She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
About ten years ago I was raped by someone who, at the time, I considered a good friend. We were "friends with benefits," and a consensual sexual encounter went bad when we lost the condom, and he decided that the solution was anal sex, without asking me or even giving me any warning.
It was the most traumatic experience of my life, but it took me a long time, and several therapists, to realize that I had been raped. Since then I saw a specialist counselor who believed that I am suffering from PTSD. I'm seeing an excellent therapist now, and I am doing well at moving on with my life.
My problem is that the man who raped me is still close friends with my brother; the only family who knows what happened are my mother and husband. My brother is in a serious relationship and everyone is talking about when he will propose. If my brother's friend is at the (still hypothetical) wedding, there is no way I will be able to be there.
Should I tell my brother what happened or leave it be and not attend his wedding (which would break his heart)? And if I should tell him, should I do it now, or wait until he proposes and potentially ruin what should be a happy time for him and his probable fiancé?
First, I am so sorry that you were raped. Seven out of ten rapes are committed by someone the victim knows, and 25% of those by someone with whom the victim had previous consensual intimacy.
I’m thrilled that you came to recognize that it was indeed rape and that you have been able to access help in processing the trauma and moving forward. I’m also glad that you were able to confide in your husband and mother. I’m curious to know what your mother has to say about your brother having this friend in his life. It’s troubling. I know that often, when parents learn of things like this years after the fact, they compartmentalize it as a coping mechanism. It’s a form of denial. And that’s a separate issue. Let’s get to your question…
I am 100% certain you should tell your brother what happened.
Regardless of whether or not there is a wedding, he should be told. If your sibling were raped by your friend, wouldn't you want to know? I most definitely would. Ideally, he will react as any loving sibling would, by cutting that piece of shit out of his life entirely.
Because we have no control over others, you also need to prepare yourself for the possibility of a reaction that may be disappointing or hurtful. My gut tells me that won’t happen, but I think you need to go into this with some prep for possible outcomes.
Write out exactly what you want to say. Even if you decide to tell him face-to-face, writing it out first will make it easier.
Now when to tell him? As soon as possible.
You’ve been shielding him from the truth for far too long.
He is a grown man. He can handle it. And you certainly don’t need to protect your rapist’s secret any longer.
Sometimes we hold back on telling people what’s happened to us because we are worried about how it’s going to make them feel. They might feel bad or guilty, or god forbid, uncomfortable. I know I’ve done this — held things in because I didn't want someone else to feel bad about what I went through. That version of logic is super flawed.
We deserve better. We deserve to be heard and seen.
I know how scary it can feel to come out with this, especially with the relationship he has with the rapist. But, I promise there is freedom on the other side of speaking the truth. No matter what his reaction is, no matter how uncomfortable it makes him or how messy it makes things for him, telling him the truth is the right thing to do. For everyone, but most importantly for you.
*If you or someone you know has been raped, please do not stay silent. Reach out to me, reach out to friends or family, or contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline via Live Chat or at 1-800-HOPE (4673).
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