Sibling violence May 24, 2018 7:36 PM   Subscribe

I’m troubled by some of the responses to this post, wherein the OP describes being assaulted by his sister. I feel that some of the replies were victim-blamey and elevated the severity his actions to the level of her behavior (which involved actually punching him in the face, among other things).

Even if the OP is behaving badly, a violent response is not justified and he should not be made to feel that he brought his assault upon himself.

Can we discuss this?
posted by delight to Etiquette/Policy at 7:36 PM (88 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

As one of the mods on shift with this one, I think there's a difference between "you brought this on yourself" and "you need to acknowledge your part in this and apologize for those actions of yours that warrant apology". One is completely unhelpful, and one is an answer to the question of what the next steps here should be.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:39 PM on May 24, 2018 [18 favorites]


I agree with your characterization of some of the replies as victim-blamey, think at least one of the replies rose to the level of "you brought this on yourself", and was generally really surprised to see some of the answers there.

Do I think more should have been deleted? Probably not, although I think that's something reasonable people can disagree on. But it's good to be mindful of this stuff so I appreciate that you brought this to MeTa for community discussion.
posted by lalex at 8:13 PM on May 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


He very clearly describes verbally provoking her, she left the room and the conflict. She did the smart thing. Then he hid her belongings.

When she returned to the kitchen, he mocked her about her missing items until she flipped out and started hitting him.

He's older. Their parents used to let them fight each other physically.

In short, they have a HUGELY dysfunctional family dynamic, abuse is common. If he doesn't want to grow up to commit violence against an intimate partner, blaming his sister for this argument is not an option.

She called him a fucking liar and left the room. It's not great, but the conflict could have ended there.

He's likely bigger and stronger. It's been going on a long time. There's an imbalance in the power dynamics.

"I don't hit her anymore since my parents told me to stop," is entirely disingenuous within the context of the rest of the askme. Believing that solves it is a way to turn into an abusive partner and father.
posted by jbenben at 8:16 PM on May 24, 2018 [57 favorites]


I wrote all of that out because I had to read his narrative 4 times to understand the sequence of events. I assumed everyone dog piling on the sister's reaction to him didn't fully grok what he had described.
posted by jbenben at 8:18 PM on May 24, 2018 [9 favorites]


I don't know, man, following someone around (after intentionally provoking them) can be very physically threatening. These threads are messy for me and I generally stay out because of that--I'm someone who was known within my family as being "physically abusive", "violent" and "aggressive" with my family of origin because I'd sometimes break objects or shove family members (away) when I was being physically dominated and emotionally or verbally abused. It took a lot of therapy to realize that it was the toxicity of the dynamic that was the problem, not something inherent in me, personally and individually.

(And it isn't a problem for me in my life, since, in any way, and especially since I only allow myself to be around people who respect my physical space and autonomy and aren't intentionally shitty to me.)

I hope both OP and his sister get out of that house. It sounds so, so unhealthy.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:32 PM on May 24, 2018 [39 favorites]


It also seems like his actions (stowing away her prepared lunch, hiding her boots, following her around taunting her) might've prevented her from leaving the house on time? They're both in college, and he's recently unemployed while she may have a job (she has 'the funds' to support herself if their parents kicked her out) she was trying to get to. It's an awful situation, how they trigger one another.

She should not have assaulted him, of course, and I hope he investigates on-campus housing and work/study options (if available through his school).
posted by Iris Gambol at 8:41 PM on May 24, 2018 [11 favorites]


Why is everyone assuming the poster is a man? I know everyone likes to try to read between the lines, but if the poster doesn't mention their own gender then maybe they don't want that assumption being made?

It's a fucked up dynamic. If you've ever been a person bullied to the point of physical violence you're going to see that, even when ultimately the violent person is responsible for their violence. I can understand why some responses find the poster's behavior reprehensible.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:14 PM on May 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


We're not assuming, he describes himself as "21m" in the Ask.
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:22 PM on May 24, 2018 [17 favorites]


No one is assuming he’s a man. He tells us at the start he’s 21 m, or 21 male.
posted by Jubey at 9:23 PM on May 24, 2018


He wrote he was a man, but there was a typo.

" 'm 21m, my sister is 20."

Until this thread I missed that by hiding her things, he might be preventing her from going to school or work on time.

Bullying of females is pernicious and sometimes subtle, and often starts in the home. It's maybe a little dangerous for commenters on AskMe to label the bullied sister as the main problem to this asker.

He took her stuff and hid it. Somehow, he's been given the message thus far that this is mostly OK in his home. Maybe the dad baits the mom the same way? Maybe his parents are oblivious to his the majority of his aggression towards his sister and failed to intervene at an earlier age? Certainly, something gave him the idea that he could act against her as long as (a) he did not hit her, or (b) his parents did not catch him.

We are in the age of the #MeToo movement, right? Not hitting her or getting caught harassing her is a pretty low bar for him to meet.
posted by jbenben at 9:33 PM on May 24, 2018 [19 favorites]


This is why I don't do AskMe anymore, people read questions and see whatever's closest to their own particular baggage, instead of what's actually written there. Now, maybe I'm about to do the same thing, but I gotta tell you, reading that question, here's what I see.

"I don't hit her anymore since my parents told me to stop," is entirely disingenuous within the context of the rest of the askme. Believing that solves it is a way to turn into an abusive partner and father.


This is a grotesquely out-of-context reading of what he wrote. What he wrote is: "We fought physically a lot growing up, but when I entered my mid-teens my parents spoke seriously to me and since then it's always been one-sided physically." And he also says he's 21 years old now.

I don't know if you have siblings, but little kids fight. Especially siblings. I have a younger brother, and when we were little we'd wrestle, punch, kick each other in the shin, trip each other, all kinds of stupid shit. We still loved the hell out of each other (and still do). Humans are aggressive animals. It's not generally very serious when they're little kids and aren't physically capable of doing very much damage. Yes, ideally they should be taught not to be violent while they're still little kids, and definitely well before they're mid-teens and getting big enough to really hurt someone, but a dude who stopped fighting with his sister mid-teens after one talk from his parents and has been one-sidedly on the receiving end of violence from her off-and-on for ~5-6 years without ever physically retaliating does not scream red flags of a future abuser to me.

He very clearly describes verbally provoking her, she left the room and the conflict. She did the smart thing. Then he hid her belongings.

When she returned to the kitchen, he mocked her about her missing items until she flipped out and started hitting him.


These sentences that you've written are...well, trying to be kind, let me just say I think your interpretation is uncharitable to an absurd degree.

>I said "im referencing Lyft as in Uber", when she understood where the confusion had arisen she claimed I'd said "I mean Uber". I quoted back "I'm referring to Lyft as in Uber". She called me "a fucking liar, you said referencing". I said that was unreasonable, she disagreed

This is what you're calling "verbally provoking her". Assuming that exchange is roughly accurate, if anyone was fishing for a fight, it was her. Notice she escalates to calling him "a fucking liar" because he slightly, but not meaningfully, misquotes himself.

>I 'tidied up', including some breakfast stuffs she'd splilled, but put away her lunch in the fridge as well and put her boots just outside the door.
When she returned, she was livid. She verbally abusive and then, when I wouldn't tell her where I'd put her stuff, just say I'd tidied things up a bit, she was physically abusive.


