Predator Prevention – Links

Edited to Add: Relevant to our interests, here is the great Mikki Kendall, who recently co-launched a blog at Hood Feminism, writing at The Toast about the problem of abusers & enablers in progressive spaces.  /Edit

There is a lot of violence and rape culture stuff discussed at these links, so if that’s not stuff you can read about, be warned and do not click the links!

Did anyone else read this piece by Jay Roberts, I Met A Convicted Serial Killer, and He Made Me Feel More Loved Than Anyone Else In My Life?  

As a young Marine, Roberts met Randy Kraft, who is now believed to have murdered as many as 100 people between 1971 and 1983. Roberts survived the encounter, and actually had no idea at the time that he was in any danger, realizing only much later when Kraft was caught that he was the extremely charismatic stranger he’d spent a day with long ago.

Serial murder is darker stuff than we usually deal with at CaptainAwkwardDotCom enterprises, and don’t worry, it’s not a place I want to dwell. However, the piece is really well-written, and it also fascinated me because here was a violent predator using all of the tactics that predators use: alcohol, isolation (both in selecting a target and in getting the target on his own), testing boundaries and then systematically escalating behaviors, choosing someone who will be unlikely to tell, or, if they do, unlikely to be believed. It was like a textbook case of what predators do. Kraft also did what many predators do, which is to groom their victims with attention and flattery.  He got Roberts, a straight, strapping male Marine to pose for sexy photos and even consider a sexual encounter, and he did it by making the guy feel, in his own words, *loved.* Such was Kraft’s charisma that years later, despite evidence that AN EXTREMELY BIG NUMBER OF OTHER TIMES this guy murdered people exactly like the writer in situations exactly like that one, even recognizing that the guy was manipulating him, had likely stalked & selected him as a good victim, he *still* questions whether that “really” would have happened to him and still has complicated feelings about the guy.

Predators & abusers fuck with our heads. They do it on purpose and according to a predictable pattern. The pattern is designed to disorient you and confuse you. It’s often designed to mimic what “love” or “caring” or “passion” or “intense connection” feels like, at least in the beginning. It leaves you confused and doubting your own feelings or right to protest. When it goes bad, by the predator’s design, it leaves you ashamed, like you “let” something happen to you. It doesn’t matter who you are. It is not your fault. They do it on purpose.

Another great piece I read last week touches on some of the same themes. Thomas at Yes Means Yes wrote “Cockblocking Rapists is a Moral Obligation, or, How To Stop Rape*** Right Now.

***Thomas qualifies it in the post, but it’s worth doing here: He is talking about a certain kind of acquaintance-rape, the type where perpetrator and victim are known to each other and part of the same social scene. He is also talking specifically about what friends/bystanders can do, NOT about how victims can stop their own attacks (by the way, fuck you forever, Emily Yoffe) and NOT putting responsibility on survivors (in fact, the last section of the piece is called “It Can’t All Be On The Survivors”) to make the social circle safer.***

Our post here on creepy dudes in friend circles is by far the most-viewed thing on the site, with over 322,000 views. Next top post? Also about creepy dudes, with 44,000 views. Followed by The Art of No When You’ve Already Said Yes, with roughly the same number. You could say that banishing predatory behavior has been on our minds a little bit. Which is why I love Thomas’s post so much, because he goes step-by-step through what you can do when you know about/see/witness creepy behavior and translates a lot of the discussions we’ve had here into action. First order of business:

“Spot The Boundary Testing

…What the rapists do is target selection. They are looking for someone whose boundaries they can violate, and who won’t or can’t stand up for themselves.  The best targets, the ones who offer the rapists the best chance of getting away with it, are those who won’t report — or who will never even admit to themselves that what happened was rape.  The way the rapist finds those people is to cross their boundaries again and again, progressively testing and looking for resistance.

That’s the pattern to look for.  If somebody seems to be testing to see if one of your friends can be pushed off of “no,” has a limited ability to stand up for themselves, that’s the red flag.

The most important thing you can do if you see this pattern is tell the target you see it.  Forewarned is forearmed.  In fact, somebody who is being targeted and pushed and tested may think they see the pattern, but may not trust their own instincts.  If they know you see it, too, then they may trust a bad feeling that they are already feeling.”

Boundaries are your friends. Defend them and help your friends defend theirs. It can be as simple as “It looked like you were not enjoying that backrub/seventh beer/tickling/hug. Do you want to come sit by me for a while?” or signal-boosting your friend’s no. “She doesn’t want any, thanks.” It doesn’t have to be a big scene or an accusation.

There’s more at the link, including offering options (a ride home, a place to stay, cab fare, “Here, you can use my phone!”) and watching over drunk and high friends. If you’d take away a friend’s keys to drive home, isn’t it okay to say “You seem too fucked up to really consent well to sex right now, and your new makeout partner DEFINITELY does. How about you get their number for later, and we call a cab now?” That probably seems weird and like overstepping, except, 30 years or so ago people revived the concept of the designated driver and made a media campaign and conscious effort to make that into a thing that we know about and do.

Could we make a similar push around sex? Not a stupid judgy “don’t drink, ladies” one (Emily Yoffe, if you’re reading, this, fuck you), but a Too Drunk to Drive is Probably Too Drunk To Fuck one. Prince is really making a push for the beauty of morning sex lately, maybe he can be our spokesman for “Let’s sober up and do it properly, and then go to brunch” campaign for horny party people.

Some of the boldest advice in the piece is to make sure people know who the rapists & suspected rapists are and openly take sides against them. It’s the advice that is probably going to get the most pushback from MRA- types obsessed with “false accusations.” Watch for lots of appeals to fairness and privacy and “innocent until proven guilty.” Hell, I fell more than halfway into this trap myself when answering this question. Not cool, me.

In a court of law, if you are the judge or the jury, a defendant must be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s it. No one else is held to that standard. To even investigate the crime & make charges, the cops and DA have made some presumptions that so and so is guilty. As Thomas says:

Some people will say that it’s unfair to do that, to simply take the survivor’s word, to say things about people without due process.  Well, due process is for the government, to limit their power to lock people up or take their property.  You don’t owe people due process when you decide whether to be friends with them.  You don’t have to have a hearing and invite them to bring a lawyer to decide whether to invite them to a party.  And let’s be honest, most of us repeat things that one person we know did to another person we know based on nothing more than that one participant told us and we believe them.  We do it all the time, it’s part of social interaction.

So if you want to do something, take the label, plant it on the missing stair in your social circle, and make it stick.

You don’t need a jury trial to kick Handsy Bob out of board games night. You really don’t. Handsy Bob makes people uncomfortable. He doesn’t have to actually rape someone to prove that you were right to kick him out of the group for making y’all uncomfortable.

The last section, called It Can’t All Be On The Survivors, builds on this responsibility.  Thomas calls out the total pointlessness and complete shittiness of the idea of neutrality and trying to remain friends with both abusers and their victims, another topic that has come up here  more than once.

It Can’t All Be On The Survivors

I’ve seen the following two things happen:

(1) someone gets sexually assaulted, whether raped or violated in another way, and people say to the survivor, “you have to do something!  If you don’t do something, who will protect the next victim?”

(2) someone gets sexually assaulted, whether raped or violated in another way, and the survivor yells and shouts for people to deal with it, and the people who are friendly with both the survivor and the violator shrug their shoulders and try to stay “neutral.”

What these two things have in common is that in each case, the people around the situation place all the responsibility on the person who most needs help and can least be expected to go it alone.

…Confronting people is emotionally taxing, and it often irreparably ends the friendship.  In fact, about something as serious as rape, it invariably irreparably alters the friendship.  If you believe that your friend raped your other friend, and you say, “hey, you raped my friend,” then the old friendship is gone forever as soon as the words leave your mouth.  What remains is either enmity, or a relationship of holding someone accountable, just as tough and taxing as staying friends with a substance abuser who is trying to get clean and sober.  That’s not easy.  That’s a lot of work, and most people are not up for it.

The option most people choose, because it gets them out of that, is to choose to not make up their minds about what happened…

…Just think about that.  ”Hey, you’re still friends with Boris.  But X said Boris raped her.”  ”Well yeah, but I don’t know what to believe.”  ”Well, but you know what Y said, and Y’s account was a lot like X’s.”  ”Yeah, but I don’t know what to believe.”  ”But Z said Boris violated consent, too, and that’s three people …” “Well, I’ve been friends with Boris a long time, so I kind of don’t know what to think …”  (Trust me when I tell you, folks, I’m not making that up.)

What can you do tomorrow?  Don’t let your communities do that shit.  Hold your friends to a higher standard.

If the current status quo is that survivors end up ceding social space and fleeing bad situations because they feel shame for “creating drama,” I would accept “rapists & creepy, boundary-violating people are shamed and shunned on the word of survivors” as an alternative.

In the comments,  in the aftermath of all the creepy dude posts here and “safe space at cons” discussions I’ve seen around the Internet, I’d be interested to know:

  • Have your social groups taken steps to isolate Missing Stair-people? How did that go?
  • Do you have stories of people intervening successfully in potentially creepy situations?
  • Do you have a creeper who needs a good banishment and need moral support or advice on how to accomplish such?
  • Those of you who go to cons or other events in geek-identified spaces, have you noticed changes in attitudes of organizers or changes in behavior?
  • Do you have suggestions for other things we can do to make our social scenes safer from predators?

Ooh, one final link that I got from Twitter (Thanks, Twitter!), about cutting toxic people out of your life and the relief that can come from not having to deal them by errlix might be good to read today. S/he lays it out very clearly and beautifully.

230 thoughts on “Predator Prevention – Links

  1. Something I’ve experienced personally and seen from a distance is the phemomenon of not saying anything because “I don’t know X well enough” to either call them on their abusive shit or “I don’t know Y well enough” to speak to them about the abuse/predatory crap they’re going through. I heard that lines so many times as a victim, that the person I was going to for help “didn’t know me” or “didn’t know my abuser” well enough to comment or take action on the situation. It’s the exact opposite of the “I’ve known them for a long time” phemomenon the Good Captain mentioned in this post, but it’s just as damaging. It’s ultimately a way to avoid confronting the missing stair in your group, whether you like it or now.

    So my suggestions for eradicating predators and abusers is this: Just because you haven’t known someone for years and years doesn’t mean that their behavior isn’t shitty (in the case of an abuser) or that their problem isn’t something you can help with (in the case of a victim). If someone comes to you for help, please err on the side of helping them, instead of playing into society’s expectations and the missing stair scenario that I can GUARANTEE the abuser/predator/meanie-pants is utilizing to continue their terrible behavior. Likewise, if you witness something that triggers a “NOT COOL AT ALL” vibe in your brain, say something! Ignore the tendency to believe that “that’s just how X and Y function in their relationship” or “Y must have done something bad earlier in the day” or, most importantly “I don’t know X or Y as well as the rest of the group to say anything.” If you see something that legitimately strikes you as Not Ok, trust yourself. Override the society’s programming to ignore your instincts in favor of “keeping the peace.” I know it’s scary. I know it might make you the bad guy. But think, is a group that is going to make you the bad guy over pointing out abusive/predatory behavior really a group you want to be with?

    And above all: help anyone in need. Be the person YOU’D want to encounter if you were in trouble. Offer them a safe place to talk, stay, etc, or help them find those sources. Because the only way we’ll ever eradicate shitty behavior in society is by standing against it, not passively disapproving while doing nothing.

        1. I just thought of an anti rape PSA that fits in with really well with what Emily Nagoski is saying in that piece about disrupting the flow of violence.

          I’m going to put an extra trigger/content warning on this video. It shows a really realistic representation of acquaintance/date rape which has been disturbing to a few people who watched it. But it’s a really fantastic education tool about how bystanders can step in and prevent sexual assault.

          1. It was a good PSA. It showed the message that, as it was put above, “Cockblocking Rapists Is A Moral Obligation”.

            I guess I just wish it had been about 30 seconds longer, with one more rewind, and showed the guy himself taking the brush off and… I dunno. Going and hitting on someone who was interested, and not drunk. Though maybe that detracts from the message, and isn’t Lisak & Miller / McWhorter correct.

            I guess I’d just rather teach the 6-12 million guys to “Not Be That Guy” as the billboard campaign puts it, than eliminating them. But maybe those are the guys that are already beyond salvation.

  2. That first link is really interesting so far, but I just stumbled on the bit where the author mentions he’s surprised he didn’t “punch the guy–one for the Corps” (for asking what he thought about ‘sex with guys’) and goes on, with a complete lack of awareness, to describe himself as “no gay-basher.”

    Um. :\

    1. Troubling statement, to be sure, but keep in mind that he’s talking about how he felt more than 30 years ago in an Armed Services that only admitted there were gay people LAST YEAR. Not an excuse, but an honest part of the story, as in that would sadly have been a “normal” reaction for a guy in his situation. I’m sure he is honestly surprised that he didn’t have the reaction that society, all the dudes around him, etc. would have expected him to have.

      1. This is sort of a sidebar topic, don’t want to derail the thread, but I was well-aware of the dissonance about the “no gay-basher” remark in the text and how it may sound to readers in 2013. I suppose I could have more analytically explained, as JenniferP does, that while I never had any ill feelings about gays, really had never given it much thought, I was still surprised that I didn’t react as my environment would have expected me to back then.

        1. Jay, this is also a sidebar, but you’re an incredible writer. That took me by surprise since true accounts aren’t always written so well. I tried to find links to more of your writing but no luck. Have you published anything else? Do you have a site or anything? At any rate, thank you for writing about your experience.

          1. Janet, just revisited this thread. Thanks for your kind input. No, I haven’t published anything other than a few technical papers here and there. This article has turned out to be widely popular, far more than I would have ever thought. I’ve had a number of people encourage me to write more things. Time will tell on that.

            One of the many strange, for me, things that have happened recently in this long strange thread is getting interviewed by a literary journal. We discuss some things about writing, but also discuss memories, reconstruction, things like that.

            I guess it is a shameless plug, but if you want to read it:


  3. Jennifer, thanks for your commentary on my article about Randy Kraft. It is proving to be much more popular that I would have ever expected.

    One tiny correction – I didn’t realize it was Kraft when he was arrested in 1983. It was only in May 2013, stumbling across the story, that I found this out.

    In any event, you’ve done a fine job of summarizing the dilemma I’ve felt over the issue.

  4. There’s one of these in the activist community in New Zealand. When he lived in the city I’m in now, a decent sized group of people had enough of his shit and started confronting him about it, trying to get him to acknowledge there was a problem, etc. He would tailor his responses depending on who he was talking to, pretending to be remorseful or occasionally bragging about how much he was getting laid. When dealing with him privately didn’t work, a small group of his victims and someone who was going to speak on their behalf went to an activist meeting. When he saw them come in he completely flipped out and started verbally abusing the spokesperson.

    Then he moved to a different city. New Zealand’s a really small place though so everyone knows people up there, and the group that was trying to deal with him got together to write a letter about him which they sent to all the established groups he was likely to try to join. Response… nil. Eventually they took that attempt public as well, posting about it on well-read activist and political blogs. People who weren’t involved criticised them for making it so public, they should have dealt with it privately, it’s a personal matter, etc etc. Except it’s preventing people from going to protests, because he makes himself so visible, and so many people just aren’t willing to be anywhere near him. To which organisers respond “oh, he’s not a spokesperson though” as if that makes it okay. Or say they can’t stop him from coming (or shouldn’t have to, because personal issues aren’t relevant). A few people were grateful for the information about him but on the whole the established organisations are just stonewalling, unwilling to deal with it, because apparently the fact that he’s driving away unknown numbers of women who don’t want to be anywhere near him just doesn’t matter, the fact that he’s an abusive fuckwit doesn’t matter, like it’s any other normal flaw or bad habit – “Yeah, he has a tendency to always run late to meetings” or whatever.

    1. I’m also from NZ, and I’m fairly sure that I know who you’re talking about (or at least, someone with an alarmingly similar story).

      The worst part of situations like this is how supportive other people were/are of him, even when they could see how much he scared others in the group & having witnessed his actions first hand AND recognised at the time that his actions were wrong.

    2. I’m also from NZ and I also know who you’re on about. Or at least, I sure hope I do. If there are two such people out there generating similar levels of fail, then, wow, that’s even grimmer.

      1. We’ve had that issue as well. There was a police informant who was operating until 2008 when his activist girlfriend caught him out through his carelessness. He sent, at least once, explicit photos of teenage activists to his handler with crass comments, and photos of other girls were found on his computer. The email was from 2005 and no one knows exactly what the direct response was but they kept paying him for another three years.

        The fact that both these people were preying on the activist left, normal protest groups with pretty decent reputations rather than organised gangs or anything, just makes it worse for me. (If it was groups with good reputations on the right I’d feel the same – any group that doesn’t have a criminal history.) They’re not criminals, they’re people who are genuinely trying to improve society using entirely legal means, and in the one case people just don’t care enough to eject a predator and in the other he was officially endorsed by the police. It wouldn’t be okay even if they were breaking the law, but at least a gang might know to be on the lookout for bad people and informers.

