My sister's husband put a loaded gun to her head

Now she says everything's fine, no worries, we should be nicer to him!

Published June 16, 2011 1:01AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

My family is in a difficult situation and needs some advice on how to best help my sister. My sister has been married for two years and within weeks of the wedding her husband and mother-in-law started emotionally and verbally abusing her. I don't believe there has been any physical abuse but her husband has pointed a loaded gun at my sister's head.

My parents and I want her to leave him before something tragic happens but she is an adult and legally we can't lock her up in a shed in the backyard until she comes to her senses.

The problem is currently my sister and her husband are getting along great according to them. He has said he recognizes he was wrong and that my sister was wrong but that they now have had a good relationship for two months. At this point we are viewed as the problem because we don't believe my sister is safe and because we won't be nice to her husband. I could feel better about them working on their relationship if they were in counseling but that option has been dismissed.

My problem is until my sister comes to her senses or time proves me wrong and he has changed I can't treat him like nothing has happened. My sister insists that part of their problem stems from us not being nice to him but I don't know how to be nice to someone WHO POINTED A LOADED GUN AT MY SISTER. What should my interactions with my sister's husband be? I want to kick the crap out of him but that's not currently an option so please, please tell me, should I fake kindness while keeping my eyes open for abuse, or continue the cold shoulder?


Dear M.,

Have you got a shed to lock her up in until she comes to her senses?

Seriously, when the life of a loved on is at stake, urgent action is the only prudent course. Forget trying to persuade your sister. This requires outside help. Go directly to a shelter for battered women. There you will meet two kinds of experts: those who have studied this phenomenon and those who have been its victims. Between the testimony of the victims and the wisdom of its scholars, you can chart a course of action.

To get an overview of services available, look here. Resources state by state are listed here.

That's really about all there is to say. How should you treat her husband in the meantime? Ask the experts who've been through this kind of thing. They will have helpful suggestions.

I could say more, but this is not a topic that brings out the writerly impulse. All this topic brings out is the impulse to lock her up in a shed until she comes to her senses.

Seriously, even allowing for cultural differences, pointing a loaded gun at your wife's head is a deal breaker.

You can't just sit on this. If you feel like you're overstepping, think of it this way: All you're doing is consulting the experts. It's the only prudent thing to do, and it's prudent to do it immediately.

Now get a move on.

Citizens of the Dream

What? You want more advice?


By Cary Tennis

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