Brother gets violent
June 18, 2016 1:30 PM   Subscribe

My brother gets violent during arguments. How can I relay that his behaviour is unacceptable?

I am not close to my family. I live a different lifestyle than them, and am in a relationship with someone they would not approve of. I live independently, but my brother and my mom live together. My brother lives with with her out of financial necessity, and is a very troubled and angry individual - mostly due to the restrictions my mom has about living a certain conservative lifestyle (we are not allowed to drink, date, etc.). He gets violent with her, and occasionally me, when he does not get his way. He has a bad habit of giving me 10 missed calls in a span of 15 minutes, and then blames me for not picking up (more often than not I don't hear his calls but I when I see that many missed calls I intentionally do not pick up because I know he is angry on the other end). This happened yesterday because my mom arrived the day before from travel and I forgot to call her because I was busy, although I had planned to come over the weekend to visit. Today, I went home and told him that I will not pick up if he calls me incessantly for no reason, and he responded by hitting his phone at my face. Fortunately i didn't get hurt. Instinctively, I threw his phone on the ground and he responded by trying to hit me with anything that was within reach. This is a monthly occurrence. I dread going home because this happens more often than not where he has a violent outburst. He had a similar outburst when my mom confronted him about taking drugs, and a condom she found in his room. He broke multiple things at home that day, none of which he had to pay for. When my mom is away travelling and visiting relatives his behaviour is never like this. He calms down and is a rational person. Yet when she is here, his behaviour changes. My mom is not a bad person by any means but she treats him like a giant man-baby. When his outburst ended, my mom came up to me and said that she had told him not to get violent, but that it was also my fault for not taking the initiative to call.

At this point, I am so close to grabbing a taxi back home. I don't want to hurt my mom, as she hasn't seen me in a while, but I find that her response is enabling. Am I overreacting? How do I tell my brother his behaviour is unacceptable? He blames it on his inability to tolerate things, and then goes back to blaming me.
posted by raintree to Society & Culture (24 answers total)
they sound like they have a very toxic relationship and that they expect you to participate. you don't have to. you can set boundaries and conditions for when they're violated. 'i won't answer phone calls if you keep up patterns that i have told you are hurtful to me' and 'i will leave immediately if anyone is physically threatening/assaulting towards anyone else' are fine boundaries to draw.
posted by nadawi at 1:42 PM on June 18, 2016 [25 favorites]

Your brother is abusive, if this were a spouse, we'd all be saying to leave and never look back. You can make the decision to remove yourself from this situation. You can't make the decision for your mother. You can tell her you'll only see her when brother is not, you can get her in contact with adult protection services, or another women's DV resource. You're not overreacting, you are under reacting.
posted by kellyblah at 1:43 PM on June 18, 2016 [15 favorites]

This is the third question you've written about your brother being violent. He's in his late 20's and lives with your mother and he's physically abusive. It seems like your mother should be dealing with this but she's not, for whatever reason.

The only thing you can do is not go near him and tell your mom you're happy to see her anytime, just not with him around.

It seems like this isn't bothering her, which is an entirely different issue, but OF COURSE he knows not to hit people and throw things. He needs some serious help but it's not on you to get it for him. Your mom needs to step up.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 1:54 PM on June 18, 2016 [38 favorites]

How do I tell my brother his behaviour is unacceptable?

By not accepting it. Set a boundary ("If you X, I will Y.") and then stick to it.
posted by jon1270 at 1:56 PM on June 18, 2016 [8 favorites]

You might look into some of Harriet Lerner's books. In The Dance of Intimacy, I believe, she talks about a woman managing a relationship with a family member who had substance abuse issues. In general her books talk a lot about setting and maintaining boundaries.
posted by bunderful at 1:56 PM on June 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

he responded by trying to hit me with anything that was within reach. This is a monthly occurrence.