    3. Elsie and Hugh I really wouldn’t be surprised. He moved from Wellington to Auckland if that helps and was involved with Urerewa (the original group, not the 4). So, yeah, tell your friends, because he resists ANY attempt to rehabilitate him and at this point forewarning people and having their back around him is about the best anyone can do.

  5. A major green flag for me when I was getting to know my now-boyfriend was something that came up when we were talking about an extended friendship group we both belong to (I describe it that way because a lot of us met through meet-ups with a website, so a lot of the meets are very open about who can come).

    He described a situation where a guy who a lot of people knew to be what I’d describe as ‘huggy’ with the girls (among other suspicious behaviours- he once proudly boasted to a female friend of mine from the group that he’d never been faithful to any of his ex-girlfriends, two of which were also in the group. :S) was hitting on some of the girls in our group, and my now-bf saw that the girls were uncomfortable, went up, injected himself firmly into the conversation and changed the subject. He then told me about a second time he’d done that, and that time it involved a guy who I’d had no idea was that type as I’d had nice normal conversations with him before, so it was a heads-up too, if unintentional. I thought of all the times I’d have given anything for a guy to help me out when I’ve been in situations like that (I think we know that guys like this respond better to other guys than they do girls), and I thought of all the awesome stuff I’d read about on Captain Awkward about this stuff, and I told him how fantastic it was that he’d done that. He looked surprised and said something like ‘I don’t want a medal for it!’ He actually didn’t realise how few guys would do it.

    The second guy, the one who I thought was ok, still hates my bf for what happened, apparently. My bf doesn’t care. I love him. Sadly, though, these two guys (and a third who is creepy and has also been a jerk to many) are still in the group. That is the next thing to work on. I will start by letting new girls in the group know about them. And if my bf is unsure if he should implement the ‘cockblocking’ (as he calls it) or not, I will always say yes. Better safe than sorry.

    1. Face it, if they want to get together because they like each other, they will find another time. If they’re going to get together because someone’s feeling pressured, better to step in.

    2. Here’s the thing about that kind of “cockblocking”. If the creepy dude were going to successfully, non-predatorily get some, the so-called cockblocking would block no cock, because the women involved would happily continue to pursue the cock. I mean. It is very difficult to actually cockblock a dude when a lady interested in getting some cock from that guy is involved.

  6. We had to eject someone from our feminist activist group. It was successful in that he doesn’t come any more and people feel safer, but the fallout has been horrible. I guess I’ll share in case anyone has similar experiences/might encounter a similar situation.

    The first thing to say is we left it for way to long before we acted. But it was the usual: he was a nice guy really, funny, him and his girlfriend and friends were an important part of the group. But that didn’t change the fact that he’d repeatedly say and do things people had asked him not to any more. He also groped another member of the group, and made suggestive comments to another. A small group of us decided we had to do something, and sat wringing our hands about it until the next time he was a complete arse and decided enough was enough.

    The fallout was awful. His girlfriend was severely triggered by our actions (I’m not sure of the details, but something about our confrontation triggered her, which I feel terrible about to this day). She hurled abuse at us about how we had smeared him for no good reason, we were trying to take over the group, he’d saved her from an abusive relationship so how could he be engaging in sexual harassment and shitty behaviour? His many friends, some of whom were part of the feminist group, also abused us online, and to this day genuinely hate us. I panic if I bump into them (it’s a smallish town).

    But it was the right thing to do. The thing is, I joined the group after he’d been in it for a good eight months or so, and I ended up being one of the ones confronting him a few months later. I ask myself to this day why he was allowed to be the way he was for so long, and in turn why it took me so long to act myself. Moral of the story: trust your instincts, take action, and no matter the consequences remember you protected your community.

    1. It seems even worse when it happens in a feminist space. Like… how do people not see the disconnect?

      Because people are human, that’s how. But wow, it burns worse when this crap happens in communities that ought to know better.

  7. I have intervened a couple of times in creepy situations, and those are proud memories. It was awkward and hard, and I don’t know for sure what would have happened — but the great thing is, whatever it was, whether it was? It didn’t.

    Getting over the social awkwardness is huge — on the first occasion, a drunk girl’s best friend asked me to help get a boy (a boy DG had been shrugging off advances from all evening and telling she just wanted to be friends) out of DG’s room. I had totally agreed “yes, I will be the bitchy person who can do this”, but it was still really hard to go into someone’s room unasked and haul up some near-stranger who was pretending to sleep. Huge respect to the girl who asked me to do this: she knew she couldn’t, but she knew it had to be done. You can ask for help!

    I think that’s an important thing to realize: you may think you are alone, and that this task is weird and daunting, but you aren’t alone. The second time, when I noticed a male student pushing more drinks on a very drunk female student? I was watching intently, and then I noticed another woman also watching intently. And we exchanged an eloquent series of looks and convened to discuss taking action. You are very likely not the only person in your community who cares, and you don’t have to do everything alone.


    Those were spaces with lots of drinking where the stakes seemed understandably high.

    I have some creeper quandaries in less clear cut situations, for sure. When I know someone engages in boundary-pushing handsiness, but have no reason to think it goes beyond that, how much watching like a hawk do I do? At what point am I being a good community member versus just being vindictive against someone who was disrespectful of my stated boundaries many times, but quite a while in the past?

    1. Re: your last paragraph, I’d say this:

      Just because a person has finally taken your boundaries seriously and decided henceforth to leave you alone, doesn’t mean they have changed their overall pattern of behavior. If you see that person behaving toward another in a manner they used to behave toward you, intervene. They need to know that boundaries apply to everyone. Even “easy targets.” Even people who haven’t yet caught on to their patterns, and people who don’t know them very well.

      And boundary pushing handsiness is in and of itself a good enough reason to watch and/or intervene. Doesn’t have to go further than that.

    2. The thing about enforcing boundaries is that it doesn’t have to be at YIKES, DANGER!!!! levels for you to do it. You know this guy pushes your boundaries, so you stay wary around him for your own sake. And one way you help others is, if you see him doing stuff to other people, you validate their experience. And if people describe having a similar experience or hinky feeling, you validate their point of view within the group. It’s okay to tell others, “I don’t like x, he’s always touching on me.”

      One night, departing very late from a party, there was a dude who kept insistently offering me a ride. I was going to call/hail a cab, and he was very adamant that I should not, he would drive me home, etc. Was he necessarily rapey? No. But he was annoying about it and kept trying to push the ride on me. What did bystanders do? Two women I didn’t even know well at the time stepped in and said, “Actually, we’re taking her home.” He went away. When he was gone, they said “He’s harmless, as far as we know, but he hits on every new person who joins the group, and we could see you were uncomfortable.” That was good information right there, right? No one’s reputation or evening was destroyed, but I got someone backing up what my instincts were telling me. He didn’t have to be actually dangerous for me to be grateful or for that to be the right thing to do.

      I think/hope you’re going to meet far more annoying people who don’t understand boundaries than you are actual predators. When you stick up for yourself or others, harmless people who were just overstepping without realizing it apologize and back off – which is good. Predators also get information, that they are being watched and the things that work elsewhere will not work here. Even with awesome boundary-setting skills, you can’t control what really bad people will do, but you can send a subtle message that says “I see you, and we look out for each other here.”

      1. Thank you for the replies, Cap’n & others! I had a long drive to see some very small family members so I hadn’t been back ’til now.

        Thank you very much for the advice! I’ve been doubly uncertain in the past because A. I don’t want to engage with Dude, the current treaty seems to be I mostly avoid him and when I can’t he treats me politely/formally and B. some women seem to actually like his pushy, aggressive style. But I should be able to factor that into my “is she okay” radar! Much as I may not want to invite his attention by joining his conversations, I can do so for soft check-ins with women whose comfort I’m not sure about — and especially who are young, new to the group, or otherwise not sure of themselves.

        Thank you!

    3. Cliff at Pervocracy has a good article on those “mildly creepy things are happening, do I intervene?” situations, with a good discussion as well–

      I’m partial to the strategy of a “soft check-in.” This can be an actual question (“Hey, is everything okay here?”) in the moment, a follow-up with the target afterwards (“Hey, I saw P doing something kind of weird, were you okay with that?”), or even just making your presence known and giving the perp a WTF look.

      I’ve also found re-phrasing or re-asking the boundary-pusher’s question in a non-pressury way can sometimes work, but sometimes is hard to pull off (e.g. in a case where a perp is pressuring someone to drink more, I’ve asked, “I’m heading up to the bar with anyone who wants another drink. T, do you want another drink or maybe some water?” Bonus if the question gives the person an excuse to exit the situation for the moment.) Then, if the person says no to me (which they might be more comfortable doing), I feel more justified in telling the perp, Dude, she said no. Fuck the hell off. than I might if she was just demurring mildly to his repeated advances.

    4. “You aren’t alone.” This is a really important point, and a really good way to help overcome the bystander event. It reminds me of water — you can tip a glass really far and the water won’t come out, but once the surface tension is broken–WHOOSH. Once one person steps forward, others may come to help.

  8. I actually wrote this as part of my own mental processing several months ago. I have edited it a litte; pseudonyms have been used throughout in this version. Not so much to protect the ‘innocent’; more because I just don’t want to invite any backlash from my meatspace-dwelling friends over this, should they happen across it.
    ***Triggers for stories about rape lie herein.***
    I had just moved home, and was sharing a house with Mitchell and Mya. Mya’s best friend Sally had come over to hang out with us. Mya and Sally and I had been acquaintances for years, but I had been away in another city for the past year and had only just returned. Mitchell was a friend they had made in the meantime, and he and I were doing a lot of getting to know each other. He was funny and charismatic and cool. We were all having a few drinks and swapping funny anecdotes with each other, and Mitchell dropped a story that went like this.

    So this one time in first year I was at this house party, right. I was in a bedroom with my mate and this girl he’d been seeing, and we were all high as fuck. I was pissing around on the computer and he was on the bed with this girl, fucking away like a piston. And as soon as he was done, he pulled out of the girl and tagged me in – here an illustrative high-five motion – and we changed places, just like that. I was in her before she even figured out we’d switched. It was smooth as fuck!
    I stared. It was a truly surreal moment. Mitchell’s face was screwed up with laughter; he was flicking his fingers together in the air like a gangsta-rapper. Mya and Sally were chuckling in supressed sniggers and raising their joints to toke on. I’m not sure about this, but I did briefly wonder if they looked slightly uneasy, chortling along by social default and taking a drag to avoid speaking, because they weren’t quite comfortable responding with explicit approval. But maybe that’s just my wishful thinking and they genuinely thought it was funny; it all happened so fast it was hard to tell. I looked at them, and I looked at Mitchell, and I knew nobody was going to save me by saying it for me, so I took a breath and said, ‘Dude. That’s rape.’
    Everything stopped. There were two full seconds of silence in which smoke drifted upwards in coils around three stone-still faces, all turned towards me. I met Mitchell’s stare and didn’t smile. And then Mitchell laughed in disbelief and said ‘What?’

    ‘I said, that’s rape,’ I repeated, and he replied ‘Shut up, it wasn’t rape,’ in this amused and dismissive tone of voice. From the corner of my eye I saw Mya and Sally exchange a quick silent glance, and then they sat right back in their chairs, clearly signalling their own withdrawal from the conversation. My heart was hammering and I was hating every second of it, but I knew I couldn’t face how much I would despise myself in the morning if I laughed along as if the story had been funny, or if I said nothing as though I hadn’t heard. That was what my old friend Lyman did when I was assaulted – he just wanted to pretend it hadn’t happened, or rationalise it away as something else, so everything could continue to be cool between him and his good friend the sexual predator. The thought of being just as cowardly, just as wilfully blind, made me feel physically sick. Despite my fear and hatred of confrontation, I knew I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t speak; but I also knew that every other person in the room was wishing I hadn’t opened my mouth and made the atmosphere suddenly Not Okay. I was pretty sure that, in their minds, the person pissing on the party was me. I was terrified.

    If I were braver, or more experienced at confrontation, I would have continued to hold Mitchell’s eyes and let shit be awkward for as long as it took to provoke him into apologising or leaving the room. Or, I would have left the room myself, and had nothing further to do with him. Sadly I did neither of those things, and instead I was the first to cave to the pressure of the tense atmosphere. I backed down with my body language and said ‘Not cool, dude,’ in the general direction of the carpet, my dropped gaze unconsciously signalling that I was ready to let it be over now.

    ‘It totally wasn’t rape,’ Mitchell assured me. His confident explanatory tone suggested he found it endearing that I could be so fierce, but that of course I had committed a great social faux-pas: I should always show faith in another human being’s goodness unless I had iron-clad proof to the contrary, or else it would cause unpleasant social drama and make me look stupid at best, and like a crazy bitch at worst. But Mitchell himself was good enough to be kind and patient with my mistake, of course. He offered me a reassuring smile as if it were an olive branch. ‘I saw her the next morning before I went home, and she was completely cool about it. We even had a bit of a laugh together, so honestly, don’t worry.’

    ‘Well yeah, I can see how some girls would be upset about you doing that, but if she wasn’t, then that’s what matters really, isn’t it,’ said Sally, trying to stitch things back together over a middle ground where everyone could be right.

    Seriously. It’s fine to thrust your penis into a woman’s vagina unawares, because she’ll probably enjoy it anyway, so it’ll all work out okay in the end. And besides, if you’re being egged on by the guy who owns the rights to her, then it’s clearly all just a good laugh anyway, amirite?

    I was too boggled by their willingness to regard this as acceptable logic to even know where to start. And I had burned through my meagre capacity for confrontation already. I felt so sad for the poor girl. True, it is possible she may indeed have enjoyed herself with Mitchell and had a marvellous time. But, on the other hand, she may have been too high to know what was really happening, or too shocked and scared to tell him Get the fuck off of me you asshole! The next day, she would have been hungover or coming down or both. She may have been feeling vulnerable and confused and afraid, putting on a plastic face and saying what everyone wanted to hear until she could just get away from it all with a minimum of conflict and figure her shit out. Maybe she didn’t want to think of herself as a victim, preferring to try and convince herself that the incident was a harmless bit of fun, rather than face the emotional and social explosion that follows speaking the words I think I was raped.

    Because all of the above was pretty much exactly what I did. I didn’t want to be That Girl either. That Girl was a dumb slut who went around getting herself into situations and causing problems; she wasn’t me and I didn’t want to be her. The day after the night I was assaulted, all I could do was hide somewhere inside myself and wait until I could finally be alone somewhere and start processing what had happened. I didn’t even know if what had happened to me was really all that bad, and the last thing I felt equipped to do was anger my friends by sparking a huge fuss that they would hate and resent being subjected to. My friends asked me more than once that day if I was okay – unbelievably, even the guy who assaulted me asked – and every time I would force a little smile and tell them I was just tired, because what else could I possibly say? No, I’m not fine, because you put your hands in all my places when you thought I was passed out drunk, and I strongly suspect it’s actually me that most everyone will privately blame and disregard as a drama llama if I insist on making A Thing about it, so no, I’m really not okay, thanks for asking, all casual in the sunshine. No, I said over and over that I was fine; but I felt like an ice sculpture, frozen inside, and as if I might shatter if I made the wrong decision about what to do or say. As if every friendship I had was riding on me doing the Right Thing at this point, so I’d better be sure before I said anything, and not fuck it up.

    So I wondered who this girl from Mitchell’s story was, and how she remembered that night; what she might be doing with her life now, and if she was okay. If her experience had felt anything like mine. I wanted to reach out to her and say I’m sorry that happened to you, is there anything I can do? But in response to Mitchell and Sally, I only muttered, ‘Not cool,’ at the carpet again, and after a moment, somebody started talking about something else. The conversation moved on. After a couple of minutes of sitting quietly, I quaffed the rest of my drink and joined back in with the joking and laughing. It was all too easy to wonder if I was only so upset because of my own issues around sexual assault; to wonder if maybe I really had jumped to conclusions. The more I drank, the easier it became to set it all aside in my mind. The evening went on, and we didn’t talk about Mitchell’s anecdote again.
    The next day was grey, empty and meaningless. I felt crappy and low and I had no positive energy to call on. I spent most of the day in bed, emerging only to eat occasionally. I put it down to hangover.

    The day after, the emotional flashbacks and anxiety attacks began.
    ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

    Here endeth the story I wrote for myself, several months ago. To round off the tale, I lived with that guy for a year. I would have like to move out but I didn’t have the financial or emotional resources (unemployment, family bereavement, blah blah blah etc). By the time the year was half way through, Mitchell was living almost exclusively on Mya and her boyfriend’s dime. At the end of the tenancy, we found out he hadn’t paid any rent for six months. He first denied it and swore he would get proof, and then said he didn’t know what had happened but he’d pay any day now, for more than a month. We all lost our deposits. Mya lost the deposit she’d already put down on her next place too, because she couldn’t get a landlord reference on time.
    Mya and her boyfriend made excuses for Mitchell as long as they possibly could, and when they couldn’t anymore, their defence became ‘I know what it looks like, but I also know that he’s my friend and he’s been there for me through a lot, so I really can’t believe he would do this and I’m just going to have to stand back and see what happens.’