Sequence of events: he cleans up. Puts her lunch in the fridge, puts her boots just outside the door. This is what you're calling "hiding her stuff". I don't want to judge people for their hiding abilities, but man, somebody around here is utterly rubbish at egg hunts and hide & seek. She comes back in and is already livid and immediately verbally abusive before she can't find her stuff, and then when she can't immediately find her stuff (and again...how hard did she look? This stuff wasn't hidden worth a damn.) and he won't tell her where it is, escalates to physical violence (throwing objects). And apparently telling her he "tidied up" rather than telling her where her stuff was constitutes mocking her? As opposed to, I dunno, just being kind of stubborn, maybe fishing for some reconciliatory behavior on her part? Like I said, uncharitable in the extreme.

He also writes this: "She's never really stopped resorting to violence, and has also used it a little outside of family if frustrated enough. She's often thrown cutlery etc at me even if nothing more but even that hadn't arisen for a couple of years."

That's a big ole pile of red flags if you ask me. But there are more:

>I was somewhat following her around the house while she ranted and searched, because I'm always afraid she'll damage my possessions instead if I leave. When I locked myself in the bathroom at one point, after a half-hearted attempt to break the deadbolt, she immediately went to my room and threatened to do as such, forcing my exit.

He is living with a person who he is always afraid will damage his possessions. She actively threatened to do so while he locked himself in the bathroom.

> The only friend I have I could stay with is her boyfriend, so not an option.

Now maybe that's just him and he's not very social. Or, maybe he's living with an abuser who has largely isolated him from other friends and sources of support that she can't control. I don't know, but it's another red flag to add to the pile.

> She threatened to involve our parents and I'm petrified that if she presents the situation to our parents in the right light, combing it with telling them about the marijuana use problems I had last year or the like, things could go very badly for me.

Blackmail is a classic abuse tactic used to prevent the abused person from seeking help from authority figures. Convincing the abused person that the authorities (in this case, parents) would side with the abuser, dovetails nicely with the usual gaslighting and sabotage of self-worth that makes the abused person feel like the abuse is their fault.

This man is in a domestic abuse situation right now. One in which his abuser has utilized many of the common psychological manipulation techniques that abusers use, including gaslighting and making the victim feel like they're responsible for bringing the abuse on themselves. Even setting aside the physical violence, she's still verbally abusing him at the drop of a hat, regularly threatening the safety of his possessions, and frightening him on a basis so regular that he more or less takes it for granted. Moreover, the degree he's internalized his abuse as being his fault is so baked into his question that Metafilter largely seems to be buying into it as well.

jbenben, you in particular seem to be so worried that he will someday end up becoming a domestic abuser that you're missing the fact that his sister is domestically abusing him right now.

Athanassiel and CyborgHag gave the best responses and I hope he'll take them to heart.
posted by mstokes650 at 9:38 PM on May 24, 2018 [72 favorites]


I assumed everyone dog piling on the sister's reaction to him didn't fully grok what he had described.

Oh, I grokked it. I just completely disagree with you. He verbally provoked her and she punched him in the face. One is legal, albeit shitty. The other is a crime. She’s abusing him and people in the thread are mostly just admonishing him. I was pretty appalled.
posted by greermahoney at 9:43 PM on May 24, 2018 [26 favorites]


Fair enough.

There's a lot of typos and cute quote marks, it seemed to me he did a lot of editing trying to paint her as the bad guy and minimize his own actions. Specifically, the initial convo in the kitchen was sloppily written and edited, like he took out relevant bits which made him look especially bad. Places where the grammar went wonky or there were significant typos were suspicious to me. Maybe I'm wrong. It's what stuck out as incongruent to the main point he was trying to make, that she's unreasonable and hits him for no reason.
posted by jbenben at 10:21 PM on May 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


OK, that's kind of a lot of stuff that literally isn't there to read into this question.
posted by lalex at 10:28 PM on May 24, 2018 [53 favorites]


This is why I don't do AskMe anymore, people read questions and see whatever's closest to their own particular baggage, instead of what's actually written there. Now, maybe I'm about to do the same thing, but I gotta tell you, reading that question, here's what I see.

I think that you just did that same thing. He's her older brother, 1 year apart in age. If anyone in the world knows how to push your buttons, it's a similar aged sibling that you grew up with. They have been experimenting with each other's buttons for 20 years. It's wrong to hit somebody. It's wrong to hit somebody for poking you. If someone pokes you 50 times in a row, each time saying "you can't hit me for poking you" it's still wrong to hit them, but I'm also not to give them a whole lot of sympathy. This seems like one of those situations where the jury awards $1 to the plaintiff.

Athanassiel and CyborgHag gave the best responses and I hope he'll take them to heart.

Also consider; you're probably bigger than your sister and know how to get under her skin better than anybody in the world. Stop following her around and taunting her when you know she is getting upset.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:33 PM on May 24, 2018 [13 favorites]


Speaking of interpretations, "...my parents spoke to me seriously" does not automatically mean, to me, that they spoke to him just once before he stopped reciprocating this violence. To me, two young brothers scrapping is very different from a brother and sister physically fighting into their mid-teens, not in the least because boys are usually bigger and stronger than girls. (I do have a male sibling; we've never hit one another. Based on my experience, I would also question the premise that humans are aggressive animals.)

The poster himself describes his actions as deliberately hiding his sister's stuff, can't see how that's up for interpretation.

These siblings are abusive to one another, full stop. She still should not have hit him... but she's not the one writing in looking for CYA tips. The advice to gauge his own history with her, examine his motivations that morning, and seek therapy and other resources through his university, is all sound -- AskMe responders are pretty consistent about not being able to control anyone else's behavior, only one's own. He goaded his sister, who then hit him ("I'm still a little shocked that she was so violent"). Now he's worried his parents will take her part, despite the bruises on his face, and throw him out; ideally, he should be living somewhere else for his own safety and peace of mind.
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:34 PM on May 24, 2018 [3 favorites]


jbenben, FWIW, I also thought it read weird.
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:39 PM on May 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


There's a lot of typos and cute quote marks, it seemed to me he did a lot of editing trying to paint her as the bad guy and minimize his own actions. Specifically, the initial convo in the kitchen was sloppily written and edited, like he took out relevant bits which made him look especially bad. Places where the grammar went wonky or there were significant typos were suspicious to me.

Maybe he's just not a very good writer. Or maybe English is not his first language. Or maybe it's poorly written because he was still nervous and upset after being attacked.
posted by jv776 at 10:45 PM on May 24, 2018 [13 favorites]


The whole thing was awful and the framing was elliptical and strange. We don't even have lyft here in Sydney, so the premise is bizarre.

That all said, it is never okay to hit someone.
posted by smoke at 11:49 PM on May 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


There's almost certainly more to the story than he's told us, but I don't know that it's helpful to bring in a whole lot of assumptions - whether assumptions about how physically intimidating he is, how much he edited his post before making it, or exactly what childhood physical violence involved.

Unless he is completely lying (how do we ever know anyone on the internet is telling the truth?) she physically and verbally attacked him. This is not excusable. They are obviously in a pattern of not interacting well with each other. Though it sounds like she might well be in a better position to move out, he can't make her do that. The only person he can control is himself. So it just makes sense - harm minimisation in the form of keeping the peace - and yes of course that's not optimal, but confronting someone who hits you is not going to make anything better - and taking steps to get out of the situation.

Of course he should also poke at how he contributes to the situation, how he can actually improve things rather than "not de-escalating" by goading her and exacerbating the dynamic between them. But first he needs to make himself safe. It's better for both of them.

