Proof you really can't judge someone by their family.
May 30, 2012 4:36 PM   Subscribe

How to deal with inappropriate brother-in-law?

I'm sorry if this sounds all over the place. My husband's brother is in his late 20's and since day one of us meeting he has been really inappropriate with me. He flirts with me, constantly follows me and talks to me, and makes sexually inappropriate underhanded comments when we are visiting the family home. Other things he's done to make me very uncomfortable:

-Walking in on me changing more than once without knocking (didn't apologize or go out, just kept walking in).
-Sitting or standing extremely close to me so our bodies touch when it's entirely unnecessary.
-Finding and contacting me online out of the blue and asking me personal questions (I had to block him).
-Staring at me nonstop.

I don't really want to get into the specifics of the sexual comments he's made, but in every instance they came from out of the blue. I have never been anything beyond polite with him, but from early on I felt that he was either romantically interested in me or just not understanding of proper social boundaries. Brother-in-law still lives at home and doesn't really have anything going on in his life. He spends a lot of time alone in his room on the internet. He's generally very immature and strange.

At first I tried to deal with his inappropriate behavior toward me on my own by being less talkative to BIL and generally avoiding him, but this didn't work. Finally after a long family gathering in which BIL kept saying inappropriate things to me and following me around, I had a come-to-jesus talk with my husband about it all. My husband didn't realize everything that had been going on (although he had told his brother a few times to stop talking to me so much), mostly because these things happen when no one else is around. I told him I really don't feel comfortable being around him because I feel like I'm constantly being stalked. My husband was super understanding, reasonably concerned, and said he would take care of it.

For a while after that things were better, in that his brother seemed to keep to himself or just not be around whenever we visited my father/mother-law. Slowly he started reintroducing himself to family things when we visited and was a lot less accosting and more polite with me. This all put me slightly more at ease with his brother and I felt maybe things were ok. After a big family gathering recently, in which we had to spend 8 hours around his brother, it all went to hell again. The inappropriate sexual comments came back, following me around, standing too close, etc, etc.

Part of my problem with all of this is that I don't react like I should in the moment because either I don't really get the subtle remark immediately or I don't want to cause a scene. I just continue being polite or just plain ignore when he does these things. But after I get back home I feel really horrible and depressed and disgusted and angry. My feelings on my brother-in-law are that if he were a coworker, I would have talked to HR or changed jobs; if he was a neighbor, I would avoid him or move; if he was a guy I met on a date, I would never call him back. If I had kids, I wouldn't feel comfortable ever leaving them alone with him. This man makes me feel very uncomfortable and I don't want to be in his presence anymore. My husband doesn't really have a close relationship with his brother and they rarely ever talk, so I really have no reason to have a relationship with BIL. The problem is that he still lives at home, so if we visit the parents, he'd be there too.

What should I do in this situation? Do I refuse to see his brother-in-law anymore and just stop visiting my other in-laws altogether or only see them outside the home? I'm worried it would be construed as too dramatic. Is this one of those things that happens when you marry and you just have to grin and bear it? What is the appropriate response?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (38 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I don't react like I should in the moment because either I don't really get the subtle remark immediately or I don't want to cause a scene.

Cause a scene, seriously. My favorite way of dealing with this sort of thing is to just repeat the remark back at a slightly-louder-than-conversational volume, prefaced by "Did you just say _____?!" Or to say "Please don't stand so close" or "Please stop following me." Well, the first time you say "Please." The second time you just say "Back off." The third time you say "If you can't respect my space, I'm leaving."

Make him (and his parents) bear some of the social awkwardness of his behavior. There's no reason for you to absorb all that awfulness -- spread it around.
posted by KathrynT at 4:45 PM on May 30, 2012 [84 favorites]

You do not have to grin and bear it. This is not cool.

Your husband needs to step up to the plate - literally. As soon as his brother gets anywhere near you he should steer him in another direction. If your husband can't, won't, or forgets to, then don't go over there again.

Meeting the in-laws somewhere else is a great idea. Those who aren't being constantly stalked and harassed may find it "too dramatic" - but those feelings will simply have to belong to them. Do what you need to do to make yourself comfortable.
posted by it's a long way to south america at 4:46 PM on May 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

You should not have to grin and bear it - there is no reason to put up with behavior like that from anyone, whether it be a stranger or your brother-in-law. I would only see your in-laws outside of their home or invite your in-laws to your home for visits.
posted by macska at 4:48 PM on May 30, 2012

Your husband needs to talk to him again. And maybe a few months down the road he will have to talk to him again, and then a few months after that maybe again. Your husband is your HR in this situation - only your BIL can't be fired.