Get in a taxi, go back home. Don't go over, meet your Mom off-site for lunch/coffee. If you do choose to go over tell your brother clearly that the instant he does anything like this, you will immediately leave. Then: whenever he does this (monthly? wow) get up, do not engage or escalate, and walk out the door.
posted by arnicae at 1:57 PM on June 18, 2016 [35 favorites]

If a stranger threw a phone (or anything else) in order to hurt you, I assume you would know to call the police. It is no different when a family member is violent. Call 911 every time. This is not a healthy or safe situation for you to be in.
posted by saucysault at 2:05 PM on June 18, 2016 [29 favorites]

There is a similar dynamic with my brother. However, he only gets angry and crazy with people who tolerate it. I don't, so my brother never screams at or threatens me. My mother is disappointed that I basically don't give my brother the time of day because I don't want to be subjected to his bullshit, but I've learned to put my personal sense of peace and safety above making my mom happy. My mom chooses not to put her sense of peace and safety above her need to take care of and negotiate with my adult brother, and maybe she thinks I am shirking my family obligations by refusing to do like she does, but it's pretty obvious to everyone that the crap my brother pulls with everyone else is stuff he doesn't try with me. Don't allow yourself to be sucked in to the vortex of crazy. Also, don't hesitate to call the police if he hurts you or your mother.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 2:31 PM on June 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

You are under-reacting.

No one should try to hit you, ever.

No one should ever look for objects to hit you with, ever.

You should not feel obligated to stay in a home with a person who has hit you, threatened to hit you, or tried to hit you.

Your mother's opinion is irrelevant.

It is also not your mother's fault that your brother is like this -- this is not "your brother when your mother is around." It is your brother who is making these choices and you should proceed accordingly.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:50 PM on June 18, 2016 [52 favorites]

Quit going over there. Block his number. If he comes to you, call the police. You do not have to open the door if he turns up at your house. You do not have you see your mother in her home.

Quit making yourself available to your brother, because he is dangerous and abusive. If your mother expects you to put up with the abuse, then block her number and don't see her either.

Yes, it is hard to cut off family members. But you do not belong to them, you are not obligated to offer yourself up for their abuse. These are not the mother and brother that you deserve; grieve for not having those, but don't mourn protecting yourself.
posted by headspace at 3:05 PM on June 18, 2016 [6 favorites]

and is a very troubled and angry individual - mostly due to the restrictions my mom has about living a certain conservative lifestyle

The hell it is. He may blame it on what he likes, but his anger and troubles are not mostly due to your mom setting firm boundaries about the behavior of adult guests in her own home, which is what he is.

and I am very fond of drinking and dating and would never tolerate such restrictions, but I can't say this man sounds like someone who could safely do either one. I relate really hard to the frustration you may have over your mom not standing up for herself and making her adult son live as an adult, but even if she isn't making the strongest choices, she really doesn't have that kind of control over him. Nobody does but him. This is why the answer to your question is that you can communicate the unacceptability of his behavior to him by staying away from him, but it may not make him change for years, or ever.
posted by queenofbithynia at 3:15 PM on June 18, 2016 [8 favorites]

BEFORE you see him again. BEFORE he's angry again. When he's calm. You text him. "Bro, you're behaviour is abusive when you're angry. I will not accept it ever again. If you touch mum or me or yell at us or break things, I will call the police immediately. If you dont get counselling now, I will call police for past assaults. I say this with love and respect for myself and our mum. If you do not address this I will report your crimes. They ARE crimes. There is no further negotiation."

"Mum, if bro doesn't get help I'm reporting his assaults upon me. If he assaults me again I will call the police on the spot. I will also tell your faith leader and ask for their help. This is not negotiable. My brother is in a bad way and his behaviour is abusive and criminal. I love you but I also love him. I won't allow this to continue for everyone's sake. Really, this is not negotiable "

"Faith leader, my brother is in s bad way and abusive of my mum and myself. I'm calling the police if he doesn't get help and if he touches me or mum again. Mum is going to need your help as she's going to get angry with me for reporting this and I will have to step back from supporting her if she does this. I'd like your help."

"Family, bro is in a bad way. He's physically assaulting mum and me. I'm calling the police for both his and her benefit. Mum might need your support. So might bro. I'm done."

Hugs for you. This is unacceptable, criminal , and terrifying. You can't provoke violence. Violence is unleashed by perpetrators.
posted by taff at 3:41 PM on June 18, 2016 [30 favorites]

Why are you going over there? Seriously. It sounds awful. Your brother's dangerous. Your question was "how to relay that his behavior is unacceptable" and I mean, it's not your job to relay that. It's already against the law; it's called battery.