I do wonder what the parents are up to with all this. If this happened this morning, he posted before 7am local time. Where were the parents? How have they been contributing to this dynamic? We will probably never know.
posted by Athanassiel at 12:02 AM on May 25, 2018 [7 favorites]


Bullying of females is pernicious and sometimes subtle, and often starts in the home. It's maybe a little dangerous for commenters on AskMe to label the bullied sister as the main problem to this asker.

Because she fucking hit him. Physical abuse of men is often completely belittled or ignored.

But whatever.

I’m not going to say that my sister sometimes used physical violence against me when we were younger, but IF she had, I would be extremely not cool with people downplaying that kind of abuse. I would, against my better judgment, feel compelled to weigh in on a MeTa thread to drive home the point that part of the audience here includes men who grew up with violence from female siblings.

For all I know, that whole post is full of lies and distortions, but I don’t know that it is, and neither does anyone else except the poster. I can’t offer a real solution in this specific case, except to say that from my perspective this is all pretty fucking grim. This is like the worst of the classic AskMe DTMFA, here’s-what’s-REALLY-going-on dynamic, except it’s now applied to a purported case of physical violence.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:09 AM on May 25, 2018 [25 favorites]


On second though, I’m probably just misreading people anyway. I regret weighing in like that. It probably didn’t help. Disregard.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:24 AM on May 25, 2018


I don't think the question should be people's behavior in the AskMe and whose projection and speculation on an OP's situation is the best, but whether these questions/contexts should even be permitted anymore. I think there should be consideration that AskMe cannot ethically host certain kinds of questions, because in that space, speech is action minus an accountable relationship between OP and the commenters.

I think there are two camps; one group of people think it's just people giving different advice and it falls on an OP to decide which is good advice and ignore the rest. The problem with that view is that reading the bad advice can be re-traumatizing.

The other camp is people who are cognizant of the limitations and thus nope out because the only valid suggestion is for that person to talk (i.e. converse, not be unilaterally told things at which is what the AskMe comments achieve) to a real person, be that a trusted person in their network or a counseling professional.

We would not prescribe medication to others over the internet; we should not be administering pop psychotherapy either. In a serious mental health situation, telling people what healthy people would instinctively or naturally do tends to be the opposite of helpful advice.
posted by polymodus at 3:25 AM on May 25, 2018 [9 favorites]


She was in the kitchen making or eating breakfast at 7AM, with a prepared lunch beside her. Once she found her boots she immediately left the house. These are clear indications that she needed to be someplace and was getting ready to leave for the day, and OP's "teasing" was deliberately preventing her from leaving on time. He minimizes it by saying "I just tidied up" but this context is all right there in the body of the question.

The fact that OP yadda yaddas "I was mad so I retaliated by making her late for work/school" into the disingenuous "I tidied up" looks pretty bad to me.
posted by milk white peacock at 4:43 AM on May 25, 2018 [16 favorites]


"If this happened this morning, he posted before 7am local time. "

Since it was anonymous, it sat in the queue for a while before posting, and time of posting was on our end, not the OP's end.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 4:55 AM on May 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


jbenben: , it seemed to me he did a lot of editing trying to paint her as the bad guy and minimize his own actions.

She punched him in the face. She threw things at him. She kicked him. She hit him with the vacuum cleaner.

That is not him painting her as the "bad guy." These are not, as you characterized them in the thread "inevitable reactions." Abuse is not an "inevitable reaction." It is a choice.

She punched him in the face. It doesn't matter if he's physically bigger than her. It doesn't matter if he was annoying her or saying mean things to her. It doesn't matter if she thought he hid her shoes or food. That does not justify her physical violence.

So he's been physically abused. That's the established baseline. Responses to him should address his behavior and the toxic way they interact and not elide what has been done to him.

Answering the question that's being asked rather than the one you've made up in your own head is always preferable. Imagining / projecting scenarios and situations that aren't being stated or even implied, really, is unhelpful.

Yes, sometimes people who post to Ask provide edited, biased information. But this person was physically attacked. Assuming they are lying about that is victim-blaming.

Assuming the OP is lying is also a terrible way to approach any askme question.
posted by zarq at 5:12 AM on May 25, 2018 [47 favorites]


I’d like to remind people that the OP said “She threw a couple of 1-2kg things at me, hit me with a vacuum cleaner tube, kicked me and punched me in the face.”

I mentioned that there is a non-zero probability that all of this is being read by people who may have had similar experiences. Frankly, I think people are not treating this with the sensitivity it deserves. Responding to the sentence above with “ok but really, it seems like he was being pretty bad” is not something I would have thought was acceptable on this site. It keeps happening in this thread, too.

People seem to be treating this like a mental exercise to tease out exactly who was responsible for what, rather than as the serious request for help that it was. Maybe now’s not the time for hot takes.

Sometimes I really hate this site.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 5:15 AM on May 25, 2018 [39 favorites]


So long as we’re all bringing our own damage to the table: As someone who grew up in a household where I regularly had the crap beaten out of me by a family member and a woman who was throughout at least some of it smaller than me and against whom I was never, ever allowed to retaliate against physically: it probably sucks real bad for the OP to be in a situation where he perceives he’s bringing violence and other forms of abuse (damaging of personal items, etc) down on himself that he isn’t allowed to match in kind or retaliate in any way against and coming here to see what he can do and reading “well have you tried pissing her off less?”

Pro-tip about non-spousal domestic abuse: they’ll always find something to hit you for.
posted by griphus at 5:22 AM on May 25, 2018 [42 favorites]


We would not prescribe medication to others over the internet; we should not be administering pop psychotherapy either. In a serious mental health situation, telling people what healthy people would instinctively or naturally do tends to be the opposite of helpful advice.

It could also become a legal situation. Here in the US, I have personally seen parents act really shocked when sibling violence has led to criminal charges. I guess they're shocked because domestic violence has been normalized for so long? And, in these situations there's often talk of who was provoking whom and perception that it was a two-way street. Like others, I wonder what the parents are doing and why this situation is persisting. I think that feeding the OP little bits of approval or disapproval on different details of the story is not going to help clear things up for them.
posted by BibiRose at 5:23 AM on May 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


It was a weirdly written question about an ugly situation and I didn't know what to do with it so I didn't answer, even though I would normally be inclined to try and answer a question like that. The responses that I saw (I didn't read all of them) didn't seem great, but again something about the question seemed kinda off to me so maybe that was inevitable. The whole thing just seemed kinda not-great on a number of competing levels.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:25 AM on May 25, 2018 [15 favorites]


If you take a thing I own, you put it a place other than where I put it, and then you refuse to tell me where you put it, that is not "tidying up", that is hiding my stuff. Particularly where we have evidence that the place the boots were put was not a place that she expected them to be. Hitting is one kind of abuse, but it is really not the only kind of abuse.

I guess I'm having a bunch of trouble with this because like--okay, if my abuser had put me through extended psychological abuse but not actually ever hit/kicked me, would I have become the abusive one because I probably still would have screamed at him and slapped him and threw stuff at him, which are all things I totally did and probably still would have done? Is it only the fact that he slipped up a couple times and physically abused me, when mostly he prided himself on being the Reasonable one, that stopped me from being the bad guy? Because that seems to be where this leads. I have 100% been in the position, when I was almost exactly the age this sister is, where I lashed out at someone who could at some point have defused the situation by letting me leave the house, and he wouldn't let me leave the house, and subsequently I was the crazy one who flew off the handle, and never mind that I was being denied stuff like access to my own wallet at the time.