    I confronted Mitchell over the money and called him a lying c**t to his face, in front of our whole social group, hoping that even latent group pressure might force him to come good. Mya and her boyfriend squirmed in awkwardness and refused to pass judgement in any direction. They wouldn’t condemn me for accusing him any more than they would condemn him for lying. They didn’t offer any opinions at all if they could help it, and when pressed, only said that they could see it from both sides. They just wanted to stay friends with everyone, and for nothing to be anyone’s fault.

    Mya and her boyfriend and I used to be tight. I don’t really see them anymore. They don’t really see Mitchell anymore either. It was a hellish final month to live through, and afterwards, we all just stopped calling each other.

    Thank you for this space to rant in, Captain. And thank you for your excellent post.

    1. You did exactly the right thing by speaking out, EXACTLY. I’m sorry your friends couldn’t have your back.

      Mitchell, by telling that story, was telling you something very important. He was saying “Yeah, sometimes I might just rape people and think it’s no big deal,” and he was testing the waters of your little social group to see if it would accept his version of events. Your bravery that night told him something, too. “I am not an easy target, you fuckwit.”

      Let’s fantasize about (and build) a world where the other women and the other dudes say “Jesus, bro, listen to yourself. That is not a funny story, and you should not tell it to people, though we’re glad you told us. We’re out of here.” And Mitchell is the one who is made to feel weird, and Mitchell is ostracized.

      brb naming a douchey character in my screenplay after Mitchell

      1. Thank you. 🙂 (and thanks for the editing too, I only realised the paragraph spacing issue just AFTER I’d hit send… /facepalm)

        If there’s one good thing I can say about having been sexually assaulted, it’s that I can now spot assholes coming. When somebody pushes my boundaries in lots of little ways, my brain actually connects the dots now, and suddenly in my head there are all these flashing lights and AWOOGA-AWOOGA. That’s a pretty useful spidey-sense to have.

        And I LOVE that you are naming a douchey character after him; that absolutely just made my day! ❤

        1. “If there’s one good thing I can say about having been sexually assaulted, it’s that I can now spot assholes coming. When somebody pushes my boundaries in lots of little ways, my brain actually connects the dots now, and suddenly in my head there are all these flashing lights and AWOOGA-AWOOGA. That’s a pretty useful spidey-sense to have.”


        2. Something really similar happened in my group of friends, but it wasn’t me who spoke out, it was my friend.

          (Trigger warning for below story)

          A guy who told “Mitchell-like” stories, charismatic and well liked, told a ‘party’ story of a guy who found out his girlfriend was cheating on him, so for revenge, told all his friends to wait in a room while he went into the next room and started having sex with supposedly-cheating girlfriend. He then yelled something for them all to come in, where they then taunted and screamed at her and he tried to see how long he could ‘stay on her’. Or, something like that, I don’t remember the details.

          My friend broke in with, “Um, you realize that’s rape, right?” and he was totally taken aback. There was some argument along those lines. She said later that he had told that story before and she’d been bothered by it, thought about it later and been even more bothered, so when he told it again, she had to say *something*.

          I will also register my loathing for how so many of those stories (and oh, I’ve heard other ‘urban legends’ of that kind) make it OK by saying the girl was cheating on the guy. Cheating in a relationship is shitty but using it to justify it being OK to rape that person? Um, how about no.

      2. In the light of the rest of the story – both the anecdote and the frame story – another boundary-pushing went past unremarked upon. He’s ditzing around on his computer while his mate has sex?

        The longer I think about this, the more red flags that is sending up for me, because while I can imagine some circumstances under which this is perfectly healthy – when all participants have discussed this beforehand and agreed to it – but otherwise, it seems to point to a culture where boundaries are regularly violated.

        1. This was quite common at the university I attended. Your dorm room didn’t have much privacy and usually a roommate or three, and so what you would do was just pretend not to notice that people were getting it on just a few feet away. A lot of the public computing labs were inaccessible after a certain time of night, and it was before laptops were common, so.

    2. Wow. Bloody hell. I’ve never even been raped and this was somehow… well, I dunno if “triggering” is the right word, but it was definitely adrenaline dump inducing. :-/

      That really sucks that you had to go through that.

  9. My advice is to stick with it. I know it’s tough and it drains your energy to be the watchdog. But if you see a crepy behaviour and can potentially save someone else it’s worth it.

    I had a Creepy, handsy guy in my friend group. He would accidentally on purpose slide up right next to you, maybe grab a half boob (”oops!”) and he focused on the women of the group. Lots of couch of plausible deniability creepiness.

    He liked to run the old ”I’m just a misunderstood, sensitive guy” and used that to get us women on his side. For every creepy thing he did, he always apologized profusely afterward unbidden, so it took me a while to see the pattern. He did it over and over again. No amount of excuses makes up for being harassed.

    As far as I know Creepy, handsy guy hasn’t raped anyone. But I fully believe that it was just a matter of time and opportunity for him. You’re allowed to make some noise even though there is no Proof TM.

    One good thing about having been abused is that this guy wasn’t feeling very threatening *to me*. I also have a better radar for these things than others. It was almost like ”bring it on, fucker”. I had that frail type of strength where he couldn’t do anything I hadn’t already been through. So I talked to the group and I confronted him. My phone blew up with angry messages that week. It’s been several months and he’s still trying to prove his innocence, mixed with abuse. I haven’t once replied after confronting him. A leopard don’t change it’s spots and all that. He’s just proving my point for me.

    That’s a quick version of my story. The longer one contains more self-doubt and worrying for the sake of the group. Like I was responsible for managing it. One last thing: if you can help someone else: a friend, a stranger and intervene and act the Bad Guy.. that is just gold. Precious, precious.

  10. When I was younger there was a “missing stair”-person in my friends group. I only know of one time he actually molested anyone. At a party I was at he held my drunk friend down on a sofa and touched her untill someone stopped him. As we were walking home she decided never to drink again and it took me years to understand what had actually happened. He was clueless in social situations and often made people uncomfortable but we all wanted to believe he wouldn’t actually hurt anyone.

    Years later he changed his style completley and “The Game” by Neil Strauss was his new favorite book. That worried me. He wasn’t very good at respecting other peoples bounderies. I remember one time he said that my cat was broken because she wouldn’t let him pet her whenever he wanted to, as if she didn’t have a will of her own and the right to decide when and when not to do sit in his lap. He was sort of the same with people, he’d only see things from hes own perspective. And with the tricks in that book I knew he might be doing so much damage. I talked to him, tried to reason with him but that’s all I did. It was just so wierd to me how he’d treat me like a person, a friend, sometimes. And as a girl, a target, other times. He’d want me to share a room with him at house parties or bring my female friends to meet him and I always said no because I was afraid of what he might do.

    He was unhappy, had studied farmacoligy and was good at manipulation so he found ways to get drugs he couldn’t get anyone to prescribe to him to treat his depression, drugs that made him even less able to connect to other people or their feelings. People avoided him, he tried to get help but wasn’t given any and eventually he killed himself. I really miss him and find it hard to think about all this because I know that he hurt people. I know from storied that he stalked a girl and broke in to her apartment. From what he said he loved her and I guess he wanted to force her to love him too, to get that happy ending with a house and a family and the happiness that is supposed to bring. But she must have been terrified. I don’t know who else he’s hurt but guess there are more storied out there. I don’t want to think about that but I have to. I have to remember him for all he was. I just wish I had had the tools to help him, that there had been somwhere to turn. Something more than just keeping my friends away from him and making sure he didn’t hurt anyone while I was there.

  11. A few years ago, before I realized I don’t actually *like* going to clubs, I usually volunteered (as the only non-drinking friend with a car) to be the designated driver. I was also designated drunk girl wrangler. (And no judgement on the ladies drinking – drink away as you please!)

    We would actually discuss this before we went out. “Am I supposed to make you leave with us regardless of how sober you are?” “Do I enforce number exhanging and not going-home-with for you?”

    The reason for this was that “sober-insert name” and “drunk insert-same-name” had VERY different boundaries. I still fondly recall some of those 1:30 am discussions.

    Me: “Okay, Friend, time to get you home.”

    Friend: “I wanna stay here and go home with dude.”

    Me: “He does seem great – and that super shiny purple shirt is definitely a winner – but sober you asked to be brought home, solo, so let’s get Dude’s number and split.”

    Friend: “Sober me sucks! Duuuude!”

    Me: “You can discuss it with yourself tomorrow – later Dude!”

    My policy was not to be their “mom” but to make sure my friends were okay. As a bonus, I am direct, loud and unintimidated by eager drunk dudes who wanted more than my friend’s number. I still practice my “death glare” for fun. (Some of those guys were totally cool about it – glare reserved for those that would actually still try to separate friend from the group at this point, etc, etc).

    That was the best way we came up with to manage the situation. I still felt weird leaving anyone behind if that was what they had opted for when sober, and if there ever had been a situation where both sober and drunk they asked to be left behind but they were a) really far gone or b) dealing with a dude who gave us all a bad vibe, I probably would have hustled my friend to the car anyway and taken heat the next day.

    1. I really like your solution of pre-negotiating with sober-friends how they would like you to deal with drunk-them. That seems way more likely to succeed than trying, out of the blue, to convince someone they should give in to pressure from you instead of some other person.

  12. So there’s a boundary violating Pushy McPushipants in my friends group. I had a kind of off and on casual relationship with him, and going back and reading my diary entries for that year there are all kinds of “And then McPushipants started scratching my back (something he’d do as foreplay) at a public dancehall and I had to tell him no four times before he stopped” or “Pushy kept pestering me to kiss him at this party after I’d said no twice” or “Pushy decided halfway through a (BDSM) scene he wanted to flip roles and I wasn’t prepared for that and wasn’t in the right headspace for it so I ended the scene and we both felt really frustrated and crappy.” SO MANY RED FLAGS right? But each time I convinced myself it was just a little thing, no big deal, I didn’t want to be The Crazy Bitch.

    And then he assaulted me, in a way that was clearly assault and not grey area at all. And then I felt like a fucking idiot for not trusting my gut a year earlier about the smaller boundary violations. He has way more social capital than I do. There are a handful of people I’ve told who believe me, but are still friends with him. I feel like my choices are to make a big public stink about it and lose many friends (and possibly a romantic partner) or just silently withdraw from social spaces he inhabits. It’s shitty all around.

    1. Chances are he has done this to someone else in that exact circle, and s/he feels as you do now. A good first step is finding that person.

      It is so unfair that you should have to possibly cede a social circle to a confirmed asshole. But when I read your post, what I saw is that you told people what he did to you and they believed you yet still decided to be friends with your abuser. So if you decide to leave the scene because it’s too much to deal with, maybe don’t go quietly. Go loudly and with great honesty. “I would love to hang out with you, but I can’t be anywhere X is. You know why, and if that’s not a good enough reason for you to not hang out with him anymore, I wish you the joy of one another.

    2. Ugh. I have been there, twice, and it massively sucks. (Once as the victim and one watching a good friend being victimized. Both sucked.) Both times I ended up pretty socially isolated and had to move to get away from the drama and restart my social life. Not much practical advice, except I second the Captain–friends who side with an abuser are better off being replaced (even though it sucks). And I would double or triple that for a romantic partner. If your romantic partner is not 100% on Team You in this scenario, I would think extra hard about whether they are a healthy and safe partner. (But I also recognize telling a partner about a past assault is TERRIFYING and the fear of rejection and blame-of-you is SO HIGH. But extra reassurances that it was not your fault and any romantic partner worth having should 100% know, believe, and reassure you about that. And should be on your side against any Social Drama that results from you keeping yourself safe.)

      1. The romantic partner thing is probably all in my head, but I’m super anxious about it anyway. So I’m poly, and I started dating my newest partner only a month before the assault. And the assailant? Has a relationship with New Partner’s primary partner. So what with the being in denial for a while, and then not being willing to talk about it because I’ve Been There before too (about ten years ago, lost almost all of my friends when I spoke up), and I know how this movie ends, and then the few friends I did confide in kept being friends with him, I just never managed to get the spoons together to tell New Partner. And now it’s been a couple months and I really fear two possible reactions: 1) “What?! My other partner has been in danger from this creep and you didn’t warn me/them? You’re so selfish. We’re breaking up.” or possibly 2) “No, Assailant is a great guy, he’s been awesome to my other partner, why are you such a drama whore? We’re breaking up now.”

        1. Ugh, so stressful. =( It’s a hard choice and a hard thing to do either way, and there are no perfect answers. However, I would say four things and give you all the Jedi Hugs while you decide the right thing to do for you:
          -It took me about 6 months to even admit to myself that something “not okay” happened, about a year or two to use the word rape, and about 4 years to realize how much it fucked me up (and how totally pissed I was at people around me for not having my back–even though I didn’t expect them to at the time). Needing a few months to come to terms with what happened is totally normal, which I’m sure you know, but I still need to hear all the time.
          -Anyone who reacts in either of those two ways is a Giant Mr. Douchebag McGee and doesn’t deserve to be your partner, even if he/she is awesome about other things.
          -Any partner worth having with recognize that telling him now is a brave thing and nothing about any of this is your fault and that your abuser is the one 100% at fault. He/she will have your back 100%, even his he/she needs a bit of time to process and decide what to do (about Primary Partner and Mr. Douchebag Abuser).
          -Losing your friend group over something like this so massively incredibly sucks. But you know what’s worse? Having friends who don’t value you and who would chose an abuser over you. It does terrible things to one’s mental health and self-worth in the long run.

          Again, le suck and ALL THE JEDI HUGS you want.

        2. Here’s a third possibility: your romantic partner tightens their lips while listening to you, then says, “I suspected but never had anything solid to go on, and my primary really digs him so I just dropped it.” Or even, “Yea, Y mentioned something really similar when my primary was getting involved with him, but he seemed OK/my primary was so adorably caught up in NRE/etc., and we don’t have veto/I didn’t want to veto on hearsay/etc., so. . .”

          If your romantic partner is worthy of being such, they will not blame you for not bringing it up sooner, or accuse you of lying/being dramatic. They will be extremely uncomfortable, no two ways about it, but they will have your back. I sincerely hope your partner is worthy. *hugs*

          1. Thank you for the support. Rationally, I know you are probably right. The person I am dating is generally a good, caring human being and I have no evidence-based reason to think they’ll react badly. But as I mentioned upthread, I’ve been through this before, about ten years ago. That time, my abuser forced all of my friends to choose between him and me, and, well, all but maybe five people choose him. I even got kicked out of my church over it. In hindsight I’m better off without any of those people in my life, but holy FSM was it difficult to get through at the time, and I’m obviously still scarred by it.

            I’ve mostly decided I ought to tell them, if only because there’s a huge reunion-y type event coming up soon and my new partner is likely to hear about it through the grapevine no matter what. But I’m not looking forward to it.

      2. Also, where the hell are my manners tonight? Thank you for the support. I really appreciate it.

  13. Hi Captain – This is a great post!!!
    You asked for anecdotes and suggestions. These are mostly personal in nature, from my late teens/early 20s…

    A close friend had a very creepy college roommate who would act in a very predatory way toward any girls who would visit their room. Any time Roommate was in the presence of women, he would put his hands on them somehow. Friend ended up nicknaming Roommate “The Groper”. He told everyone he knew about Roommate’s creepy behavior, and the nickname spread. Soon everyone started referring to Roommate as “The Groper” and people were thus forewarned. (He also confronted Roommate about touching his friends, but the behavior never stopped.)

    We used to know a different guy who’d haunt parties and try to drag Very Drunk women off to his lair. I saw him doing it once – trying to pry a woman who was vomiting up off of a tree trunk and drag her back to his room – and I angrily and loudly confronted him. After that, whenever I saw him at parties, I’d keep an eye on him, and so would my friends.

    Our university had a secret bathroom “rapist wall” where women would anonymously write a guy’s name if he had assaulted them or one of their friends. This DID NOT result in criminal charges and WAS NOT officially sanctioned by the college. I doubt the administrators were even aware of this – but we all were.

    Also. The three times I ended up in Particularly Bad Situations, it was because I had gone to a party or bar with a friend, and didn’t know anyone else there, and then she ditched me without telling me she was leaving first…which left me on my own to walk home/get a ride from someone I didn’t know well, and each time things ended badly.

    I also echo the Captain’s recommendation to warn people if someone has assaulted someone you know. I had a stalker for a while. He was a “quirky guy” who rode a very distinctive bike. Once, as I was returning to my apartment, I found two women outside my building, standing near the bicycle. They were all, “We know this bike. We know this guy. PLEASE BE CAREFUL…” This guy had already been weirding me out, but to get total confirmation that he was dangerous from two perfect strangers? Gave me all the info I needed to call in the cavalry, and recognize him for the serious threat he was.

    1. Yeah, when someone has the nickname “The Groper”, it’s definitely ok to a) avoid him without preamble and b) for someone who is closer to him to say “Dude, they call you the Groper, and it’s not a compliment. Keep your hands to yourself!”