Some people only remember talks for a little while. Hopefully if your husband talks to him again he might get the point for a while longer.

In the meantime, invite parents-in-law to your house? Stay at a hotel when visiting them?
posted by magnetsphere at 4:49 PM on May 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

Two things - be more assertive with the guy. Be direct, look him in the eye and tell him to knock it off. Second, involve your husband the minute this happens. He should be willing and able to do what it takes to put his brother in his place.
posted by cnc at 4:49 PM on May 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

this man makes me feel very uncomfortable and I don't want to be in his presence anymore.

You don't have to be in his presence if you don't want to. I'd suggest that your husband (not you) have a calm chat with his parents and express that: 1) you and he love them and want to spend time with them, 2) brother-in-law behaves inappropriately toward you despite your and your husband's requests that he change his behavior, and 3) as a result of 1 and 2 there will need to be some changes in how the four of you (mom, dad, husband, you) socialize--namely, that it will be out at restaurants without brother-in-law or will otherwise exclude him.

Depending on the family dynamics, it might make sense to be a bit more subtle and just engineer social time with mom and dad rather than come out and say you're excluding the brother--but, personally, I'd want to be direct.

(You can, of course, call brother-in-law out on his behavior--loudly and assertively--if you'd prefer, and you can have your husband talk to him again. But frankly, it doesn't sound like he's a person worth spending time with.)
posted by Meg_Murry at 4:52 PM on May 30, 2012 [7 favorites]

Yeah 1) This needs to be right on your husband to deal with this creepy fuck. Tell your husband you're not going around there anymore until he can guarantee his brother is not trying to sexually harrass you.

2) If it does happen, call it out in front of everyone. "Hey, bro, stop making sexual comments to me, and standing so close. It's threatening and disgusting, and I feel scared to be alone around you." Make sure the parents are there, too; make it their fucking problem about social awkwardness not yours.

3) Consider getting the police involved, or at least voicing the the consideration to husband and family.

Seriously, "not wanting to make a scene" is an age-old lever used by creepy fucks everywhere to sexually harrass women at their leisure. Make a scene. It is your right to feel comfortable and unassaulted in every environment and it is 100% on your creepy brother-in-law for any awkwardness and ramifications that result from his inappropriate behaviour. Telling a pervert to get fucked is never inappropriate.

Good luck OP, I really feel for you.
posted by smoke at 4:53 PM on May 30, 2012 [34 favorites]

What Kathryn said. I had a similar issue with a friend's husband. I told him to knock it off, his wife did, his friends did. One last time he came up behind me in public (I only vaguely knew he was there, likely him or a stranger) & grabbed me. I turned around & whacked him hard & good; enough to discourage an assault (assumed someone was going for me/purse) as part of breaking the grip. Stopped when it wasn't a stranger but he stayed away after that.
posted by tilde at 4:54 PM on May 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

My input is that causing a scene will be more fruitful if you've revisited the issue with your husband first and if your husband and/or you have also alerted your parents-in-law about your brother-in-law's uninvited and unacceptable behavior.

This will ensure that the rest of the family can see things from your point of view if you happen to go apeshit on brother-in-law when his parents are around. I can imagine that this bad situation would only get worse if they are blindsided by this and defend him because they don't understand the situation.

If his parents are predisposed to defending your brother-in-law against all reason, then by having this conversation with them privately you will be alerted to this reality and you can choose to visit with them only outside the presence of your brother-in-law.
posted by MoonOrb at 5:03 PM on May 30, 2012 [15 favorites]

Go ahead and cause a scene: your NOT causing a scene is something he's counting on. And like KathrynT suggests, repeat his remarks back to him, especially if you're in the middle of a family gathering --- no need to shout or anything, just loudly and clearly "Excuse me, but did you just say {sleezy comment} to me?"

And lock doors (bedroom doors, bathroom doors, etc.) when he's in the vicinity. You don't need to apologize for locking him out of a room or justify you or your future kids staying away from him: guys like this use your good manners (not wanting to make a scene, not wanting to hurt people's feelings) against their victims.
posted by easily confused at 5:08 PM on May 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Well, yeah, you have several options. Making a scene puts a lot on your shoulders so it's understandable if you don't want to do that. But that's one.