I know I'm reading a lot of my situation into this, but I am really uncomfortable with someone admitting to ongoing psychologically abusive behavior having a causal relationship to the violent response and then a lot of people going "well yeah but hitting". It's not that it's okay for women to hit men, it's that someone who is being subject to ongoing psychological abuse lashing out is a thing that happens and it is itself victim-blaming to suggest that the responsibility for defusing the situation falls completely on that person because Violence Is Not Okay but... other abusive and controlling behavior apparently is?
posted by Sequence at 5:37 AM on May 25, 2018 [43 favorites]


also, jeepers, guys, the whole “a 21 year old in a bad situation he can’t get people to take seriously wrote this weirdly hence the story is unreliable” is some handwriting-analysis level private eye shit where only the REAL abuser would have a sideways bar across the “t” instead of a perfectly horizontal one
posted by griphus at 5:38 AM on May 25, 2018 [23 favorites]


I'm uncomfortable with how people aren't quoting the poster. This is the full quote:

I, decided if being stupid in the name of vicious petty revenge was how she was acting, I'd do it to. I 'tidied up', including some breakfast stuffs she'd splilled, but put away her lunch in the fridge as well and put her boots just outside the door.

The words he himself uses are "vicious petty revenge."

Maybe we could all be kinder to each other here – the poster used those words to describe their own actions. So it's pretty understandable that some people noticed.
posted by fraula at 5:43 AM on May 25, 2018 [25 favorites]


He very clearly describes verbally provoking her, she left the room and the conflict. She did the smart thing. Then he hid her belongings.

...

She called him a fucking liar and left the room. It's not great, but the conflict could have ended there.


I mean, if we're going to do this, at some point he locked himself in the bathroom and she tried to break the lock to get to him. He physically removed himself from this situation and she kept trying to get to him and when she couldn't threatened his possessions. You can't talk about all the times she did the "smart thing" to end the conflict and ignore that she tried to break into a room where he was hiding from her.

I was also shocked at the number of people giving responses other than "she behaved in an extremely violent and unacceptable manner". Yes I think there are things the OP did that were also awful because this is an extremely terrible and unhealthy dynamic but I also think it's unhelpful to start talking about what he did when he's in the middle of a physically abusive situation.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:04 AM on May 25, 2018 [17 favorites]


Hiding stuff - no matter how pettily it is done and how much it delays you - does not seem to me a thing that merits being physically attacked for. The OP was pretty clear that they were not absolving themselves from blame for making the situation worse, which seems to me a good thing, not something to decide they deserve being walloped for.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 6:34 AM on May 25, 2018 [6 favorites]


I don't know if you have siblings, but little kids fight. Especially siblings...we were little we'd wrestle, punch, kick each other in the shin, trip each other, all kinds of stupid shit

Please don't normalise intimate violence. I never physically fought with my sister, and none of my three mixed-gender children have EVER physically fought (in fact, they don't fight, period). I have children in my house constantly and there is NO wrestling, kicking, tripping etc. That behaviour is not healthy or acceptable. My husband WAS brought up with violence from his father that he then directed towards his younger brother - not surprisingly, all three have unaddressed anger issues and unhealthy coping skills.
posted by saucysault at 6:36 AM on May 25, 2018 [14 favorites]


I mean, if we're going to do this, at some point he locked himself in the bathroom and she tried to break the lock to get to him.

The point when this happened was after she returned to find the results of his "vicious petty revenge" and "wouldn't tell her where I'd put her stuff, just say I'd tidied things up a bit" and then "somewhat" followed her around the house (doing what?) while she searched for the things she needed to be able to leave. So yes, it does seem to me like she went through quite alot of taunting and provocation from him without any retaliation, just attempts to get out of the situation, before he ran away and locked himself in the bathroom while continuing to avoid simply telling her where her stuff was.

So I think this is why ActingTheGoat's observation above comes into play:
If someone pokes you 50 times in a row, each time saying "you can't hit me for poking you" it's still wrong to hit them, but I'm also not to give them a whole lot of sympathy.
The other thing that gets me is—this whole thing is written to portray her as immediately flying into an insane rage over confusion between the homophones "lift" and "Lyft". If that's really true and we're going to take everything he says at face value without further interpretation, the advice should be something like "you need to do your utmost to get your sister medical help because she appears to have some sort of affective disorder in response to homophones."

But of course the help he's asking for is how to avoid the consequences of other people finding out things he has actually done in the course of his sister telling her side of the story, so we can't recommend that he respond to the situation as he's actually described it.

In any case, I think the thread is furnishing exactly the sort of help he has requested: whether he's under threat from an irrationally, unpredictably explosively violent little sister, or whether some of his statements should be interpolated a little bit, he's getting a range of coherent plausible explanations and justifications of his side of the story to present to his parents after they hear her side or even just, as he notes in the last sentence, for facing her even if she says nothing.
posted by XMLicious at 6:41 AM on May 25, 2018 [16 favorites]


That whole question was a mess. Still, the actual question being asked is what the OP should do next, including how to avoid homelessness - and I think really the only answers to that are "avoid deliberately provoking your sister by hiding her shit" and "look into these resources to get out of that situation, because it sounds very unhealthy."
posted by stillnocturnal at 6:47 AM on May 25, 2018 [18 favorites]


Just to nip this in the bud: children will fight each other if they aren't taught otherwise. Toddlers don't have the words to say "You have taken my train and I would like it back." We as adults have to teach them to use those words instead of hauling off and smacking each other. So, while my friend and her husband thought it was perfectly fine to let their three sons hit each other, kick each other, pull hair, etc., my husband and I thought it was awful and our children were taught not to do those things and to use their words to express themselves.

The fact that some people physically fought/fight with their siblings past the age of, say, three, is a failure of their parents to teach them how to deal with conflicts and big emotions in other ways. It's not a natural state of being for children once they are presented with alternatives. If someone has got to adulthood and their go-to response when being annoyed is to lash out physically, something has gone wrong. And if someone has got to adulthood and their go-to response to being annoyed is to psychologically mess with the other person, something has gone wrong.

This situation is so full of gray areas and crossed lines. They're both wrong, though not in equal doses. It's not for me to decide who is "more" wrong. They're both miserable and they both need to get help to break the cycle they're in. And yes, I blame the parents quite a bit for this whole thing. Freaking teach your kids to be civil to each other for heaven's sake. It requires hands-on parenting but it's not hard. And the pay-off at the end is getting adult siblings who like each other, can lean on each other in hard times, and who will treat other people in their lives with civility and love.
posted by cooker girl at 6:55 AM on May 25, 2018 [24 favorites]


This part of the exchange, for what it's worth, is what pushed me over into the camp of "mutually abusive and toxic": "I know I shouldn't have kept provoking her by hanging around and running my mouth. I did use a gendered insult (b), which I apologised for immediately, doesn't make it better but it happened. Otherwise, I may not have been abusing her verbally as such but I was definitely calling the acceptability of her behaviour into question insistently, as opposed to just apologising, grabbing her stuff for her and hiding. I tried to remain calm. At one point I caught hold of her jacket, released it and then apologised for touching her."

He follows her around, calls her a bitch, grabs her jacket.