      1. Not surprisingly, he ended up being a divisive figure in my friend’s group. After their year as roommates, Friend refused to hang out with him, but other friends were like, “Oh, he’s just a sad sack/ He’s harmless.” The beauty was that literally everyone knew him as The Groper by then, so forewarned is forearmed? This nickname has followed him into adult life, and from what I’ve heard, he is sadly still living up to it.

  14. Oh, I just realized I have another story too, one that ended better;

    I was at a work party and I hadn’t been working there very long so I didn’t really know anyone. I mostly sat in the same place and talked to this one guy with a big beard who really liked the sound of his own voice. It wasn’t super fun but it was alright, he was nice and had interesting things in his monologs. Any way, the bar closed and a girl in our group, my group leader, was really drunk and wanted the party to continue somwhere else. Outside the bar some guy came up to her and started talking to her and the guy I’d been talking to, the bearded guy, told me he knew that guy and he wasn’t to be trusted. So I made sure we stayed close to her and when he tried to get her go go with him and his friends in a car I told her that was a bad idear. She really wanted to party though so somehow I convinced her we’d go somwhere else. So the four of us started walking, I don’t know where, we just walked. The creepy guy and the bearded guy were friends so it wasn’t really wierd, the bearded guy wanted to keep hanging with me and the creep still wanted to get her alone somehow but was now in a situation where that was hard. So we walked and walked and walked, for a long long time. The creep gave up and left and it was just the three of us but she still wanted to go off somwhere even though she could hardley walk so I didn’t want to leave her alone. The beard wasn’t haveing fun anymore but I felt like I had to keep pretending like we were on our way to something fun and convincing him not to go home. After I don’t know how long he said he had to pee and never came back. We sat down and had some fries and she finaly soberd up a little and the morning came and we waited for the first subway home and said goodbye. I’ll never forget that. That awfull and uncomfortable situation I had to keep us all in or else something horrible would happen. Of course I don’t know anything bad would have happened but the feeling was so strong and I remember that night as something good.

  15. I had this happen in a group I coordinate – I was getting weird and uncomfortable vibes off a guy, and had seen him be touchy and pushy, and heard him make rape jokes. 4 out of 4 other women I asked about him had had similar experiences.

    So I sent him an email, with a numbered list of stuff not to do, saying “you may not have realized, but… ”

    He replied to say he’d change his behaviour immediately, and I’ve never seem him again.

    This is all good, but it was really hard to do. The social contract is so strongly against confrontation or pushing people out, I still catch myself feeling uncomfortable or guilty. Logically I know I was right, and people have thanked me, but it still feels wrong.

    Looking back I think the numbered list was a good idea. I kept it to objective facts, like rape jokes, and left out everything more squishy, which makes it both less of a character annihilation and harder to argue with.

    Also, “you may not have realized, but… ” both doesn’t let the facts be queried, but also doesn’t include assuming that he’s malicious, which is easier all round.

    So no regrets, but the guilt! And the discomfort! Social programming is tough!

    1. You’re pretty much the world’s best planner & host of stuff, and that includes keeping the space safe.

      1. Feeling responsible for it definitely helped kick me into doing something.

        Plus, there’s a whole world out there for people who want to make rape jokes and touch people inappropriately. They don’t need to be here as well.

  16. I want to pass on some advice I read that relates to SF conventions. If you see an ambiguous situation where you’re not sure if someone is being creeped on or if it is innocent, go ask the person you’re worried about a random question like “can you tell me where hospitality is?” or “did you see that panel?” or “cool costume, how did you like that movie?” If they are freaked out, they will glom on to you like a lifeline. If not, they’ll give a casual answer and you can move on. The person who gave this advice said she had escorted people out of uncomfortable situations multiple times because she asked “where is x room?” and they instantly offered to show her as an excuse to leave the room with an escort.

    1. This is great advice. Another tactic I’ve used with co-workers is to have a code where we ask each other, “Have you seen Amelia?” (Only there is no Amelia.) If you’re being creeped on, the answer is, “She was over there, let’s go find her.”

      1. Brilliant advice!

        My friend group and I had hand signals for when we were out partying and needed rescue from creepers. Wave and everything is fine, rub or scratch your forehead and it’s time for your friend over there to come get you because they need to talk to you in private right now about *made up drama thing*

      2. You know, I could totally see a variant of that working even in a con population, if it’s publicized beforehand. You can always go up to someone and say, “Oh, i found you! Have you seen James?” even if there is no James; if the person is pre-alerted that that’s a soft checkin, they can respond either “oh, yeah, let me help you find him, he was over there”; if not, they can respond “I think you must have confused me for someone else”, or something equivalent. And it’s plausibly deniable, because even if people know it’s being used that way, it’s ALSO going to be happening for real all over the place. What is a creeper gonna say — “you don’t really know each other”?

  17. This post resonates so incredibly deeply with me – I exited a social group so that people would not feel that they had to choose between my abuser and me. I did not want to put anyone in that position (and frankly I was not sure they would choose me), so I isolated myself exactly when I was finally coming to terms with the abuse, leaving the relationship, and dealing with PTSD. No one should have to go through that alone, no one.

    And the part about due process not applying to my friendships is a huge lightbulb moment for me – if I guy creeps me out, I do not actually have to wait until he is completely inappropriate with me (which I have done several times in the past). Thank you!!

    1. Twice I’ve left groups entirely because I couldn’t handle seeing whether my friends would choose my abuser or me. The third time, I kind of half-left, where I still see some people and avoid my abuser entirely. It’s kind of half-working. Most of the time I still get to enjoy the things I enjoy, and I feel like most of my friends chose me. Only occasionally one of them will mention my abuser and I realise they’re still friends, just separately to me, and it pisses me off.

  18. My friends group has no creeper, but we sure have one at work. I could tell the whole story but I’m sure there’s nothing new in it. He was reported to management and their response was to totally work around him. He was given a special schedule so that he won’t be in the elevator with any of the ladies (my company is 98% ladies). He was given a really nice corner/window desk that doesn’t adjoin any of the aisles so that he can’t watch women walk by. He has a strict list of people that he’s allowed to talk to and he’s not allowed to talk to anyone else (although he treats this as more of a guideline and regularly violates it without consequences). Etc. etc. they really bent over backwards to accommodate his “little issue.”

    It’s extremely frustrating for all of us. He’s not even a very good employee. He’s fairly new, but his bad-employee-ness is not due to newness and is entirely due to him not watching what he’s doing and not being careful or mindful about his work. We don’t understand at all why he wasn’t just fired. This is a right-to-work state and the company does not need a reason to fire him in order to fire him. Management hasn’t even bothered to tell anyone why they chose to missing-stair him instead of canning him, and so there’s a rumor going around that there is some kind of legal requirement to accommodate him first, but no idea if this is a true rumor or not.

    Everyone definitely knows he’s a creeper, though, so I guess there’s that. A couple of folks (all of them ladies, but like I said our company is almost entirely ladies anyway) think that management overreacted and that he’s not a bad guy and he hasn’t done anything wrong. A couple of other folks are angry at the people in the first group for covering for someone who makes everyone not in the first group uncomfortable, and the people in the first group are disgusted at the rest of us for “overreacting.”

    It’s just so frustrating, and there’s nothing we peons can do, apparently, except warn any future newhires about him. Which we will, but that hardly seems like enough.

    1. That’s what I hate most, how it seems like there’s not actually anything you can do about these people. There’s only so much warning you can give, and there’s always someone around to issue apologetics for the poor guy, come one, what’s your deal anyway… and what about when the next victim wasn’t warned in time?

      And when it’s, like, in your community and not at work, it’s even harder; you don’t have a convenient list of new hires, and you can’t fire him. You can’t arrest him. You can’t deport him. Sometimes if you manage to make social consequences bad enough that he actually suffers for his behavior, he doubles down and hurls it all back on everyone and people are like WTF, and sometimes he just gets online and becomes a lulztroll, and and and

      and it doesn’t matter what he’s done, someone will always make it about his poor feelings what have been hurt.

      I DON’T EVEN KNOW. IT JUST SUCKS. Jerk got a corner office and doesn’t have to talk to people except when he wants to hit on them and that’s punishment? Gah. Good to know management has your back, you know?

      I may be out of teaspoons today. But that frustration, that is something we know.

    2. I totally get your feelings of frustration, but I’d also encourage you to keep reporting every boundary violation by this guy to management, and documenting that you’ve done so. If someone files a sexual harassment lawsuit in the future, having a paper trail of his behavior and management’s response (or lack thereof) will be critical to winning the case.

      1. Good idea, but I don’t think a sexual harassment lawsuit would have any legs. He’s not a manager or in any kind of manager capacity, so there’s no lawsuit possible (thank you, Supreme Court!)

        There was one incident where he made me feel threatened, but I didn’t know about the harassment at the time so I didn’t report it. He’s never harassed me, although he’s done creepy boundary-testing things like standing WAY close to me and trying to police my tone of voice. I have firm boundaries, though. The harassment was against three of the younger women, one is literally a teenager and the other two are in their early 20’s. They are super-nice people and probably didn’t feel comfortable telling him (a much older man) to back the fuck off, so they were the ones he picked to bother. They are also women of color? Is there a racial component to management’s response? No idea and no way to know – they are the youngest employees and we have other nonwhite women on staff who weren’t harassed. But maybe their racial status made management take the harassment less seriously than if they’d been white. It’s something I think about.

        I should have reported the threatening behavior. What happened is that I brought some of his errors to him, and these were errors that he’s made 100000 times, the same damned errors over and over, because he’s careless and doesn’t think about what he’s doing. I did it in a smiling, joking manner because I didn’t know he was an unsafe person, and his response was to stand up, get RIGHT UP IN MY FACE, like he was literally 5 inches away from me, with this seriously angry look. I thought he was going to hit me for a second. I didn’t back down, partially because it happened super-fast, and partially because we were right in the middle of the building in the middle of the day and if he’d hit me there would have been witnesses for when I put him in jail. Then he laughed and I took a step back and within 3 seconds it was done.

        I could tell that he was angry at himself, not at me, for having made these errors =yet again= for the billionth time. But his response to being angry at himself was to make me feel threatened. That’s super-unsafe. I basically never spoke to him again. The next day he came by my desk full of really insincere flattery (he was asking me how I am so awesome at my job, do I have some kind of secret for being amazing), like he was trying in some backhanded way to apologize. I told him to gtfo of my cubicle. It was the following month that the sexual harassment of the younger employees came to light, although he’d been doing it all along. But because I didn’t know about it =at the time= that he threatened me, I didn’t report it, and now I really, really, really wish I had, because my manager knows I dislike him and will think I’m making shit up just to make him look bad (she has accused me of this before, outright, in words, so this is not a baseless assumption on my part).

        1. @ Dante, I don’t mean to push you to do something you may not be interested in for other reasons, but FYI he does not need to be your supervisor to be creating a potential EEOC issue for your workplace. You may want to check out the EEOC website or possibly get in touch with them and see what your options are.

        2. EMPATHY ROAR. That dude reminds me of an incident from an old job at a big huge corporation that turned out slightly better.

          At Big Huge Corporation, where I was an admin, whenever people would bring in treats for the office or our bosses would get gift baskets that they didn’t want to take home, we’d place them on the tables at the end of the cubicle rows where they could get picked over by passing foot traffic on the floor. One day I was putting out a basket of fancy chocolates someone had sent over to my boss and was offering them to the girl who had the cubicle directly adjacent to the table. Suddenly I heard a low murmur directly in my ear, “Ooh, I’d love to get me a bite of that.” I jumped a mile high (it was CLOSE) and loudly went “What the hell?” And turned to see a dude smugly sauntering away – he even turned to give me a Look. Shudder.

          For some reason I went 7th grade and started squealing, “EW! omg So gross!” and lamenting to my fellow office-mates in a jokey manner. Everyone laughed, but after I got back to my desk, I was still really creeped out, and realized that dude had the habit of sizing up all the women on our floor and knew what he was doing. He was so stealthy that even my co-worker who I had offered the chocolates to hadn’t heard what he said, and had thought we were friends because he had come up behind me and gotten so close. I’d never spoken to him before.

          I went to both my bosses and called the Harassment line built specifically for stuff like this – no dice. I got a “we’re sorry this happened to you and you’re upset, but since there were no reported incidents previous and there were no real witnesses,” it would be my word against his. The fuck. Luckily for me, all the admins on our floor were pretty tight, and really supported each other. After a couple weeks of feeling increasingly grossed out as dude would walk by my desk and give me looks, I pulled the admin from this guy’s team aside and told her what happened, and she was utterly horrified. She also confirmed that she’d seen the way he was looking / speaking to other women on the floor and it made her uncomfortable, but wasn’t sure if anyone else noticed. She ended up going to her boss (who she had a good relationship with), and letting him know what happened to me – where he IMMEDIATELY called a team meeting with only the men, and tore them all new ones, in short, saying that anything outside of gentlemanly conduct was unacceptable, if he ever heard of anything else like this again, there would be severe consequences. My admin colleague later told me that Smug Dude who’d muttered in my ear turned bright red during the speech, and didn’t dare look at anyone. He got to keep his job, but he never dared slink around the floor sizing up women again.

          At the time I was utterly terrified – because it was clear the corporate structure/ my bosses / or most of the people on my team cared enough to back me. And it was so so fucking awkward and isolating and made me feel like I was wrong in the head – did I mention it sucked? It SUCKED. But I always look back and am glad I said something, and am really grateful that my colleague backed me and that her boss was decent enough to believe her / me and do something about it.

          I have no lesson or advice from this – just EMPATHY ROARS and hope that it works out in your favor soon.

        3. Your management know he’s a Problem with a capital Danger, or they wouldn’t have gone as far as they have to jump over this particular missing stair. Therefore, when – not if – when he assaults or harasses another woman at work, they have made it possible. They have allowed a predator to stay smack in the middle of a group of potential prey, and are merely kind-of hoping he will be obliging enough not to attack.

          …Yeah, that’s gonna work really well.

          On the kind-of-depressing plus side, if they’ve actually documented the actions they’ve taken and the reason why, that’s likely to be very financially painful for them if this mess ever gets publicised. 😛

    3. Um, holy shit. When you have to give an employee a special seating arrangement and elevator times so that he doesn’t creep on other employees, you officially have a Dysfunctional Workplace.


    4. My Ex-Boss has a technique for just this sort of workplace fuckuppery, which he uses, and I named “the weaponization of memos”.

      It may not work here, depending on the precise situation, local laws, etc, and as always, I Am Not A Lawyer, so Your Mileage May Vary.

      But basically, I used to work in the IT Security department of a large organization. My boss was the head of IT Security. We had a lot of work, and almost no authority. So, even if we saw a fucked up situation, we couldn’t necessarily enforce proper behaviour on the offending group. However, we could (and did, all the time) write memos. Official memos. Memos stating what the problem was. Memos stating what the potential liabilities were. Memos explicitly stating that now that DEPARTMENT HEAD was aware of the situation, and the liability issues, by choosing to not resolve those issues, they were assuming (Dun dun DUN!) responsibility for that liability.

      We got an awful lot of compliance out of that technique.

  19. So many good things said here.

    I wrote about this (in a ranty way) on my LJ a couple years ago (warning for language):

    ;TLDR is: CHOOSE A SIDE when someone says they’ve been raped or abused. This is the most important thing ever. Never never never play the “Oh, but I don’t know enough” game, because THAT IS CHOOSING A SIDE. The abuser’s side. And trying to make yourself look good while you do it.

  20. A few months ago, my sports club more or less forced out a member for these kinds of reasons. The catalytic event was that her partner, also a club member, found out she’d been cheating on her, but something about that discovery coming to light made the cheated-on partner gradually open up about past behaviour within the relationship which I’d consider abusive, and also made other club members speak up about ways the abuser had behaved creepily towards them.

    Interestingly, the abuser has now fled to the club I left to join this one, and it’s been interesting and disorienting hearing about her from my old teammates. They seem to look more suspiciously at my club now, because they believe their charming new member’s story of events and think that our ostracising her looks like bullying. It made me question the culture and values of my new community for a little while, and also worry about our recruiting if it gives us a reputation for bullying. But at least *I’m* very, very glad to be in an organisation that doesn’t tolerate that.

  21. This hits super close to home. I’ve been on the “makepeacemakepeacemakepeacenodrama” side of putting up with a creep (my own abuser, post assault and post breakup and people creeping on others), the “seriously, me or him” side, the “well, my whole friendship group just imploded in drama, guess I’ll just be depressed and lonely” side, and the successful-management-of-creeps side. Since the rest are all depressing and full of drama and are stories it seems everyone who has tried to stand up to drama has, I’ll focus on the last, successful side.

