Good Evening, Papabear
My name is Sabrina and I've heard about you from a friend IRL and she told me you can help with problems and this one deals with my brother Kyle. He's going out with a guy named Chris; there's nothing wrong with him and the two of them get along so well. But every time Kyle tries to hug or kiss Chris, Chris seems to shrug away from it. This happened more than once, and Kyle thought he might have done something wrong or was being too pushy.
A few weeks later, Kyle found out that Chris doesn't like to be touched by guys because Chris was physically and emotionally abused by his mother's old boyfriends in the past (nothing sexual happened) and that's why that happened, which caused Kyle to hate himself for being too touchy with Chris and shirk away from him so he won't make him feel uncomfortable.
What can I do to help my brother, Papabear? I don't want to see him upset nor do I want to see Chris upset either; he became like a brother to me.
* * *
Thanks for your letter. It’s so nice to see a caring sister like you. The first thing you need to do to help your brother is make him understand that nothing about this is his fault. Chris’s problems are not his fault, and the fact that he tried to show Chris affection before understanding Chris’s past is also not your brother’s fault. Tell him Papabear told you that it is not his fault and not to feel bad.
Although Chris was not sexually abused, he was physically and emotionally abused and that is just as bad in many ways. Childhood abuse commonly has a negative impact on the abused person’s ability to make friendships and have loving relationships. Many such victims also become abusive, depressed, even suicidal.
You and your brother need to form an alliance to help Chris. First, I’d like to recommend a little reading: Adult Children of Abusive Parents by Steven Farmer. You can also read Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Susan Forward and Craig Buck. You and your brother should both read one or both of these books, then talk about it, and then give the books to Chris to read. Another thing you can do is research local support groups in your area and see if you can get Chris to attend one of them.
Again, Step 1: tell your brother he is not to blame; Step 2: learn about the problems adults face when they’ve been abused and try to educate Chris as well; support him emotionally and try to get him some help.
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.