I just know from experience that it takes a . . . super human amount of effort to ignore that kind of emotional and physical abuse. And grabbing her and following her is physical abuse. That does not make her hitting him right, and that's not to discount the experiences of other people here who have been physically abused. But what he describes is abusive.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:12 AM on May 25, 2018 [42 favorites]


I dont think saying 'you have the power to stop contributing to this dynamic' is the same thing as saying 'you deserved this.'
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:22 AM on May 25, 2018 [34 favorites]


The poster repeatedly noted that he knew what he was doing was wrong, but he kept at it anyway, or he would do the thing and then immediately apologize but keep on taunting her. He essentially wouldn't let her leave the house. In the situation, he acted like he could do whatever he wanted to her, with no regard for her feelings, and threatened to call the cops when she fought back while he was still provoking her... I mean...

To his credit, to me he gave a pretty detailed account of the situation that put him in a very negative light. He didn't have to do that. But he needs to be able to control his impulses to provoke his sister to the point of her becoming violent. Clearly it isn't a great situation for anyone involved.
posted by wondermouse at 7:30 AM on May 25, 2018 [1 favorite]



Assuming the OP is lying is also a terrible way to approach any askme question.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that I assume the OP is lying, but I almost always read these complicated interpersonal posts with an eye to how much the OP appears to be shading the story in their favour, whether intentionally or unconsciously. Everybody does that -- it's part and parcel with telling your version of events. So a little self-interested framing is expected and normal but I don't have any particular desire to play yes man to someone and reassure them that they did nothing wrong when it appears they are heavily spinning things in their favour in order to get other people to validate them. "The internet told me I'm not an abuser!" isn't something I want to contribute to.

That's not a comment on this OP and this question in particular, though. I didn't read that AskMe independently of this MeTa.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:36 AM on May 25, 2018 [10 favorites]


"I dont think saying 'you have the power to stop contributing to this dynamic' is the same thing as saying 'you deserved this.'
posted by showbiz_liz

I specifically wanted his takeaway to be that he needs outside help because he is now a significant participant in the cycle of abuse within the household. I did not want his takeaway to be which "CYA" tips would work on his parents.

Statistically, we all know it only gets worse and spills into future intimate relationships.

If there's a better way to lead someone like him to help, I'm all ears.
posted by jbenben at 7:44 AM on May 25, 2018 [7 favorites]


I think one problem with this question was that it was hard to tell what really happened. It took me a while to even figure out that the OP had hidden his sister's stuff ("tidying"?). And then there were also discrepancies like this one:

After the first physical contact I kept asking her why she thought it was acceptable to hit me and threatening to call the police if she continued but she was not dissuaded.

I know I shouldn't have kept provoking her by hanging around and running my mouth.


The first sentence makes the OP sound like a person desperately trying to be reasonable, but the second says he was continuing to try to provoke her. It was hard to answer this question because the behavior was so ridiculously childish.

I agree that it's never OK to be physically violent with someone, but I also can't say that the OP bears absolutely no responsibility, especially as it was clear he was being deliberately obtuse in his post. I don't think that saying he is a participant in a horrible dynamic rather than simply an innocent victim is the same as saying that her actions were equivalent to his. And I didn't really see other people saying that.
posted by FencingGal at 8:18 AM on May 25, 2018 [8 favorites]


Does it say somewhere in that thread if the poster is a man or a woman?
posted by Kwadeng at 8:20 AM on May 25, 2018


'm 21m, my sister is 20. Both caucasian, in Australia, attending the same uni.

1st sentence below the fold.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 8:27 AM on May 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


He physically removed himself from this situation and she kept trying to get to him and when she couldn't threatened his possessions.

But if part of what you're doing is depriving someone of their belongings, and you "remove yourself from the situation" in a way that does not involve returning their belongings, you aren't de-escalating. I don't think he deserved to get hit--I won't say nobody ever deserves that but he doesn't seem to be on that level at all! But when people respond to something like this by saying the other party has a responsibility not to make things worse, just checking out of the situation is not always enough. The thing about psychological abuse is that you can totally set up a circumstance where you don't need to be in the room anymore for it to continue. He physically removed himself but didn't say the words "your boots are outside by the door". Why? I'm not really trying to litigate that question here, so much as like--look at how people respond to people describing different kinds of threats and behavior.

Like, I just feel like people are minimizing that this is a thing because violence is deemed to be Worse. It's not that violence is fine, because it's not, but I worry a lot more even now--15+ years later--about a relationship veering into that person trying to ruin my life than I worry about getting hit. Even in the question, he, too, seems to be a lot more worried about things other than whether she's going to hit him again. It's not fine, but it seems reasonable to respond to the question like it's a symptom of a broader situation rather than the main issue. If you focus on only the physical threat, yes, he moved away from it and she kept coming after him and that makes her look super unreasonable, but abuse is often a bigger picture than just who hit who.
posted by Sequence at 8:28 AM on May 25, 2018 [21 favorites]


>Does it say somewhere in that thread if the poster is a man or a woman?

>>1st sentence below the fold.


With the number of other typos in the post, I didn't assume that "21m" was necessarily intended to mean "21, male." Not everyone is even familiar with that shorthand.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:39 AM on May 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


1st sentence below the fold.

Or eighth comment in this thread, even.
posted by Grither at 8:41 AM on May 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


My settings for MyAsk exclude relationship posts, which that is. After trying to participate in some of them, I realized that I have little aptitude for it, and that there are others who are even worse at it than me. So, I just don't even read them any more.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:41 AM on May 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


The dynamic described in the post is an utter mess, but I was disturbed enough by some of the responses to come over here, which I never have before, as this kind of regulation is not my forte. I feel like perhaps we need a better established framework for responding to AskMes that refer to contemporaneous physical violence. I was also very troubled by some of the responses to the recent AskMe about the mother who actually throws things at her toddler children when she's angry. (I almost never think this, but, in both cases, I felt that the gender of the person described as committing violence seriously and inappropriately affected the responses, and it bothered me.)
posted by praemunire at 11:00 AM on May 25, 2018 [24 favorites]


" 'm 21m, my sister is 20."

Ah, I misunderstood that sentence as being an excess of m's.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:54 AM on May 25, 2018


This is why I don't do AskMe anymore, people read questions and see whatever's closest to their own particular baggage, instead of what's actually written there.

and if you read long enough, you'll see a number of the same answerers doing this on the regular, like it's their full time job or something, which is also a bit weird to me.
posted by some loser at 12:12 PM on May 25, 2018 [43 favorites]


...I felt that the gender of the person described as committing violence seriously and inappropriately affected the responses, and it bothered me.

For my part, the first couple of times I read the AskMe OP I also missed the "21m" note and assumed the asker was an older sister, but my initial assessment of this was still of an older bullying sibling who finally pushed it too far and is genuinely terrified because the realization is dawning that the consequences may be different this time. And who isn't expressing worry about future face-punching violence from someone they live with but is literally asking for help figuring out what they're going to say to get out of the situation they created.

As far as my baggage, I was the bullying older sibling, though luckily for me in a family where violence was much less acceptable. Certainly, maybe there are clues I missed more indicative of victimhood on the part of the asker which I would recognize if it had been relatives who were my own bullies. Nothing any of the commenters there or here said convinced me to change my mind, but there was still enough wiggle room with limited information, weird wording, and an anonymous asker that I decided not to respond in the AskMe itself and leave it to people who could do a better job with the escaping domestic violence messages.