You always have the option of never attending a social gathering when brother-in-law is going to be there and/or telling your husband to step up.
posted by mleigh at 5:13 PM on May 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Your mother- and father-in-law need to be aware of this behavior. Odds are he doesn't just do this to you, you know: I assume they have other females between 12 and 45 (and I'm being optimistic here) visiting the house from time to time.

I'd recommend asking your husband to be very assertive about this - say, when you go to change, your husband corrals your BIL and keeps him in his direct line of sight until you return. You are not left alone with BIL; if your husband and his parents are all on their way out the door together (clearing the table or whatever) your husband stops right then and lets you go out with the in-laws, or drags BIL along. You can also try to practice the VERY assertive "YOU'RE MAKING ME VERY UNCOMFORTABLE, BOBBY, PLEASE STEP BACK" stuff, but it's harder than it sounds, I know. And it's not like you're in the middle of a war zone, or something - this is your husband's (younger?) brother, in a supposedly civilized situation, where you are very much a guest. You have every reason, per standard etiquette manuals, to expect to not have to deal with this at all: it's the responsibility of your husband and his parents to ensure your comfort.

Anecdotal: my mother stopped letting her best friend have either her husband or her son around while we visited, starting around the time I was 8 years old (for the husband, who is a complete dirtbag and deserves to be in prison) and 12 or so (for the son, who followed in Daddy's footsteps except he committed a lot more statutory as opposed to forcible rapes, it seems.) If someone was present at a gathering who wasn't supposed to be, we got right back in the car and drove away, not even stopping to explain why. Was it unpleasant? Yes. Was my "aunt" (they were very good friends) distressed? Yes (well, up till she divorced the husband, and then later when she banished the son from her home out of concern for the welfare of her daughter.) Was it worth it? OH MY HECK YES. One of the things I'm happiest about is that my second-youngest sister has absolutely no clue why she lacks any clear memories of either man. I mean, she knows, but she doesn't have a visceral understanding of it. I wish I could say the same for myself (and I used to look up to the son like a big brother; he's about four years older than me and was around all the time when I was growing up.)

Draw this line firmly and do it now, using any means necessary.

And catalog these incidents, so that if he starts fighting back, and/or showing up where he shouldn't be, you can move it on up to an "order of protection" level.
posted by SMPA at 5:48 PM on May 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

Has there ever been any kind of family effort to deal with your brother-in-law's social/developmental issues, or is this a "speak no evil" kind of situation? There are intervention protocols for people with diminished impulse control (which, in the presence of healthily-functioning hormones, often comes with sexual acting out) that are relatively easy to deploy as long as everyone is on board.

Which is not to say you are obligated to be somewhere that you are uncomfortable or feel unsafe, and you have the right to not put yourself in that situation, but that's probably going to mean you're the one who's absent. If it's possible to recruit the whole family to deal with this, I think that would make for a happier resolution for all of you.

At the very least, stop being polite because he's probably not capable of processing subtle. Be instructive, and be overheard. "You are standing too close to me." "That is not appropriate to say to me." "That door is locked right now, I'll be out in a few minutes."

Your husband probably needs to be having conversations with his parents about this situation anyway (How old are they? Who will take care of this person when they aren't able to? Do they feel safe in the home with him?), as awkward as it may be at first if it's never been discussed.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:07 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you only see him at your in-laws, it should be quite simple for your husband to never leave you two alone. But I would just not go over there anymore.

Your husband needs to confront his brother and his parents.
posted by spaltavian at 6:16 PM on May 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

Ugh, this is so gross and creepy and demeaning. I'm sorry you're going through this. I think your husband should be more in the loop, probably, but I also think that you should get COMFORTABLE AS HELL calling Broheim out on his shit.

If he makes a weird, sexual comment, say flatly, "That's an inappropriate thing to say to me. I'm going in the other room now." If he stands too close or presses up against you (...what, do you guys get in a lot of elevators together? He is really going to some lengths to orchestrate this shit.), say flatly, "That's too close, Broheim. You're in my space." If he walks in while you're changing (WHAT. THE EFF?), rush towards the door, shoving it closed in his face while you yell, "I'M NOT DRESSED, YOU CAN'T COME IN."

