Sibling Violence: My Struggle to Stop Hating My Abusive Brother

Written by Catherine Braun

faith_siblingviolenceI hated my brother. He teased and tormented me relentlessly. I was only ten. My hatred buried itself deep within me, like a worm eating holes in my child’s heart.

Maybe it began with typical sibling rivalry – a two-year-old boy dumping his new baby sister out of her bassinet, expressing displeasure over her nervy intrusion. I realize now that he had legitimate emotional concerns of his own. Nevertheless, his unacceptable actions toward me persisted for years. Unchecked, malice crept into his heart like a weasel into a hen house. I became the target of his aggression.

Screaming for justice

My memory categorizes the assaults by residence. The earliest serious injury occurred in my first home, high on a hill overlooking the ocean where the vista called for serenity. When I was four, for reasons I can’t remember, my brother picked up a piece of scrap iron and split open the back of my head. I screamed for justice from my parents. None came.

When I was eight we moved to the country into a rental property while our new home was being built. The Dutch doors, divided in half across the center, fascinated me. I spent endless hours incorporating those doors into fantasy play – a storefront, a cage at the zoo, sections of door opened and closed at my will. One day my parents left us unattended; my brother burst through those doors. Wielding a mop handle, he delivered a crushing blow, raising a bleeding, purplish egg on my forehead.

“Look what he did!” I bellowed later that afternoon. My mother failed to carry through with effective discipline. My father ignored the incident, as he did all the others. He was an abuser himself. For years, all of us watched him abuse my mother physically and emotionally.

Our new home was not finished, but we moved in anyway. There my brother finished off the back of my left hand with a nut pick, carving it up with raking stabs. “Don’t you tell anyone at school how this really happened,” my mother warned. By now, I was my own defence. I rebelled and, defying her, told the first person who asked. Nothing changed.

My shinbones collected permanent dents from kicks by hard-toed shoes. My developing breasts ached from closed-fisted blows accompanied by sexually disparaging insults. By now, I knew there was no point even mentioning it. Instead, I not only let the sun go down on my anger but I pulled the shades on my emotions. I locked and barricaded the doors.

By our mid-teens, my brother’s abuse waned and then stopped altogether. The story was no longer about my brother, but about me. My placid and good-natured inborn temperament was what most people saw. However, it covered my white-hot rage, converted to an iceberg, lurking below the surface waiting to rip apart some – any – passing ship. It was there in those icy waters that Jesus met me, not with condemnation, but with love.

A change of heart

I needed to revisit Scriptures I had read as a child, but this time I asked Jesus to help me understand them correctly.

Being a perfectionist, I had tried to follow the law. But Jesus did not expect me to be able to stop hating. He only wanted me to recognize my hatred as sin. I was heading down the wrong path, taking matters into my own hands. He wanted me instead to come to him with it. He is the only one who can make the kind of heart change I needed.

Over time, Jesus helped me see that I believed many things that were untrue. I believed I had to earn God’s favour by being good. I believed that no one cared about me and that no one was interested in protecting me. I believed my needs did not matter. I believed I was not worth loving or protecting.

My childish interpretation of God’s Word caused me unnecessary pain. I now understand that if Scripture does not sound like good news, I am probably not grasping it correctly. Were I to revisit my childhood experience with Jesus, our talk might go like this:

“I hate my brother!”
“Yes, I know. I’m glad you could tell Me so.”
“You mean it’s okay?”
“No, it’s not okay, but you’re okay with Me. Tell me your story, pour it all out. I’ll listen.”

And I’d sob away the hurt, the anger, the feelings of helplessness, knowing that He believed me and understood.

“What your brother has done is wrong. Your parents should have stopped him.”
“I’m sorry this happened to you. I love you.”
“Yet, you know that your hatred is also wrong. You need to admit it to Me and let it go. I’ve forgiven you. Now it’s your turn to forgive him, or your hatred will eat you up. Forgiveness will take time. When you’re willing, I’ll make it possible. Think about it and we’ll talk again soon.”

Encouraged and strengthened, I’d move back to the neighbourhood of my hatred to face what was true about me, to confess it and be forgiven, and let it go. This is what the love and forgiveness of Christ makes possible: to face ourselves at our ugliest, never for a moment losing the assurance of God’s love and forgiveness.