    When I was in college, I lived in a co-ed floor. It had ups and downs, but overall was awesome. One of the most awesome parts was that people really, really looked out for each other, especially when people were drunk. There were almost always people hanging out in the common rooms (which you had to walk by to get to the bedrooms), and basically anytime a drunk person of the floor brought a drunk person of their preferred gender home with them, they’d engage them in conversation (generally, mildly friendly harassment of the “Ooooooh, what are yooooooou doing tonight?” kind–they were generally a bit drunk too). But this is where it gets cool: If it seems that either party was waaaay to drunk to be making consent decisions or anything seemed dodgy, they’d derail them from going back to the room and either walk the drunk person back to their room or strongly enforce that it was time for them to go now, depending on the situation and on how both parties reacted.

    Now, what’s even cooler looking back is that there was no consensus to do this. Also, the group was pretty pro-drunken-hook-ups overall, so there was no shaming and there were plenty of “erm, maybe we shouldn’t have done that last night even though we both wanted to while drunk” moments all around. But there was just this background consensus that we should look out for anything weird or potentially not okay and shut it down, because there will be plenty of other opportunities for drunken hook-ups in the future. I can’t actually remember anyone being upset the next morning that they were cockblocked (vagblocked?), but I do remember one or twos “Yeah, I wanted to drunkenly hook-up with him, so if i come home drunk with him again, let him through” convos. It was pretty awesome.

    The other si

  22. I just wanna say:

    Creepy Peeps and Predators don’t have to do this stuff consciously to be Creepy Peeps and Predators.

    It doesn’t matter if it’s conscious, sub-conscious, or they do it while sleep walking – it’s creepy and predatory and the people around them don’t have to put up with it.

    1. Yes. There is so much bad behaviour that people try to talk their way out of accepting consequences for/excuse with arguments about intent. That’s derailing. The effect of bad/creepy/predatory behaviour is what matters most, not the intent.

  23. That might be the most I’ve said about this in public, even relatively anonymously. :-\

    I don’t have a positive story about community intervention or support to share, but I wanted to say thank you for this post. I left a large community and moved a few thousand miles away from the city I was living in because I was targeted by two people – a couple who I considered good friends. (I’ve since taken a hard look at how they treated me and decided I was never correct about that.) I was having panic attacks every time I left the house, and had to concentrate very very hard on the sidewalk every time I had to walk on an overpass. Among other things.

    The people I tried to talk to about it started gaslighting me before I even got to the words “coercion” and “manipulation” and finally I stopped trying. It was months after I cut that community off that I was able to call it rape, and longer than that before I could identify that there were multiple predators (one of whom I had started thinking of as a hazing ritual for entrance into the community in the first place – he’s how I got there, as well as a lot of other women I knew, and I cut him off way before anybody else), that the community was protecting all of them, and that my fear that they’d abandon me was based on me noticing that protective behavior but dismissing my own feelings about it. It was a hell of a wake-up call, and it sucked.

    (I’m also noticing that other people have had to bail completely on social groups, too, so *jedi hugs* to all of you, if you want them.)

    Anyway, bookmarking this. Thank you for providing a safe place to talk about this stuff.

    1. Whoa, so much suckage. *jedihugs* in return to you.

      “the community was protecting all of them, and that my fear that they’d abandon me was based on me noticing that protective behavior but dismissing my own feelings about it.”

      Lightbulb. It was like this for me, too. I was so afraid that if my Creepy Guy did something to me, none of my friends would believe me. After the night he told the rape story, I never drank in his presence again, because I was terrified my friends would point to my drunkenness as evidence that my story about what had happened couldn’t be relied on. And I always put that terror down to ‘my issues’; that I ‘had problems trusting’ and ‘fear of abandonment’ after what had happened in the past.

      When actually, my feelings were telling me the truth: ‘You are in the exact same situation you were in before you got assaulted. It can happen again, and if it does, nobody will want to hear about or believe it, again. RUN.’

      And I just didn’t want to believe it, so the trust problem must have been because of me, right? =/

      So glad I spoke up against him, and stopped drinking around him. So glad I made myself someone who was difficult for him to easily target. *shudder*

      Also, ginksarade, I’m very glad that you are now thousands of miles away from that festering pool human filth. Well done you for escaping. *moarjedihugs*

      1. It took me a disturbingly long time to get to the point of realizing that, oh, it’s not that I have trust issues you’re bringing up, it’s that you’re actually untrustworthy.

      2. “I always put that terror down to ‘my issues’; that I ‘had problems trusting’ and ‘fear of abandonment’ after what had happened in the past.”

        Yes, exactly! I kept going to the “Oh, this is just me being insecure…” place, when that was exactly where they wanted me. Where they were *putting* me, even. Bleh.

        I’m really glad that you took care of yourself, too. And thank you.

  24. I remember a few years ago going on a tour around Europe. For the first half or so of the tour, my roommate was this girl, we’ll call her Alice. She was awesome, lovely, sweet and had no problems using her words when I asked a favor and she wasn’t cool with it – so, in other words, a perfect roommate.

    She also had a tendency to get really, really drunk. At which point, some of the scummier boys on the tour would hit on her. After the first night we went drinking, since I didn’t drink, she made me promise I would always drag her back to the hotel room when I thought she was getting too drunk. And this worked perfectly – I stayed around long enough to have a bit of fun, and around the time the boys started circling like hungry sharks in bad hair gel, I’d drag her off and we’d get back to the hotel.

    Unfortunately, somewhere in Italy, we got convinced to switch rooms. Alice ended up with someone who had no interest in going to *any* clubs, and I often lost track of her at some of the clubs we did go to. I heard later that at one hotel she’d been seen wandering around, lost, unsure of which room was hers and crying with her shirt on backwards… 😦 It’s my biggest regret about the tour, that I wasn’t able to look after her.

  25. Err, sent too soon. Sorry. Was saying…

    The other situation is my current one. I decided after a series of creeper-drama blow-ups that I really needed a group that I had ALL THE SOCIAL POWER in (which, yeah, is problematic in its own ways on my long-term figuring how to people skills, but its working for now) while I got better at boundaries. So I started a social meet-up group. It’s gotten very large and is quite popular, and I’m happy to say we’ve kept the creeper count to a minimum, even though there are plenty of creepers interested in the subject matter and similar groups have some creeper problems. I’ve managed this by:
    -Having a polite but clear written anti-creeper policy upfront. I like to think this scares away some boundary pushers and helps people who have dealt with them in the past feel safe.
    -Monitored public conversation spaces. If you say something weird or boundary-pushing, I will either shut you down, delete the post, and/or contact you privately to resolve.
    -Having an open-door, no judgement contact me policy of “Tell me if anything creeps you out, even it’s it’s minor. I’ll keep it private and won’t action unless it escalates or you want me to.”
    -Directly addressing creepy or boundary-pushing behavior as soon as I see it, generally in minor “Hey, we don’t pressure people to drink here, knock it off,” “Hey, that language isn’t cool,” “That was kind of a rude thing to say,” etc., escalating my language if the behavior doesn’t stop, up to and including threatening to remove the person from current social activity.
    -After such an incident (unless it’s very minor and resolved), I email the person and outline the unacceptable behavior. I tell them the behavior I expect and say that I’d love to have them back, clean slate, if they change their behavior but that I will ask them to leave the group if they will not. Then I pay very close attention to their response. Sincere apology–no hard feelings, everyone fucks up. (But if they do it again, they’re out.) Faux-pology, mansplaining, insulting me, over-justifying their behavior–goodbye! You are now banned from the group. No response–stays on mental probation.
    -Keeping an extra eye on people who others have told me give them the creepy vibe, even if no one can articulate why. Sometimes, these people warm up and were just hella awkward and never do anything wrong. (No harm, no foul.) But usually they either stop coming on their own when they see their behavior won’t be tolerated or they escalate behavior and I kick them out.

    It’s been stressful at times, but is mostly awesome. Sometimes I second guess myself, and I’m sure I’ve isolated a couple of people who were just a bit socially clueless/bad personality fits for me but who were not actually creepers. But I’ve decided that’s the price of admission to having a totally creeper-free zone, and that it’s My Social Space, and that means it gets to be a safe space as I define it, whether or not that’s okay with other people (who get to freely chose whether or not to be in it).

    I know that this isn’t really practical advice for all social spaces, because most of our social spaces either have no one really in charge of them or have someone in charge who’s not you, but for the situation where one *does* have social power, it’s been working brilliantly.

    Sorry for the novel!

    1. I love, love, love your policy and the way you handle things with the group you manage! I would put it forward as a template for what Meetup, Con, and other event hosts should do.

      1. Aww, shucks. Thanks. =) This blog has inspired a lot of those behaviors, let me tell you! You are more than welcome to put it forward as needed.

        The one lesson I have pulled from this that I use in situations when I have much less social power is to always, always speak up,* whether its something small in the moment, leaving the room and confronting later, speaking to the host, etc. It never ever helps to let the behavior continue unchecked. If it was a harmless accident/mistake, the person will feel embarrassed and apologizes. If it was creeper behavior, at least they know I won’t tolerate it. And if I am “totally overreacting, jeez” then I know the space is not a safe space and can act accordingly.

        *But this is just for me, not an order to everyone and certainly not a creator-of-blame if you are unable, too flummoxed, sidelined, not safe, or just don’t feel comfortable speaking up. It’s not your responsibility to make a creeper not a creeper or prevent their presence if you’re not in charge of the group/situation. But I’m mouthy and not easily intimidated, so I feel that gives me extra incentive to speak up for people who are less comfortable doing so.

  26. A year or two ago, I saw an older teen male harrassing three younger teen girls on public transit. Two were giggling semi-uncomfortably and the third was really obviously not having any of it, but struggling to get him to leave them alone because of the giggling friends. I spoke up as a bystander to tell him to leave them alone. This helped boost the confidence of the third girl to stand up to this guy, but she was still having a hard time getting him to leave. I still regret that I didn’t speak further. I couldn’t tell in the moment whether she wanted me to or if I would be undermining her confidence if I stepped in. After they left, I concluded that the looks she was giving me were, in fact, requests for help, and I’ve felt bad ever since that I didn’t step up.

    However, it’s part of a string of experiences I got under my belt so that it’s easier and easier for me to speak up when I experience or witness possible abuse.

  27. I have a story that is in somewhat of the same vein as this post topic and I’d love to hear some advice from the awkward army.

    Last weekend, a friend of mine had a friend come visit, J. A large group of us, J included, went out to a party at a friend’s house (it was a friend’s 21st birthday party, so drunk shenanigans ensued). J does not drink very often and isn’t super aware of her limits, and she became very drunk. She also became very interested in our friend, M. M was also pretty drunk at this point. Several of us were concerned about the situation because both were too drunk to be consenting to anything at this point, and J especially so. J very much wanted to leave with M, something that all of us were very much against, because on top of being too drunk, J, as a guest was unfamiliar with where we were/how to get back and did not have a way to get back into the friend’s house she was staying at. A few of friends checked in with J and M, and M agreed not to leave with J. However, approximately half an hour later, J and M disappeared together back to M’s house. Several of us intervened and brought J back home, despite her protests. The next morning, J insisted that she would have been fine to stay at M’s.

    This situation doesn’t sit well with me at all. I am 100% sure that we did the right thing bringing J home. I’ve talked about it with some of my other friends that helped intervene, and they also agree bringing J home was the right thing to do. They however, don’t think it’s worth talking to M about his behavior.

    I’m not sure if it’s worth a conversation either: this behavior is completely out-of-character for B (usually he’d be the person to step in in a similar situation), though he was more drunk than he usually gets at parties when this situation occurred. Leaving together was also completely J’s idea, and I don’t think he realized how drunk she was. At the same time, the situation really made me feel uncomfortable for reasons I can’t quite understand, but probably have roots in some of the sketchy situations that I’ve been in in the past.

    tl;dr: do I have a “dude, that wasn’t cool” conversation with a close friend over something where I’m literally the only person upset?

    1. I think it’s really tough when both people are drunk–it’s hard for a drunk person to assess someone else’s level of drunk. That’s not say that sketchy and bad situations can’t happen in those cases. I’m not saying, don’t talk to him, but for me personally, if there were a situation where both people were intoxicated and nothing happened, I would probably not take it further. I would remember what happened, and keep a closer eye on both people at parties in the future, though.

      It sounds like he was more sober, but not anywhere close to actually sober, and she was the initiator, but he was into it. So, I would be hesitant to assign ‘not cool’ more to one person than the other, lacking a history of sketchiness.

    2. Like twomoogles, I think that this wasn’t a clear-cut situation of him trying to take advantage of her. It does sound sketchy in general, and I have done similar things to keep two way-too-drunk people away from each other. But if you’re going to talk to him, you might want to restrict it to “Here’s why we came and got her from your house” and explaining the cues that made it obvious to you that she was way too drunk – which he might not have fully grasped, being intoxicated himself at the time and maybe also engaging in a little wishful thinking. If you get upset, make it transparent to him that you’re upset because the situation reminds you of sketchy situations in your past – not because he personally was obviously crossing a line.

      It does sound like a tough situation. And have it in the back of your mind if you notice that something similar recurs with this guy, for sure.

    3. I would talk to him about it. It is making you uncomfortable for good reason. It doesn’t have to be a huge confrontation, but a “I’m uncomfortable with what happened, and I want to have a chat about it” is a good place to start. The thing is, you informed M that J was too drunk to consent (*that is key, he did not have to rely on his own judgement), he agreed not to leave with her, M was not as drunk as J, and yet he still left with her (thus breaking his agreement). Frankly, that sounds like problematic, predatory behaviour to me, and I would be uncomfortable with it too. You did the right thing in intervening, and a conversation is warrented to ensure it does not happen again. Beyond that, as an aside, I have been in a similar situation (without intervention) and can absolutely say that if I were J I would be unlikely to tell a bunch of casual acquaintances how I truly felt about the whole thing. However, it made you as a bystander/intervener uncomfortable and that is enough to raise the issue again.

    4. These situations are are difficult, especially when both parties are drunk. I agree that you did the right thing by intervening, but when you think about how to handle it I think you should defer to J a little bit in how she is describing it. The next morning, J said it would have been fine for her to be left with M. Therefore, I think we have a clear indication from J that she didn’t think M was being predatory. Because J was the one in the situation and the one at risk, I think in order to preserve her own agency you should defer to her assessment.

      It’s really difficult to navigate all this stuff when both parties are drunk, and I can definitely see how alcohol would make M agree not to have sex with her at one point but then they still disappear together later on, especially if J was encouraging it. And I think drunk sex is a bad idea for people who don’t know each other, but I know I’ve also had drunk sex where both parties wanted it and no regrets were involved (and I’m sure others of us are in that situation). This likely would have been one of those situations where no one was hurt. But you had no way to know that, and I think you absolutely did the right thing by separating them. That was a good thing to do as a friend, and you should be applauded for that.

      I definitely think a conversation with M would be called for if you wanted to. But again, because J isn’t treating this as a predatory situation, I don’t think calling out Matt as predatory is necessary. Instead, just talk to him and tell him why you took J home, what your reasoning was, explaining how intoxication makes consent really complicated and can lead to some very bad, dangerous situations. Explain that you just wanted to prevent either of them from getting hurt or doing something they regret. Maybe when you have this conversation you can make some plans for the future, whether it’s for M to watch his alcohol intake if he wants to get laid, for him to agree to snuggle up for the night if he’s into someone and have sex in the morning when they’ve gotten sober, or for you to help monitor potentially bad situations when you drink together in the future. I think if this is a teaching conversation from a friend rather than a “you are a creep” conversation, he could really take it seriously and learn to behave in a safer manner.

  28. This may be a bit more “stranger danger!” than “social group creeper,” but I distinctly remember intervening with a guy who had creepily attached himself to a groups of girls I was with at an amusement park. We were all in high school, except for the obviously much younger sister of one of the other girls. She was just barely in middle school, was tagging along with the Big Girls, and was constantly jogging a little to keep up with us. Unfortunately, I was too busy being painfully self-conscious to say anything about the fact she was constantly a few steps behind the rest of the group. I’m not proud of that.

    So, as we are making the rounds of the rides and the dippin’ dots vendors, this older guy (probably later teens) just appeared out of nowhere. They were all walking back to my bench (I am an official purse-watcher at theme parks because roller coasters are not my idea of fun, and it was a youth choir tour event so I had to go), and there he was, walking right next to the younger girl while leaning over and talking in her ear. I’ll admit that I did not realize what was going on until after the second ride he got on with her. When I saw him coming back again, I asked the other girls if they knew who he was, and they did not. One told me that she thought he was just the younger girl’s “new boyfriend,” and then giggled about it…which made me mad because by then it was clear the younger girl was really uncomfortable. I was not prone to regular outbursts of confidence, so I was also terrified. But she kept looking at me, and I finally walked over and asked her if she knew him. She said she didn’t. He kept walking way too close and wouldn’t make eye-contact with me when I tried to talk to him. At which point I coldly lost my temper and told him he was not welcome, that he needed to leave, and that we were going to go over *there* and find park security if he didn’t go away. He left. I remember I was shaking afterwards. The other girls said that they just hadn’t know what to say, the younger girl didn’t say anything, and the adult chaperones didn’t have much to say when we finally got back to them. I just wish I’d spoken up sooner.