Stop going over there. But do keep your ties with your mom strong - weekly coffee or dinner or something regular like that. Because I bet you anything there's an elder abuse problem brewing here and at some point she may need your help.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:16 PM on June 18, 2016 [22 favorites]

Exactly how far are you willing to go here in addressing what is clearly an abusive situation. Are you concerned for you mom's safety? What about her finances?

Are you willing to call social services? Would you report him for elder abuse? Would you ask the police to make welfare checks? Because I think these are things you should consider doing.

At the very least you should tell your mother and brother the following:
- his behavior is unacceptable and you will no longer tolerate it.
- that you will no longer visit them at their home because you feel unsafe.
- that you're willing to meet them in public for visits, but that any abusive or threatening language or behavior will mean that the visit immediately ends.
- that you will resume visits only if they both enter family therapy (and you might want to go as well)
- that you will maintain a regular schedule for phone visits and no other phone calls, except in an emergency, will be answered.
- Any violation of that boundary or other inappropriate phone calls will mean that the phone number will be blocked and phone visits will end.

Then you should have a private conversation with your mother and let her know that you are concerned for her safety. That you have concerns about the dynamic in her household. That you believe it's damaging for her to excuse your brother's behavior. That her making excuses makes you feel unsafe and your feelings disregarded. That you want to maintain a relationship, but can only do so if your boundaries and feelings are respected.
posted by brookeb at 4:27 PM on June 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

I have a family member who has similar behavior. He has shown that he can control it. So your parents should decider what's tolerable and what's not, and resolutely enforce this. It's not easy. But he really can control his behavior.
posted by theora55 at 4:32 PM on June 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Your brother can control his behavior. He chooses not to around you, and around his mom. It's that simple. Please, don't blame your mom for his violence towards her, and don't blame yourself.
posted by purenitrous at 5:16 PM on June 18, 2016 [8 favorites]

Your mother should be protecting you. She's sacrificing your wellbeing in the care of your brother. You've lived like this so long you aren't sure whether this is justified. But, you know, you're her child, too.
posted by Omnomnom at 9:49 PM on June 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

At this point, I am so close to grabbing a taxi back home.

You should. Don't put up with this bullshit. mom came up to me and said that she had told him not to get violent, but that it was also my fault for not taking the initiative to call.

This is fucking appalling. You should tell your mother that you are not responsible for your idiot brother's actions. He's a grown-ass man, for dog's sake.

Am I overreacting?

No, you're underreacting.

How do I tell my brother his behaviour is unacceptable?

In your place, I would write him a text or email saying something to the effect of "Any violence is completely unacceptable. Don't you ever dare raise a hand to me or our mother again, or we are done".

He blames it on his inability to tolerate things, and then goes back to blaming me.

That's because he's an an entitled, immature asshole. Of course he can 'tolerate' things, he just prefers to act like a toddler instead. Based on your description of his behaviour, your mother should have kicked him to the curb long before now. If he wants to live off of her goodwill, then he has to do so under her rules. Perhaps your mother should not be trying to impose her morality on him, but that's by the by. Her house, her rules. If he can't deal with that, then he can find his own place to live.

And frankly, they are both wrong to be making this your problem.

Your brother is responsible for his own behaviour.
Your brother is responsible for his own behaviour.
Your brother is responsible for his own behaviour.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 1:58 AM on June 19, 2016 [6 favorites]

You are an adult. If another adult hits you, call 911. The last time my brother was violent with me was when I called 911 right in front of him.

Stay away from your family. They are dangerous for you to be around. Please get some therapy to better understand how to create boundaries between yourself and others.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 3:02 AM on June 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

This is quite seriously the most toxic family situation I've ever read about on AskMe, and as others have pointed out, you're underreacting. The only thing you should be trying to figure out is how to completely, 100% cut off contact with your brother, and the way you do that is pretty simple: you refuse to see him, you refuse to speak to him. Block his number and you won't have to worry about how many calls you're getting from him In what time frame because you won't know he's calling.

