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The question

I was assaulted by my brother’s girlfriend. He and I are very close to each other and one year into their relationship, she was at her breaking point. After I came to his house per his request (he didn’t forewarn her and she was very irate) she bludgeoned me, passing it off as a broken tree branch hitting my head. I suffered a bad concussion. It took me a year to realize it wasn’t an accident as the effects of the head injury got so bad. If I charge her, my brother will never forgive me. I told him what really happened, but he didn’t believe me. I’m also afraid of her coming after me again if I do charge her. I believe she is dangerous. He is so in the dark, though. She’s weird, insecure and very controlling with him. My question is: Should I lay charges? I feel like I should but I freeze, fearing my brother will never realize the truth and hate me. Can you please help me decide the right thing to do?

I’ve fallen for someone who’s unwilling to commit. What should I do?

My brother-in-law makes hurtful comments about my son’s weight. How do I deal with him?

I quit smoking, but my husband refuses to support me. What do I do?

The answer

Do as I say, not as I do.

I let a pretty stunning blow go, once. Just shrugged it off and moved on.

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Maybe I goaded this guy, a bit, into hitting me. We were sitting in the backyard of this stockbroker’s house, having dinner, right next to where his brand new top-of–the-line BMW was gleaming and glinting in the moonlight, obviously on display for our ooh-ing and aah-ing admiration.

He was bragging how it was the “fastest production model,” practically a race car, how he liked to take it to the track and race it etc.

My wife and I had a dinged-up nine-year-old second-hand Saab. I got a wild hair and said: “I don’t know, Ben, I bet our Saab could beat that car in a race.”

He turned two blazing eyes upon me, his brain obviously roiling with things to say. Finally, through clenched teeth: “Do your research, Dave.”

“I don’t know, Ben, the Saab is a turbo. Is your car a turbo?”

“Do your research, Dave. Just ... do your research.” Barely able to contain his irritation.

Why did I poke the bear? Go ask it on the mountain. For my own amusement, I suppose. And his car was kind of bugging me.

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Later, he and I were on the front porch smoking and talking about the movie Fight Club. I said something to the effect of how I understood the movie’s premise that getting hit once in a while can wake you up, toughen you up.

“How would you feel if I hit you right now?” he asked me.

He was drunk by this point.

“I don’t know, Ben, really. I ...“

Bam! He clocked me, hard, on the jaw, with the meat of his palm. Really rang my bell. I saw stars. My jaw felt like it had been loosened.

“Okay,” he said. “Now you hit me.”

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No. I thought. You hitting me: That’s where this story ends. I did tell his wife later. Other than that, though, I let it go.

I shrugged it off at the time, although now I see it for what it was: an assault. And I suppose I could’ve pressed charges, but I obviously chose not to in order to keep the peace.

But as I say: Do as I say, not as I do. Yours sounds like the much more serious attack. I saw stars, got a little rattled. You sustained a serious injury: a concussion. The fact she “bludgeoned” you with anything that could be mistaken for a tree branch – all because she wasn’t expecting you to pop by – is outrageous and even a little fantastical.

I hope you aren’t telling me any nose-stretchers or what Cockneys call “porky pies” (rhyming slang for lies). Part of the conceit of this column is I take everything people tell me at face value, so if you are telling me the truth here’s what I’d do:

Start with going to your brother and telling him she needs psychiatric help – now rather than later.

If, for some reason, he refuses or continues to refuse to believe you, then I would retain legal counsel who can advise you much better than I can about what the next steps should be.

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And don’t worry too much about upsetting your brother. First, if he’s willing to take the side of his girlfriend, who gives his sibling a concussion for no good reason, he is unworthy of the moniker “brother." Second, you’ll be doing him a favour, because his paramour may do him harm some day.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to damage@globeandmail.com. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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