    1. Well done for being really brave that day! Even if it took you a while, you *did* speak up and that’s what matters.

  29. Thanks for the link to the errlix article. I’m often being nudged about my “ruthlessness” in cutting people from my life.

    My feeling is that everyone has a respect-metre, which they can top up or draw down. Family members and some others get a head start. But as soon as the level in that metre gets down to critical – Bam! – you’re out.

  30. Red & yellow consent cards can help directly with empowering people to assert their boundaries early on, when Bob Handsey is being handsy and not yet at raping. Furthermore, they can be catalysts to get a whole community talking which can contribute to creating a culture in which ostracizing predators is socially acceptable. Print your own with these files:
    Better yet, get a couple friends to pitch in to print lots of them. Distribute in your community however you see fit.

  31. I am actually super proud of my friend group. I and a few others called out Handsy Dude, and when the “that’s how I get when I’m drunk” excuse was given, we responded with “great. And you’re not invited to things with alcohol.”

  32. About eight months ago, I was at a contra dance with a friend. There’s one guy there who gives off creepy vibes. Unfortunately, while you can choose your partner at a contra dance, you also have neighbors and sometimes shadows who you also dance with, that you can’t really choose. The creepy guy had wound up being my friend’s shadow in the last dance before the break, and he took the opportunity to be “friendly.” She and I were talking during the break when he came up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders and said something. I could see she was uncomfortable, so without another word I took her hand and pulled her away from him, across the room. She told me that that was the right thing to do. I’m still really pleased with myself for it.

    I think it’s a good goal to have for oneself, to strive to be a person who can react in a creepy or dangerous situation and stop something bad from happening. Sometimes in the moment you don’t know exactly what to do or say. Afterward, think about your options and what you might have done differently. Then, if the situation comes up again, you’ll be more prepared and more ready to act.

    People were passing around this “What Would You Do” clip a few months ago, where they stage a man (actor) coming up to a drunk girl (also actor) at a bar and trying to get her to leave with him. Twice, before the male actor could come on the scene, he was beaten to the punch by guys (NOT actors) who tried to get the actress to leave with them. The clip also shows the solutions some bystanders found–one woman gets the actress to sit at her table, saying “I’m not going to watch some girl get raped right in front of me.”

  33. *** This is a story about attempted and then actual rape, and near suicide. ***

    There we were in the coffee shop, me and this friend of mine and this dude and some others. Everybody had driven. Eventually my friend started to feel sort of woozy and queasy, like a flu had started to hit. She wasn’t okay to drive. She called her boyfriend and he and a buddy were going to drive down and her boyfriend was going to drive her car back. “You don’t look like you should be waiting alone,” someone said, and I volunteered to wait with her. This dude also volunteered to wait with her.

    I’m not sure why I felt I had to stay, but I did, even though the dude was giving me the stinkeye the whole time. He obviously wanted me to leave, but I somehow felt I needed to stick around. Her boyfriend came and hauled her home and she felt like hell that weekend, but whatever it was cleared up and nobody else got it, so that was all right.

    In short order this dude became her bff. They were always together, every evidence of being emotionally and physically close. Everybody else was sort of edged out. I was sort of jealous that this new dude had started to take up so much of her time.

    In a rare moment with just the two of us, she said that she had a lot of heavy shit on her mind but wasn’t sure who to talk about it with.

    “There’s dude,” I said, sort of sniping, because *damn* he’d been around a lot.

    “There is,” she said, really unhappily.

    Later I got the crisis call, not the one where you have to go to the hospital, but the one where if you don’t come, she’s going to go to the hospital if she’s lucky and they find her in time. I heard about what he’d done. It was the classic predator tactic of isolating her from her support networks and then raping her. I will always be convinced that he roofied her coffee that night, after I learned that he’d raped her later, stalked her, hounded her past the point of reason.

    I tried to make the remainder of the social spaces I shared with him too hot for him to handle. He claimed I was a crazy bitch with some sort of weird grudge against him. I’m not sure how effective my warnings and cold shoulder were, as we didn’t live in the same area very long after that.

    1. Oh MAN is that an awful, awful story. I’m aching for your friend and also flashing back a little. I was in a very similar situation when I was 16, with a 36-year-old man from my karate class. I’m 34 now and it’s only been in the last couple years that I’ve been able to even admit that what happened was actually rape (after all, I didn’t push him away, and I’d already had sex with someone once before, which according to my upbringing meant that I was pretty much worthless, and this was my only friend and what right did I have to say no? Yeah, I know.)

      Anyway, it’s been on my mind a lot more lately, and this comment just brought up one other aspect of his predatory behavior as my brain tries to connect my warm memories of him (he was my friend for a year before he ever touched me) to the knowledge that he was a predator. You mentioned that this guy socially isolated your friend. My rapist did the same thing. I *just* remembered that. There was a woman, around his age, that everyone really liked and that I fretted didn’t like me very much. He encouraged that. He told me that she thought I was a slut. Jesus. He didn’t want me to get close to other people in the class. He encouraged all my drama with the other girls my age too – told me how they weren’t good enough to be my friends and they were jealous of me, etc. It didn’t occur to me to wonder wtf kind of mid-thirties dude is interested in teen girl drama. I was too grateful to have such a solid “Team Me” guy.

      UGH. I’m glad you wrote this. I needed to read it. I actually made an appointment a couple weeks ago to talk to a therapist about this as it’s coming out, and I’ve been trying to record these sudden flashes of insight as I have them.

      If it’s not prying, how is your friend now?

      1. Yeah, the isolation thing is apparently really common. I remember at least twice where I personally felt jealous and cranky over some dude taking a friend away from me (and blaming it on the friend), and he turned out to be a rapist. The third time he just embodied hella serious social malfunction and wound up kinda stalkery.

        As far as I know she’s fine. After it came to light the whole social group ejected the dude. I moved out of the area about two years later and mostly haven’t kept in contact (long story; I was a shitty roommate).

  34. I work in a field that has trouble recruiting people who aren’t rich straight white men, and where people outside the norm experience various kinds of harassment and nastiness. I have been immensely lucky in finding people who treat me well, but nonetheless, I sometimes experience or witness disturbing behavior.

    A couple of things happened recently that had good outcomes.

    1) I was harassed by a colleague a conference. (This guy had tried to recruit me for a job earlier in the year! What?!) He kept sitting next to me in talks (he’d wait til the talk had started and I’d selected my seat), standing too close, touching me, and trying to get to pay attention to him while I was supposed to be working. I wasn’t sure how to deal with it, and got stuck in “trying to be polite” mode. Eventually, another colleague saw what was going on, and asked me if X was bothering me. I said yes, and she said that he’d been trying to touch her too, and that I should just give him a dirty look and physically walk away every time he went near me. This worked to get him to leave me alone. I mentioned the harassment to one of the conference organizers, who told the guy’s boss.

    2) I have another colleague who kept making micro-aggressions at me for years, and I politely swept it under the rug for years. He started doing it over email, on record, and I started getting really tired of it, and keeping documentation. Finally, one of my friends told me that he had sexually harassed her, and I was furious. I stopped speaking to him, and told a bunch of people I trusted (withholding details that would identify the victim). Two of his mentors confronted him about the behavior, and one has stopped providing letters of recommendation for him. He will not be invited to any conferences I organize.

    I have been working on naming problems as soon as I see them, instead of letting them fester. It helps that I trust my colleagues to have my back.

  35. So, this is going to have some limited applicability to social groups, but I used to work at a bar where the owner was excellent at this stuff. Even though he’s a middle-aged guy running the kind of neighborhood pub where everybody knows your name, and there is a lot of social pressure from customers to Be Nice to everyone because We’re All Neighbors. Here are the policies that made it so:

    – for weeknight shifts, he hired only women, who he had already vetted as customers and knew from neighborhood activism. He would explicitly explain to us that this was because he trusted our personal judgement and instincts, and felt that we understood the kind of space he was trying to foster. Which definitely included a 50/50 gender split in the customer base.

    – in addition, he let us know that we were Queen of the Bar during our shifts, right down to what music we chose to play, and that we could kick out anyone we needed to. He encouraged us to back that up by saying we were free to call the cops to help us out, and having a designated burly (but friendly) construction worker neighbor who agreed to be “on call” for the weeknight evenings if shit went down. In other words, his bartenders were in authority, but absolutely not required to put ourselves in any danger on his behalf. These policies didn’t just make us feel secure, they also encouraged women in the bar to come to us with any concerns of their own.

    – he worked the first 2 shifts along with a new hire to proclaim her authority far and wide to all the customers, taking time during the training shifts to explain absolutely everything and hash out any questions we might have.

    – we had regular team meetings to discuss anything that might have happened with the bar, certain patrons, etc. and we were very much encouraged by him to share stories even if they were just about a “creepy feeling.” This actually led to us banning one patron because each of 5 women piped up with just one or two little stories about the guy, which turned out to add up to one resounding consensus of FUCK NO, the quickest, most effective and most long-lasting punting of a creeper that I have ever experienced in my life.

    – last but not least, he paid a decent wage in order to “hang onto his valued and skilled employees” as he put it!

    Now I probably should add that a bar is very rarely Feminist Club and my boss would never consider himself a feminist. We catered to all types from college students to auto repairmen to musicians, etc. I definitely dealt with some casual sexism from patrons, sexual comments, and such, which I often just let slide. The difference to other bar jobs was that the majority of men and women there knew and cared about me and were willing to back me up if an uncomfortable situation came up. More than that, the men were actually willing to look to my reaction for cues and not offer “support” through escalation or something else stupid. Despite the freely flowing booze, the occasionally macho guys, etc. I have NEVER been in another environment that was more supportive of me and of young women in general – and I’ve lived in an anarchofeminist collective!

    I really believe that the reason is that my old boss’s policies boil down to TRUSTING WOMEN. He valued our presence, our experiences, our time, even our right to go out and get drunk in a safe environment. He backed it up with words, actions, and cold hard cash. Maybe those are some basic principles that could apply anywhere.

    Damn, I miss that place ❤

    1. Oh yeah and that punted creeper? Popular and charming (to those he hadn’t yet targeted) and a big spender.

      My boss knew that the better long-term investment, and the right thing to do, was still to ban him with impunity.

    2. I think I love your boss and I want to go to there. Thanks for this. Creating safer spaces takes work, but it is possible with a little bit of forethought and communication.

  36. I just wrote an entire novel that I think got caught in the spam trap. So as not to just make a pesky comment, I have an extra bonus story: An old friend of my roommates’, known as kind of a womanizer, once showed up for the weekend and ended up going home with an acquaintance of mine, a very sweet and very emotionally vulnerable woman who had occasionally cried on my shoulder about men who’d taken advantage of her good nature and how she was having trouble finding someone she could start a seriousl relationship with. Trouble was, the guy had a girlfriend, and she was pregnant with his child.

    When I saw that he was macking on my acquaintance again at my place the next evening, I pulled her aside to warn her what he was up to. He’d really gotten his claws in her, had been sweet-talking her and acting like this was going to become the whirlwind romance of her dreams, and she felt absolutely devastated. She immediately left my apartment in tears, and I never saw much of her after that.

    I don’t know how to classify this story and have always thought “Well, at least I got there in time to prevent him taking advantage of her even more” but I also mourn the fact that I missed out on befriending her because (I assume) she associated me too closely with this painful experience. Seems like one of those things that just couldn’t be dealt with, without major fallout in some way.

  37. My creeper story is sadly one I still feel really ambiguous about, though it was one of the few cases when I asserted myself boundaries strongly. TW: domestic violence.

    I had a friend, “Leanne,” in high school, who briefly also dated my brother. Leanne was fun and funny and had almost no boundaries — she thought it was cute and funny to cuddle up to all her female friends and say they were lovers, make sexual jokes, and talk excessively about whoever she was dating and had dated in the past. I can still not put my finger on what exactly she did that struck me as “creepy,” except that she was not good at respecting my comfort zone regarding topics of conversation and physical contact. The actual end of our friendship happened incredibly abruptly; she would not stop talking about my brother, even after I asked her to, and I walked away and never spoke to her again. I remember that this was the end, but my sense-memory points to an earlier moment. She came up behind me and stroked her finger down the back of my neck in a clearly sexual, or mock-sexual way. The memory still makes me sick and angry. I get that this is a normal, fun, flirty way for many friends to interact, but for me? Even ten years later, I often feel uncomfortable hugging even close friends. I think at that point the incongruity between “this is my friend” and “this is a person who thinks it is funny to make me unhappy” finally became overwhelming.

    I never spoke about this with my social group. Leanna remained close to several of my other friends.

    I feel sad and weird about this still because by the time I cut Leanna off, I no longer enjoyed her company at all. I did not miss her. But logically, compassionately, I wish I could have felt differently and acted differently — Leanna had a quite undesirable home life, and it seems so obvious in restrospect that she was looking for support and closeness elsewhere. Her complete lack of boundaries (and other things I knew about her/her family) made me wonder how her family treated her and if they respect her boundaries.

    [TW: domestic violence.] Leanna and her very recent husband were murdered by one of her ex-boyfriends last year. She was isolated in a small town a couple hundred miles away from her hometown and family. I can’t claim to know exactly what happened, but it’s hard for me not to draw a connection between someone whose boundaries are not respected by entitled and predatory people, to a person who imitates those boundary violations. I guess I have a hard time reconciling “I didn’t have to tolerate being around a person who made me upset” and “This person had learned some maladaptive behaviors through no fault of her own, and she needed help, probably from a lot of people.” And she did her best — she joined extracurriculars, went to various churches, reached out to lots of people. But she needed more.

    I really, really don’t want to take away from the message that creepers should be ejected from their social groups and otherwise penalized for their unpleasant behavior, but. . . yeah. This experience was complicated for me, and I wish I had a better idea of how to encourage community responsibility for someone who needs help while respecting my own comfort zone with regard to that person.

    1. I am so sorry about this whole situation. You are right, there is nothing good about it. The sad, scary thing is, this is true for a lot of people who act as your one-time friend acted. Boundary respecting and boundary violating are learned behaviors. So, when you raise that question, it applies widely.

      Also, the difference it seems to me, is that Leanne was probably not in a position to exert power to smokescreen her inappropriate behavior. And it sounds like she wasn’t escalating in order to take advantage of people. She was acting out to establish connections or achieve intimacy of some kind, or had seriously mixed messages because of mixed needs.

      Also, she was a minor at the time, it sounds like? Where were the reliable adults who would be able to step in, in a situation like this? Going to church and joining clubs is great. But if a kid under 18 is showing signs of abuse like that (inappropriate boundaries= red-flag-o-rama!), there should be responsible people able to see that, hear about it, recognize it, and report it. Did that happen? If it was brought up was she taken seriously?

      I guess one thing is, I think the idea that the baseline of not tolerating and fostering an environment where predators and creepy people can normalize and justify and hide still is necessary. Not only because your safety is as important as her safety. It’s also necessary for reaching people in Leanne’s situation.

      If the creepy people who exploit privilege, likability, and power in a group create a fog around this issue, it is really hard to see when someone like Leanne is acting out in ways that say “I am victimized and need intervention now. This is inappropriate behavior and it’s a huge problem in itself as well as an indicator of a huge problems elsewhere.”

      What are you, as a peer, ever able to do to rectify a problem that big? In the end, you have to take care of yourself. It’s not on you to do social work’s work- you can’t!

      If we all do our part to make predatory rape culture behavior unacceptable, we make it more possible to see and respond to someone like Leanne- a minor, vulnerable, probably very much in need of help, and ALSO behaving really inappropriately- more readily.

      It is troubling, but not because of what you did or didn’t do yourself.

      1. For a while in my teens I went to what passes in New Zealand for an evangelical church. The… second? time I went on a camp with the youth group, one of the leaders organised things to get me alone to ask whether I’d been abused. As far as I can tell it was pretty obvious, I had no idea how to act appropriately in many ways. Unfortunately I wasn’t ready to deal with it and promptly left the church, but at least they tried.

      2. Things do get weird in those areas. I had a friend who was (a) in a relationship I knew to be abusive, both emotionally & physically (b) belonged to a fringe, super-fundie Christian church.

        The boundaries she was violating with me were “please stop proselytizing to me” and “No, I will not hang out with your abusive husband” and “No, I will not be a marriage counselor for you; I am not qualified”.

        Eventually, I told her that if she needed me to show up with a U-Haul to help her leave her husband, she could call anytime, but other than that, we weren’t going to be talking anymore, because she was treating me with disrespect. That was the last time we talked. (I am still good friends with her sister; she did eventually leave the guy, with the support of her church. So that’s good.)

        But that was a very difficult situation, very confusing to kind of — see around? I knew she was in a bad place, and being weird to other people at least partly because of being in that bad place. The only thing I could say was: I will always help you out of this bad place.

        And I was an adult, with a car and a job, and so was she. With a minor, when I was a minor? Ten thousand times more confusing and complicated.

