Dear Miss Manners: My brother-in-law has made sexually inappropriate remarks to me on a few occasions. At a family wedding, he hugged me with his full body, touching his private area to my leg. He did not hug with just the upper body portion, as is customary.
After each of the comments, I told him to cut it out. At the wedding, I gave him a very disapproving look and walked away, avoiding him the rest of the time.
He used to be a frequent guest at my house (we live in a different state). When he wanted to come and visit again, I had to insist to my husband that this brother is no longer welcome.
My husband got involved at that point, for the first time — he had refused to do so beforehand, even though all of the events took place while he was present (but not within hearing or seeing distance, except once, which he laughed off). The brother sent me a card apologizing "if anything he did made me uncomfortable." My husband felt that was satisfactory.
There was another family wedding, where I was able to steer clear of him. He did, however, come up to me the next day at a related event to say hi while I was alone at a food table. I said hi and walked away.
My husband tries to "get it," but doesn't really seem to. My sons' reactions are similar, and all have continued their relationships with him just as before. It seems like the problem just falls on me whenever there are family get-togethers.
Am I obligated to accept the apology to keep the peace? Should my husband and sons support me more? Do I need to put this behind me, even though I'm now on edge even at the prospect of having to be around him? I prefer not to go at all, whenever possible. My sister-in-law (his wife) wonders why I'm not as friendly with her.
“I’m sorry that you felt uncomfortable” is not an apology for one’s behavior, only for the victim’s reaction to it. Miss Manners is in agreement with you that it is not enough — particularly when the misbehavior occurred multiple times.
This man would have to show you through his actions that he had reformed, and Miss Manners does not blame you for not wanting to give him the opportunity.
Worse, as is grossly typical of these situations, you are now the one who is considered the nuisance, not he who committed the indiscretion. Your husband should speak to his brother frankly — accompanied by the threat, if necessary, of explaining to his wife why you have been distant.
If your husband is not willing to get involved for your sake, perhaps you can persuade him to do so on behalf of his sons. Surely he does not want your brother-in-law’s behavior — or his own complicity — imitated in the future by them.