#393: My friends keep inviting my abusive ex and me to the same parties, despite being asked directly not to.

How great is this tip for dealing with people who invade your personal space? Since there’s no transcript at the link, I’ll tell you:

When someone comes up behind you and is too close, get visibly and audibly startled ( “Aaaah! Yikes!”) and move back. You want people to turn around and look at what’s happening. Then say “Wow, didn’t realize you were so close” or “Whoa, too close!” And let it be super awkward. Don’t apologize or smooth it over. Do it every single time until they get it. I would add: If it’s happening at work, document each time it happens and then report it to HR if they don’t get it. I would also add: Dear Tech Support Guy at My First Job After College, the way you always came up behind us and put your hands on our shoulders for unwanted backrubs when you had to fix our computers made us all hate you and I should have a) screamed and jumped out of my skin and b) reported you to HR for being fucking creepy and awful.

I’m putting today’s question behind a cut because of mentions of past abuse & sexual assault.

Dear Captain Awkward,

Admiral Ackbar saying "It's a trap!"
“No, it’s totally cool if you don’t take sides between me and my abuser. Everything’s cool here. Totally cool.”

When I was 16-20, I was in an awful, horrifying abusive relationship. The guy, let’s call him Suckface, destroyed me as a person through emotional and physical abuse and rape. Now, I managed to get out of that place and rebuild myself. I have an amazing Team Me and they rock. The point of this letter though, is that I’m still friends with a number of Suckface’s friends. We aren’t super close, but I see them every week for a table top game I adore and we have occasional parties where we hang out. I don’t really ever have to have contact with Suckface except when I want to go to the super fun parties, as Suckface get’s invited as well. The whole group knows, as I’ve told them, that Suckface abused me. But they have made it clear they don’t want details and I haven’t offered them much.

I’ve finally managed to ask the group to not have both of us at the same party(because of reading this blog actually!). I (think) I made it pretty clear that I won’t be mad if they invite him instead of me, I just don’t feel safe around him and won’t attend. However, I don’t think the group really gets it. They treat it like he’s just an ex I’m irrationally mad at and don’t want to see. And while they haven’t forced me to interact with him again, they don’t seem to really make much effort on making sure only one of us is going. They still invite both of us.

I get that the lack of care about my boundaries is pretty shitty, but I also know how hard it is to see when your friend is a monster. I just am not really sure how to approach the situation. I don’t need them to not be friends with Suckface, though I might wish that. I just need them to understand he makes me feel unsafe without sounding like some nutty ex.

Awesome Von Tightpants

Dear Awesome,

While you have done a great job speaking up for yourself and asking for what you want, you cannot control who this social group invites to their parties. I mean, you literally cannot control it: You asked them directly to handle invites a certain way and they chose not to do what you asked.

So let’s talk about what you can control.

Is it correct to assume that Suckface doesn’t go to the weekly gaming sessions? If that’s the case, that’s your territory with these folks. Relax, enjoy yourself. If he does show up, leave. And then let the hosts know why you left and ask them if he will be coming to sessions in the future.

With parties, your hosts have clearly declined to invite only one of you to parties and would like you to sort it out for yourself. So, if you see in advance that your ex is invited and planning on attending a party, don’t go. It’s a painful, unfair choice, but it’s the one that is in your power.

But that doesn’t mean that you just fade away.  Depending on how close you are to the host and how receptive they’ve been to you speaking up in the past, send them a personal note. “Thanks for inviting me. I’m so sorry to put you in an awkward position, but I’ve decided to stop going to events where I am likely to run into Suckface. But I do love seeing you, so please let me know if you’d like to get together solo sometime, and I’ll definitely see you at [Game Playing Thing] next week.

Translation: “No, I won’t be there. Here is why. I like you, though.

That’s not being manipulative or rude, but it is about being direct about what you need and giving the hosts some choices about how they handle things in the future. If they are going to choose Suckface, make them consciously choose Suckface. Make them do the emotional calculus. You’ve told them straight up it’s okay if they invite Suckface to things instead of you, so brace yourself if they finally take you at your word and stop inviting you to certain events going forward. That’s potentially hurtful and unfair, but that is one of the outcomes you’ve directly asked for, so in a sense it’s a victory.

A really Pyrrhic one. Because this situation is full of so many traps.

From Wire Inspire
Only rape culture turns not wanting to hang out with the person who abused you into somehow being worse than abusing your girlfriend. Source: Wire Inspire

The history you have with Suckface, and the fact that this group of people know at least something about that history, is the big caveat here. By making it clear that they don’t want to know any of the gory details of what happened between you, they gave you a pretty clear (and crappy) message: “You’re invited as long as you don’t make us really think about the fact that our friend is an abuser and a rapist.” Per their logic, if it were *that* bad, you *would* be mad if they invited him instead of you, ergo it can’t be that bad, ergo they should just keep inviting you both to things and let you sort it out among yourselves (which is actually a GOOD way to handle things when you are friends with two exes absent a history of abuse and nefarious acts), ergo they don’t really have to do any more work or thinking about this, and as an extra special shit bonus, it gets to be kind of your fault for not being more “honest” in the first place (even though they said they didn’t want to know).

Your reasons for avoiding Suckface for the rest of recorded time sound pretty fucking rational to me. But because these people have asked you to never fully share those reasons, they get to maintain a sheen of plausible deniability and pretend that their desire to continue hanging out with Suckface is totally logical and rational but your desire to avoid him is because of stupid irrational ladyfeelings. Unfortunately, if they knew the gory details, they might invite him to stuff anyway. And if you were to say, “Listen guys, I’ve tried really hard to be cool with this, but the guy RAPED me. Can you take 30 seconds and decide to invite EITHER him OR me so that every time you have a super-cool party I don’t have to scan the invite for his name and have my excitement immediately replaced with terror and dread?” you risk that cardinal sin of Geek Friend Groups, “creating drama.”

We all know that there are people who genuinely do create drama. They make every situation about them. They gossip. They steal boyfriends for fun, or start a torrid affair with your married boss after you brought them to happy hour one time. They undermine you with backhanded compliments and gaslighting. They make a lot of noise and control people through the threat that they’ll make a scene. Every interaction with them leaves you broker than you were before, behind on some shit you really needed to get done, and emotionally drained.

But so often, “creating drama” is a phrase that people use when they want someone who has been a victim of something to shut up. It allows them to blame the victim for bringing the problem to their attention and making them feel bad while glossing over the fact that the drama was really created by the victimizER back when they did bad things. The friend group gets all caught up in issues of “fairness” and “logic” and “It was so long ago, why are you dredging it all up now?” and treating the victim’s feelings (or, again, quite rational & reasonable request to not have to sit next to one’s rapist at dinner) as illogical and unreasonable.

Someone who accuses you of “creating drama” in this case is basically saying that abusing & raping one’s partner might be bad, but making people feel weird about it at parties is worse.

It’s not fair that you should lose out on something you value because of that dude. It fills me with rage to see abuse victims retreat time and time again from social spaces while charismatic predators are allowed to remain. But I also think that maybe it’s bad for you to keep exposing yourself to Suckface and to people who chose “We prefer not to know.”

So I say, before you retreat entirely, stop going to things where he will be and let people know exactly why. You worked so hard to be “cool” and to not make people choose, but if this is still hurting you it’s okay if you ask people to choose. It’s okay if you want them to choose you. It’s okay to ask that some events be off-limits to him so that you can enjoy yourself. You don’t have to be the bigger person to people who stayed friends with your rapist.

Some good phrases to have up your sleeve:

This is what I need to do to take care of myself.”

“I know it feels like ancient history to you, but it is still fresh for me, and running into him constantly makes it worse.”

“I am not trying to ‘create drama’, I am trying to ensure that I don’t run into my rapist at parties. I know that’s a really uncomfortable topic for you to think about – it’s uncomfortable for me, too.”

You say ’emotional’ like it means that I am wrong. I have very good reasons for not wanting to be around him anymore.

I am pessimistic that this will work out the way you want it to, but I hope someone in that group will surprise you and really have your back, and I hope time and love from Team You will do their work in helping you put this whole thing further in your past.

106 thoughts on “#393: My friends keep inviting my abusive ex and me to the same parties, despite being asked directly not to.

  1. LW, I am so sorry that this happened/is happening to you. I kind of hate your friends? I can’t improve on what the Captain has said, but I wanted to throw in something that I keep having to repeat to myself and people I know: You can make new friends. Even as an adult.

    I’m guessing from your letter that you’re in your early to mid-twenties. I just hit the big 3-0 and have, after some therapy, had an amazing time this fall making new friends, at work, on a sports team, etc.

    I just say this to take the pressure off you to have to spend time with people who are not respecting what you’re telling them about your ex and what you’re asking of them. They are not the end all, be all for the tabletop game and awesome parties. You can make new friends who like all of those things. New friends can be really, really great. Good luck!

    1. I roundly second this. These people are not such good people. They may be fun, they may have fun hobbies, but they are not good people. They’re selfish at best (I don’t want to listen to your problems, I don’t care) and knowingly harboring a rapist at worst (I don’t want you to say it, because then I will look like the bad person I am). There are, in fact. many fun people with fun obbies who will also listen to you, and who will show you the basic respect any human being is due. Don’t be afraid to start over, because really? You can only be trading up.