    2. For what it’s worth, I think you did the right thing by cutting her off. You are probably right–she probably was a victim of abuse and boundary-violation similar to what she was doing to you. However, MOST abusers and boundary-crossers were also, at one time or another, victims of that very same behavior. That doesn’t make it okay–which it sounds like you already know, but it bears repeating.

      She was, in your own words, a person who thought it was funny to make you unhappy. She may have needed help, but you were not in a position to give that help. I think it’s often helpful to draw a line between “wow, this person obviously needs help” and “wow, this person obviously needs MY help.” I am the child of an extremely toxic and abusive mother, and even though she was my parent, I thought it was my responsibility to help her see the error of her ways and to teach her how to stop treating me badly. In retrospect, she fairly obviously had some kind of undiagnosed problem, the nature of which I cannot begin to guess, and she most certainly needed help.

      Luckily, I’ve finally begun to accept that it was not my responsibility to give that help.

      These are obviously drastically different situations, but I think the gist of what I’m getting at applies equally to both. Did Leanne need help? Almost certainly. Did she need YOUR help? No. No, she didn’t.

      1. I think it’s often helpful to draw a line between “wow, this person obviously needs help” and “wow, this person obviously needs MY help.”

        Wise, wise, wise.

      2. YES. And to go with “they need help but not your help.”

        Achieving restoration/resolution as a person who has wronged others =/= achieving restoration/resolution WITH THE PEOPLE YOU HAVE HARMED.

        This is something I saw guys in a prison program I worked in struggle with when it came to parole folder time. Many of them wanted desperately to make amends with their victims. But they had to accept (and accepting this was huge progress) that victims call the shots about that.

        Closure, amends, peace, restoration- you can’t get that from someone else and in cases like those, it’s probably really inappropriate for you to try and get it from someone else.

        That’s all by way of saying, therapy, 12-steps, religious leaders, social workers, your own family and friends, education and employment opportunities, and new relationships you forge in your future life. Whatever else. THOSE are the resources you draw on to rebuild yourself.

        It is not on victims to help usher their victimizers into a better selfhood, unless that is something they want to do for themselves.

        It’s why debt to society is a thing, and also why society is indebted to its citizens to provide resources to make these kinds of transformation possible. She said Marxistally.

    3. How do you feel when you remember that you were in high school? Like it’s one thing for you as an adult to look back and see that this was a child who needed help and support, but whatever compassion you have for her as a child, I hope you also have it for yourself. It sounds to me like you made a very wise and mature decision to protect yourself, and I think you should be proud of that.

      If she was dealing with an abusive household and attempting to assert control over you and her other peers as a way of processing / compensating for that, you were not in a position to help her. That’s not something another child can do.

    4. It’s really tempting to think, “If I’d just hung in there and loved her more, it could have made things better.” But I promise you that it’s not actually true. It’s like thinking, “When she broke her leg, if I’d held her hand in the hospital, maybe the bone would have knit within an hour.” Healing doesn’t work that way. Her personal healing process was always going to be a separate thing from your friendship with her. Teenagers aren’t actually able to heal each other from the effects of maltreatment or trauma or mental illness, though god knows a lot of us tried (partly because of the feeling that adults couldn’t be trusted to understand or help). It’s not a thing that can happen. You can’t actually just love someone into health, the same way you can’t heal someone’s broken leg by holding their hand; and teenagers don’t have the knowledge, experience, maturity, or support to do the work that would be equivalent to doing actual medicine. When you’re teens and the adults aren’t helping, you just try to all stay alive until you’ve got more resources and choices. Getting her actual help and resources to heal was the job of the adults in the situation, and something she’d have slowly learned to do for herself as she grew up.

      Not to mention, it doesn’t actually *help* someone with bad boundaries if you put up with behaviour that creeps you out. They will just continue being intrusive and overfamiliar, as they see no reason not to. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just make sure that your own boundaries are reasonably firm and that other people respect them.

  38. Thoughts: your friendship is already at risk. Much as it sucks, you cannot go back to a carefree friendship where this is not a problem. You’ve tried the keeping quiet strategy up till now and it’s clearly not working, because it’s both bothering you and noticeable to the person in question.
    Is there any way you can talk to your friend before this meeting with their partner? I don’t think you owe this person a meeting to ‘sort out your issues with each other’ at all. Distancing yourself without an explanation from someone is not unfair. Depending on your friendship, it may be much more worthwhile to say to your friend: “I apprreciate that Partner is really important to you, and I really value our friendship, but I’m friends with *you* and not Partner. Partner said X, Y, and Z, and these things make me uncomfortable. I don’t want to hang out with Partner, so it would be grand if the two of us could just hang out together in the future.”

    1. Thanks so much for replying. I have already managed to say the bit about not wanting us to hang out as a three, but without a reason other than it is awkward between us, so we haven’t done that for a long time. the trouble is that they live together. one of the conditions placed on the friendship is that me and her aren’t allowed to hang out at their house,–even though partner is not there over 50% of the time.if i keep quiet and make nice and apologise for being cold at this meeting there is a chance we could be able to hang out at hers when partner isn’t there. if not, i know i will never be allowed there. i don’t want my friend to become isolated. that’s the choice. it’s interested you think i should talk to my friend first. i didn’t think of doing that. i feel like it might completely devastate her. she is a massive feminist and has been really indignant towards other people doing this same thing her partner’s done. if she is distraught i am going to blame myself, although i know that it is not my fault what the partner has done/said, i just know, as you say, that the partner means so much to her and i am going to be the messenger that she possibly ends up ‘shooting’. this feels so tricky, i am sorry to be sounding obstructive to your (btw excellent) advice, it just seems so complicated in my head.

      1. I am sorry, because I think your friend’s partner may be emotionally abusing your friend. You might want to switch over from “how to deal with a boor” to “how to support my friend until she can get herself out”.

        The important difference is that you will never, ever be able to be good enough for her partner, because her partner doesn’t want you around. You can’t be accepting or friendly enough. You won’t be able to clear the air. With someone who’s just difficult or a jerk, you could probably find some kind of cold politeness, some kind of detente.

        Being a super strong feminist woman is not protection against getting into an abusive relationship, unfortunately.

        Before you have a meeting, I suggest calling a domestic abuse hotline to talk about the situation.

        I hope I’m wrong. I’m not there, I don’t know, I’m just a stranger on the internet.

        1. “The important difference is that you will never, ever be able to be good enough for her partner, because her partner doesn’t want you around. You can’t be accepting or friendly enough. You won’t be able to clear the air. With someone who’s just difficult or a jerk, you could probably find some kind of cold politeness, some kind of detente.”

          Yes, such an important point! It’s utterly pointless and crazy-making to attempt to rationally deal with an irrational request. As much as we may want to be able to just get Irrational Person to understand, it ain’t gonna happen.

        2. That is approximately how the dude from my story above treated me: I tried to ingratiate myself with him, actually, before I knew what he was, but I was a supportive, accepting, and protective force in my friend’s life and he wasn’t having any of that.

      2. [blockquote] I know i will never be allowed there[/blockquote]

        It’s your friend’s space as much as his, and this is a big, big red flag.
        I feel that you ought not to go into that space – it does not sound like a safe space for you – but I think the best thing you can do, long-term, is to warn your friend and say ‘friend, I will always be here for you, call me whenever you need support, but I am not going to engage with your partner.

        You need to talk to her. You also need to be prepared that she’ll stand by her partner, or that she will cut off contact with you – which will be bitter, but I think one thing that is coming out of all of these discussions is that it’s better to set boundaries for creepers than it is to ignore them ‘for the sake of someone or something else’.

      3. Oh hell no.

        Your friend does not actually need your partner’s permission to be your friend. Douchebag only gets to put ‘conditions’ on your friendship, and to state when and where you are ‘allowed’ to spend time with each other, because your friend bows to the idea that he has authority over her and that she needs his permission to hang out with you.

        Douchey as Douchebag is, that is not a problem between you and him. That is a problem between him and her, and between her and you. =/

        Knowing what to do is tricky though. I hear you on the ‘don’t want to let Friend get isolated’ thing. I have a friend I don’t see much anymore, and I too worry about what goes on behind closed doors.

        1. thank you for your thoughts all. i really need to think about this. as ‘moving on’ said, the friendship is already at risk. i know in all of my right-on-feminist head that there are massive red flags with the control of space thing. i tried to say this back when it initially became clear i was not wanted there, but because her partner had already twisted was was going on to mean it was my fault, i didn’t stand a chance, and my friend was really angry that i would even suggest there might be a dodgy dynamic. this confusion of the facts has also messed with my head a bit too. i love my friend probably more than i’ve loved anybody, and so potentially losing her through telling what i see and have heard is terrifying. that said, my ideal of not bowing to abusive people, which has been a historical battle for me, is being severally dented and i have already failed at keeping it from the partner that i know something is up, so perhaps the only way is through, hoping that our friendship can survive in the long term and that she can take care of herself. i really appreciate your comments so much, it has given me a new perspective and some strength. thank you.

        1. thanks for the link, that is a great article.

          the quiet option of ‘she getting something out of this i can’t see’ i have been trying to do for the past year (not sure how successfully!), but does this mean i don’t say why i don’t like the partner in terms of the assault business? is it ok to say ‘i don’t like them because of reason x,y,z (including the assault thing), but i get that you like them and i trust you that this is right for you’, or do i just keep to myself about my issue with the assault thing? this predator article and the comments make me want to be upfront. i am not sure if my friend knows about the assault denial, she was there when it was said, but it was in the first few weeks of them being together and she was starry eyed, i really don’t think she ‘heard’ it, she was all dreamy and not really listening i don’t think. partner has also forced sexual contact on another friend of ours too, but again it seems to have passed over my friend’s radar.

          i am very much ok with the idea that she is getting something out of it, i know she must be, and i do trust her, but i don’t trust her partner, and think that keeping quiet will just feed into the rape culture of silence around sexually abusive acts. i don’t want to take the risk with my friend that she doesn’t know about this history and find that she has stayed in a relationship blind to aspects of her partner that could put her in danger or that she really would want to know about somebody that close to her. also i don’t want to patronise my friend by coming across as untrusting of her choice of partner.

          life is so complex, dammit! you are all helping so much with organising my head about this.

          1. I think you say something. But first, ask how she’s doing and see if she gives you an opening to talk about it. One possible script: “It’s no secret Partner and I don’t like each other. I need to tell you why that hostility exists from my perspective. (tell what you know). It makes him an unsafe person for ME to be around.”

            But there’s no good, friction-free way. It’s gonna be a shitshow on some level. Not because you made it that way, but because he is a shitshow of a person and she’s tangled up with him.

      4. redshoes, I agree with the Captain that you should share what you know about the multiple assault(s), as as calmly as you can, just tell the facts that you know. Your friend is not going to like hearing it, so I wish you all the best and Jedi hugs.

      5. I’m with carbonatedwit on this one: from out here on the Internet this situation looks like a case of “how do I support my friend until she gets out”.

        I think your script of “this is why I don’t like Partner but I trust you to make your own decisions” is excellent. It may mean that for now you will see less of her but the essential thing that it does is leave the door open for her to come to you if things go bad with her partner down the road.

        Good luck to you.

  39. We had a predator in one of my social groups (a non-profit), who in addition had a mental illness. This, unfortunately, led to even less willingness to eject him from the group, as he was lonely and unable to connect to others – I doubt that was due to the mental illness, knowing a lot of people with those who do fine socially, but it was used as an excuse not to eject him, as in ‘let’s not pick on this poor guy even more than life itself is already doing.’
    I finally moved to get him ejected fom the group, by asking the women he made uncomfortable why his right to a social connection trumped their being comfortable in their main circle of friends. To my dismay, the formal ejection didn’t happen, as we kept being asked for more and more proof that he was behaving badly before anyone wanted to move on the issue. He did leave on his own, though.

  40. Ah, I needed this today. Not for any creeper-issues, but for my mother and her astounding lack of respect for boundaries. My grief counselor called her “abusive” last night and I’m still processing it. Along with the fact that she’s just threatened to show up on my doorstep (I live LITERALLY a thousand miles from her) unless I start doing what she wants.

    1. …Wow, this took me back.

      If you want my advice: run. Run far, far away. And if your mother does show up at your doorstep despite your express wishes to the contrary, call the police. This probably sounds extreme, but that kind of behavior is incredibly toxic. My mother pulled that exact same stunt at one time. (“Well, if you’re going to be like that, I’m coming to get you and we’ll see how long that lasts.” I was twenty at the time, and my great and terrible crime was asking if we could communicate via email for a while because I was sick of the constant stream of verbal abuse and manipulation that took place whenever we had a phone conversation.) After that, I told her I needed a break from communicating with her entirely, chucked my phone into a lake, and stopped checking my email.

      She did, in fact, show up at my house a couple of days later. Not a month after that, I was filing a police report on her kidnapping threats, sent to me via email.

      I don’t mean to scare you (and I’m probably projecting more than a little), but I do want to underline how incredibly toxic that kind of boundary crossing can get, and how quickly it can escalate. Hold your ground. Don’t let your boundaries go for anything. And if necessary, don’t hesitate to involve local authorities–those kinds of threats are scary stuff and you are not overreacting.

      1. Thank you, I appreciate it. She’s not quite that toxic, but it’s bad enough. She’s more off the passive-aggressive, major guilt tripping, “all the things you like are dumb and you’re wasting your life”, sort of toxic. The camel-straw this time is her total inability to refrain from nagging me about what my brother is up to – he’d already cut off contact with her decades ago. I’ve told her I refuse to be in the middle of it and her reply is “I’m not putting you in the middle, I just want you to tell me what he’s doing and talk about him incessantly.” Yeah.

        I finally realized it was not okay when I realized every time I got a FB message from her I felt physically ill before I’d even read it. So I’ve blocked those and phone calls.

        1. Ugh, is hard. All the Jedi Hugs.

          On a lighter fucked up note, has anyone seen that meme going around facebook with the giraffe pictures and the riddle? Basically, the riddle is something like “It’s 3am and the doorbell rings. You wake up. It’s your parents and they’re here for breakfast. You have (list of breakfast things). What do you open first?” And I’m like UH, A FLIPPHONE TO CALL THE POLICE BECAUSE UNINVITED ABUSIVE BOUNDARY-PUSHERS ARE AT MY HOUSE AT 3AM?

          But apparently some people have less fucked up families and that’s not the right answer?

          1. Is the answer “the front door”? Because that’s what I immediately thought.

            But yeah, I have a good family. If my parents show up at 3am, they probably have a very good reason to be there. But they had better have a very good reason – “we were en route to X and the car broke down and you’re the closest person”, “your sister is in hospital, come with us”, “we tried to ring your phone but you didn’t pick up, our house burned down”. That is so NOT a normal thing for parents to do.

          2. @Movingon – The answer is “your eyes”. Which I think is a terrible answer because if you’re awake and aware that it’s your parents you’ve already opened both your eyes and the door, presumably.

          3. Whoa. That was totally meant to be a tounge-poking-out face but looks more like I grin. Now I look like I am grinning about having dead parents… Totally not my intention. *sweatdrop*

  41. This post is so right on time for me. I am in the process of entering into a new social group, and have just attended a few events. At the first one, I met a guy who immediately glommed on to me and started talking smack about other people in the group. Yeah, that’s a red flag for sure. But after a few minutes, I extricated myself and the rest of the evening went fine, so I figured maybe he just made a social faux pas. It happens.

    At the next event, I had been there for, literally, two minutes when he came up behind me and started rubbing my shoulders. “SOMEONE IS TOUCHING ME” I announced very loudly. I don’t know where I got that boundary strategy from (maybe it was a tip from CA?) but it worked to get him to let go of me and step back. I gave him an annoyed glance and kept on talking to who I was talking to. He kept his distance from me for the rest of the event.

    It turns out that this particular guy has a reputation for boundary pushing and seeking out new members of the group. I haven’t heard anything more negative than “annoying” about him, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I did. The fact that he felt it was appropriate to put his hands on someone he met *once* before who had given no indication of being open to touching is a big ole’ RED FLAG and I will certainly be keeping an eye on his behavior with other people at events in the future.

    1. Oh man, I love your response. “SOMEONE IS TOUCHING ME.” That’s perfect. You can’t argue with it, for one thing.

  42. I’ve been involved in running an organization comprised of about 100 geeks for the past 5 years or so, and the “creepy guy” (and occasionally “creepy gal”) has come up multiple times.

    We always try to take some action. Most often the complaint is “he creeps me out and I don’t know why,” in which case we give the perpetrator a standard personal space and sexual language talk (the first time). Usually they either correct their behavior or remove themselves from the community. We instituted a harassment policy a couple years ago after hearing about an event at a local con. Since taking that step, people have felt safer coming forward, but are still very concerned about backlash from their peers and often ask us not to take action. I’m torn about what to do in that case, and would like to hear any suggestions anyone has. I do know that if we can say “we’ve had problems with that person before,” it helps validate the victim’s experience and they’re more likely to go along with taking action against the creeper.

