Who was he?
The question that so many people want the answer to. Who was this man—these men, who hurt me. Why don’t I name them, report them. Surely that would give me the justice I deserve, let the mob have them, and sit back and watch the chaos unfurl. Why don’t I write his new partner? I have several mutual contacts, I could get a hold of her if I wanted to. Why not warn her about the kind of man she is with? These are questions from people who do not understand how complicated an accusation can be, and more importantly, the importance of not only being a sympathetic victim (I wasn’t) but also him being a sufficient monster (he isn’t.) More on that later…
I remember when I first began to tell people I was unhappy with my would-be rapist. It was as though, other people were invested in my being happy *staying with him* even if I wasn’t actually happy *being with him.* Friends would remind me “but you had a crush on him for like, your whole life!” Maybe I had, but an important distinction between a crush on your friend and finally dating the guy is that one of them is almost entirely built on expectation, and lives solely in your mind, and the other is built on experiences, and lives mostly in your apartment.
Yes I did have a crush on him forever, and dating him for a fortnight cured me of it completely. This was very difficult for people to grasp. I suspect it is because they had a crush on my relationship, and their expectations and minds eye had constructed a cute fairytale romance where the two artsy weird kids that were attached to each other through their teens that everyone thought made an adorable pair had finally figured it out and were together. Which, in your mind seems sweet and worth saving, but in reality I was the girl doing all his homework while he listened to my records, and eventually I was the adult in grad school starting a business and he was the guy who tried to do a cartwheel in her living room and broke the fridge.
In high school I was not connecting with the other kids and constantly finding any excuse to leave the town I was forced to live in. I was writing letters to people in other cities and learning code at night myself and talking to guys in bands on the west coast on ICQ and bored as fuck at school and bored as fuck at home and couldn’t figure out why no one invited me to parties—except one person. He was that person. And so I attached myself to him because at a high school level we weren’t so far apart in our discourse. He was reading always, and I was reading always, and so we would sit and talk about the shit we were reading. Big topics for 15 year old heads: euthanasia, white supremacy, intoxication culture, sexual liberation, feminism, Zapatista, anti-fascist action, animal liberation, borders, police, the government and whatever the fuck Noam Chomsky was talking about. Add to that my incessant need to make things and his desire to have custom stuff and it was a teenage match made in heaven, because we were both really fucking new, and it was easy to connect when everyone is on level 1.
Another difference when you are on level 1, when you meet people who aren’t into those politics, they are on level 1 too of whatever bullshit they are going to be about, so even if you aren’t really connecting, the water is an inch deep, so, it is low stakes. So when I decided to give up on my initial crush on art boy best friend and instead date a low level weed dealer at my high school who kept getting put in the back of cop cars, drove his step-dads truck, and was very very cute, we were able to sort it out because we were 16. He was brutally catholic, and really sexually stunted, listened only to R&B, wore nothing but fubu, forgot every birthday, holiday, important anything, refused to spend time with any of my friends, and we made it work because we were 16. Whatever weird shit he said about “I can’t cum on my future wife” I would write off—”okay weirdo, see you at school on Monday.” Twice I started dating him again because I wanted to hang out with his sister or mom. By the time I left for university I had dated my very cute weed boy like 7 times, never for more than 12 weeks, and each time the water got deeper, and the differences more pronounced. I remember the last time we broke up he was mad I had accepted an offer to go to university, saying “I don’t want a girlfriend who’s smarter than me” and I said “I have terrible news for you about the last few years…”
So why is a crush I had when I was 16 treated as a binding contact when I am a graduate student and he is… still on level 1? And why was it so shocking for me to bring it up to my friends that it just wasn’t connecting now, when I was just out of a 5 year relationship with a perfectly matched person, and writing my graduate thesis, and he was unemployed and living at home, and didn’t know how to send email. The reality is that if I hadn’t felt some duty to really see it through for the sake of some pact or promise I had made before I even understood what a relationship really was—back when I also thought I loved a cute weed dealer with a truck who was opposite to me in every meaningful way, I could have skipped the worst of it. The tightening of the fist was where things got bad. The more I tried to wriggle out without hurting anyones feelings, or losing any friends, the more he tightened his grip, using emotional manipulation, coercion, and eventually just not giving a fuck because I was going to be pissed off no matter what happened. Why would everyone have asked me if I was joking if I had gone back and dug up that old stoned catholic flame and not this drunken artistic one? It’s a question I still ask myself—and more importantly a lesson I really want to put out there for the teens who think that the feelings they have now are in anyway binding. They are not, for good good reason. Let that shallow love be what it is, and leave it where you drop it. There is a saying “you can’t go home again” well, you can’t go to prom again either.