      1. You both summed up my feelings about this letter much more elegantly than I could seem to but I am glad I’m not the only one that feels this way.
        LW, I would be very tempted to try & talk to them again including all the details. But if they know he abused you and are not respecting your wishes on this one, there are definitely better people out there.
        I know it is hard to leave a group of geeky friends, but it’s possible to phase them out, a phase into a new better group. Good luck!

        1. I”m not sure how much the group will accept anything that inconveniences them because what we have here is a case where the victim gets labeled the bad guy and the rapist is the charming guy who’s easy to get along with. LW, I don’t know how else to put it, but I don’t mean you’re a bad guy or anything.

          As women, we’re supposed to not disturb people with our inconvenient desire to not be treated like shit. And abusers often abuse and get away with it because they’re often charming and/or attractive, and they’re predators. Being abused does not make you a happy person, and we’ve got so much disdain and hatred that even recognizing that is too much to ask. Women are supposed to make everybody else comfy and happy. They are not—absolutely not—supposed to require help themselves. (This is why dumping women by men during periods of stress and/or difficulty is so much more common than the vice versa, because loyalty in women is supposed to be a built in feature.)

          We’ve gotten to the point where the ‘troublemaker’ in any situation is the person who complains, not the person who actually did the harm. These folks are all too common. They want blissful ignorance. They want to preserve their ignorance. That’s all that matters. If it were a case of two guys, I suspect they’d be different because, you know, men matter, but women don’t.

          Their refusal to even listen to you is disturbing in a big way. They’re basically enabling Suckface so he can prey on other women, as long as they’re not them and their friends. And if you complain, I suspect that’s how they decide who’s friends or not.

          He deserves these scumbags. You don’t.

      2. Yes! And if you already have an awesome Team You (as I do), you’re miles ahead of completely starting from scratch. If you can give yourself permission to dump these “friends,” I think you’ll be surprised how easy it can be to meet cool people.

      3. I would just like to play Devil’s Advocate for your friends; if they have not been through abusive relationships, and are in the age-range you mention, they may simply still be in the “Hear no evil, see no evil” social state and have not had to be in your position yet. It’s hard to write off people you really like, and you are the best judge of whether they are worth the trouble. Give the Captain’s advice a few shots; if they show some understanding of your situation, or a sincere desire to hear your side, bonus. If not, well, as other posters have said, there are a lot of other people out there to be friends with, who will honor your experiences and prefer not to keep putting you in such social situations. Jedi hugs, and you deserve better!

        1. Oh, yeah, I freely admit I went worst-case scenario on this. Personally, I would bail, because I feel they have already had a lot of chances to show they care about me, and they took none of them. But generally, I think we all fear what Cliff calls The Worst Thing In The World, and I wanted to talk about that here. The worst thing is that you lose some people, but you can gain a lot of really great new people who will hopefully not know Suckface or have a habit of silencing folks. That is a pretty great Worst Thing, really, and it means there is not a whole lot to fear from things going pear-shaped. And that’s what I wanted to bring up.

      4. So much this. These ‘friends’ are telling you “Please shut up and suffer so you don’t mess up the illusion I am clinging to.” Those are not friends. They are social acquaintances, and those are a dime a dozen.

    2. Finding new friends is hard, but having a hobby that sounds like a group activity is a great place to start. Look into groups in your area that play the same table top game you do, and then as you make friends with that new group of people, you can phase out the jerks who would rather hang out with a rapist than feel a little uncomfortable.

      Keep standing up for yourself! It sounds like you are on the right path.

  2. Oh Awesome, you really are awesome. And your friends are… well, some of them might be awesome, but aren’t showing it so much. Team You is awesome.

    I think it might help if you could talk to one person you’re sympathetic with who’s powerful in the group dynamics and disclose Many Uncomfortable Details. That person might not be the host of the parties, but they could be someone who would speak up for you. That’s important because probably there is talk about you and your abuser ex and how to deal with it, and will probably be more if you push the issue. I can totally understand not wanting to disclose To Everybody Who Does Not Want To Know, although they’re kind of jerks for that, or just really naive? I mean, in your age range, I Did Not Want To Know when knowing meant listening to normal bitter griping, but I Sure As Fuck Did Want To Know if it was rape or abuse. So confiding to one or two sympathetic people might change the narrative from “They had a nasty breakup” to “Actually suckface was a real asshole.”

    The captain did not mention, but I think it could be super helpful to start expanding your friends circle in other directions. You can start with people in this group, or people who are kind of peripheral to the group, maybe those who don’t go to the Big Parties so often. You can also look for other crowds in your area.

    Another tool you can use is the Party Spy, who goes before you do and sees if suckface is there. If he is, you stay home. Party Spy is also someone who is ideally willing to grab you and run if he shows up after you’re there, hopefully before you have to actually see his face.

    Finally, congratulations so hard on getting yourself together enough that “I might run into my rapist at parties sometimes and I’d rather not” is your problem. I mean, that is awesome. You’ve done so much hard work to get to this place! Go you!

    1. This had occurred to me too, this idea of disclosing some select, awful details of the abuse to show them how serious it was, but I baulked when I thought back to some of the reactions I got when I disclosed the details of my abuse.
      While yes, some people will go “oh god, I didn’t realise it was that bad” far far more people will think or say:
      1. That it wasn’t really rape. The rest of the world is not as amazing as this commenting community. Outside here there are a lot of people who still believe that rape = monsterish evil stranger who attacks you when you’re minding your own business, not flirting and not dressed suggestively. He leaves bruises and scratches and you react perfectly by going to the cops and then to the hospital. If your rape strays from this script, you run a horribly high risk of someone you tell not considering it legit.
      2. If it was that bad, why did you stay? Because people who haven’t been in abusive situations (and some people who have but are in a different emotional place to you) sometimes find it hard to fathome the staying. And people looking for a reason to be sceptical of you (so they can conveniently stay friends with your abuser) will seize that as a way to justify it.
      3. You would act way crazier around him if that really did happen. Even some people who are otherwise sympathetic of victims and who try their best to be supportive, can’t understand why, when faced with an attacker, some people don’t scream/cry/tremble/have a panick attack/shout at them etc. Thats what they see on Law and Order SVU, and they feel that because thus far the LW has been very level headed, very calm in her communications about her attacker, and has even avoided ‘making a scene’ when face to face with him, that LW must not be *that* damaged, so the abuse can’t be *that* bad.

      We, in this amazing safe internets space know how fucked up this thinking is, we know how differently abuse manifests itself, how differently victims react, learn to cope and that there is no right or wrong way to act in the face of abuse. We also know that when LW says she was raped, that we all want to help castrate this asshole, and that there is not a doubt in our minds that she suffered, that he abused her, and we know how fucking hard it must have been to come so far in resetting her thinking about this man.

      I dont know if it’s worth telling people the details. Abuse can be really personal…these people haven’t acted very safely before, and if I were in LW’s position I don’t think I’d trust them to be respectful of such sensitive information. I’m not interested in my abuse being the topic of gossip, and I only discuss details with safe people because I can’t think of anything I want less than to open up about something so damaging to someone I know, and have them dismiss it.

      Also, it’s so not up to LW to find the Magic Combination of Details that makes these people Magically Understand and stopp Acting Shitty.

      1. Absolutely!

        The advice carbonated wit gave could still be useful, but with a few caveats.

        IF there are 1 or 2 people in the group LW thinks are likely to listen and be decent human beings about it

        IF those same people are also likely to – quietly, off the radar – advocate on LW’s behalf to the group in future party plans

        IF LW wants to/feels comfortable with/feels able to have someone in that group know

        IF LW feels the potential gains are worth the effort and emotional trauma of having to speak out loud about this stuff to someone

        IF the group of friends are even decent enough to be worth giving the opportunity to in the first place

        and IF LW feels able to deal with the potential end result being that they pour their heart out and their friend group still acts like jerks


        But, to be honest, I wouldn’t give this friend group a damn thing. When friends break up, pre-empting “drama” by outright stating that THE GROUP doesn’t want to know is a shitty thing to do – even if this had just been a normal break up, it’s healthy and normal for some people to want to talk to their friends about how they’re feeling, and having that cut off right at the start is just… not a good sign to me that these friends are worth the risk and effort involved.

        1. I agree, every group dynamic is different, and it’s entirely possible that this group has some really good eggs – not just fun, funny and entertaining eggs, but truly good friend material, potential new Team You eggs – amongst it. If it feels right, do talk more. Tread lightly and retreat if you meet resistance, and steel yourself to GTFO if you hear any of the ignorant nastiness I wrote above.
          OR listen to a tonne of hardcore rap, watch yourself some Scarface or other suitably ‘hood movie, and next party invite, break out your gangster on all of them. Tell them exactly like it is, spare no nasty detail, and tell them if you’re in the same room with homie again, you will air this shit out there again too, and every other time his ugly face shows up. If they’re afraid of you making a scene, threaten to make the biggest motherfucking scene they’ve ever seen. They’re not taking you seriously, implying your crazy, so why not give them some crazy? I’ve done this once, and miraculously it worked RE mentioning Mr Motherfucker, the “whatever, you liked it” rapist and his new fiancé Skanky McTrashbag in my presence. Did not hear a peep ever-fucking-again.
          Everyone has an inner gangster, and when us nice, polite people occasionally tap into it can work like a treat.

