How to deal with a rapist being welcomed in?
March 19, 2017 11:22 AM   Subscribe

A family member is still in contact with her rapist and brings him around. What is the best way to deal with this situation?

The man, let's call him "R", is a convicted sex offender (he says the girl "lied about her age"). My sister, let's call her "S", married him. He raped her during a fight, and they divorced.

I've just learned that S brings R around to our mom's to help with projects around the house. Mom doesn't know R raped S.

I do, and I am present right now while R is over helping out with a project. I have managed to not interact with him yet by just staying out of the way.

I want to take S aside and tell her while she has every right to make her own choices about who she invites into her life, I am not okay with R being around me or mom, who is physically vulnerable. Would I be overstepping? What is the best way to deal with this?

Complicating factor: S lives with our mom and probably will long term.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Jeez. I don't have a good answer for how to deal with this, but I absolutely do not think you'd be overstepping. There are lines, and one of them is inviting a convicted and multiple rapist into the house. Home is where your mother should be safe. And you have a right to feel safe there, too.

Do you know more about the circumstances surrounding R's return? Knowing why your sister has invited this person back into her life could tell you a lot about how to approach her.
posted by schadenfrau at 11:44 AM on March 19, 2017 [6 favorites]

I have this problem- I decided to address it as gently as I could by letting the people I was worried about know about the situation. I put in plenty of, "I know sometimes people change, but I also know once a person is known to do these things it's worth knowing and being careful even if they say sorry".

If you bring it up with your sister, I would try to get into a space where you can genuinely express some amount of concern for both your mother and her, and talk about how you understand that compassion and forgiveness can be wonderful things but that protecting loved ones means remembering such behaviors and creating safety plans for how you might interact with a loved one who has done dangerous things without putting everyone else at risk. You can love someone with a dangerous disease and also appreciate you need the right protective gear or vaccines/etc to interact with them safely. You don't have to have any judgements of some one with behavior problems to decide to create some safety around interacting with them or choosing not to interact.

Instead of asking him for help with projects on the house, if she needs to see him, meet for coffee? Is it financial hardship driving her to ask for help? If you were well off enough, could you offer to help with the cost of hiring some help with those projects? I don't know that's the issue, just brainstorming some of the ideas I would be thinking of. Sorry you're dealing with it.
posted by xarnop at 12:03 PM on March 19, 2017 [4 favorites]

Honestly, I think this is one of those times that it is ok to freak the F out. This is not ok on any level and you can say that. This will no doubt cause waves,, who is responsible for that? Turns out, you are the only sensible one in the room. Be the adult, deal with the consequences, protect your family.
posted by Toddles at 3:25 PM on March 19, 2017 [10 favorites]

I think it depends on why she's doing this. Is it her way of working through the past? Is she a martyr, is she holier than thou? Does she long for a happy family illusion? Does she genuinely need help with house stuff?

You probably don't know, which is why a long, judgement free conversation is in order. Tell her you notice she's patched up with him and ask her how she feels about the things that happened. Then, when you've made sure you really understand where she is right now, and mirrored it back to her ("for you, this is about X, isn't it? You really care a lot about doing the right thing." talk about how this impacts you and your mom.
posted by Omnomnom at 3:28 PM on March 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

If there was just about you, it would easy, or at least straightforward. Tell her that you know she has own relationship with R but you don't feel comfortable being around him and she should please let you know when he is going to be there and you will make other plans.

The problem is trying to protect your mother. I'm guessing you don't have any authority here. (For example being the older brother in a traditional family would give some authority to say what is best for your mother.) However, without any family authority and given that sister and mother live in the house and you don't, there isn't a lot you can do without an ally. The best for you would be if your sister agreed he was a threat to your mother and agree to keep him away. That seems unlikely but it would be worth a conversation (mostly a listen) just to understand what is going on for her and how she sees it and to assess if there is any point to asking her to keep him away.

The other option is to see how your mother feels about it. Does she know that R is a convicted sexual offender? (S's rape may be her story to disclose or not but certainly a rape conviction that is public record is something you can talk about.) See if your mother feels threatened? Maybe she doesn't in which case I think you need to respect that. If she is uncomfortable then you can talk to her about you can help her feel safe in her own home. While you don't have any standing to limit visitors to the house, your mother does. But if she doesn't want to do anything and assuming she is a competent adult, you need to take care of yourself and let her take care of herself.
posted by metahawk at 8:07 PM on March 19, 2017

Bypass S and go straight for R. She's dealt with enough of his shit. "I don't want you around me or my family. Leave."
posted by pintapicasso at 8:49 PM on March 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you truly think that Mom's well-being is at risk here, I think you should have a direct, sit-down conversation with her and tell her "Did you know R is a convicted sex offender?"

Better yet, get S involved in this conversation, too. Essentially, I agree with Toddles: it's "ok to freak the F out". Mom's health and safety trumps anyone's hurt feelings.

Having said that - as I consider the situation purely on the basis of the original posted question - it's not clear to me how toxic R actually is. It sounds like he claims he's a sex offender because of statuatory rape with a woman who claimed to be 18+yo. Admittedly, he could be lying. But I'd personally want to know for sure. The last time I looked at a sex offender registry, I think it contained enough information that some of these 'details' could be determined: when did this happen? Age of victim? Age of offender? Was it consensual?

And I know no-one's going to love me for saying this, but I have to be honest: S married R, R raped S during a fight, they got divorced - and now S is inviting R back into her life? I do not mean to second-guess the original poster, but: is S really telling the whole truth here?
posted by doctor tough love at 11:22 AM on March 20, 2017

R, S, and you all know the situation, you're all adults, you can all choose what you do about it. Your mum doesn't know and hence can't make those choices. That's a big issue. Yes you have the right to protect your mum by letting her know who's coming to her house, in case you were asking.

Is there someone you can contact via the police (would be called "victim support groups" in this country) who could possibly help you and coordinate a family meeting with you and your sister and mum to go through this, if you don't want to be seen to be spilling the beans to your mum directly?
posted by tillsbury at 2:49 PM on March 20, 2017

I would recommend rarely (if ever) freaking the f out in a potentially emotionally volatile situation like this, especially in a group setting, layered with family history, etc. Maybe this guy has some kind of unstable personality and he doesn't know that you or others aside from S are aware of his past. Best to stay out of that direct confrontation minefield in my experience. Just make a quiet mention to your mom as it's her house and she deserves to know who's there, just the same as she might expect a construction company to send employees who have had background checks. You also don't know if S may be in some kind of psychological entanglement with him still where she just needs to grind it out until she's ready to move on. It can be hard for loved ones to see but sometimes these things need to run their course.
posted by dissolvedgirl22 at 4:51 PM on March 27, 2017

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