June 3, 2023

What to Do with a Harassing Brother-in-Law

This week on Ask Madge: A woman gets hit on by her brother-in-law. What should she do?

  • April 1, 2015
  • 3 min read
What to Do with a Harassing Brother-in-Law

Dear Madge,
I live at my sister’s house and her husband has been hitting on me. It’s not very obvious, but he drops hints here and there, like making innuendos when we happen to be in the same room (e.g. kitchen) together. Some days are more blatant than others, like when he told me he married the wrong sister. Sometimes I think it’s bordering on harassment but there’s no proof. What should I do?
Dear Harassed,
What should you do? You tell him to scram, that’s what you need to do. But things aren’t as simple in real life, I know. You live at their house, and if he’s pissed off at you he might just tell lies to your sister about you.
First thing, I would do is to make it known that you are uncomfortable when he’s acting like that. Tell him in plain language that you think what he’s saying or doing is disrespectful to you and your sister. Let him know you are not some pushover.
Secondly, always be careful when you’re alone in the house with him. Lock your room and try not to take a shower when there’s only him in the house.  A lot of cases of sexual assaults happen in a woman’s own house or family. Also, this will show him that you do not feel safe around him.
Thirdly, tell your sister. You have to at some point. If he acts like that around you, his wife’s own sister, he’s bound to do that to other women. Basically he has no respect for all women.
Tell your sister in the gentlest way (this will depend on how close you are with her), so that she won’t get defensive or start accusing you of seducing him. This might happen, I have to warn you, but don’t let it deter you. She is your sister after all. Take into consideration her circumstance and the dynamics of their relationship (whether she is financially dependent on him, whether he’s a controlling guy, etc). When I was in college, I had a similar situation. My dorm roommate’s guy (they’re not quite boyfriend-girlfriends yet, but were close enough) was hitting on me full on. I never told her, fearing she would think I was making it up, but I should’ve. Luckily, they never became a couple. Decide on what to do next based on how she reacts to your information.
Ok, if all these don’t work, there’s a fourth: if possible (financially and whatnots), get your own place. Not only will it liberate you from this problem (and living alone is liberating), it will be the strongest  “fuck-you” gesture you can give to your brother in law.
Got a burning question about something? Send it to [email protected] with the subject ‘Ask Madge.’

*Illustration by thesmuggler

Editor:  Magdalene
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