          1. Okay, this is amazing and if you have not watched Cedar Rapids, I highly recommend it. This insurance agent channels one of the characters from The Wire and totally saves the day with it. So perfect.

  3. Great advice,

    I am not a fan of people who do the “we don’t want to know” thing. That’s bullshit. As you said, they just want plausible deniability. People like that really don’t deserve to have plausible deniability, but then people like that will probably find a way to blame the victim, too.

    Hopefully this group are ultimately better than that, and once faced with the details, they will respect LW’s wishes…

    Admittedly, I doubt they will, but one can hope…

    1. Ugh, I know, right?

      I feel like, once you enter into any relationship with someone, you owe them your ear (unless they lose the right to that by being a buttweasel) once in awhile, even if they need to talk about something that makes you feel hell of uncomfortable.

      I mean, if the thing they wanna talk about is mad triggering for you and will do YOU harm, fine. I think it’s cool to say “yo I feel for you but I can’t talk about this right now; it’s hitting too close to home and I need some time to process.” But if it’s just something upsetting or discomforting or forces you to take some sort of action? Stop, drop, and listen, bro.

      To me, it seems more like they can fill in the blanks themselves, but they don’t want to do anything about it. If LW straight up said “PS this douche canoe raped me”, they would know their friend is a rapist — and then what? How are you supposed to react to your friend being a rapist when you want things to stay as they are? Approaching this problem is scary and hard, and I don’t think a lot of people are willing to risk the potential social fallout of tackling it.

  4. I’m so mad for you, LW! These people…..they are maybe people you should transition out of your life entirely.

    In the meantime, I guess I’m feeling like it’s important to stop letting them replace reality (rapist and abuser) with a sanitized pretend version (broke up). If you can’t do that, that is totally OK!! I just think forcing them to acknowledge the choice they are making might be useful for at least some of them? I dunno, I’ve never been in this type of situation before, so that might totally backfire? Or maybe I’m too angry at these people right now to think clearly? That is probably it, honestly :-\

  5. Wish I’d had Captain Awkward’s awesome advice when I was dealing with an extremely similar problem many years ago. In my case, the ‘cool, fun friends of Suckface’ were actually my family members, since my particular Suckface is also a family member. ‘Fun parties’ were family reunions, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. (They were never fun for me though.) Everybody involved was very happy to look the other way when seeing him (or hearing his name) triggered my PTSD, ruined my day and week, and made it impossible to heal–for 20 years. Meanwhile, they all called me a drama queen and/or crazy.

    So, finally, when I healed enough (thank you therapy and Team Me!), I stopped talking to (pretty much) all of them. The ones I do talk to still occasionally bug me with how much my mother supposedly misses me. Since she told me to my face she loved the rapist more than me, her sadfeels are not my problem.

    At least no one is telling me anymore how much Suckface misses me. And how I need to forgive him *and be friends again* for the sake of Family Harmony. That was the worst.

    1. Holy hell.

      I kind of want to send you cookies. And I also want to send your shitty bio-fam a brick made of ebola, right through a window. Maybe it could land in someone’s lap.

    2. Holy crap. That is not right. I’m so glad you got away from that. People really seem to want rapists to be easy to spot and totally unlikable. And so, when they are charismatic and nice and fun they just can’t be a rapist.

      It’s so fucked up.

  6. Awesome McTightpants,

    It is going to hurt a lot to realize this, but these people are not your friends. Friends don’t invite rapists to parties. The only way you are going to successfully avoid Suckface is if you have friends who think “Suckface abused me” is a good reason to avoid inviting Suckface to parties.

    That being said, CA: I never ask my friends for details on how abusive their exes were. If my friend says “my ex was abusive”, I’m not going to ask for the gory details; I’m just going to stop inviting their ex to parties and unfriend their ex on Facebook.

    1. I don’t have abusive exes, but I’ve definitely appreciated being able to say “Can you not invite ___ to parties for a while? I need to be free of dealing with him. I’ll let you know when that changes” to my friends. And I’ve appreciated friends who ask me how I want to handle it. Not because the person was an asshole, but because seeing them is painful and I needed social spaces to be happy spaces for me to NOT think about the breakup.

      I think that Awesome McTightpants’s social group sound like people s/he met through Suckface or who were part of their joint social circle when they were together, and people have weird mental traps about loyalty, “fairness,” who was who’s friend first, etc. Calling things what they are, like rape and abuse, might be the only way to cut through the magicks of “We don’t really know what happened” and “It was a bad breakup” and attempts to make this about loyalty, who was whose friend first, “fairness” etc.

      Good for you for being a good friend who doesn’t make your friends walk that gauntlet.

      1. *Gantlet. Throw the gauntlet, walk the gantlet.

        Sorry to go off-topic here. I used to make that mistake, too, and I just wanted to let you know the correct usage. 🙂

        1. Actually, gantlet is merely a variation of gauntlet. So that was a useless digression from the topic at hand.

        2. No… gauntlet is also perfectly correct. One can run gauntlet, dare a gauntlet, and suffer a gauntlet of fire.

          1. “Gauntlet”, “Gantlet”, or more archaic “Gantelope” as in walk the gauntlet is a misinterpretention of the Swedish term “Gatlopp” (literally Street run, from the phrase “springa gatlopp”, run street race), which was a punishment used in some European countries, among them Sweden, as a punishment and most often as a military punishment (Sweden, who had a very severe discipline punished misbehaving soldiers gravely), where a soldier is forced to run between two ranks of the co-soldiers of his company. The soldiers on either side would then strike at the perpetrator as he passed, with rods or in more severe cases clubs.

            The English word has become mixed up with “Gauntlet”, which originally was the term for a armored glove. To throw ones gauntlet is to challange someone to a fight, or to provoke someone.

            I think that both terms (Gantlet/Gauntlet) can be found today. The wikipedia article on Gauntlet (as in run the Gauntlet) uses both spellings.

          2. Ok then. Please see the FAQ where correcting people’s word usage/spelling without actually addressing the OP is prohibited for being tedious as hell.

  7. You worked so hard to be “cool” and to not make people choose, but if this is still hurting you it’s okay if you ask people to choose. It’s okay if you want them to choose you.

    This is huge, I think. It’s so, so ingrained in a lot of us to Be The Cool One–the one who is chill with everything, who doesn’t cause “drama,” who is easygoing and laid-back and, well… cool. It makes life easier. And for things that are not actually that important, it can even be a good thing: if a few people are laid-back about pizza toppings, it’s easier to put together the pizza order.

    But some things are just not cool, and abuse obviously falls into that category. This isn’t pizza toppings. This is something serious and important and bad, and you do not need to be cool about it. It does not mean that you are a drama bomb or a bad person. It means that you are responding appropriately to the situation. Hang onto that.

    1. I think the worst part about “Be Cool” is the awful double-bind it puts abuse survivors in. People love to find reasons to second-guess survivors, and one of the most common ones is “You didn’t excommunicate this person forever, so clearly it wasn’t REALLY abuse. If you’d actually been abused you would have immediately cut off all contact.” But then if you do cut off contact with them, suddenly you’re Not Cool and Causing Drama.

      LW, I’m so sorry they’re being so shitty about your needs and boundaries. Please don’t forget that your amazing Team You is on your side! As fun as your gaming friends are, if you feel vulnerable or unsafe around them, you have every right to go be with safer people in a safer space for as long as you want.

    2. There is a lot of time and history with it all. I’m 28 now, so it’s been going on for over ten years. And I think some of it is the desire to be the cool one, but not just to be the cool one. It’s to show how calm and awesome I an when he acts like a total tool.

      And not having fully ever managed to lose the guilt I have about the whole thing. I have been told a lot that the abuse want that bad, that it wasn’t rape because he would bully and scare me into saying yes. Mostly, I get that is TOTAL bullshit, but when dealing with resistance about it, I tend to shut down.

      1. Oh, my god… are you me? Because seriously – you sound a lot like me. And your ex sounds exactly like my ex.

        And just in case you are me, in some strange cross-dimensional Sliders kind of way… I’ve gotta tell you, it wasn’t your fault. If he bullied and scared you into saying yes, then he never would have let you say no.

        In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the reason he bullied you into saying yes was EXACTLY BECAUSE he could then say to himself and all his tool friends, “Well, she* said yes, so it wasn’t rape and that means I’m not a rapist.”

        I think it’s high time we started calling people on that bullshit. When you run into resistance, that is an awesome opportunity to show someone how fucked-up their logic is. “Oh really? So you’re saying there’s a magic word that turns rape into consensual sex? And if someone makes me say that magic word, then they can have sex with me whether I want to or not, and it’s not rape?” or even “What do *you* call it when a person is forced to have sex when they don’t want to? Because I call it rape, and that’s what happened to me.” (That said, I really wish I had the stones to say those things when the opportunity arises. I tend to fold under pressure as well.)

        Look, you don’t ever have to prove it in a court of law (unless you want to, of course) – if it looked like rape to you, if it felt like rape to you, then it WAS rape. No one else gets to decide that but you.

        * I say “she” because I’m a “she,” and that is pretty much the logic my ex used, but please don’t think I’m assuming that because you’ve been raped you must be female.