Better to take a chance that a bully gets away with some good excuses but still has a victim who has stopped taking their shit, than to take a chance that the asker is someone in genuine danger—male or female—but doesn't get enough of the advice they need.
posted by XMLicious at 1:06 PM on May 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


This is pretty fucked up and I'm with those who are saying that Metafilter needs to reevaluate its relationship with questions like these. An internet forum of opinionated, judgmental randos is not a good resource for defusing violent, dysfunctional relationships. Since this was an anonymous question, I think the best way to handle it would have been for a mod to respond by saying that the question falls outside the scope of AskMe and providing some local crisis-line resources, but there's really no perfect answer here either.
posted by zeusianfog at 1:07 PM on May 25, 2018 [17 favorites]


It's tricky; this has been a food-for-thought case for me, because it's a question I did have reservations about despite choosing ultimately to let through. There's a lot of anonymous stuff that's fine, and some stuff that is a really obvious no-go, and then in the middle we get these borderline situations where the question's a bit of a mess but it seems like there's a core, answerable set of questions in there. I dithered a bit, and broke towards permissiveness, but then it's easy to look at the outcome in hindsight and say "yeah, maybe not so much". Anonymity unfortunately makes it more complicated than if it were someone posting in the clear, where we could directly reach out to say "hey, that needs some reworking so we've nixed it for now".

Anyway, I appreciate the discussion in here; reading over the Ask and this thread has given me some stuff to chew on in maybe nudging a bit the line on approve-or-don't for future anony asks that land in similar territory.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:15 PM on May 25, 2018 [16 favorites]


Just nthing some others above: I noticed the "21m," but assumed that "'m [sic] 21m, my sister is 20" was the common typo someone makes when typing quickly (or when upset) so that the sentence winds up with an "m" instead of, or in addition to, a comma. I mean, there's clearly at least one typo in that sentence, and "I'm 21, my sister is 20" makes a lot more sense than "I'm 21 male, my sister is 20." I actually don't think it's reasonable to assume that the OP is a man, and in fact, I'm thinking this is far more typical a dynamic between sisters than between a sister and brother.

I'm not sure it matters, but I don't think the "This is a man, duh, why don't you pay more attention" is necessarily the right response here.
posted by holborne at 1:21 PM on May 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


I'll also note just as a point of reference that as the person professionally responsible for having read the question carefully, I also missed the sort of mussy "21m" bit in my read-through, and had modeled it in my mind as two sisters for whatever reason. Probably that I have two older sisters who got up each other's shirts a lot growing up.

Mostly on that front I think it's probably reasonable that we just acknowledge both that:

1. There was a reference to the asker being male, so it's understandable that folks who picked up on that detail factored that into their read and might understandably assume from there that other folks had worked from the same model, and

2. It was apparently not hard to miss that detail, so it's understandable that folks who were treating the asker as essentially gender neutral and running with a soft assumption in one direction or another might understandably feel like assumptions about their own assumptions about the question were unfair.

It's a messy detail in a messy question, so mostly I think we'd be better off cutting mutual slack on it and not over-worrying that aspect of the situation.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:33 PM on May 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


I’m very tired of trying to litigate this question. There’s no truth to be gotten at, and I’m tired of the speculation.

What’s surprising is that there’s an intense level of scrutiny that I wouldn’t have expected in a discussion of abuse, even in an intensely unhealthy relationship. People are looking to assign blame, and arguing with each other about what the real victim-blaming is, that this could in fact be the worst kind of serial abuser just taking advantage of the fact that his victim finally snapped. Look, I had an extremely manipulative older sibling, so I get it. But we don’t know what happened, and it sucks to see people responding to a request for help so uncharitably. I’d rather take the risk that we as a site will sometimes buy a false account of a situation than to pass judgment on what REALLY happened.

And you know, whoever posted that question is probably reading this thread too. I wonder what it’s like to ask for help after you were punched in the face, and then see a bunch of people talking about how that was actually an understandable reaction to your behavior.

I think the takeaway from this thread should be that this site is very poorly equipped to handle this kind of question. Like questions pertaining to suicide, I think it would be better to just point people to professional domestic abuse resources in their country. I don’t know exactly where the line should be drawn, but this is clearly well past it.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:42 PM on May 25, 2018 [29 favorites]


Adding m or f after age to signify male or female is VERY common internet practice for 15 to 25 year old posters on the interwebs. I'm not saying this is not a typo. But I immediately read it as ''I'm 21 male...'' personally.
posted by eisforcool at 1:44 PM on May 25, 2018 [6 favorites]


I just would like to see more sensitivity toward someone who has experienced violence and is, in his words, “shocked” by it. I think a measured response is warranted and that an exasperated tone toward the OP could be damaging in cases like this.
posted by delight at 2:08 PM on May 25, 2018 [6 favorites]


I also think it would be sad if people didn’t feel comfortable seeking help for violent situations here because they were afraid they would be chided for their role in it.

I think it’s fine to comment on the dynamics at play, but it needs to be done sensitively.
posted by delight at 2:18 PM on May 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


Honestly I think AskMe mostly does a pretty good job with domestic violence questions. I just think that this particular question was written in such a muddy way that people had to do a lot of their own interpretation and filling in of blanks, which means that people were essentially answering different questions. Some people saw a victim of abuse, other people saw mutual antagonism, and others still saw an abuser who had pushed his victim to the breaking point. All of these interpretations seem reasonable to me given the way the question was written, which to me means that as written, it was unanswerable. I can even see why some people would think that their own interpretation is very clearly the only correct one.

The whole thing just needed to be reworked, if you ask me.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:59 PM on May 25, 2018 [15 favorites]


I also think it would be sad if people didn’t feel comfortable seeking help for violent situations here because they were afraid they would be chided for their role in it.

If both the asker and sibling had gotten to the point of hitting, rather than just sleeve-grabbing, we wouldn't refrain from chiding the asker for their role, would we? But it also doesn't seem workable to say that only hitting can be chided. (Would we/should we not criticize an asker who has acted violently themselves? I had assumed we would and should, though certainly still with compassion, but maybe I'm wrong.)

I received a more severe facial injury than a bruise from a sibling I thought I'd fully restrained during a non-hitting making-their-life-hell session, and I was pretty shocked when it happened, but I can testify that I definitely deserved to at least be chided for what I was doing. Whether or not we should do the chiding on MeFi, when it's really that sort of situation I don't think people should feel too sad about the chiding.

To reiterate, if the asker is reading this and genuinely feels in danger of further violence, you need to get away and follow the other advice people are giving. Even in case you were to feel 100% responsible for the situation described in the post, that can't stop you from ensuring your safety.
posted by XMLicious at 3:36 PM on May 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


I wasn't 100% sure that the 21m meant male, but the thing that made me more likely to think that was true was the fact that the poster and their sister are only a year apart but the poster got a come-to-Jesus talk about hitting but the sister still doesn't seem to have? But it's the kind of case where I wouldn't stake my life on it but I feel pretty comfortable with the idea that people are assuming that's what it means and if the original asker is nonmale they could ask a mod to update with that information. Just as a separate potential issue from the other stuff. I don't think it's good to assume gender if it isn't stated, but if you somehow typo something that makes people think you're a dude and you aren't, it's not like anon has no methods of letting you respond.
posted by Sequence at 3:36 PM on May 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


Adding m or f after age to signify male or female is VERY common internet practice for 15 to 25 year old posters on the interwebs. I'm not saying this is not a typo. But I immediately read it as ''I'm 21 male...'' personally.