Who was he?
I ask people who ask me this why it matters to them. Usually they rattle off some paragraph about “wanting to not unknowingly support him” or “wanting to make sure they aren’t his friend on Facebook” or “don’t want to follow him on Instagram” etc etc. But when I say to them “you aren’t” it changes into the designed-to-guilt-you-into-giving-me-a-name “community safety” angle and the wanting to make sure others don’t unknowingly go where he is. I follow that with the very true statement that I have known him since he was 10 years old, and have watched his pattern of abuse since puberty and assure them that he isn’t an intentional or cognizant predator—meaning, he doesn’t see his behaviour as predatory, and therefore isn’t setting out to prey on any vulnerable community members. His style is and has always been, become wasted, become horny, locate friend who will forgive him the next day, inflict horny-ness on friend, be filled with remorse, self-deprecate, beg forgiveness, never mention it again once sober. A random girl at a bar isn’t a known risk—will she forgive him later? He selects women with whom he has built some trust, banked some good will with, endeared himself to. Because he doesn’t consider that he is about to hurt them, but he knows that if they aren’t into it, they likely won’t destroy him over it either. He knows the other men there are all his best friends since he could piss standing up, and that they won’t hold him to account either, and so this is the singular space when he can prey upon anyone, and so, there is no public risk, and any woman who has known him for any length of time, has been privy to this. If you aren’t already his friend, you aren’t at risk. And if you are his friend, you already know. But even if he was a danger to other women, that I feel his reaching out to me, or my old friends, as dangerous to my health and my safety, is enough of a reason to keep it to myself. Survivors aren’t required to put ourselves at risk, both legally and otherwise, to make safe the community. If he were to harm someone else, that is solely and entirely his responsibility, not also mine for keeping his name to myself. Survivors don’t owe the community the further martyrdom service of throwing caution to the wind to protect others from some dude like he’s a tiger waiting to pounce. I have messaged a lot of people I have seen get close to men I know to be abusive from my own personal experiences. I refuse to take any guilt or blame for his actions because he just so happened to hurt me first. I do not owe anyone a name.
Further to the “community safety” angle—I suspect a lot of the time is a desire to know the underbelly of the city—the men on the blacklist—even the most secret of secret ones, like my rapist who I never name. The thing is though, and this is what is so funny about the cloak and dagger around who my rapist is, if you DO know him, or me, for more than the last decade, it’s not a secret and never has been. You could tell from every single post, who it is. I named him internally in my social circle for a number of years. It’s only a “secret” to everyone now because I had to make all new friends and contacts after I outed him the first time so forgive my reluctance to ride that fucking trolley to isolationville again.
Who was he?
Does it change it for you? If I say he was some known scumbag who ran roughshod over the community for the last 20 years, would you feel better or worse? If I say the name and you think “Ive never even heard of him” better or worse? If I say the name and he sues me, do you donate to my gofundme? Do you tweet about what an asshole he is for suing his survivor? Better or worse? If I say who he is, and you look him up and he is handsome, and level headed, with an old book under his arm, and he doesn’t seem the type, does it change it for you? If he looks like a nightmare, a drunken greasy ashtray, does it change it for you?
I don’t name him because it changes nothing for the better for me. If I name him, I restore him to my story in a way I have no control over. Other peoples assumptions about him, their experiences with him, their like or dislike of him will all start to seep in and tint my truth to match someone else expectations about it. Add to that he seems to have become a much better person in the last few years. As someone who knew him a very very long time and very well, I can see the changes and I believe they are sincere. Dragging him backwards will not make anything different for me, but it may make things different for the women he presently knows, it will make things different for the people he is responsible for. And I don’t think that the benefit to me (marginal at best) is worth the risk to the people around him now, because I have no way of knowing or predicting the outcome should I go throw a lot of mud around the room.
This story is mine. I will tell it how I choose to tell it, in the detail I wish to tell it, with the individuals I choose to include. It’s too late for him to play a role in my healing. It is too late for him to return what he stole, if he even could. The path to him being a better person went straight through me for 15+ years. It fucked me up over such a long continuum at a time when I was still discovering the world, my sexuality and myself, and it crossed back over me after significant breakups, when I began my business, during insecure walks home and crushing self-doubt. As much as I would like to believe that he could unweave some of it, I don’t think its possible. I was the filter that caught everything bad inside him on his path to being someone better, and the results are mine to sort through alone.
Who is he?
It doesn’t fucking matter.