      2. Real friends who hear “Suckface bullied and scared me into giving in to sex with him” don’t then go “okay, yeah, but that wasn’t like he actually RAPED you, right?” They cut Suckface out of their lives.

      3. “And I think some of it is the desire to be the cool one, but not just to be the cool one. It’s to show how calm and awesome I an when he acts like a total tool.”

        It can be so satisfying to be righteous, to burn with the incandescent flame of your justification, but all fire needs fuel. How much of yourself do you exhaust to win that victory? And it’s one you’ve already won- he’s an abusive suckface, you’re Awesome Von Tightpants. Why not just know you’ve won it from the distant comfort of your own wonderful life, and not from the close-up high-stakes triggering closeness of seeing him at parties?

        I may be projecting a lot, but that statement jumped out at me really strongly. Turn the difficulty setting back to easy, as a different subthread discussed.

        Good luck! I’m super glad you got away from that relationship!

  8. Oh, LW, I have so much rage on your behalf. These people are not treating you well, and you have done WAY more than you should have to accommodate them ALREADY.

    If these people are trampling all over your boundaries, I would have a conversation with several of the people in the group you feel safest with. Tell them that Suckface did horrible things to you (to whatever level of detail you feel comfortable with – I do not care that they “don’t want to know”) and for that reason, you cannot be at group events where he is there. Assure them, like the Captain said, that you still like them. Assuming they are not mega assholes when you have this conversation with them, start initiating cool activities yourself, with only the certain people from the group that you like the most and feel safest around. You don’t need the whole group on your side, and you still get to enjoy the company of some of these people.

    If they are mega assholes when you try to talk to them, please please please cut off contact. You don’t want people that toxic in your life, even if they have awesome parties and run good tabletop games.

    1. I do hang out with a few of then solo out their my own parties. The group isn’t huge and the members have made it clear they sent going to listen. I’m fine with that, I can’t change how they feel and as I’m not that close with them, I don’t need them to fully understand what happened.

      I just need them to realize they have to make some sort of choice and if it’s inviting Suckface instead of me, I an cool with that. It’s way better than the triggering panic.

      1. Yeah. It might be in your best interest to just stop going, as horrible and unfair as that is. Or at least very pointedly asking “Is Suckface going to be there?” when you are invited, and not giving them a definitive answer until they assure you he’s not. And if he is going to be there, just say something like “Oh, no thanks then, but I appreciate the invite!” Like the Captain said, you can’t make them respect your wishes, even if they really should. It might be time to just do what you need to to do to protect yourself.

        Good luck ❤

      2. Hey Awesome! It’s time for Truisms With Carbonated Wit:

        Today’s Truism:

        No Choice Is Also A Choice

        You want them to choose A or B, because that would let you know where they stand. With you, or with him, whichever is good for you, you just want to know. They choose Look A Monkey, and it looks like they aren’t going to choose A or B.

        That is a choice. They’re not *saying* they’re choosing Suckface over you… but they are choosing not to honor your pretty reasonable request, which means they’re also not choosing you. That’s what you really needed to know, I think; whether these are people who will have your back in the most trivial (pretty literally, the most trivial!!) of ways.

        Well okay, that sucks but it’s good to know. You can take that information and live with it, you can try to influence the choice in various ways, you can tell them all to go for a long walk off a short pier… but if they don’t want to, you can’t make them realize that they are making a him-or-you choice.

        The main reason I suggested disclosing to a few influential people was that I consider that to be just about the best way to influence a group’s choice in a situation like that. I did some hosting in my day and I had friends who had broken up, and I was solidly in the “I will not uninvite any of you, you can decline to come if you want; if you do come, you are all required to leave your problems at the door” camp. I still think it’s the right way to handle most breakups in a group, because breaking into His Friends and Her Friends just sucks. The person that I (we, the gossip, etc) suspected of being emotionally abusive ended up in his little clique and was Not Welcome for a very long time.

        Also, if you told them years ago that he had abused you, they might have forgotten. They shouldn’t, but they really might, especially if hasn’t come up since then (and you haven’t forced it).

        ALL THAT SAID, that’s still strategizing ways to influence the group’s choice. You can’t actually control it, and they might never figure out that they have a choice in front of them, much less mindfully make it. That’s okay, they get to do that, and you get to know that their failure to choose is still a choice. You can respond in exactly the best way for you, whatever that is.

        I hope this shit passes, because really the last thing anyone needs is to be carrying around fear and panic about an abusive relationship that ended almost a decade ago. You deserve to get that shit right out of your life so you can live without suffering (from him, at least).

        1. I love this comment because it’s a really important reminder that when you ask someone a question–will you go out with me? will you stop inviting the person that raped me? anybody want a peanut?–that no answer IS an answer.

    1. I’m aware of that piece, sure. Can you be more specific about how it reminds you of that? Do you have anything constructive and specific to offer the Letter Writer?

      1. I am not the original commenter, but I will frame the LW’s problem in terms of the “Price of Admission.” It might be possible that the Price of Admission to this group of people is something like “being okay with the fact that they refuse to believe your ex is a rapist and refuse to follow your explicit instructions to invite one or the other of you only to parties.” I think this is a shitty, shitty price of admission, and I think the LW does too. So if after trying the Captain’s steps for enforcing boundaries, the LW finds that the joint “friends” still aren’t changing their behavior, it might be good to take a step back and think “this is what I will have to put up with if I want to remain friends with these people. I will have to be on guard that Abusive Rapey Ex might show up at an event I attend. I will have to accept that this group of people is not on Team Me when it comes to protecting myself from Abusive Rapey Ex.” Or in other words, “If nothing about this situation and these behaviors changes, am I willing to continue these relationships?”

        1. Oh. I was thinking that the Price of Admission of being Awesome’s friend should be not entertaining her and Suckface at the same event. Same result, I guess.

        2. I love the concept of the Price of Admission, but I don’t think that concept really means a lot here. When I think of the PoA, I think of “sometimes my parents say slightly racist things and it makes me uncomfortable” or “sometimes my friend neglects our relationship for a few weeks and then returns like nothing is wrong” or “sometimes my sib makes sexist jokes” — not “these people like having my rapist around and don’t forewarn me or care if I meet him”.

          This isn’t a case of a relationship bump — this is people not giving a shit about someone in regards to their rape. That is a little more personal, a little deeper then someone simply doing something you disagree with. This is not something the victim should even consider having to put up with for the sake of hanging out, since it is so personal.

          LW, I feel like these people are shitty ass friends, and I think you need a new tabletop group. My bud actually did this recently — her DM was a creeper and made gaming uncomfortable, so she gutted up, said “yo peeps who don’t make me feel like ass: I am starting a new crew”, and is now having the time of her life.

          We shouldn’t have to put up with jackasses, so maybe it’s time to come down hard and decide what is best for you.

          1. This is something that specifically happens to women and reminds us we need to toe the line and be good girls who don’t speak up or otherwise people will drop kick us from the relationships we value. They keep the bar low so women don’t want to demand much for fear they’ll lose what they have chasing something that doesn’t exist.

            This is the sort of thing where the woman who demands humane treatment is told or shown that that’s too much to ask because she’s troubling other people’s groove or whatever. The troublemaker is never the guy; it’s always his victims. And as somebody mentioned, you’re never allowed to believe a new friend over an old one, as if time legitimizes assholes. (What it does do is expose what people tolerate because they’re too lazy to think.)

            Abusers are often charming, because that’s how they prey on women. Being abused does not make your charming. You’re supposed to be a good victim, and if you’re not, you were probably lying about the assault. Victims above all are grateful to be rescued, saved, helped, treated, aided, and whatever, but they should never ever ask or God forbid demand help themselves. It can only be given, not requested. This enables denialists to keep victims on their toes and let the parsimonious enablers feel so damned good and happy about themselves and the way they keep their world safe—for them.

  9. Taking aside the fact that you told these ‘friends’ that he abused you and you don’t feel safe around him, and they still can’t be bothered to make sure you aren’t even invited to the same events…. even if they didn’t do that, even if it’s only that they willingly hang out with someone who they know probably abused their friend… even if it wasn’t all that (which is just horrifically cold-hearted behaviour from human beings)….

    They don’t mind that you’re upset for a valid reason. They don’t mind that you’re upset, period.

    Imagine if it was a friend you’d fallen out with instead, not an abusive boyfriend that you feel physically unsafe around, and you asked mutual friends not to invite you to the same things because you found it upsetting. But they kept on inviting you both to the same events and didn’t care when you got upset and left? This would still be ultra crappy. Because they are saying to you through their actions, we don’t care that you’re upset, we only care about what’s convenient to us. Friends care about friends, true friends respect each other, true friends hate seeing their friends upset. True friends hate being the cause of their friends’ unhappiness. These people? Not your friends. Frankly, with this selfish behaviour, they are not worthy of being yours or anyone else’s friends.

    Stick with the awesome Team You, you don’t need Team Denial, Team Justify To Me Why You Don’t Want To Hang Out With Your Abusive Ex, Team Your Pain is Not Convenient For Me.

    1. I think you guys who are saying that these friends are not the best friends are correct.

      Also, I think it’s TOTALLY UNDERSTANDABLE that the LW would like some of these people and want to still be a part of things if at all possible. We’re social animals. It’s stressful to have to start over making friends. It’s unfair to think about a Suckface ex still going to certain parties while you sit at home because home is where the higher moral ground is. Sometimes the moral high ground is just really lonely.

