Abusive Brother

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about family conflict over business:

I am a 61 year old woman with an older brother who began by verbally abusing me a couple years ago and has now developed into me being physically afraid of him. We were in business together. I thought I was helping him by putting everything in my name, but it turns out he abused that by mishandling and mismanaging the business resulting in huge lawsuits.

I have lost my home, my business, my money and am living in a room in a friend’s home where this brother also is staying. I cannot leave and must interface with him due to the lawsuits. How do I get this man to either treat me with some respect or leave me alone?

I am so tired of being told I’m lazy, fat, unhelpful, a pig and a c–t. I am appalled by his comments and his actions. He has physically come at me on several occasions. Friends look the other way. I am scared of him and afraid to say or do anything. I am at my wits end.

Signed, Afraid

DearĀ Afraid:

Your situation requires much more than a short, written response. You need legal and emotional support from someone who is right there and who is fully aware of the complete situation. You may need to get the help of other family members or a social service agency or other group, but part of your assistance should involve your local district attorney’s office. Almost all district attorney offices have a section that specializes in various abuse situations, especially Elder Abuse. 61 isn’t elderly, but would fit under most D.A. guidelines.Any other person or group you contact can give you information that might be useful but only the D.A.’s office can provide advice about whether or not a law has been broken and how you can get away from your brother without being fearful.

They may tell you that no law has been broken since you voluntarily signed everything away. But, at least you would have made the contact.They will also be able to give you assistance about what you can do to get away from your brother, at least in a living situation. There is no such thing as “I cannot leave.” It might not be easy, but of course you can leave. Develop a plan and put it into action.If you have any access to your own money at all, move out even if you only move to a motel room until you can get more help. Call the police if you feel threatened or if you’re being kept against your will. Check out women’s shelters in your areas and ask what their guidelines are for assisting women in need of help. I don’t know your financial or legal situation, so I can’t give advice about what you can or can’t do, but these are some general guidelines: If a car is registered in your name you can take it. If a bank account has your name on it, you can access every penny in it and take it out.

Talk to your bank and explain your situation so they are aware of what you are doing, if that is a concern to you. If you are paying the attorneys fees for business lawsuits or if the attorneys work for you equally with your brother, you might want to talk to your lawyers and let them know of the real situation. If your brother is their sole client it would probably be better to not let them know your plans. It may appear that you are merely trying to distance yourself from the various lawsuits and they may have an obligation to report your conversations to your brother.They may think that if your brother had been successful with his investment of your money you wouldn’t be making allegations of abuse now. That’s a valid issue. So, if you have any way to show coercion or to prove that he is trying to keep you against your will, you should be prepared to show that to anyone to who you speak.You say that friends look the other way.

Keep in mind that if you have enabled your brother to take everything you own and if you continue to live with him and talk to him about legal issues, everyone around you may think you’re OK with the situation. Often in family conflicts of this nature, people on the outside see back and forth arguments in which neither person is blameless. Your friends may see you as being as much part of the problem as your brother is. Or, they may think you need your brother’s support. He may tell them a completely different story, so they don’t know the real truth. When you leave, they will catch on!

Obviously, you need your own attorney in these lawsuits, but you may not have the money to retain one. I think you should certainly talk to a lawyer, at least on an unpaid one-time consultation. Your goal should be to distance you from your brother’s interests. You can’t completely get out from under the lawsuits but you can make it clear to everyone that you have been used, abused and are fighting back now.If you are physically, emotionally and mentally stable you can break free of all of this and move on to a better situation. But, you have to make some effort on your own because others can’t do it for you. It won’t be easy, but when you’re done you’ll be better off in every way.

One last bit of advice: Don’t let family or friends convince you that you need to support your brother in this trying time or that you should stick by him until the lawsuits are through. Now is the time to get away. Don’t even discuss the subject with them if they attempt to make you feel guilty or as though you are in the wrong. If you’ve been honest in your letter to us, you’re right to do what you have to do to get free and live your own life.Best wishes as you move forward.

Tina Lewis Rowe