Yep. This is standard practice at the advice subreddits.
posted by palomar at 3:57 PM on May 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


It is impossible, short-sighted, reactive/projective, and even dangerous, to, in any which way, from a recitation of events, told by and from a single person of a two-person conflict situation, to assume a position, determine intent/motive of the asker, and proceed in any way that doesn't take into account that this is a single occurance in a 20 year ongoing dynamic of which the receiver of the statement of events knows nothing of, and offer any non-critical non-emergency advice regarding anything but personal safety at the time it is occurring, or in other words this can only be handled ethically by a person trained in crisis management.
We simply do not know and cannot tell, therefore cannot ethically intervene in any other way, who the true antagonist is ie. (In the most of an antagonistic light of terms myself here...) the psychological warfarist vs. physical intimidator. They're both clearly in the wrong. But who is the true instigator and who holds the power here, we don't know, it could even be/involve the parents ffs, this question is purely loaded and triggering in all kinds of ways.
posted by OnefortheLast at 8:07 PM on May 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


I will add that my personal interview by a trained crisis and abuse worker, at a time I was leaving an unhealthy relationship, for them to determine whether abuse had occurred, was 6 hours in total, and by the end I had realized was itself, one hell of a psychological mindfucking triggering minefield, because they have to present, phrase and ask the questions in a way that rules out people lying and manipulating in order to further abuse their victims by abusing the powers of the legal resources and safety systems in place.
posted by OnefortheLast at 8:22 PM on May 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'll go one step further out even here:
Determining who's in the position of power here, still doesn't necessarily identify "the bad guy."
Abusers can legitimately not know that what they are doing is abuse due to being victims of abuse themselves, socialized behavior and conditioning, maladaptive behaviors, environmental/cultural influences etc...
In some cases, there are no bad guys, only victims, who need outside help, examples, intervention, resources etc.
In some cases, there are, but that is the domain of law, of which we also can't legally or ethically assume a position or advise based on a single complaint, or post like this.
posted by OnefortheLast at 8:54 PM on May 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


[A few deleted ... I understand that this is triggering memories of trauma for some of you, but this metatalk is not an appropriate place to litigate the asker's behavior based on a messily-written anonymous Ask.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 9:55 PM on May 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


Agree to disagree with the deletion of my posts, but this proves my point as to why and how the posters use of psychological warfare is so deadly effective:
We have mega-bandwaggoning of litigation happening against the posters sister's behaviour but the poster is protected by and from any (of his own description and admissions no less) litigation himself.
posted by OnefortheLast at 10:03 PM on May 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


Deadly effective against...whom? In what way? We are not, in fact, constituted a panel to sit in actual judgment on the original poster. We cannot award him(?) or his(?) sister some sort of victory and suitable compensation. Nor do we have any sort of mechanism for doing so. We don't even have a mechanism for forming and identifying a consensus position. What we do have is a risk that our individual opinions, carelessly or thoughtfully offered and on the basis of very limited information, may inadvertently serve to encourage a person to remain in an abusive situation at their own peril, when there could already be great pressure to do so. (I don't have the will to check back through the archives to see if this ever happened in Mefi's more bro-friendly days in a scenario where Mefites would now universally agree that a situation was abusive and the asker should prioritize her own safety, but let's just say I wouldn't be surprised if it were the case.)

The urgent question is not, therefore, whether we accurately discern and agree on who, if anyone, is "right" in this situation. I am accepting the poster's description (not his characterization) of the behavior involved at face value, and I am asking whether, given that description, posting such an AskMe runs a risk of doing harm well beyond the value of the posting. Should the involvement of contemporaneous physical violence be a bright line?
posted by praemunire at 11:56 PM on May 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


Deadly effective against...whom? In what way?
Against all that it is intended for by the perpetrator. Psychological warfare doesn't just serve to gaslight its victim, it also gaslights all those who are brought into It, all of those who observe it, and all of those who have any power over it or into it.
Ie...
may inadvertently serve to encourage a person to remain in an abusive situation at their own peril,
This exactly. Did the overwhelming consensus taken by mefi users and admin, serve to encourage his sister to both be identified and identify herself as the abuser, by the perpetrator, his parents, his and her support network, all internet strangers, and those who have power over the moderation of them sharing their opinion, information and access to resources/ help, and thus cause her to remain in an ongoing psychological warfare situation.
Psychological warfare is only in it's beginning stages when the perpetrator is an active participant. Next, it transfers the power of abuse to increasingly large circles around the victim, and then to the victim themselves. Then the victim simply defeats themselves as onlookers feed their gaslight confirmation biases, and the perpetrators hands have long since been washed clean.
posted by OnefortheLast at 12:21 AM on May 26, 2018



The urgent question is not, therefore, whether we accurately discern and agree on who, if anyone, is "right" in this situation
I am asking whether, given that description, posting such an AskMe runs a risk of doing harm well beyond the value of the posting.


I am in total agreeance, hence my previous post raising ethics and responding to any non urgent crisis situion, without possessing crisis training, well after the fact.

Should the involvement of contemporaneous physical violence be a bright line?

The first point does not necessarily equate or support this one.
It is very easy for people to apply a RIGHT/WRONG label to physical violence that we can all agree upon.
However, the whole concept of psychological warfare is that no one but the antagonist is even aware of the fact that it is going on, even when, as in this post for example, the perpetrator describes and admits to executing several tactics in succession to achieve the result of physical violence displayed towards him. That's a much more difficult concept to identify and apply a RIGHT/WRONG label to, because your focus is already on the easy to identify label and has already looked past the diffiult to identify one, and your own emotional internalized automated reaction/aversion vs. Your slower responding thought processing psychological one screams a lot louder at you for you to "hear" or take notice of to begin with.
posted by OnefortheLast at 12:45 AM on May 26, 2018


I don’t know how you’ve gone from arguing that it is impossible and irresponsible to draw conclusions about guilt or innocence from this question (“We simply do not know and cannot tell, therefore cannot ethically intervene in any other way, who the true antagonist is”), to arguing that this is a case of gaslighting and abuse in which we are all bending to the will of a master manipulator.

This needs to stop. That question should never have been approved, and I don’t think we’re helping anyone by continuing this thread.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:03 AM on May 26, 2018 [17 favorites]


A couple deleted, and also agreeing with shapes that haunt the dusk. To whatever degree we might be able to discuss actual site concerns, let's stick to that lane, please, rather than trying to make this into some sort of trial.
posted by taz (staff) at 1:18 AM on May 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


I think all the comments about being mindful and I would say, kind, and the question of whether these questions are appropriate for the site are good ones.

However I have a bit of a different perspective. As I was going through a multi-year process of coming to terms with Childhood And Related Shit, I used to first read a lot of recovery-type stuff online and I also participated in some listservs and before that newsgroups where I would sometimes tentatively put forward questions.

I often got responses I didn't expect, some of which assumed really out there stuff about me, my motivations, and my family. Every now and then they made me cry too, when they were directed right at me. And when people shared their own experience, sometimes it related, and sometimes I could see where their own experience was interfering.

In aggregate though, they revealed what was at the time really helpful information about how other people think, about me, about my words, about how things should be, about their own experience.

I totally cop to having a fondness for these kinds of questions and I tackle them as both paying it forward, and also because for me, the Internet was where I was able to first start to get past my own mental walls. Also I don't have expertise in food safety or coffee-making. :)

Now, see, I've just done what some people consider A Cardinal Sin on the site which is that I just laid my experience and bias on the table rather than just answering the question.