I confronted my brother many years later. To his credit, he acknowledged his wrongs and expressed genuine remorse over the pain his actions caused me. By then I had already uncovered and let go of most of my painful feelings. It was good to hear his confession, but he might have chosen to withhold it. I would have needed to forgive him anyway.

Today my brother doesn’t mistreat me in any way. We are friends and enjoy a playful relationship. Yet there are still times I need to stand up for myself with him. He is often intrusive, pushing beyond reasonable boundaries. I must verbalize my stand: No, you may not do that; no I will not allow that; back off; give me some space. It’s not good for him, for our relationship, or for me to allow behavior that generates fresh anger in me.

Take a look at your life.  How would you describe it? Contented? Rushed? Exciting? Stressful? Moving forward? Holding back? For many of us it’s all of the above at times.  There are things we dream of doing one day, there are things we wish we could forget.  In the Bible, it says that Jesus came to make all things new.  What would your life look like if you could start over with a clean slate?

Living with hope

If you are looking for peace, there is a way to balance your life. No one can be perfect, or have a perfect life. But every one of us has the opportunity to experience perfect grace through a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

You can receive Christ right now by faith through prayer. Praying is simply talking to God. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart. Here’s a suggested prayer:

Lord Jesus, I want to know you personally. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life to you and ask you to come in as my Savior and Lord. Take control of my life. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be.

Does this prayer express the desire of your heart? You can pray it right now, and Jesus Christ will come into your life, just as He promised.

Is this the life for you?

If you invited Christ into your life, thank God often that He is in your life, that He will never leave you and that you have eternal life. As you learn more about your relationship with God, and how much He loves you, you’ll experience life to the fullest.

Henri Nouwen wrote, “Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all of us love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour – unceasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.”

It’s easy to find fault in others. It’s even easier when they have committed a clear sin. It’s much harder to forgive and then to honestly assess – and correct – faults in ourselves. Fortunately, we have a Savior who helps us do just that.


122 Responses to “Sibling Violence: My Struggle to Stop Hating My Abusive Brother”

  • Aldo says:

    Ali and Sandeep, enduring abuse from anyone is a terrible experience, but much worst when sustained from a sibling. I suggest that you both seek Jesus’ help as the writer of the article did. He (Jesus) is the one that made the difference in her life of abusive treatment.

    Father God, I ask that You would draw Ali and Sandeep closer to You and to the Savior, Jesus Christ. Grant them a relationship with You, in Jesus Name I pray, amen.

  • Sandeep says:

    Nowadays people don’t deserve to have their younger siblings around them. They’re such pricks that they will go out of their way to harm their younger ones.

  • Sandeep says:

    Dear Ali!
    I feel your pain, and I feel the pain of other people who are abused by their sibling in any manner or way, in any sort, be it physical, sexual or mental.

    Ali, first of all I am so sorry you have o face that from your own brother. Secondly, I have been desperately searching for something related to sibling abuse on internet and trying to find something related to me, but all I got was just a few girls stories, that initially led me to believe that only girls get abused by siblling and the abuse faced by boys has never been reported. That made me think I am stupid and girlish and that my brother is right that I am just a girl in a man’s body, which totally broke my spirit and disheartened me.
    But on reading several other stories I found it that is not the case. No one has the right to belittle you, or mentally torment you so much that his face remains in your mind for even the most private of your moments that you can’t even enjoy your life.

    I am facing exactly the same as you are by my elder brother. He is only 1 and a half years older and has a Job as a call center employee. All of my family members favour him in everything although he shouts, abuses or torments anyone openly and doesn’t give any respect. And the reason they give for his harsh actions against me is that I do not study or do not have a Job. but reality is that He has been tormenting me as long as I can remember. yes I did have a good time with him but that did not hide his true feelings against me, that is of jealousy and hatred and malice.

    And all the things that you said exactly match his behavior except that he never gave me permanent physical scar. But my mind is totally snapped out.

    When my parents and eldest brother prohibit him from beating me, he turned to mentally abusing me, calling me meaningless names, poking me, and even provoking me, when I react, I am always shamed by him and other family members. That led me to total helplessness, so much that when I was 14 years old I started beating myself up, to get the mental tormenting out of my head. Yes I did some funny things and some mistakes in the past but that are totally forgivable because I am guilty of them and realize them. But my Brother does not want to feel guilty that’s why he hides it by shouting and even more abuses. He is such a greedy person he used to steal parents money and when he eats his own food, he eats from my plate too.
    And he became taller and healthier than me and made me constantly weaker.