Man. Now that I'm rereading this, don't bother with any of that stuff. Broheim got one chance to shape up, he blew it, and now you are going to tell your husband that unless Broheim gets diagnosed with a mental health problem and goes into treatment for it, you are done interacting with him at any time in any way. You are not going to visit his parents. You are not meeting them for dinner. You are done.

Has there ever been any kind of family effort to deal with your brother-in-law's social/developmental issues, or is this a "speak no evil" kind of situation? There are intervention protocols for people with diminished impulse control (which, in the presence of healthily-functioning hormones, often comes with sexual acting out) that are relatively easy to deploy as long as everyone is on board.

Yeah, this really sounds like some kind of developmental issue, especially if he can't work or live independently. Is there...anything going on with that? Like...he's getting some kind of intervention or treatment and your in-laws and husband have methods for dealing with it? I hate to say it, but this sounds like a family systems problem, where everyone ignores the actual problem ("Oh, Broheim's always been a little different!") in favor of pretending there are other issues. And, frankly, the easiest "issue" to find in this situation is how uptight you (the outsider to this nuclear family) are and how mean you are to Broheim. Which would be Fucked. Up. but worse things have happened.

Okay, I'm revising my initial script. The talk you need to have is with your husband. Here we go: "Husband, Broheim has started behaving inappropriately towards me again. On our last visit, he did X, Y and Z. I'm concerned about his ability to understand appropriate and inappropriate behavior, and I hope you and your parents can find some resources for him. I would be happy to look some things up and support you in that, but until something changes substantially about his situation, I won't be joining you on visits any longer."
posted by Snarl Furillo at 6:21 PM on May 30, 2012 [12 favorites]

You can cause a scene. You have permission to cause a scene. It is your body, your safety, your peace of mind. Cause a scene. Say, loudly, "brother-in-law! stop saying [whatever he just said]!", "stop touching my [whatever he just touched]!", etc.

Your husband should be more of a filter between the two of you, as well. If you must, refuse to go to events where he will be in attendance if you don't have reasonable expectation of him being under control.
posted by batmonkey at 6:25 PM on May 30, 2012

This sounds both awful and kind of bizarre - is it possible there is something medically/mentally going on with him, rather than just him being deeply creepy? That doesn't mean you need to stand for this - you don't, and shouldn't - but...has he had any kind of professional assessment? Because that's a different scenario than just his being handsy.

Your in-laws definitely need to be made aware of this, ideally by your husband.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 6:25 PM on May 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

I think it's time for a "come to Jesus" conversation with your brother-in-law directly. You and your husband can do it together if you like, or you can do it alone, and it doesn't need to last more than two minutes. Find a time to pull him aside and say, firmly, with no qualifications, "This is very important. Your behavior toward me has been out of line and it makes me uncomfortable, unhappy, and angry. I will not tolerate it any longer. Do not make suggestive comments to me, or invade my personal space, ever again. Do not contact me online. I am 100% serious about this. If you are unclear about what I mean, you can talk to your brother about it, or we can all talk to your parents about it. I will treat you respectfully and politely and I expect you to do the same. Thank you for listening. That is all."

And it's time for your husband to install a lock on the room where you stay at the family home, before or within an hour of your next visit, and, as painful and awkward as it may be, for your husband to discuss with his parents whether your brother-in-law is getting all of the medical care he needs.

I am so sorry this is happening to you, and your family. You do NOT need to grin and bear it. You need to tackle it head-on and then escalate as needed. Good luck.
posted by argonauta at 6:34 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Actually, HE is causing a scene, you would just be reacting appropriately to his disrespectful, fucked up behavior. I'm sorry you have had to deal with this, hopefully with a new approach, things will change.
posted by retrofitted at 6:51 PM on May 30, 2012 [6 favorites]

I agree that your husband needs to step up and deal with this; he brought the BIL into your life. It's your husband's responsibility to shield you from his inappropriate behaviour.

That said, when someone is acting inappropriately towards you, it's good practice to call them on it. In public, so social pressure is placed upon them. So do that too, if you must.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:58 PM on May 30, 2012

Lots of good advice here but distilled down: get your husband to do more, and call him out on his bullshit publicly and persistently.
posted by imagineerit at 7:26 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Something to keep at the back of your mind is if he's only doing these behaviours when others aren't close enough to witness them, that means he KNOWS it's wrong. And he is doing it anyway. After the conversation with your husband he has no excuse.

