Mildly Creepy or Sign of Abuse

I guess I survived the dreaded visit with the in laws. If survived only means I am still living and breathing. I feel icky and ashamed, and confused by my creepy brother in law.

I’m not sure I acted as the new and improved me. Not as the me that stands up for myself and those around me.

I was dreading the visit with a creepy brother in law. He has always given me the creeps. He has an infantile sense of humor, loves practical jokes at the costs of others. He is consistently disrespectful to everyone, but especially women. The first time I met him, nearly 20 years, he grabbed my butt a few times and make sexy looks and comments to me while I was there with my then boyfriend, his brother in law. This is my hubby’s sister’s husband. He also took many photos and videos of me and the other girls there, aiming and focusing in on body parts as we walked around unknowingly. He has untied his own wife’s bikini top in front of family gatherings on multiple occasions. Makes me sick, but she just laughs and giggles, and seems to appreciate his attention.

Well, I’m pretty sure he is up to his old tricks. We were celebrating a few birthdays, cousins of different ages, from out of state gathered at Grandma’s (Hubby’s parents). As kiddos were blowing out candles, Mr. Creepy was taking photos – supposedly of the kids and such, but I am nearly positive he snapped one focused on my cleavage. He was standing next to me, slightly behind me, and all of sudden the flash was on me, and I saw the camera was not pointed at my face, but down my blouse. At that moment, my 5 year old was blowing out a candle on his cake – so I did nothing, said nothing. Then I saw him go around the table and focus his camera on my other sis-in-law’s (not his wife’s) behind as she walked out of the room. Again, I felt icky, but said and did nothing, and continued with the party, smiling with the children, but now with a guarded sense of hypervigilance to remain out of his camera’s view. I felt naked and reduced to an object – no longer a person, no longer his sister in law, but a toy to satisfy his need for cheap thrills. Was I supposed to call him on it and make his actions obvious to the children?

Once the “Happy Birthdays” were done, I told Hubby what I thought was happening. Hubby was angry a little, frustrated, said sorry to me, but otherwise did nothing. We were all eating birthday cake. Were we supposed to sneak away and accuse him of being creepy? I know he’d either deny it or laugh it off as no big deal.

I was already planning to leave, knowing my tolerance would be up for that atmosphere, but this incident soured the remaining time. And then when I went out to the front porch, I see this creep with his 12 year old daughter on his lap, slapping her butt. I felt nauseous and wanted to run, and well, basically I did run. I drove home and the spent the evening alone (Hubby stayed overnight there with the kids) barely sleeping, watching TV and eating junk food, punishing myself for not speaking up.

So I messaged the other sis-in-law, the one he took a photo of, just to let her know. No response from her yet. I’m not sure how big of a deal to make here, but I’m not going to be quiet and tolerate assholish behavior.

The thing I hate the most here, is feeling like a confused child. Just like when my abusive father grabbed me in plain sight, but no one seemed to notice. I looked around to see if anyone saw or reacted, and then doubt myself, maybe the camera wasn’t aimed down my blouse. Maybe I’m exaggerating. Maybe I was hoping he’d find me attractive so I need to confirm it. And then of course, back to my dear old friends – shame and guilt.

Hubby’s sister seems to think her husband’s antics are cute or fun or something, she always laughs it off, like “oh well, that’s just how he is”. She told me he took their daughter out and bought her a skimpy bikini that she would have never approved, but she felt she could not take it away after they spent the day shopping and her daughter loved it. I wanted to tell her that yes, yes she could say no to them, and should if it made her uncomfortable – but I didn’t say that.

Why is it always up to me to do the right thing?! Why am I the moral compass of my entire world? I want someone else to take the lead for once.

How much trouble am I supposed to stir up in people I see once every few years? Should I get involved or just grin and bear it? Am I over reacting at his creepy behavior? Is he just an immature asshole and I tend to see signs of abuse every where? Or is it that I am expertly able to recognize them?

Ick, ick, ick. Not sure what to do.



15 thoughts on “Mildly Creepy or Sign of Abuse

  1. The hardest thing for me to realize is that every single person has a Ggod looking out for them. And, it is not me! Personally I think the creep should be shot, but it is not mine to do. i hear you and I hear your pain. I empathize with you.

  2. Ugh, I have been in this situation, too. I’ve had to just cut myself off from people like that, but not before letting everyone know exactly what I think! The other people there deserve better, and you do, too. It sounds like everyone is an enabler and in denial. Observing sexual harassment, just observing, is enough to trigger a harassment suit on-the-job (you don’t even have to be the target– just the person who had to see it). Instead of a “Hostile Workplace,” you have a “Hostile Familyplace,” unsafe for women and children. Would you complain and confront if this happened at work? Why not when it happens at home? Why are people (in general) so afraid of calling out injustice at home? Home should be that “soft place to fall.”

    • wow, you are so right. I’d never accept this from a random person or a coworker, why should we let it go just because he is in our home? Thank you for that. Also for calling it what it is – sexual harassment, that’s what I was looking for. I don’t think it is the same as abuse, so this helps for me to to reframe it and talk about it.

  3. I don’t think you are over-reacting. That is not just creepy, but in my opinion warning signals. If he were my brother in law, I would never be alone with him, and never, never allow my children to be alone with…or with him at all unless myself or my husband were present. I would not trust his wife either.

