So. There's a person I dated a couple of years back, who I'm not going to name because the point of this post isn't to leave a black mark on their name forever or any shit like that, who I'm going to refer to as X and with the pronoun they. If you know who X is, great, one of the points of this post is to give people with social context awareness of what the fuck went down. If not, that's fine, you almost certainly don't need to know; if you think you do need to know, PM me or email me and I'll tell you. Comments including X's name will be removed. X's actions and our relationship are not the only point of this post; I also have a lot of thoughts and feelings about social groups handling this sort of situation in general. I can't promise they'll all be correct or useful. I can promise that I've been thinking about and distilling these thoughts for a long time, and I find myself with the anger-clarity to compose them now, so I am doing so.
X raped me. I often will describe things as "sexual assault" when I'm unclear if they're rape, which is problematic for multiple reasons but is also sometimes a tool that survivors use to be able to discuss things at all. This one, I am comfortable naming as rape. We had an explicit boundary; X asked if they could violate the boundary, and I said no. With my words. Multiple times. They kept asking, pressuring me to let them do the thing; I kept saying no. They did the thing anyway. It was not a miscommunication (not that that would have made it awesome or acceptable, but it might have made it a different flavor of bad) --- it was an explicit attempt to pressure me into denying my boundaries so they could get what they wanted from me. I made couples therapy a requirement for any continued relationship, rather than just breaking up with them, because I loved them, because I wanted to believe that it was a mistake, that we could make things work. They were terribly dear to me and we'd been close for years... surely this was something we could get through? I didn't tell most of my friends that they'd raped me immediately because I knew they'd try to stop me from staying with X if I did. X's behavior continued to be sexually coercive, including deliberately transgressing boundaries to test my reactions; they threatened me with self-harm; I did not handle it as gracefully as I might if I were a being of infinite patience and kindness, but I got them out of my house and out of my immediate life. What I could not do was get them out of my social groups, in which during the year we were together they were also sexually coercive to two of my other friends.
They were a member of both my in-person social groups and my not-in-person social groups.
In person, most of our friends ended up saying "Wow, what X did to you was really fucked up, I'm not going to completely cold cut them but I don't really want to talk to them again or have them around," and the others faded pretty fast. I assume they're still friends with X, and that's fine. There was a social group that was my safe haven that X participated in, and to their credit, they have almost entirely stayed the fuck away; they had a social group I was making inroads into, and I let it go, and am occasionally sad about that but, oh well, there are many people in the world who I can be friends with. There are a couple of my in-person friends who I know still talk to them, and there's a certain distance I keep with them, but I also accept this; we're in a small town, there are only so many queers with particular interests around, shit happens. I told those people "look if you think X is going to start a relationship with someone, if you feel comfortable doing so, please offer them the opportunity to sit down with me for 15 minutes at a cafe," and they thought that was reasonable. No one's ever taken me up on this, but that's not really my problem. There was a reasonable thing I could do, and I did it, and afterward there was really not much for me to carry or do.
Not in person, though, in the affinity group that we shared, things were and are much dicier. They continue to go to cons; I haven't gone to a con since our breakup in part because I'm terrified of seeing them. I can't realistically expect them to not go to cons, or not participate in large-scale community activities; but when my friends are being friendly with them, it hurts, and when I see my friends _flirting_ with them, it hurts and it's terrifying. (X has also been sexually coercive toward two other people; they seem to target trans mentally ill folks who have difficulty around their needs and desires. This... describes a lot of people I know, and that's why it's terrifying.) I'm scared of X. I am scared that they will hurt people I care about, or hurt me again. I was scared that they would retaliate against me for telling people what happened, and people who only see me once or twice a year weren't there to see how I looked when I was living with them versus how I wasn't, and so I didn't say much, and people didn't realize that this had happened. (I'm still scared that they'll retaliate for this post, frankly, and... well, I hope I'm wrong. But it's important to me to talk about this, so, I am doing so.) Problem is... when I did start telling people about it, I felt really failed by the community reaction, especially in light of other things going on at the time.