You can't tell where his line is, he might not have one. People are abused by those they know far more often then by strangers, and quite frankly if I were you I'd be worried this man is going to do something more drastic then walking in on you changing if he's ever given the opportunity.

His family needs to be aware of this and they need to start taking it seriously, but that isn't your responsibility. It's theirs. Your responsibility is to keep yourself safe. If that means only visiting with in-laws outside of their home, then that's what you need to do, and let them know why.

If there are any younger girls in this guy's orbit, they need to be protected. If his family refuses to acknowledge or confront this behaviour, he has no reason to stop and will likely escalate.
posted by Dynex at 8:06 PM on May 30, 2012 [8 favorites]

I agree that your husband needs to step up and deal with this; he brought the BIL into your life. It's your husband's responsibility to shield you from his inappropriate behaviour.

Your husband needs to understand the seriousness of this, yes. He and his family need to not have their heads in the sand. But he didn't pick this guy for a brother any more than you picked him for a brother in law. You don't need to wait for your husband to shield you from anything. You're the one being treated inappropriately, you're the one in the best position to make it very clear to brother-in-law when he is crossing boundaries.

I know we're all trained to "not make a scene," but you don't need to make a scene. Just deliver very clear instructions and impartial statements. If he doesn't stop doing whatever you've told him to stop doing, just walk away. Also, lock doors.

"Step back two steps." Why? "Because you're standing too close to me."
"Stop staring at me. Look somewhere else." Why? "It's rude."
"Apologize immediately for that comment. I won't be spoken to like that, it's completely inappropriate." And then walk away immediately.
posted by desuetude at 8:09 PM on May 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Can you keep your cell phone with you? I'd video his behavior. When he asks what you're doing, just tell him you're documenting his inappropriate behavior.
posted by Linnee at 8:12 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with desuetude. You're going to have to stop it by speaking up each and every time he does it, escalating in volume every time.

"Don't say that to me, it's inappropriate."

"Stop staring at me, I don't like it."

"Don't touch me, you're invading my personal space and it's rude."
posted by raisingsand at 8:15 PM on May 30, 2012

I don't want to cause a scene. I just continue being polite or just plain ignore when he does these things. But after I get back home I feel really horrible and depressed and disgusted and angry.

It can be really hard and go against a lot of training to make a scene. Your brother in law is counting on you not making a scene. He's a creep, and his behavior sounds really predatory. His behavior is inappropriate in any circumstance; now that he has been told once, it's beyond the pale. Given the circumstances, you are entirely within your rights to not visit, or to insist on meeting up with just the parents on neutral ground. It's making my skin crawl on your behalf. I'm really concerned that over time this will only get worse.

Do I refuse to see his brother-in-law anymore and just stop visiting my other in-laws altogether or only see them outside the home? I'm worried it would be construed as too dramatic.

You are harassed and stalked by someone. Refusing to put yourself within their reach is not too dramatic, it is simple self-preservation.

Is this one of those things that happens when you marry and you just have to grin and bear it?

Dear Lord, no. Wedding vows do not include acquiescing to creepy and inappropriate behavior from your spouse's family.
posted by ambrosia at 8:28 PM on May 30, 2012 [6 favorites]

don't react like I should in the moment because either I don't really get the subtle remark immediately or I don't want to cause a scene.

Came in here to also say, YES, cause a scene. You need to rehearse lines at home, in your strongest voice, until they become something that you can just bellow unselfconsciously:

"STOP! Get the fuck away from me!"

"You can't talk to me like that!"

posted by hermitosis at 9:42 PM on May 30, 2012

I really want to echo everyone else in saying you need to halt this behavior from him if at all possible, up to and including refusal to be around him.

A couple of points, if you want to try other less drastic remedies first. 1. Have a signal ready to go between you and your husband when you need to have him intervene. 2. Practice calling out your Bil. It may seem silly, but it mentally prepares you to react in the way you want instead of the way you have been. Perhaps even get your husband to help.
posted by annsunny at 10:02 PM on May 30, 2012

I'm confused as to why you haven't told the parents-in-law all this yet. The obvious time to do it would be when you next make plans to see them. Invite them over or say you'll meet them for brunch somewhere, and take the opportunity to explicitly say BIL is not to join, because of [all the specifics.] If his behavior is the result of some sort of developmental issue, then they might be able to get help for him; and if it's not, well, they need to know that too, because you're going to need to not go over there any more in any case, and they're going to wonder why.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:04 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

If there are any younger girls in this guy's orbit, they need to be protected. If his family refuses to acknowledge or confront this behavior, he has no reason to stop and will likely escalate.