But when it comes to human relations, I think the lack of absolute answers means, for me, that we're all kind of muddling around. Sometimes it helps just to share perspective and thoughts and experience. Sometimes that's a kind of pile-on and sometimes it's not. I don't personally think it's useful to pretend that there is ever a single answer other than 'seek better help and advice.' I know for me, the Internet phases of my investigations usually were kind of about me figuring out whether something was a big deal and I needed help or not, and so...maybe it was actually the overall tone that helped more than anything else. But of course that was me.

I do think being mindful of people's vulnerabilities, both the asker and the site membership, is a good thing and some questions are inappropriate and some people are in very vulnerable places.

My sense (again, a total guess) in that question was that the person, whatever the truth, was in that place where you just don't know what to do next, and so pretty much any ideas around "what to do next" might help. I see why the mods let it through, but I also see why it was messy and could be triggering and might not be a question they would let through in the future.

I think any answer that includes a degree of empathy and care would be ok. So my long-winded Metatalk response is kind of...I think most people remembered that everyone in that question was a human being and for me that's the big thing... in my experience having been closer to the position of the questioner, the hive mind doesn't always have to be right, as long as it's mindful.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:07 AM on May 26, 2018 [23 favorites]


I think any answer that includes a degree of empathy and care would be ok.

I agree that any such answer will probably do no harm. But I also can't see any answer at all doing any actual good.

The main reason I offered no advice in that thread is exactly because I have observed this kind of dynamic played out up close and personal (not within my own family, for which astonishing piece of luck I am endlessly grateful) and consequently find myself completely unable to sympathise with any of the dramatis personae; that makes me the wrong person to attempt an empathetic response to one of them.

I have also yet to encounter any household in which this is normal behaviour where any amount of written advice from anybody outside would actually make any substantial difference. This shit gets fixed face-to-face or it doesn't get fixed at all. Had I been part of the discussion on whether to let it through the anony queue or not, I would have been recommending not.
posted by flabdablet at 6:40 AM on May 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


FencingGal: "I know I shouldn't have kept provoking her by hanging around and running my mouth."
(...) says he was continuing to try to provoke her. It was hard to answer this question because the behavior was so ridiculously childish.


I had a very different reaction to that sentence. It reminded me of the way that some victims of abuse justify the abuse they're receiving, because they have internalized that they deserve it. It made me very sad.
Doesn't mean my interpretation is necessarily correct, of course.
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:19 AM on May 26, 2018 [10 favorites]


Too-Ticky, I can see that interpretation in the sentence in itself. But he was also at the time following her around while she was looking for stuff he had deliberately hidden.

Wasn’t there an Ask a while ago where a woman wrote that her SO was hiding her computer and other stuff so she couldn’t go to work? I’ve looked for it, but I can’t find it. If I’m remembering correctly, that was called abusive. But I may be misremembering. (I feel I’d better clarify that I don’t think that would excuse hitting someone.)

Also, I don’t completely understand what’s considered litigating here, so I accept that the mods might delete this post.
posted by FencingGal at 8:27 AM on May 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


The thread you're likely thinking of with the stealing of the computer is this one. It was generally agreed to be abusive because he physically abused her and threatened her after the stealing of items (it wasn't just hiding, he often left with the computers and her keys). It seems an entirely different situation for a lot of reasons.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 9:07 AM on May 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


That situation also resulted in a no contact order, so it seems the police and courts found it to be abuse as well.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 9:10 AM on May 26, 2018


Thanks I’m Not Even. Agree that there’s a lot more going on there, but I still wonder how that behavior would be seen if the physical violence weren’t part of the equation.
posted by FencingGal at 9:19 AM on May 26, 2018


If a partner is stealing keys (and the work product of the only employed adult) and leaving with 2 young kids in the house, I still think people would've called that abuse. It's just so fundamentally different than similar aged siblings.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 10:11 AM on May 26, 2018


Man, I would just like to second warriorqueen 100% here. I keep meaning to add something--as she has, I have experienced both putting myself out there to ask for help and also having my partner put themself out there to ask the internet about a conflict with me [not here], which I later stumbled over and recognized myself in. The advice in that particular conflict was, er, largely DMTFA, as I recall, and that stung pretty badly--but doesn't mean that there weren't useful things even for me in that aggregate, let alone my partner.

Human relationships are hard. We're all stumbling through these things, and no one has 100% hard and fast answers. There is no website on the Internet that I know of that can accurately assess a situation like this, in fact, because all you have is a single person's description of a situation--and that description can be spun and twisted and framed many ways. Even people who are trying in good faith to avoid a bias are going to have a perspective on the situation, which will influence their framing. That being said, like warriorqueen I personally have drawn reams of knowledge out of an aggregate of conversations just like this one, and I'd be terribly sad to see us eject them from the room because we, an Internet forum, cannot reasonably hand down 100% accurate and effective answers to relationship issues we can't personally observe. I do think that when we think about things Metafilter does or doesn't do well, it's worth comparing our handling of them to the rest of the internet: is it possible to do them better than we do? (I would argue probably not in this particular case, but ymmv.)

Me, I like a little bit of personal context in a human relations answer. It helps me to understand how strongly to weight the response, and how much stock to put in it. It reminds me that these interactions are human things, not natural laws, and it helps me extrapolate from my situation to whatever situation the answerer is thinking of.
posted by sciatrix at 11:10 AM on May 26, 2018 [11 favorites]


I have also yet to encounter any household in which this is normal behaviour where any amount of written advice from anybody outside would actually make any substantial difference.

Well now you kind of know me! I mean, I’m not arguing that anyone should answer a question they don’t want to. But for me, it did. Not immediately for sure. But it really did. As one example, my family operated quite a bit like the family in Ordinary People and I did not understand that the first response to injury, sickness, or mental illness maybe shouldn’t be a parent’s rage at all the children for not preventing things. Like, I literally basically broke my neck, was strapped to a spinal board, and my mother was raging at me for not having been smart enough to not fall off the bars in gymnastics onto insufficient matting put down by the instructor, and raging at my sister for crying in fear for me. Followed by the silent treatment.

It took dozens of online discussions for me to start to get it. And online worked because I could be calm...in person my shame reflex would kick in, adrenaline would go up, and I really couldn’t hear it. Again, that’s me, but it is my lived experience.

I’m not really sure that is my expectation with AskMe questions anyway...if someone asks for car recommendations and I say don’t reward Volkswagen for lying, I hope that’s heard but I don’t feel like that person has to never buy a VW.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:44 AM on May 27, 2018 [13 favorites]


I don't know if you have siblings, but little kids fight. Especially siblings. I have a younger brother, and when we were little we'd wrestle, punch, kick each other in the shin, trip each other, all kinds of stupid shit. We still loved the hell out of each other (and still do).

Please don't normalise intimate violence. I never physically fought with my sister, and none of my three mixed-gender children have EVER physically fought (in fact, they don't fight, period). I have children in my house constantly and there is NO wrestling, kicking, tripping etc. That behaviour is not healthy or acceptable. My husband WAS brought up with violence from his father that he then directed towards his younger brother - not surprisingly, all three have unaddressed anger issues and unhealthy coping skills.

Some of the comments about this aspect seem to be projecting/conflating things, in multiple directions. There's play fighting and there's fighting. It sounded to me like the asker meant fighting - as in physical violence as an expression of an actual conflict, which I agree is fundamentally not a healthy sibling dynamic. That doesn't account for all instances of, say, "wrestling" though.
posted by atoxyl at 7:45 PM on June 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


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