Here's where I start talking more generally about these things.
I've seen tumblr posts saying things like "if you refuse to choose between your friend and their rapist, you are picking the rapist," and I don't think it's quite that simple. At the same time, when people try to take an in-between tack with this sort of thing, I absolutely do feel less safe, and when people act like it's not a big deal I never know whether or not they're trying to keep themselves safe because it's twitchy to discuss, or they don't want to upset me, or they think I'm full of shit, or what. And like, I've talked before in this space about not wanting people's response to my being like "this happened" to totally shift the conversation or suddenly become All About Me because it's kind of twitchy and not usually productive. I've also talked on tumblr about how if 2% of rape allegations are false, treating all of them as true is a good first-pass strategy, but as an only-pass strategy has flaws? And I get why people want to be sure about things and play their cards a little close, especially because in some of these cases X may have told people "yeah rax and I had a really bad breakup, I did some shit wrong but they took it _way_ harder than reasonable because they're crazy" or some shit, who fucking knows. I've watched this happen to other people; I can't even blame them for how they handled it, although I think they were wrong. I think.
But I get a general sense in a couple of my communities that this shit isn't safe to talk about. That it's not okay to ask people to be careful around X, to not want to hear from X or hear about X, that in general how we deal with abusers and rapists is an individual choice and not a collective one. I can't make it a collective one, but I see individualizing this sort of thing as a collective failure. I am not really comfortable with everyone making their own personal decision about how safe someone is, how much of a rapist they are, and acting based on that and having a live and let live attitude toward other people's reactions. On the flip side, I don't want an ironclad banlist or to insist that people with wildly divergent lived experiences be forced to come to agreement and some kind of middle ground. I think that ultimately what I want is to feel supported by my community, to feel believed, and to feel like people will support me in not wanting to be around my abuser, or around other people's abusers who have abused people like me. (Absent significant evidence that I'm lying.) And right now, in the furry community, I do not feel that way, at all.
I've been told that some of why I don't feel that way, and some of why I don't feel that reaction, is because I wasn't up front and loud about what happened to me. I'm not 100% convinced, because I've seen it go poorly for other people to be up front and loud, but here's my stab at doing just that. In response, here's what I want, here's what I think is reasonable to ask for:
- Please warn me if X is going to be at cons I'm going to.
- Please warn other people who are interacting with X in a flirtatious way that they're sexually dangerous; if someone wants to get some level of receipts from me, I'm open to that kind of contact. ((Edited to add based on comments discussion: I see this as primarily important in shared community as an avoiding-a-missing-stair thing. And I know that this has both internal and social costs and isn't always a reasonable thing to ask, but where it is, I think it's important.))
- Please warn me if I'm interacting with other people who are known rapists or abusers, especially but not only in sexualized contexts.
- Please consider not being friends with X, since if you are friends with someone who raped me, there's kind of a ceiling on how much I can trust you as a friend.
- Please, if you decide to engage with X anyway, do your best to keep details from me, unless it's important that I know about them. (It's important that I know about it if your engagement with X is likely to lead to me running into X or X trying to talk to me. Example: "Oh, you probably don't want to come to this party, since X is invited.")
- Please don't make any comments about how I'm taking this hard because of my past experiences of sexual abuse (dating way back) or my mental illness. Please especially don't use those things to brush off my experience, which has happened in the past in my furry circles to me and to other people. Those are reasons that I was targeted for abuse, not reasons that my experience isn't valid.
- If you are a close friend and/or a partner: Please just don't fucking talk to X, and please support me in trying to feel safe from abusers in our circles in general. If you want to try to stop other people from being friends with X, that's awesome, but it's not a requirement. I understand this stuff has both internal and social costs.
- Please accept that, if you aren't able to do these things, I will probably drift away from you.
This entry was originally posted at http://rax.dreamwidth.org/136815.html.