Seconding this comment. It's very unlikely you're the only woman he's being a creeper too.

As far as what you should do, I think you should do whatever you feel like and you should be upfront about it. If you hat conflict and would prefer simply to never see the guy again that's perfectly reasonable. If you think it's hopeless and don't want to see the guy again that's fine too, just be prepared to be firm and be honest with the parents and your husband if necessary. You are the expert on this situation and get to make the decisions. But having said that, don't expect them to protect you 100% or be able to make all the unpleasantness go away because it's clear he does not respect or fear his brother or parents enough for that to happen or it already would have. He can still email you etc. Have a plan if that happens, talk to some assertive girlfriends and ask them to coach you through a brief, firm GetTheFuckAwayFromMeorGoToJailLoser moment.
posted by fshgrl at 12:30 AM on May 31, 2012

My favourite response to those verbal assaults is "No, you do not get to speak to me like that." and no nervous laughter, no smile, nothing. And always keep it solid - don't pretend to want to be there, or smile, or laugh. If they try to bluster or gaslight I cut them off with a "no, seriously, it's inappropriate, unwanted and uncool. Fuck off until you can be appropriate."

The most important step? Leave. Get the hell out of there. Christmas? Get up and walk. Birthday? Go. Funeral? I'd probably stay for that actually. The rest? No. His right to be a sleazy arsehole ends with my right to not be harrassed or molested. And his family's right to a fun time stops when they refuse to deal with someone like this.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:44 AM on May 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

Ufortunately, the problem is much deeper for you.

The fiend is your husband's blood relative. Blood is thicker than water - and, there may even be some common ground between them regarding such behavior. Blood can warp judgment and action: Can you imagine your husband being just as calm if a co-worker doing this to you?

You cannot rely on your husband to resolve this. Nor his parents. This is not common in marriages, but when it does occur, there is a great deal of evidence that it has been tolerated and thus, enabled by the closest family members.

It's this cover that gives your brother-in-law his brazen confidence.

You have to take this one directly to your brother-in-law, all legal, but by no means subtle or civil. Lock the door when you're changing.
posted by Kruger5 at 5:18 AM on May 31, 2012

While the circumstances are different, I caused a "scene" once when it involved my children and a family member who I was uncomfortable with. I was loud, it was uncomfortable, it was public.

The family member who I directed my uncomfortableness toward think I was over reacting; thinking I was the crazy one for calling them out. They tried everything in the book to make me look like the one who was out of line - including outright lying to other family members about the situation.

Since the "incident" we have had little contact with this part of our family. He repeatedly deny's any wrong doing. Be prepared that you may end up in a similar situation if you chose to call him out in public.

FWIW - I would not hesitate to do it again.
posted by alfanut at 6:17 AM on May 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

One of my best friend's had a dad (well, all of my best friends have a dad but...) and he was inappropriate as all hell. I put up with it throughout high school, the closeness that was too close, the hugs that lasted longer than they should, etc. And then, not too long after we all graduated we were hanging out at a bar we all put together in a building we bought for that purpose. Friend's dad used to hang out and drink with us because "Hey, that's my boy!" and that was weird enough but dude grabbed my ass and I hit the roof. "Dave, seriously?! Did you just grab my tail end?!" He denied and then sulked away but everyone sort of silently clapped for me because he was a creeper from time to time and most knew it. His inappropriate behavior that has raged on for years quit right then and there.

nthing MAKE A SCENE. Value yourself and your body enough to say, "Dude! This is uncool and it needs to stop." I know that's harder to do than it is to say but this has went on long enough. I know that you're worried you'll walk out of the situation with perhaps some unwanted attention on your shoulders but you deserve to be stood up for and if your husband feels it too awkward to help in that area, you owe it to yourself to do it for yourself.
posted by youandiandaflame at 6:25 AM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

First, I agree with everyone else that it would not be unreasonable at all to just never be around this person again. Stay at a hotel when you visit the parents-in-law, meet them at restaurants and other venues and explain to them fully why this is the new way it will be until brother-in-law moves out. He has already had his chance to change his behavior and demonstrated he will not.