      I’m a big advocate of walking away from things that aren’t working, or at least reminding yourself that you get to walk away anytime you want to in order to reset the power differential as you try to negotiate a situation, but I don’t want to cross over into making the LW feel crappy for wanting to still be a part of things that are fun and cool.

      1. I am sorry if my reply came over as critical over the LW’s decision making, was purely meant to be about critical about the so-called friends. I think the LW has reacted amazingly well to their behaviour.
        If these social events, LW, are what you want in your life right now, then go ahead and enjoy what you can, just be mindful of taking anything they say to heart.

      2. Thank you for saying that Awesome Von Tightpants has every right to keep their social circle if they want to. Aside from the principle of the thing, many of us have to make do with the friends that we have while we try to find the friends that we deserve. Extracting oneself from a toxic group takes a long time, and finding new friends takes even longer. Appreciating the good in imperfect friendships while looking for healthier ones is a very important coping skill in itself.

        1. “Many of us have to make do with the friends that we have while we try to find the friends that we deserve. ”

          This ^. And also, that groups are made of individuals, and LW’s social circle may well be made of a few units of Team LW Awesome, if they had a better idea of all the backstory or felt a bit more empowered to come forward?

      3. I definitely don’t want to make the LW feel crappy about wanting to be friends with any of these people. Clearly, there are fun things about them or Awesome Von Tightpants would have walked away with no regrets.

        At the same time, what I hear is “This friend group would be awesome if only they would work with me on the I-need-to-not-run-into-Suckface thing” + “I’ve clearly articulated that I need to not encounter Suckface and as much of the why as they’re willing to listen to” + “they’ve made it plain that they can not/will not work with me on that.” Which = this friend group is never going to be awesome; they’re only ever going to be almost-awesome.

        It reminds me of when you fall for an individual who is almost-awesome. He/she would be so great “if only…” It’s one thing to stick around if the “if only” refers to a minor annoying habit, another if it’s “if only he/she didn’t drink so much and have such a foul temper when drunk” or something of that magnitude (or even “if only he/she wasn’t dead set against kids while I absolutely want at least 2”). Superficial things (something they do, not who they are) the person may be able change for you, other things you can make peace with because they are part of the wonderful package that is that person. Other things you’re never going to change and you should not be trying to make yourself accept, either because they’re fundamentally unacceptable or they are fundamentally incompatible with your particular needs. When there’s that scale of “if only,” the relationship is doomed; the only question is how much hurt you’re going to take along the way. To me, this seems like that magnitude of “if only.”

        My advice, on reading the OP, was going to be to cherrypick individuals and try to form a splinter group of people who don’t make willingness to hang with Suckface a condition of their friendship… but it sounds from comments like you’ve done that as best you can already.

        In which case all I can say is continue to socialize with the main group IF you think their almost-awesomeness is worth the risk of running into Suckface periodically and the knowledge that these folks do not have your back on this and never will.

        Keep trying to change them IF you know something you haven’t told us that suggests genuine epiphany potential, and IF you think it’s worth it to put yourself at risk that way, and to keep being told (implicitly) “sorry, our social myths are more important than your pain!”

        Recognize, however, that they probably aren’t going to change, because they don’t think they have a problem. They think the only problem is that you are “inexplicably” holding a grudge against their buddy Suckface, and because they have group cohesion around the “and we don’t wanna know what he did that was so awful Awesome can’t just get over it after all these years,” you trying to change them is like a flea trying to push a boulder.

  10. On an absurdly specific note, if the fall-out of the Friends of Suckface means no more gaming group for a while (or forever) you still have options. Both my boyfriend and our roommate are hardcore RPG enthusiasts (roommate D+D, boyfriend Exalted) and both of them connect with their people via Skype. Whatever flavor of game you enjoy, there’s almost certainly an online forum for it, and almost as certainly there are people who would really like to play but are geographically distant from other interested people.

    1. Also, if there are any local gaming shops, there are usually people looking for a few more players for a weekly thing. Obviously, there’s some peril attendant on picking your new group off a bulletin board, but I suspect that a lot of the players are decent people who just want to play a game. It could be a nice way to supplement or transition from Friends of Suckface gaming nights, whichever LW wants to do.

      1. My MO when looking for a group is to speak to any ladies who play in an aforementioned group and say, “hey, a lot of groups I’ve seen have problems with misogyny, have you noticed any of that?” or even, straight up saying “do you think that this group would be a good group for a rape survivor to join?” These questions are as important to me as “Do you prefer a cinematic antagonistic style of play or are you more interested in a lower-key group storytelling experience?”

  11. LW, your friends are being dicks and I just want to second that no, you don’t have to try to keep the peace, and yes, you are handling this awesomely and damn, this must be fucking awful to have to deal with.

    I have an abusive ex who one “friend” is still in friendly contact with, despite knowing what he did. Being around *them* is really fucking hard for me, and knowing that other friends of mine know all this and still want to be around them is really fucking hard. So, Jesus man, your level of emotional control and together-ness and stuff here is set on hardcore mode.

    The thing that everyone who isn’t a dick will understand is that you are NOT required to play your life on hardcore mode, when medium or easy mode are totally valid options just sitting there for you to take. Honestly, I think following the Captain’s advice and being bluntly honest with your friends is a way of turning down the difficulty, and that is a damn good thing.

    I’m going to torture the gaming metaphor a bit here, but there are some people who INSIST upon playing every game on the hardest setting, even if it means it takes them four times as long, makes them incredibly frustrated and saps the enjoyment out of the game. Because it’s more of an “achievement” to complete hard mode *even if it didn’t make you as happy as playing on medium would have*. Some people have that attitude about life, and think the best way to live – or, usually for others to live – is for them to do everything with perfect emotional control and strength etc. etc. And like in a game, this can turn life into a ball of frustration and going back to the same spawn point of your emotional resilience a million times.

    Life is to be enjoyed. You don’t have to do everything in the hardest way, you should do everything in the way which makes it best for you. Sometimes that means letting your emotions show and honouring them, even if some jerks will think “Hey, she could’ve done that THE MUCH HARDER AND MORE UNPLEASANT WAY which for some reason I value more.”

    Turn the setting down, and run your life in a way that you enjoy rather than a way you have to manage and struggle with.

    1. I officially offer you one internet high-five. It took me until a few months ago to learn this lesson and I have not been able to put it into words. Thank you for this.

    2. I don’t have much to add for the LW, except Nth-ing the support for the incredible job you’re doing making boundaries and looking after yourself.

      But I just made the decision to turn a certain section of my life down to medium this weekend and was feeling a little disappointed in myself for not doing it The Harder And More Worthwhile (Unpleasant) Way and this comment has come at just the right time. Thank you so much for this – it’s not a tortured metaphor!

    3. That is so well said. And I hate hard modes in games! Yet here I am, trying to take the high ground. There are some messy reasons I mentioned in another comment as to why, but it all seems so silly when you spell it out.

  12. LW here. The Captain’s advice is amazing as always. I’m going to give it a shot, see if I can’t make things work.

    I wasn’t able to be super clear with the word limit, but I don’t really concider this group to be close friends, just people I have known a while and do enjoy spending time with. If it was a group of people I was closer with, I would demand a lot more side choosing.

    I have tried bringing up details, but the subject is quickly shut down. One girl told me she didn’t want to hear those things because it made it hard to hang out with Suckface. Which had me confused. But it’s a group of geeks scared of confronting anything.

    I accept this and don’t really feel it’s my job to fix that. Mostly I’m just trying to get to enjoy the game and ideally the parties.

    If it turns out I have to give up the parties, it sucks, but I can go to others with other friends. I’m just hoping I don’t have to lose out on more of my life because of Suckface.

    1. I’m kind of boggling at, “I don’t want to hear that because it makes it hard to hang out with Suckface.”

      OOoooooookay….? I mean, she has correctly put her finger on the problem. And then made it your fault for making it hard for her, and not Suckface’s for totally sucking.

      1. Yeeeeah. That was the moment I realized I needed new and better friends. And went and got them.

        1. Can I just say for a second that your name is totally appropriate – because you really are awesome! Seriously, this group are fools to lose out on you.

      2. I can understand not wanting to know, if it’s casual acquaintances that meet only for gaming and the occasional party. (Close friends, family, and those with some sort of authority – e.g., profs, bosses, pastors – do not have this luxury, though.) It’s just a casual thing and they probably don’t want to get involved or pick sides – because at some level they’re going to have to believe that Suckface is an abuser or Awesome is a liar once they hear the details. They may not know either well enough to make that call (and may be wary of getting to know either one of them that well). I don’t think it makes them horrible people to not want to get involved. That’s a pretty big emotional investment for a friendship that’s activity based rather than emotionally based.

        That being said, they should still respect that fact that you don’t want to be around Suckface (for whatever reason) and definitely respect your boundaries. It’s wonky that they won’t at least give you a head’s up – “Hey, just fyi, Suckface is going to be at next week’s party” – after you’ve made it clear that you do not want to be around him. Casual acquaintances still should respect boundaries – especially after you’ve told them that there’s some big horrible things between the two of you. It makes them at least iffy, maybe sucky, people that they don’t respect your wishes when you’ve been very clear and reasonable about them.