    Sometimes I get so fed up by his behavior towards me that I start beating myself in my head and stomach, it hurts so bad later. When he sees me doing that, he even starts beating me, and on other days calls me a psycho and laughs and taunts at me. And goes out of his way to even poke me and provoke me and when I react, bea tthe hell out of me. He treats me like an object.

    I couldn’t believe what was happening with me

    When I was 24 he still treated me like a child calling me names belittling me by forcibly kissing.
    And he did that when I was doing either my College work or Freelance work on PC. In the name and implied ‘brotherly affection’, he used to come to me to disturb in between my work, hinder my work physically and start treating me like child. He didn’t even care that I was concentrating. I shook it off as just mental behavior and his habit, but then he used to come again and again many times in a row. sometimes he used to come and go and pretend he is done with, but returned 5 minutes later to disturb my peace and he did this 10 times in a row while I was working. One day, against my mom’s wished I shifted my PC upstairs because I couldn’t work at all when it was on the same floor as my brothers.
    Apart from that he constantly calls me names even though he knows I don’t like that.
    He makes me get things for him as if I am a servant and not a member of the house. and when I get him his things he still calls me names and doesn’t have any regard.

    He spoiled my life by making me do a course that I didn’t want to do and my parents got scared for my career so they also forced me to do a graduation course against my will. I am so ashamed I couldn’t protest in the right manner and tactics, I almost wasted 4 years of my life doing different things until finally my Mother realized that I am meant for creative field only.

    At first I felt very good that at last I am doing what I am interested in and I am also good at it and appreciated for it. But slowly my brother found other means to torment me by taking control of every situation, causing misunderstanding and not listening to me. No matter what he always scolds me and makes it look like its my fault and gives no chance to explain. That way he makes me guilty and finds a way to torment me and punish me.

    So even while I do my thing, his behavior and mental torture haunts me.

    I thought several times to separate from him but my family comes in between and tells me not to cause divide between him and me unnecessarily. But they do not understand relationship works mutually not with one person totally taking the right of others.

    I am scared how will I ever forget the shame that I had to beat myself, hurt myself even though I knew that, that is not the answer.
    I would not be able to respect myself like I used to do before. And I always think, how will I scope with this socially, how will I sit between my relatives again. And what will happen when I get married, will he mistreat me in front of my wife? And even my children.

    I am thinking of separating and leading a healthy life with a healthy future. But with the looks of it, I will not be allowed to do so. And even if I do I don’t know how I will relieve my mind of it. I’m afraid I will not be able to live fully.

  • Sheila says:

    I’m very. Sorry you all went throug . This I pray that you will find. Gods. Healing

  • Ali says:

    So my mother is always at work from 2pm (6am every time she has overtime, which is QUITE often because we don’t get money from my abusive father), until 10pm. And since my eldest brother learned how to release his aggressions through beating on me, smoking, drinking, yelling and throwing tantrums even at 22 years of age to get what he wants (which my mother gives to him), swearing, and verbally and emotionally abusing me all throughout the years of ages 6 years to 18 years. I also have a twin brother, but he never stands up for me whenever I get a beating. My scars still hurt from when her tackled me to the ground and made a cut on my head. He has done nothing but abuse everything and everyone he knows and has, saying that he’s an adult and that he can do whatever he wants, and that I’m still a child even though I’m 18 years old, and that I’m to answer his commands and respect him no matter what he does to me, and that if I tell the cops that he abuses me, that he will drag me down with him if they catch him (I called the police once for verbal assault and he put on the best act ever, saying that I was mentally ill and that I hadn’t taken my medicine yet, though I’m VERY sane and HAD tooken my medications as requested by my mother, and he got away with everything, and beat me until he got tired and locked me in my room, and his the key under my mom’s bed, where she finds it). I try telling my mom that he NEEDS to leave the house at all costs, but she refuses to do it because he’s her firstborn son and she’s paying for his car that HE was supposed to pay for. And while she’s at work, I’m at home, and my brother’s off from work, he’ll torment me and threaten me. I don’t even know WHY I’m not dead yet.

  • Aldo says:

    Rae, thank you so much for the positive praise of the article, and for the encouragement you gave to those who have suffered abuse from family members.

    May God continue to use you in ministering to others who have suffered similarly.

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