But, if you decide you still want to go to the parents-in-law's house you should first have your husband (and you, optionally, if you want to) sit down with his parents and explain the situation in stark terms. Nothing like "Bro is sort of creepy". More like "Last time we were here, bro said he wanted to **** my wife." In fact, you should write down a list of his creepy comments and actions, totally uncensored, and have your husband present this to his parents. He should read them out loud and act them out. This meeting should be as uncomfortable as possible. This will lay the groundwork for your next visit so it won't be a surprise if you have to leave immediately or scream at this guy.

Additionally if you decide to go to the in-laws house, the following should happen:
  • At least one bathroom should have a good lock installed.
  • If you stay in a room there, it should have a lock that uses real keys. You should be able to lock this door from inside and out. When you arrive, you and husband collect all they keys to this lock. When you leave, you return them. Ideally, there would also be a chain lock on the inside (like at a hotel) in case this guy makes a secret copy of the key.
  • Your husband should be in the same room with you at all times. No, he can't run to the store without you. No, you cannot go to the kitchen to grab some drinks.
  • If at anytime anyone starts to give you a hard time about these and other rules you deem necessary, simply state "I recognize what you are saying, but since brother-in-law said [insert obscene comment here] that's just the way it is."
  • If anyone continues to give you a hard time, it is time to leave.
Hopefully your parents-in-law will get behind you on this as close to 100% as possible. Your husband has to be behind you 100%. Have contingency plans in place for all outcomes. Practice speaking up loudly in the moment (this is defending yourself, not "making a scene") because it does not come easy for everyone. Consider self defense classes. Consider pepper spray (and learn how to use it) if it is legal in your location. Be aware that bringing this guy's actions to spotlight may lead to escalation.

Reiterating that this is not just "one of those things" that anyone should accept.

Good luck! If all this seems daunting just consider that you'll have to do this in the future anyway if you have kids and have to explain why you won't be bringing them around to visit while Uncle Creepy is there.
posted by mikepop at 6:49 AM on May 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

You've gotten some great advice here. One tip for practicing these skills: check to see if there are any Rape Awareness Defense classes around that you could attend (they might be called something different in your area, your local police department might have some resources). You will actually get to practice yelling loudly at someone, forcibly breaking their grip on you, and generally causing a scene. It is really powerful to actually DO this, and get angry and yell and hit. It gives you confidence that you can do it for real if necessary.
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:41 AM on May 31, 2012

Why can't you just tell him point-blank that his behavior is inappropriate, that his feelings towards you are unreciprocated, and that you'll inform your SO if further problems arise?
posted by lotusmish at 12:27 PM on May 31, 2012

As I read your post and then the responses to it, I kept on thinking of my friend, Laura. Laura is not a large person, not a physically imposing person, she's actually pretty small.

Except that Laura is NOT small. At all. And no one who has been around Laura for more than ten minutes thinks that she is small.

She isn't rude. She isn't cruel. She isn't some jerk. What she is -- 100 percent fire if/when she needs to be.

I know -- beyond a shadow of a doubt -- that Laura would have called this guy out. The first time it happened. She'd look him dead in the eye and told it true, no louder than regular conversation but it wouldn't *need* to be louder than that. She's just strong. Kind of like I imagine Katherine Hepburn to have been, a real no BS sort of woman.

It's not easy to be a Laura if you're not one naturally. But you can channel it. It is inside of you, you can get to it. You maybe would benefit from talking to some of your stronger friends, gain from their strengths -- someone mentioned that upthread and I was nodding my head; nothing wrong with having a teacher, right?

Last. Also mentioned upthread -- you're likely not the only person getting this jive. His parents should know about this, from you. (They *DO* know about it, of course, and have just shoved their heads into the sand, or up their butts, whatever. But they don't *want* to know about it.) If you bring this up/out, you are very possibly helping someone else, too, up to and including Mr. Shitbird BIL. But get it out there; sick shit grows in the dark, dies when exposed to the light. "We're sick as our secrets, etc and etc." Put it on the table.

Good luck.
posted by dancestoblue at 6:11 PM on June 3, 2012

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