        1. I’m going to disagree with you on the ‘it being OK not to pick sides if they’re just acquaintances’ thing. I think that really it is ALWAYS OK to pick the side of That Person Abused You rather than hang out in the middle, making things pleasant for the abuser. It doesn’t even really need to be a huge emotional investment. It can just be ‘dude, I heard you’re actually a douchecanoe abuser, so we are no longer friends. I will be reverting to Frostily Polite mode from hereon out’.

          It is always OK to be on Team No Abuse. In fact, I’d say it’s really the minimum standard.

        2. Really, cutting a rapist out of your presence is a ‘pretty big investment’ if you only know them casually? This is bassackwards. If you only know Suckface vaguely, then isn’t it EASIER to just not invite him to your weekly game of Cards Against Humanity, easier than if Suckface had been friends with everyone for years and hung out with them regularly?

          I get that people in a casual group aren’t immediately grilling each other about their personal background, but yes, I think it makes someone a horrible person to say “I do not want to hear about this terrible thing because then I might have to make a tiny change in the way I behave.”

          1. Well, he doesn’t come to the card games, just the parties. And they should, y’know, not invite both of them, just like the LW asked. (See: respecting boundaries). It’s not the cutting Suckface out of their lives – I imagine if they’re casual acquaintances it’s not a big deal; it’s hearing about these awful things that happened to a person you, at least mildly, liked, by a person you, at least mildly, liked. And believing them, which can be hard, especially if that person doesn’t have much experience with bad people. That can be a pretty heavy emotional blow from a board game. I think they should listen and respect the LW saying “I had a bad/abusive relationship with Suckface.” and respect boundaries LW places (which they’re not doing, which is awful of them) but I don’t think it’s bad of them to think “more details means I’m going to be more involved on some level; I don’t want to get involved with these people I don’t know that well in this bad situation.”

    2. Sounds like one of them could’ve written that “My Friend, the Rapist” question a while back. Ugh.

      Congratulations on better friends!

    3. “Imagine if Suckface had raped you. That would make it pretty hard to hang out with him, don’t you think?”

      Bah. I don’t even know these people and I want to beat them to death with a bag of spare d12s.

  13. LW, I have little to add except my own experience. After ending one abusive relationship, I somehow ended up in another. All the people who had been Team Me in the aftermath of pulling myself back together are second abusive, rapey ex’s friends even now, so far as I know. He was accused of raping someone else (while still in the relationship with me! He was such a delight!) and, of course, everyone pulled around him because they didn’t know this other woman.

    That he might have also raped me never seemed to occur to anyone, nor the predatory habit for revictimising survivors. As far as they were concerned, I was the unbalanced and emotionally unstable party. He was their charming friend, how could he be a rapist? Never mind that he also consenually (the other person, not me!) cheated on me too… Well. He was very charming and manipulative.

    In the end I told choice members of the group exactly where they could stick it; if they chose someone like him over me, well, they deserve shitty friends. I have been extremely lonely since then, but have made progress recently. Online friendships have been a godsend, and I’ve finally regained the confidence to actively look for friends local to me, to meet up with for face-to-face social things.

    I promise you, there are people out there who will be the real, proper friends you deserve, who respect your feelings and boundaries, and who do the things you like to do. You will find them! Whether you cut contact with these douchecanoes (sorry, but they’re not treating you very well) cold or you transition away from them, is obviously up to what works for you. And while I appreciate that you don’t want them to think you’re the nutty ex, it might be too much for them to drop that nice, easy belief and take up the one (the truth!) of Suckface being an abusive rapist. There’s only so much you can do, I think your energy would be better spent getting yourself to somewhere you feel safer all of the time, every goddamn minute.

    Good luck and many jedi-hugs!

  14. Look, I know they said they “don’t want to know,” I don’t really care why, it’s irrelevant and makes them scum in my book if they think they think the fact that you don’t want to be around your rapist is somehow worse than, y’know, the fact that he’s a rapist, but I think that you should tell them. Tell them in full and gory detail exactly what he did, how many times and when. And if they feel awkward, you can say “yeah, it was pretty awkward for me at the time too. I hope he doesn’t do it to anyone else.” And then you leave. You leave them filled with horror and you leave it on their conscience. They *should* feel like shits.

    1. I understand your desire to make the shitty friends painfully aware of their shittyness, and if you feel that you could say those things about your own experiences then good for you. But please, before telling a survivor of rape and abuse what they *should* do, bear in mind that it can be incredibly traumatic to tell the story (complete with gory detail – jeez), especially to people who have already shown themselves to be an unsafe audience for this sort of intensely personal and intimate information. The LWs duty of care should be to herself; it is not her responsibility to correct the behaviour of these shitheels, no matter how much we want them to feel bad about it.

    2. Yeah, they should feel like shits. And if Awesome von Tightpants wants to blurt, I agree that concern for *their* sensibilities should not be a deterrent.

      On the other hand, the whole reason AvT wants to avoid Suckface is that this was a traumatic period in AvT’s life, and reliving it even lo these many years later is painful! And you say, rather glibly, “Tell them in full and gory detail exactly what he did, how many times and when”???

      That would be incredibly hard (and emotionally risky) to do even amidst a safe, supportive circle of friends, and this bunch has made it eminently clear that they are NOT safe, supportive people! These are exactly the kind of people who, no matter what horrors are revealed, are capable of disbelief, gaslighting, victim-blaming and revisionist history. Because, as they have made abundantly clear, they don’t want to know Suckface is a violent, abusive asshole; they only want to know that Suckface is fun fun fun in a group setting.

      Which means the likelihood that they will suddenly see the light and say “oh my gosh, we just didn’t realize! Of course we will never again subject you to the company of Suckface!” is not all that good.

      However you want to handle this, LW, please don’t feel like you have to rip your scabs off and expose all your wounds or you have no right to expect these people to back you up. Better people would be backing you up already. The ones who won’t back you up unless you feed them the gruesome details of your rape and abuse do not, to my mind, deserve the honor of your trust and vulnerability.

      1. Which means the likelihood that they will suddenly see the light and say “oh my gosh, we just didn’t realize! Of course we will never again subject you to the company of Suckface!” is not all that good.

        I totally agree that it’s up to the LW to decide if this is a thing zie can do or wants to do (as I said above), but I disagree that it’s about making them realize how awful Suckface is. I think it’s more about making them face the reality of the choice they’re making, if that makes sense.

  15. I’ve seen the flipside of this situation from the sidelines back in highschool. Short summary: pretty new to the group so didn’t get to hear too many of the details, two peeps had a falling-out after dudebro brought dudette home after party, dudebro most likely force-frenched/groped dudette or somesuch(which is guesswork inferred from ‘he tried something and I didn’t like it’), dudebro was bitter and sulky about it so naturally ejected himself from the group over time, still come across dudebro in bars from time to time.

    When the victim pretended To Be Cool about it, it didn’t seem to fool anybody, but here it was interpreted by the rest of the group as damage control on her part(eg, not wanting to let the incident mess up her life or affect her too much). Thus, the rest of the bunch were quickly back to the regular weekend movie night schedule, though there was a range of conscious-but-not-saying-it-out-loud gestures in seat placement, always biking her home in pairs of dude-dudette, and barbs whenever dudebro’s niceguy misogyny showed.

    Anyhow, the grapevine never rests, and eventually the vague sketches of the incident made their way back into the school, and gossip hens confronted dudette about it. Very uncomfortable for her, the assumption among the rest of the group was that earlier behaviour was partly done to prevent this shit. I can imagine some friends want to keep up appearances precisely for this reason.

    Whenever I bump into dudebro again, he’s always hitting up some gal, so the same routine of polite convo along with the occassional snide barbs and keeping an eye on him ensues. He apparently still attempts to contact dudette(who now studies in another city) from time to time, but I have no clue whether or not they are misguided apologies or you-hurt-my-feelings rants, and overbearing preventive rather than reactive ‘policing’ might spill over into that.

    Which brings me to why LW’s asking for steps to be taken is a brilliant move on her part: people are often clueless on what is appropriate(or use that veneer for selfish reasons: it doesn’t matter in practice) to do-enough has been said already on if they don’t listen to those requests. Both hard-policing(ejecting the abuser from the social circle, not using any euphemisms with regards to his behaviour) and soft-policing(such as described in the story above) have their upsides and downsides, but that preference should ultimately depend on the victim, imho.

  16. Hi LW

    I am sorry that you are having to put up with this. I have been confronted by my rapist/ex-friend at parties and other social occasions, after making it clear that to my current (tho-skating-on-thin-fuckin-ice) friends that I have no desire to be anywhere near him, or have to lie to his wife, ever again.

    I’ve found it a bit heart-wrenching, that they would continue to do this – but since he is a recovering addict, some are invested in his recovery and in forgiving him for past ills. What can I say, some things are evidently easier to forgive than rape.