    From what you shared, I am very concerned for his 12 yr old daughter. Someone needs to talk to her (without him) and make sure she is alright.

    In The Gift of Fear by Gavin deBecker (a wonderful book) his main message is this: almost always our intuition will give us warnings about danger, but too often we don’t listen. We tell ourselves we are just being paranoid, or that we shouldn’t worry so much or whatever we tell ourselves. His whole book is to encourage us to listen to our intuition. That is my message to you now. Beware of him–and get help for his 12 yr. old daughter.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your opinion and support. I have not read that book, will definitely look for it. I am keeping myself and my kids safe and figuring out how to approach the subject with the mom. Hubby is helping me talk to her, since it is his sister, and I do believe she is a good person and will listen.

  4. What Leslie’s Illusions said! Great book. Do not beat yourself up. I learned that I feel shame and guilt because I recognize those are what that person should be feeling. You did great recognizing the behavior as sexual harassment at least and acknowledging it not only to yourself but to hubby and the SIL. SIL will have to decide what she wants to do. The dilemma is in knowing you can’t make anyone see what you see or accept it for the abuse it is. However, now you and hubby can make plans for the future: Will you attend these functions again? If not, then that’s the end of it. If so, then what will you do when this garbage happens? When my NB pinched my backside again and for the last time, I didn’t know what to do. I’d been taking it for 43 years. My counselor asked me what I’d do if it had been my daughter. I exploded and told him I would have taken a baseball bat to the rat and beaten him senseless for touching my daughter. He then asked why my imaginary daughter deserved to be defended but I didn’t. He then had me write a letter to my daughter telling her what I’d want her to know, like she didn’t have to be around NB. She was allowed to maintain a safe distance and she was allowed to call him on his crappy behavior. She was allowed to protect herself and defend her boundaries. It didn’t matter if her boundaries included a three-foot personal space. They were her boundaries. No one had the right to violate those boundaries. I haven’t allowed NB near me in over seven years. It makes everyone uncomfortable, even me. However, it is such a relief to not worry about him pinching me, hitting me, or hugging me inappropriately. I only regret I didn’t set those boundaries sooner.

    • So maybe I take on the guilt and shame the creep should be feeling? Could be.

      I’m getting pretty good at making my own boundaries, and very good at establishing them for my own kids, but then I get upset when I see someone else with a broken boundary, like my niece. It seems my new role in life is enforcing boundaries for all children I know. We all have a right to protect ourselves, but the kids don’t know they need protecting sometimes.

      • We were taught to accept the blame and guilt, and it’s difficult to let go.

        I did chat with my nieces about their right to say no, but it was very low key and part of our regular association. I also talked to their parents. I like what Charlene said. I also liked your idea of “raising awareness.”

  5. I do not think that you are over-reacting and I certainly agree with Leslie’s Illusions about talking to the 12 year old, but you must be very careful about it. If her mother is not taking action, there’s only so much you can do with the exception of talking to her (the mom) and possibly informing her of what type of behavior is unacceptable. I know exactly what you mean about the ‘ridiculously obvious yet ignored inappropriate behavior’. This turns my stomach, but I was raised to be outspoken about it even if it meant crashing a party or even screwing up church service (I’ve done both with absolutely no remorse – it comes naturally). My mom taught us this way because she went through some of the same situations that I faced growing up, so by her having five girls we had ‘unlimited’ permission from both parents to put people in their place when they got out of line and to ALWAYS let them know about ANYONE who made us feel creepy. I raise my children the same way and I think that it is a shame that the wife just laughs this off because there’s nothing funny about it. If this guy makes you uncomfortable, let him know it in a way that he won’t forget. Let your fears from the past fly out of the window and express yourself so that he will realize that he won’t be getting away with his crap be it a birthday party, family reunion, or even a freaking funeral. When creeps know that you’re simply ‘not having it’ at any cost, they fall off. I hope that no one is offended by my comment, but stuff like this really burns me up. Your instincts don’t lead you wrong so show no fear – that is what gives them power and wear your ‘right thing doing’ badge with honor!

    • Thank you, I will try to wear my badge with honor. Hubby and I are going to talk to them – delicately and see what mom thinks or may not be aware of. I think of this as raising awareness, not exactly accusing. And I do agree we should not be silent and put up with crap, we should all be able to tell a creep to back off.

  6. Two people have recommended the same book I am going to recommend. I think it would be a book you should read, it will help you I think begin to trust your intuition rather than question it.

    As to your brother in law, I think he sounds more than a creep. I would never allow my children near him without either myself or my husband close by. I think your intuition is telling you the truth. Talk to the daughter, if possible. Don’t accuse simply give a safe haven where she can talk.

  7. You are not over reacting! Trust your insticts! Even if the abuse is not overt, this type of covert abuse is extremely damaging. If you feel “icky” the kids do too. Don’t allow your kids around this guy and urge your sister-in-law to seek professional help before this inappropriate behavior further damages her daughter. When a child is sexualized by an adult in anyway, even without physical touch, and other adults look the other way, the child is twice abused.

  8. Pingback: Blogging in Borrowed Shower Time | Roots to Blossom

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