unbelievably vivid dreams- the rapist pulled in my driveway and I murdered him before he even made to the front door, using the claw end of a hammer. I had elaborate and detailed revenge fantasies.

After I said the words out loud, no one believed me. My own brother didn't believe me. (I mean, he'd been my boyfriend- do you have any idea what a hard sell that was?) His friends screamed "Whore!" at me whenever they saw me in public.

I stayed in that small town for two years after it happened. You know why? Because fuck him, that's why. I wanted to do it on my terms, to prove that I was more than one incident, to not let him and his bonkers friends push me out.

I'm telling you this now because I want you to understand that your brother is just normal. His reaction to his assault is absolutely, completely normal.

My life is good. I have solid relationships, I moved far away and I never go back, but I left on my terms. I left the drinking and drugging behind long ago. I went to college, got married, had a family, and I am probably the happiest person I know.

Peace came for me when I realized that I could forgive him. To carry the anger with you is to let yourself be victimized, over and over again. It is like carrying a hot coal in your hands and expecting to burn someone else. And to be a rape victim is, sadly, normal. But to be a rapist? Man. He is the one who has to live with that forever, not me.

Your brother is in the valley of the shadow now, but it can get better. All you can do is to be there for him. Listen. Believe him. DON'T tell him what you think he should do, and don't pressure him into it- that is the worst. Just listen. You may be the only one he has told. That is very sad for you, such a responsibility can be a burden, but you have the opportunity to do a really good deed here, to be your brother's sounding board. It is a terrible and wonderful thing, to be able to help someone out like that. Honestly, I think you going to therapy to help you cope with this is a great idea, and it may end up setting a good example for your brother. Don't try to force him into coming with you, just be honest about the fact that you are going.

Also, I agree with your girlfriend. I wouldn't go to your mom's house, either.
posted by Leta at 6:36 PM on October 14, 2011 [17 favorites]

Believe him, and let him know you are there for him, whatever he needs. He might not have any idea what that is right now, but knowing he has someone in his corner will help immeasurably, believe me.

I would absolutely not ever stay with your Mom in that town. Your partner is right. You might want to let your Mom know that you don't feel it is safe there for you, your partner or your brother, let her know that you believe him and are planning to support him through this.

And be on that phone call. I actually think that call could be therapeutic for him because you will be there, listening. There's another person, outside of that rinky-dink homophobic town, that knows what happened and can verify that yes, he was violated in a particularly brutal way. One of the perpetrators knowing you are aware of just went on that night might also help protect your brother from any further violence, maybe help him feel safer until hopefully he decides, like Leta, to leave town on his own terms.
posted by misha at 6:47 PM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

The only piece I feel qualified to weigh in on is your girlfriend's preference to stay elsewhere - which is to say, just do it.

There may or may not be any greater risk to you (or her) in your hometown, but she very clearly feels unsafe there. There's nothing to be gained by forcing someone into a situation where they feel at risk - your mom already knows what happened, explain that it's nothing personal and that you're simply doing what feels safest.
posted by sonika at 9:24 PM on October 14, 2011

As others have said:

1. Rape crisis hotline
2. The best thing might be to be a rock of belief w/r/t your brother, and to support what actions he takes (outside of vengeance), knowing that as mad as you are about his rape, he's in a parallel but different world of hurt.

When I was assaulted, there were some things that friends and non-friends did that I found difficult to deal with -- not that my friends were wrong, but -- well, here goes.

1. Insist that I go to the police. At the time, I initially refused because I just wanted to move past it. I didn't want to put anybody, even my attacker, away for some serious jail time. I'd never thought that if I pressed charges I would lose, because I wasn't thinking clearly. But, I did press charges and I did lose, and the worst worst worst thing was knowing that I had testified in front of a grand jury of people who'd probably seen me around, and they didn't believe me. It's not a rational thing -- it's a WHOA FOR SERIOUS KILL KILL kind of thing.

Now, almost certainly if I had not pressed charges part of me, now, ten years later, I would be like fuck fuck fuck because I still have a lot of anger about it. But I don't know I would feel less sick inside if the guy had done some serious jail time.

If my friends who pressed me to press charges -- 'You need to do this' is what they said -- had said, 'We're here, whatever you do we'll support it' (outside of some Kill Bill type vengeance) I think that, for me, that would have made the experience perhaps -- I don't know, hindsight and all that, but I think it would have been perhaps easier.

2. The thing that drew all my darkest (and aside from one message, unacted upon) Kill Bill instincts was not so much that the guy assaulted me but that a friend of his who was also motivated by a heap of bad will told an unknown number of people, at least two of whom I knew well, that I was making it up. I mean, serious, your mom is dealing with whatever pressures/motivations but her response to your brother to 'clear your head' is making the Kill Bill music start up in my head. Because who the hell knows what that comment means, but it could be interpreted as 'Maybe your rape never happened." Many apologies if that is not where she is coming from. Maybe it is, 'You need to clear your head because if you allege rape in this bumfuck town they'll go after you.'