I strongly disagree that you should be drawing boundaries by going over there and leaving when he gets violent or telling him If he does X you'll do Y or what have you; this man physically assaulted you and he's genuinely dangerous to be around. He's forfeited any right to a relationship with you, and the only boundary you should be drawing is to refuse to be in the same room with him, full stop.

And frankly, although I do understand that you want a relationship with your mother, it's outrageous and disgraceful that she tells you it's your fault that he assaulted you. I mean, what the fucking fuck? She's saying that violence is an acceptable response to your failing to call; does that sound reasonable to you? What if a friend told you that her mother had said that? What if your husband assaulted you for failing to come home on time or something like that--would that be your fault too? Your mother sounds as toxic as your brother is, if not more.
posted by holborne at 10:25 AM on June 19, 2016 [8 favorites]

Incidentally, I don't see any particular indication that this is "elder abuse." You and her brother are 27 or 28, I gather, so your mother may very well be 50 or so, yeah? That's not "elder abuse," and I think it's unfair of anyone here to make you feel like you're responsible for taking care of your mother when your brother is busy physically assaulting you and your mother is busy making excuses for it, and even telling you it's your own fault. You need to protect yourself first.
posted by holborne at 2:52 PM on June 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do you think he might have a drug or alcohol problem? Before you say "no way!" consider it - your last question was about your mom finding his Adderall stashed around the house and that is a pretty big deal. His behavior is pretty darn addict-like. The drama, blaming, unpredictability, it's all classic addict stuff.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:52 PM on June 19, 2016

I honestly think the police, or someone outside of your family, like your mother's faith leader, SHOULD be made aware of your brother's rages. In addition to the fact that he's committing a criminal act toward you, and your mom, a not-insignificant number of men who commit domestic violence move on to committing violent acts toward non-family members. Your brother is, in your own words, "very troubled and angry." This is not a good situation. You need to put on your own oxygen mask first, but something must be done about your brother before he truly hurts you, your mother, a girlfriend, or his coworkers. I would at the very least call a domestic violence hotline and ask them for help in figuring out a plan of attack. mom came up to me and said that she had told him not to get violent, but that it was also my fault for not taking the initiative to call.
NONE OF THIS IS YOUR FAULT. Violence is rarely if ever the answer, but it's REALLY not the answer for a situation in which you forgot to call your mom. That is totally TOTALLY irrational and out of line. Saying, "dude, it wasn't cool that you forgot to call mom" is the way a normal sibling handles that situation (if they get involved at all).

Do you have any other trusted family members who can help you with this? I am really sorry this is happening to you.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 7:30 PM on June 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

He blames it on his inability to tolerate things, and then goes back to blaming me.

When his outburst ended, my mom came up to me and said that she had told him not to get violent, but that it was also my fault for not taking the initiative to call.

When my mom is away travelling and visiting relatives his behaviour is never like this...when she is here, his behaviour changes.

It sounds like he's blaming his behavior on everyone but himself, she's blaming you for not doing what she perceives as "your part" in staving off your brother's abusive tantrums, and you're blaming your brother's behavior (at least in part) on your mom's enabling and her house rules. There is WAY too much blame being thrown around here.

Your brother is the only one responsible for his violent behavior, straight up. If he doesn't get it together, he's going to end up seriously injuring someone (if he hasn't already) and/or in jail.

You say he lives with your mother out of financial necessity--is it because his temper precludes him from participating in the workforce without incident? It sounds like he needs counseling for anger management IMMEDIATELY because this isn't healthy for any of you.

You are not responsible for any part of your brother's abusive behavior, despite what your mom says. Your mom may have internalized the idea that the actions of others can mitigate or divert unwanted behaviors from abusers, but she is incorrect, and this makes me sad for her, despite her attempts to lay blame on you for your brother's actions. But I say again--it is NOT your fault. And neither is it your mother's.

There is a lot of good advice in this thread about healthy boundary setting, so I won't retread, but I'm definitely on the side of getting as far out of the fray as you can.

To specifically answer your question, the way you let someone know their behavior is unacceptable is to tell them in no uncertain terms that you will not tolerate their treatment of you and if they do X again, you will Y. And then when they do X, you do Y.
posted by helloimjennsco at 10:45 AM on June 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

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