    But I love them, and only get to see them every so often, as they live quite a distance away. I have had the misfortune of being invited, unawares, to several events where he has been present. The only positive that I can extract from this mess is that I’ve had a few goes at dealing with it, and articulating my needs. Making it clear that there will be no ‘making nice’ has helped eg “This is what i need from him (apology, acknowledgement that he coerced me, that he saw a vulnerability in me that he saw fit to exploit). Until that happens I can’t be civil with him – and you and I know he’s not going to give me that. So don’t expect me to be civil.” – it seems that knowing that I *will* likely kick off or cause embarassment if he’s invited has made them think again about inviting both of us (and also especially his wife, who just thinks he’s a reformed lovable rogue) to the same events. I don’t usually advocate emotional blackmail – but making clear that I have been surpressing/concealing a whole load of emotional wreckage when he’s been there, and that the only reason I’m doing so is so I can spend time with my friends whom I love deeply, seems to have woken them up a bit and made them re-evaluate their priorities.

    It may not be the clearest, cleanest advice, but this is how I have made my peace with this. While I wish I could find cooler pals, and be fine with it, I don’t feel that I can. It’s a murky situation, I say murk back attim.

  17. I’ve been agonizing for years now about a related situation, except as the seemingly crappy friend.
    With no details, because it seems like everyone reads CA these days: I have not figured out how to handle a situation in which *both* people of the former couple privately disclose that the other one abused them.
    Has anyone else dealt with this type of situation?

    1. This is a sticky wicket, because abusers often claim that they are the victims as a way to poison the well when the victim comes forward. But also, people can in fact abuse each other and just because you’re a victim doesn’t also mean you can’t be abusive.

      I don’t know what to tell you to do, because you know these people and I don’t and there is no one true rule for what to do or a way you can be a perfect friend here. Abuse is shitty that way. It ripples out and destroys everything it touches.

      Do you WANT to stay friends with both of them? Is there one you’d prefer to stay friendly with?
      When they tell you what happened, have you tried asking how they wish you’d handle it?
      Have you said, straight up, “Well, that’s what x told me about you, also?”
      Have you seen other behaviors from them that might give you a clue about who to believe? Are they both generally truthful about other stuff?
      Does one of them set off your spidey sense?

    2. What the Captain said.

      NMNN, I was one part of that couple a few years ago. An ex was violent with me, but when I broke up with her, she went running to a mutual friend and cried about how hurt she was. My ex did not go so far as to allege that I physically hurt her, but she very much made herself out to be the victim emotionally. I didn’t want to put our mutual friend in the middle, and so I disclosed that my ex was violent, but did not really push for her to pick sides. In the meantime, my ex was very much seeking her attention (and her help in getting back together with me). I think my friend just assumed we’d had an argument and I was overreacting. Ultimately, however, my friend saw the other side of my ex — she asked her to babysit and my ex got violent with the little girl. But up until that time, I don’t think she knew how to reconcile the two very different stories she’d heard, and I had distanced myself a bit because she was hanging out with my ex.

    3. That is not a fun situation at all. I stopped speaking to both of my best friends when they did that about each other. My best friends started dating each other, then kept splitting up and saying Horrible Things about each other (everything from “X pulled a knife on me!” to “Y downloads child porn!”) and getting back together – and after one particular episode of this (the one where they got back together after the above two accusations) I decided to stop talking to both of them, because I was just DONE. They have split up and none of us live in the same town any more. None of us live in the same place anymore, and I’m on facebook-speaking terms with them both at this point because Reasons that have many pages of backstory – slightly closer to Y, who I believe was telling closer to the truth than X. I will not talk to either of them about the other, though.

      Sadly, I haven’t had any friend quite as close as I was to either of these two since, and the falling-out where I stopped talking to them was in 2005. 😦

    4. Thank you for posting this. I had a similar situation years back. I wanted to ask the opinion here, but was a little afraid that it would look like I was concern trolling…making up a situation where ‘there are two sides to every story!’ to excuse not ‘unfriending’ abusers. This situation *sucks* because the idea of being an awful friend who would pick an abuser just to not cause drama is appalling.

      I’m not very good at telling when people are lying. I’m excellent at spotting long term liars because I have a really good conversational memory, but a lot of the ‘bad liar’ tells go right over my head. I have great logic but my intuition isn’t the best, so in situations where the ‘logical’ move of not taking sides, gathering evidence etc can make me into a huge asshole, I am sometimes at sea.

      And sometimes the line between ‘my ex is a jerk’ and ‘my ex is abusive’ isn’t clear to the friends. If I wasn’t friends with anyone who’d ever been a jerk in a relationship, well, my number of friends would be much smaller. But it really horrifies me to think I might unwittingly be letting someone get away with something terrible.

      1. “And sometimes the line between ‘my ex is a jerk’ and ‘my ex is abusive’ isn’t clear to the friends.”

        That, so much. Everyone knows my ex was a jerk. Very few people know about how he manipulated and guilted me into having sex with him,repeatedly threatened to kill himself if I ever broke up with him, got angry when I spent time with friends without him (even friends he didn’t like), and (also pre, but especially post-breakup) trampled over every boundary I tried to set.

        And there are a lot of people who are still friends with him, but now friendly acquaintances with me, because I know they would just rationalize the hell out of it – he was a jerk, and I knew he was a jerk before I started dating him, so what am I complaining about, right? Or something like that. Maybe they wouldn’t do that, but it definitely doesn’t feel safe.

    5. Could you stay friends (maybe with a slight reserve) with both of them but operate a ‘and never the two shall meet policy’? But, yeah, there’s really no good answer here.

    6. From the discussions here, it seems that most victims of abuse are okay with mutual friends staying in contact with the abuser – as long as they NEVER have to be around or hear about the abuser ever again. So apply the usual rules. Don’t invite one to a place/event where the other will be. Don’t mention either person to the other. When you’re with one, pretend that the other does not exist. Stay in touch with either, both, or neither as your gut indicates. Worst case scenario, you still might be friends with someone who inflicted hideous abuse, but at least you are not making life harder for the victim.

      It’s never that simple, of course. You’re likely to end up being closer to one than the other. You have to decide who to invite to which events. There may be hurt feelings on either side (or both!). Not fun. Good luck.

  18. Reblogged this on Note To Self and commented:
    Great advice, but it makes me SO angry that there are actually people in this world who would not only stay friends with an abuser, but in fact insist the victim of that abuser “not go into detail” about the abuse situation, just so that they aren’t burdened with having to see the abuser for what they really are. If you do this: You are disgusting. There is no excuse. *Stop it.* If you tolerate this from your circle of “friends”: Do yourself a favor, and cut ties. Yeah, it hurts, and yeah, it sucks, but you can do so much better. I promise.

  19. From personal experience I have to say this: my ex-boyfriend was a chronic emotional abuser, who was extremely socially adept, and extremely skilled at being so charismatic that people could never detect that they were being manipulated and went out of their way to please him (who was never pleased with anything). A really bad thing happened to my abuser, like horrifyingly bad, and I was supportive and on his side all the way. So of course he lashed out at me, with a full buffet of emotionally abusive behaviors, with some of the worst, most horrible things I could imagine that were devastating, and still cut me to the core years later.

    During this time I was systematically isolated from people that knew both of us, which also helped to keep his infidelity that was happening a secret (from me — his pals probably knew) too. From time to time I would run into people who had known both of us, and I would just get this intensely WEIRD VIBE — like people were uneasy or ill at ease speaking to me, like they had something on the tip of their tongue that they wanted to say/ask and/or that suddenly now anything I might say would be suspect. This was because my ex was so excellent at playing the victim. On one hand, yes, a really giant bad thing happened to him, that was not his fault (I am 100% sure of this — I was there as it happened). On the other hand, I strongly suspect that he was telling people a bunch of lies about me, and my alleged “instability”, and how that made his life hell, how he had to break up with me and move out, he was at such a vulnerable place in his life after the thing that happened but his existance with me was just unbearable, etc.etc..

    Yes, it was true that I had been very upset with him, and angry with him, and had shouted at him, (in response to the things he was shouting at me). But that does not excuse the extreme power imbalance that had always been present in our relationship, nor the economic disparity, nor the gaslighting, or threats, or undermining, or his disrespectful behavior, or the infidelity that exposed to a cancer-causing STD.

    When I disclosed the abuse to several close friends, they either held me responsible for not being able to prevent the abuse (with what ? magic powers?) or wanted to look at it from the perspective that we were both somehow at fault, since they really liked him, too, and it was hard to imagine Mr.Helpful to be Mr.Horrible — plus he was such a sorry downtrodden victim after the bad thing that happened — how could be possibly be so abusive ?

    When there are two people, and both are claiming to have been abused by the other, it is helpful to tease out the real circumstances. For example — if he hit her — and she hit him in self-defense — she is NOT abusing him. Who has the power in the relationship — economic, social, etc. ? Try to separate that from the circumstance — and a clearer picture will probably emerge of who the real abuser is. In exceptional circumstances it might be mutual — but this is much less common than the aggressor PLAYING the victim.

    1. just want you to know, you are not alone, my ex isolated me too, and the two friends he could not do this to, those he co-opted for a time. When they realized what he was doing was when he claimed I abused him and was jealous, they knew these things were lies. I am thankful because team me is just these two people and i’d be lost without them. Jedi hugs to you and the LW on dealing.

  20. LW, I get the feeling from your letter and your other comments that these people aren’t just mutual friends with Suckface…but that they were Suckface’s friends FIRST. (maybe even that you met them through him?). Or that he is/was at some point closer friends with them than you are (since you seem to be more at “friendly acquaintance” level).