That's why I think that (even if you have your doubts) your message is always, 'Yes, this horrible thing happened to you and it was so so wrong now where do we go from here -- the law? No, okay. Moving? No? You sure, oh, okay. Now how can we make sure you don't get more hurt there in bumfuckville and also don't hurt anybody else" I think that can be one of the most loving things you can do.
posted by angrycat at 8:00 AM on October 15, 2011

I was raped by someone that broke into my house in the middle of the night and woke me up with a butcher knife held at my throat. A year later, I returned to the town (had to move away) for the trial - this guy turned out to be a serial rapist and they caught him on several other counts. My trial was the first one to go because they felt they had the strongest evidence in my case. Unbelievably, the jury found this asshole to be not guilty (he was found guilty for the next woman's trial, however, and is now imprisoned for life).

My point, of course, is to echo everyone else above and stress to you how important it is that you believe your brother. After my trial was lost, the prosecutors office told me that rape trials are the most difficult to win because for some reason it's hard for people to believe that rape victims are telling the truth. But honestly, why would someone make that shit up? Especially male on male rape.

The only thing that helped me become a normal functioning person again was exposure therapy. Sounds like your brother doesn't want to go to therapy at all, but it's really so important in cases like this. I wish I knew what to tell you to convince him to go. I don't think he'll ever be able to let go if he doesn't face it. The good news is that he took an important step in telling you. It means he is ready on some level to start seeking help. Hopefully in the near future, he'll be really ready to start seeking professional help. If not, the best you can do imo is to just be there to listen to him, don't judge, and check up on him regularly without being too obvious about it.

I'm sorry this happened to your brother. It's a really fucked up world.
posted by corn_bread at 8:18 AM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, I'm ridiculously pro-weed and a stoner myself -- but I know that some people shouldn't smoke weed, because of paranoia, because of whatever adverse response, because that may be the next step to crack town. All I can say is that weed for me is an anti-anger thing, and that I think I can recognize any paranoiac strain of thinking that comes in. So, yeah, the weed may be making him paranoid but may be checking some of the rage/hatred of others/hatred of self he feels with regard to this incident.

Although the thought of being in your town while high is a bit of a buzz-kill, pun intentional but I also mean it literally. One of my dear old friends would say re: drugs, 'Set and setting.' Sparking up in Tahiti may be beneficial, but not in bumfuckville. I don't know.
posted by angrycat at 8:23 AM on October 15, 2011

Mod note: This is a followup from the asker.
Thank you all so very, very much for your responses. You've really helped me to understand what might be going on with him--I was especially surprised to learn that the conspiracy theory thing makes a certain kind of sense, and it was good to be told that the whole thing is probably surreal for him, and that's coming across in what he's told me. Someone else (a friend who was raped and who has no connection with my brother or hometown) pointed out that he is probably carrying around a lot of fear right now, too, and the conspiracy theories help mitigate that.

I do believe him, for what it's worth. My doubts have revolved around some of the conspiracy-esqe stuff he's said (by which I mean I believe that he was raped, but some of the other stuff sounded weird), but I've decided, after reading this, to take whatever he tells me as the stone truth and let him sort it all out himself. He needs someone to believe him without question, clearly.

He never did call me yesterday, at least not when he was around the person who orchestrated this (he works with him very closely). However, we talked last night, and it was a very good conversation, and he's decided that 1) he is going to quit his job and 2) he's not going to kill anyone over this. He asked for my advice on both counts. He may come up and visit us, too.

As for not telling him what to do, I hear you. The approach I'm taking is to express my opinion once, and then not nag. I would love to see him get therapy (I've kind of broken my rule about that, especially since he mentioned he thinks he has PTSD), but I'm not going to alienate him and make him feel like he's handling this wrong. I'm going to let him do what he needs, and I've let him know that we're happy to help him how we can.

Oh, and yeah, upon reflection, I'm not staying overnight in that town again for a good long time. Maybe never. We'll get a hotel room somewhere else nearby, and do our best to convince the family to come up and visit us in our town, instead. I agree that we should tell my mom that this is the reason to get across how seriously we are taking it--in fact, my partner said the same thing.

Anyway, thanks again for taking the time to answer this. It's truly helped. I'm going to be reading a little bit about rape (it's weird how little I know about the healing process for this, but I've been really lucky in my life). A friend of mine recommended the book "Courage to Heal," so I'll start there.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:42 AM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm not staying overnight in that town again for a good long time. Maybe never.

You know, in some weird way that might even reinforce how much you believe him and how seriously you take the danger he's in. So it's sort of a win?
posted by small_ruminant at 11:23 AM on October 15, 2011

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