    I think you may be hitting up against a very sick and saddening form of friendship loyalty. They were friends with him FIRST, therefore their friendship with him takes precedence over any subsequent friendship made *through* him. They will ALWAYS side with him. It’s a blind loyalty that probably springs from the same place that tells us to back up a true friend no matter what, except it’s *willfully* blind loyalty. The FIRSTNESS of their friendship with him makes it feel more deeply rooted to them and so somehow makes him deserving of their fidelity and loyalty no matter what. So they’ll choose to ignore anything that makes him seem undeserving of that loyalty. Because not ignoring it would be disloyal!

    This kind of situation is SUPER sucky because you’re going to keep wanting someone to give a flying fuck about what happened to you and looking for some reason that they’re being so unfair, but the whole problem is that its not about reason, it’s about devotion, to him. Some people have advised you to push forward and give them the gory details even though they clearly don’t want to hear them, and force them to acknowledge them. I have to caution you that even then, they may not believe you. Or they may choose not to care. Both are incredibly hurtful. When I broke up with my ex, he got a bad case of the butthurts and proceeded to create a narrative demonizing me as the Dreaded Lying Bitchwhore, which he told to all his friends, who were now my friends too (for almost two years), or so I thought. And wow, was I dropped from that friendship circle like a sack of dead rats! No one stopped to think “The things he’s describing seem out of character for her,” or, “He has been my friend for longer, but because I value her friendship too, I want to hear her side of the story.” Nope! I still don’t know if they actually believed his story, or if they knew it was bullcrap but defriended me anyway in a show of solidarity against me (for the Great and Terrible Crime of Breaking Up With Him Because I No Longer Had Feelings For Him). But when it came down to it, they were HIS friends first, and their loyalty was to him, thereby negating any need for them to treat me decently. It’s unfair, and it sucks.

    But you know what? I’m glad I figured out why my friends were, and weren’t. Because they were never my Team Me. You already know that this other group of people isn’t Team You, but I’m SO glad to hear that you DO know who they are and you have one. They’re the ones who matter.

    1. I agree that being friends FIRST is probably a factor here. But I want to make one point I haven’t read yet. Suckface has had the narrative upper hand here for quite some time.

      What I mean is, that Suckface has been able to tell his own side of the story, to people who have been his friends for longer than they’ve known you. It’s entirely possible (and yes, speaking from experience, not me, thankfully), that Suckface told his friends following the breakup that LW is crazy, and is making shit up about abuse, and how that saddens him, but she’s really going through a hard time, and he’s trying to forgive her for these claims etc.

      Now, the LW knows she isn’t making up the abuse, but she has also honored the friends wishes to not go into great detail, and the friends group was able to sigh in relief and not have to make any decisions re: who the liar really is.

      It seems clear to me that there is some doubt in their minds that your claims are true, which is really sad. But easier from their perspective. Forcing the issue may make them have to decide who they believe.

  21. This is more based on the response and comments than on the letter itself — I don’t remember where I heard it, but I really like the verbal hack where you can replace “drama” with “conflict” in conversation. These people don’t like hearing about CONFLICT. If they knew Awesome’s history with Suckface, they might have to take sides in some CONFLICT. It makes it a lot more clear that the conflict already exists rather than being manufactured, and it’s a lot harder for people to sound sanctimonious with “I’m above all that drama” when you know they’re really saying they can’t handle any conflict.

    (Now I am all worried that I heard that here, or somewhere else totally obvious. Sorry if so!)

  22. The thing I suggest a lot (after having seen it at this blog a lot) applies here: what LW should do with Suckface’s friends is say “I need to not be at the same event/in the same room with him. I’d prefer that you not invite us both to the same party, but the point is, what’s important is that I not be at the same event/in the same room with him.” It’s the outcome that is desired; how it is achieved (within reason) isn’t all that important.

  23. LW, I. . .I don’t know how to say this kindly, so here it is: these people are not your friends.

    Your friends would not invite someone who emotionally, physically, and sexually abused you. Your friends would not dismiss it with “oh, don’t tell me the gory details, DRAMZ” bullshit. Your friends would not do this.

    Perhaps in other ways they are good and fine people. But they refuse to acknowledge that their friend Suckface (heh, good name) is an abuser and a rapist. They would rather act like you’re an irrational ex.

    So. Do you want to attend events–events that happen what? Once a year or so?–hosted and attended by people who are not really your friends?

    You can tell them what you want, and they can still choose to invite him. It looks like they are still choosing to invite him. They know his history. I honestly don’t think these are safe or good people to be around. I know I’m being harsh, but what can I say, I am the Captain of Team Harsh these days.

    1. Sheelzebub, I don’t think you are being harsh at all. Actually if I haven’t said it before then know that I for one really appreciate your comments this one included 🙂

      In effect the LW’s friends are sweeping her sexual abuse at the hands of this guy under the carpet so that it doesn’t give them icky awkward feelings, so that they can be polite.

      Also, there seems to be an underlying idea in that that women are “irrational” and that we “overreact”, which is part of victim blaming but is also part of the culture that says rape and sexual abuse is only perpetrated by monstrous crotch beasts who are total strangers, not by Nice Guys We Know.

      It’s just another way of shutting up and disappearing victims and I definitely think the LW deserves better than that from her friends.

  24. Awesome von Tightpants????

    I wish I’d thought of that name.

    You rock.

    On your problem – I don’t usually give advice because the wise don’t need it and the foolish wont take it – BUT – ditch everybody who even passes Fuckface in the street.

    Ooops sorry for the typo

  25. To amplify the chorus of people who are saying “these aren’t your friends,” I will say “there are better friends waiting for you.”

    I deduce (possibly wrongly) that these have been friends since high school and that might make it a little hard for you to strike out on your own. But there are awesome board gaming geeky people out there who won’t say “I don’t want details” in the case of a bad breakup. I know, I’m surrounded by them.

    Some people seem to think it’s harder once you’re older but, in my experience, it’s been a lot easier. I meet so many awesome people that I don’t have time to be friends with them all. So just leave these folks. Find a better gaming group, find better friends.

  26. I agree that these people aren’t really your friends since they aren’t really taking your well-being into account/making it a priority when making their plans. But you sounded like you have a good Team You and these are just kind of bonus acquaintances? If you really don’t need anything from these friends other than some chill hangout times, I would just skip the parties and any event Suckface might show up at, but I can appreciate the desire for keeping around casual friends who aren’t really close, just for Fun Times. To me, having those no-strings bonus people around seems like a good strategy. It sounds like you know they can’t rrrreally be counted on to have your back if the shit hits the fan, and aren’t counting on them to fill that role, but having them ’round for a board game doesn’t really hurt anything, so feel free. If you well and truly like hanging out with these people, then there is not reason not to, but accept that they have chosen Suckface over you and make your own time to hang out with them on your own if you still want to, knowing what you know.

  27. I think your gaming group has made their stance clear. They are more interested in maintaining a friendship with Suckface than they are interested in caring about your feelings. By not acting on your request to either invite one or the other, but not both (which I interpret as a request not only to mitigate your own pain, but to have them acknowledge your feelings), they have shown that preventing inconvenience on their part is more important that your expressed feelings. By choosing not to engage with you on your feelings and grievances, they have shown their priorities. Trying to make them listen to you will only frustrate both parties.

    I agree with CA, the best path is to simply figure out how to work this situation, rather than trying to change the situation. If you can accept that this is simply the card you have been dealt, and that these are limited friends, then I think you can find an arrangement that works for you. I like CA’s solution as well – you simply and politely take care of yourself, and let other people deal with their feelings if they do not like it.

    It’s a sucky situation you’re in. I once had to quit a biweekly gaming group because of interpersonal tensions with another party. I have only disclosed the details to a few people, and most don’t know that tension even exists. It was hard, because I have felt excluded, even though it was my own choice. However, knowing that I made the decision not to go has helped. Knowing that I could make plans with any of these people at any time, and have done so, has helped. Making plans with other friends has helped. Knowing that I would have a better time at home, by myself, doing anything else ever, rather than being ‘forced’ to be in the same room at that person while I tried to deal with my feelings – helped so much.

    I’m glad you have your Team You to back you up. You deserve to not be thrown into emotional turmoil when all you want to do is have a fun night.

  28. I had a similar experience. I have an uncle that sexually assaulted me when I was a teenager. My parents knew but still made me attend family events and such. It wasn’t till I was in college that I realized how much it messed me up. I spent time in therapy, but am still working on all of it. I made a conscious choice when I was 18 to stop attending family events and then my aunt and uncle divorced and I have not had to see him in 4 years. I am still dealing with my family who are mad I stopped going to their events, but they refused to acknowledge my safety, my sanity, and my well being.

    Your well being is important as is your mental health. I hope this group will understand that.

  29. I would like to add, give concrete examples rather than broad statements. Instead of “he physically and sexually abused me,” say “he slapped me five times and forced me to have sex twice.” If there’s anyone you feel comfortable giving details to, give them. If there’s someone who saw you before or after a time he abused you, tell them, “Remember that time when I was really obviously not okay? [Had a bruise, was crying.] Well, that’s because …” But DON’T oversell. Keep your anecdotes under 5 minutes. Let them ask questions.

    People don’t want to believe shitty things, but they have to know this guy is shady. If you give them a kernel of evidence for their brains to chew on, they’ll come to their own conclusions.

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