    1. I can only share what I do in my geek group (long rambles up-thread about our overall policies), but I generally tell people I will keep things private and not say anything unless they want me to OR the behavior escalated. If they are the second-or-greater person to complain, I consider that an escalation and will speak to the person regardless. HOWEVER, I will keep the people who talked to me private. I will send the person an email saying something like “Your behavior lately has been violating our policies and making people feel unsafe. Specifically, {the use of sexist language, making racist jokes, touch other attendees without their permission}*. If you would like to continue attending our events, I expect this behavior to stop and for you to {keep your language polite and appropriate, refrain from making offensive jokes, only touch people with their explicit permission}. If you can, please feel welcome at our events and we’ve forgive these lapses in judgement. If you cannot do this, then this is not the group for you.”

      This isn’t a court of law. They don’t have the right to know their accuser. They don’t have a right to hear all of the evidence against them. This also isn’t a corporate workplace. I don’t need official documentation to enact “punitive” action against someone harassing someone else, so there’s no need for the victim to go on record if they don’t want to. And I keep it all private, so the only way the victim’s peers would know he/she complained and was the “cause” of me taking action would be if he/she told them. (I say “cause” in quotes because the other person’s shitty action is the actual cause, the victim’s story is just making me aware of the cause.) But I don’t know what your org’s harassment policy requires.

      *Basically, I try to list of specific behaviors but NOT specific incidents. “You used sexist language” NOT “You called member X a ‘stupid bitch’.”

  43. About isolating missing stairs people:

    My social group is two interconnected groups, the older group (which I’m closer to), and the younger group, based on when people graduated. Those my graduating class fall in between these two and know both.

    There is someone who’s definitely a creep, while not a rapist, not for lack of attempt, and someone who has abused multiple people in the group, a person who is warned about and avoided, a missing stair, who’s the same graduating class as me.

    In the older group. He’s been isolated. He’s very pushed out. It’s been quite effective.

    In the younger group, those who have called him on it have been pushed out. The survivors as well as those who have supported the survivors. Those people have been not only not supported, but actively shunned and treated like they are the abusers.

    The trick seemed to be in the first group who was close to many others, to take someone who was not one of those he had targetted, and have that person spearhead the group. The survivors couldn’t. They would not be listened nearly as much as well as could not mentally handle the stress of dealing with it. Someone else needed to start it and push hard. That person in this case, was very strict and very insistent. And it spread, because the information of why spread. And people might not have agreed with being as extreme, but they’d agreed with “someone who hurt multiple of us so badly and then attempted rape is not an acceptable person”.

    My part? I was the first victim.

    Reading this helps so much. I understand and agree and say its not only relevant in rape. A lot of this is relevant outside of rape as well, to stop predators early as possible, as well as to deal with after it happens.

    1. Running through the thread of this story is this idea that survivors are “too emotional” and “can’t be rational” about their own experiences, as if a) making up stories about being raped is a fun activity they secretly teach girls during the “Here’s what your period is” class in middle school and b) as if being “biased” towards Not Getting Raped Again and Not Letting The Person Who Raped Me Run Amok In My Social Life is a bad thing. “Well, why should I listen to you, you’re just biased against Creepy Dude.” Um…why aren’t YOU biased against him? Why isn’t everyone? It is smart to have others speak up as a workaround for this common derail, but it bugs me so much that survivors have to face that skepticism of their motives while perpetrators get all the “innocent until proven guilty” and “benefit of the doubt” crap.

      1. I’ve seen this dynamic, too. Otherwise great-seeming friends who fell directly into the trap of ‘You just think he’ a bad person because you don’t like him,’ and refused to compute that the reverse was true. That I didn’t like him BECAUSE I could see he was a bad person. And it was all just ‘Oh your previous trauma, totally understandable blah blah blah we definitely support you and would never let anyone hurt you, but no really, this particular guy is a good friend of ours and and you have nothing to worry about, theretherepatpat.’

        Ugh. I just. /rage

        1. Yes, exactly. Absolutely.

          The worst was when one of my closest friends did that and then started dating my abuser, after saying that and after saying that KNOWING that after abusing me he attempted rape on someone else (he’d made it most of the way through the pattern before she got away). And then it was just “You just don’t like him because of your other issues”. Um, no, because he’s a bad person. He’s a narcassist, he’s abusive, and I don’t think he’s a rapist yet, and I’m going to do everything I can to keep him from raping anyone in this group, but I actually think its a matter of time.

          And then I lost my friend and never got her back. Because I’m not going to be friends with someone like that. I can’t.

          The people who actually listen, those are good friends though – though sometimes you need to watch out because they get too into it. The person who listened most to me needed to work with a therapist because it brought up anger issues and he wanted to hurt the person so badly when he realized the number of things he’d done. That person is now one of my closest friends, despite having not known him very well before this happened.

  44. So I have a story that I feel is somewhat tangential but I still feel the need to tell.

    I van definitely point to times in my life where I had absorbed some pretty toxic narratives. The types that allow abusers to operate.

    I believed in “staying neutral” over break ups and fights in my social circle that didn’t directly involve me. Because I felt that acting otherwise was inciting drama. Which works brilliantly if someone is fighting over who slept with someone else’s boyfriend. It falls over commpletely if the conflict is over someone being abusive in some way. It took me a long time to realise that “neutral” is actually taking the side of the person who made a space unsafe.

    I swallowed a lot of the geek social fallacies.

    I had also drank the “it must be really terrible to be falsely accused of rape!” koolaid.

    And even though at the time of this story I had been working on ridding myself of those narratives and the behaviours that they preceded.

    There was a guy on the edges of my social circles. Let’s call him Morry. I never particularly liked or disliked him. He was a bit weird and awkward, but geek social fallacies meant that that wasn’t a good enough reason to examine his behaviours further.

    I remember that a few of his breakups went horribly and every now and then a story would emerge about a girl detesting him. But it was just shit that I heard on the grapewine. I didn’t really know the girls, and I was too fucking stupid to recognise the red flags for what they were and inquire further.

    He started dating one of my friends which meant that he was in my social circles a whole lot more, let’s call her Josie. He was still weird and awkward and had some pretty unpopular opinions, but it all seemed pretty harmless.

    Until she tried to break up with him. That’s when he started showing up at the bus stop that she took from work. That’s when he started insisting that she hadn’t given him a good enough reason to break up with him. (And ignored everyone that said a: she wants to is good enough and b: she has sent you long emails about her reasoning)

    Josie started going out with a new guy the week after she broke up with Morry. Morry decided that this meant that she’d been cheating on him (possibly? I never asked. It was irrelevant to me) and Morry accused our social group of covering up her unconsciable behaviour. All of this behaviour terrified Josie, especially since Morry had made it very clear to her that he had an impressive knife collection.

    And then he tried to kill himself. And made it very clear that he blamed Josie (which was reminiscent of past trauma that she’d confided in him about). I did my part to make sure he was safe, and promptly cut him out of my life. Unfriended him on Facebook, made it clear I wanted nothing to do with him. Most of Josie’s friends did similar.

    But not all. So I would still occassionally see him pop up on Facebook conversations. And a year or so later I was in a thread doing the usual mythbusting about the rate of false accusations of rape, how it’s nowhere ear as prevalent as rape, how hard it is coming forward about rape and how there is very little to be gained from it etc etc.

    And Morry pops up and says that he’s been accused of rape by two girls. (And obviously he’s never raped anyone). So clearly he is the living proof that men need to be protected from false accusations and the damage they can do to someone’s reputation.

    And it was like the floor fell out from under me. He’d violated so many boundaries that I’d seen, and I just knew that those “two false accusations” were far from false.

    So I fucked up. I could have done a lot more to stop him operating in my social circles had I known better. But I just remember him every time someone gives me a squicky feeling. Or tests boundaries. Or someone else tells me that someone made her feel bad. Because I have seen how easy it is for someone (who wasn’t even particularly likeable) to operate unchecked.

    1. Could “boundary testing” not also be framed as “gauging interest?” Two people are flirting and he puts his hand on the small of her back, etc. In a literal sense, he is testing her boundaries in that he’s making a move and seeing how she reacts. If she brushes his arm away, she’s not interested. If she let’s him touch her, then maybe she is interested, and maybe things can continue to progress from there. A pretty standard means of gauging interest, but something that could also accurately be described as testing boundaries. Something that you say rapists do.

      Could you elaborate on this point to better differentiate normal boundary testing from predatory boundary testing? Is it making repeated moves after a clear sign of disinterest? My alarm definitely goes off if I’m in a bar and I see someone badgering a woman into accepting a drink after clearly being told no. But that is more accurately described as “boundary pushing” then “boundary testing.” Might not “boundary pushing” be a clearer and more useful way to frame this point?

      Testing boundaries is fine. How else would you know where they are? It’s pushing boundaries, after they’re made clear, that’s the problem.

      1. I can’t tell if you’re trolling or sincere. I am going to go out on a limb and assume the latter.

        “Testing boundaries is fine. How else would you know where they are?”

        Um… ASK?

        1. “Um… ASK?”

          Right? I’m a woman who has had lots of casual sex partners. You know what all those encounters had in common? Someone (or I!) said “Hey, Non, this is lots of fun. Can we take it somewhere private/may I kiss you/may I take your shirt off?” Sincerely ask without pressure and then if the answer is no, or waffling, or hesitation, back off with no further questions asked. It works! I promise!

      2. Um, testing boundaries in the way you’ve laid out also shows how likely someone is to defend themselves or how able they are to do that. Lots of people who do not have power in a situation will not let you know directly that they are uncomfortable.

        In short, don’t push boundaries.

      3. If you think that testing boundaries is fine, you’re engaging in predatory behaviour, and you’re setting the bar too low. it should not be ‘what can I do before the other person storms out/protests loudly/slugs me’ but ‘what makes them enthusiastic’? If someone does not tell you that an advance was welcome – not ‘does not protest’, TELLS YOU THAT YOU ARE WELCOME – do not advance further. Back off, apologise, move on, game over.

        But most importantly, you seem to feel that you have a right to know where other people’s boundaries are. And that, in itself, is a tremendously entitled position. Just assume they are where almost everybody’s boundaries are when dealing with strangers: no unwarranted touching, staying in ‘safe for work’ territory, no demanding answers other than in a professional capacity, no expectation, in short, that they owe you any interaction at all.

        The secret to good interactions is to become a person that people want to interact with. Being polite and respectful is part of that.

        1. Woah, lightbulb moment.

          I mean, I already knew my ex was emotionally abusive and manipulative. But something I knew about him FROM THE BEGINNING was that he liked testing and pushing people’s boundaries. He always acted like it was both a joke and a sort of public service, as if having boundaries was some kind of character flaw and his role in life was to be the self-admitted brat who “helped” women overcome them.

          And a fundamental part of this was his assumption – and mine – that he was entitled to know where those boundaries were in the first place. It would be fantastic if we could start changing that particular cultural narrative.

          So yeah: look for enthusiastic participation. Don’t even engage in anything that can be described as “boundary testing.” And be on the lookout for anyone who acts as though they’re entitled to find out where another person’s boundaries are.

      4. I do see a lot of dating advice out there for dudes that suggests that if you have to ask, you haven’t “got game,” and that it’s worth making several someones really uncomfortable until you happen upon that one person who’s going to find your presumptive hand-on-back to be awesome because they’re into you.

        What you’re describing is a part of the world we live in — people do try to “gauge interest” without ever uttering a word. But I think one of the underpinnings of this site is that this model needs to be challenged in favor of a better model that is more respectful, less likely to be misinterpreted, less subject to willful misinterpretation, and more available for use by a variety of people. Your model that it’s okay to press a person you hardly know to define *exactly* how comfortable she with you immediately after meeting you is one of the things that, if it doesn’t actually *cause* rape culture, allows it to flourish, because it assumes that boundaries are always a little mushy, always in need of definition and defense by the person who has them (a la Robin Thicke, blech.)

        I mean: I imagine for a very small subset of extremely socially fluent and ethical people, the wordless model could work okay, without any hurt feelings, anxiety, or fear, because all parties involved would pick up on the messages the other person was sending. But for most of us, who have varying levels of social skills, fear about asserting ourselves, or other things that make subtle messages hard to read? The spoken model is better, truly. Historically, I am not comfortable with someone touching my shoulder unless I’ve known them for 6+ months, but that’s not something I can articulate very easily in the moment. And I’m often a pretty assertive person in most parts of my life! But I don’t want to seem like a bitch or a jerk. Likewise, even a well-meaning dude (because yeah, this is gendered) who uses your method but doesn’t know how to read “not interested” in body language may keep escalating when it’s really, really not okay. It’s much safer to assume that you can’t read unspoken signals (and you doubtless are not capable of reading everyone’s, even if you can pick up on a few) and ask directly about what is and is not okay. If someone asks me if I want a hug, it’s much easier for me to say “No, thank you,” than it is for me to duck it physically if they come at me in hug-position. Does that make sense?

      5. Ironzealot, here is the difference between boundary testing and gauging interest.

        I will use the example you used, where a het-man and a het-woman are flirting and he puts his hand on the small of her back to see how she reacts. Let’s say also that she doesn’t noticeably flinch away. You say, “If she let’s him touch her, then maybe she is interested, and maybe things can continue to progress from there.”

        I say, NOPE.

        Here’s the information that the woman has, at this moment: “This guy is maybe interested in getting closer to me.”

        Here’s the information that the man has, at this moment: “This woman is not actively rebuffing me.”

        Pickup artist manuals, seduction guides, etc. will all tell the man to slowly escalate his behavior until he either gets sex or a refusal. As long as the woman is “letting” you do stuff, you’re golden.

        This, you have identified correctly, is also what rapists do to test the boundaries of their targets. Which is why many people, including myself, see a lot of PUA stuff as kinda rapey.* PUA and rapists are looking for the same thing: A person who will not automatically shrug off their advances. A not-rapist will eventually back off if he gets a clear no (or if the woman is too intoxicated to consent, etc.), where a rapist will use violence, incapacitation, etc., but the initial stages look exactly the same.

        If you’re looking for the boundary? If you’re testing people to find out where their “no” is? You’re doing it wrong.

        Disclosure: I have had casual sex, and I have touched people without asking first in situations where there is already some flirting going on, and had people touch me without asking first and had it be perfectly fine. A hand on the small of the back, or sliding closer on the Couch of Plausible Deniability Where We Were Planning To Just Watch A Movie, No Really, I Swear. What made it fine is that the initial touch, or whatever, was reciprocated. Not tolerated. Reciprocated. Somebody not shrinking from the touch, not pushing it away, or whatever, does not give you enough information. The person could be frozen. They could be afraid. They could be worried about hurting your feelings or making a scene. They could be processing – “Huh, he likes me. What do I think about that?” They could be enjoying it and hoping you’ll do more, but they could also be ignoring it in the hopes that you’ll stop. You don’t KNOW. You don’t know anything. You don’t know anything until or unless they touch you back or respond to a verbal request. Edited to Add: Important to say here, also, is that survivors of abuse and sexual violence are extra-likely to freeze in response to unwanted touching. So what looks like “she isn’t pushing my hand away” might really, seriously be TERROR. Not as likely in the flirting situation you describe, ironzealot, as it is in “Guy came up to me at a party and started giving an oogy backrub**” situations but a real possibility. So, so, so many stories of sexual assault contain the words “I just froze.”[/Edit]

        Seduction” wisdom would tell you to escalate your level of touching. And people who push that wisdom talk a lot about being “alpha” and how women like confidence in a guy and want guys to be in charge, etc., and they tell you that to show that you’re confident you should touch her a lot and show her that you know what you’re doing and not slow things down with stupid words. Now, your example was of two heterosexual people who are already flirting with each other, maybe at a bar or at a party, where a casual initial touch would most likely not be the worst faux pas in the world. But if you escalate that touching without any positive, active indication from the other person because you want to test where their boundary is, if you mistake the lack of “no” or flinching for an invitation to continue, you may not be a rapist, but you are using the same techniques and logic rapists use, and that should trouble you.

        The most confident dudes I know ask. They make their interest clear and overt, so you have the opportunity to turn them down directly, and then they wait to be invited further. They aren’t desperate to make this one encounter happen, so they don’t have to push or convince you to sleep with them or slowly escalate their way into your apartment or your pants. So if you do actually hook up, they know for sure that you want to be there, because you are actively participating in whatever it is. Instead of putting moves on you, they are giving you space to make moves of your own. If you want to read more about this, I highly recommend Cliff’s piece, Rescripting Sex.

        For a more explicitly predatory example, let’s look at how many stories in this thread (and the past Creepy Dude threads) are about creepers targeting new people to the group.

        New = maybe came to the event alone.
        New = maybe don’t know many people there, don’t yet have a support network.
        New = maybe don’t know the creeper’s history, after other women in the social group have rejected them. Fresh meat!

        Creepers flock to these folks like moths to a flame. And suddenly it’s all “Can I get you a drink?” and backrubs and hugs and “Are you sure? Just one more drink, come on, live a little.” They are looking for the person who has weaker boundaries, someone who initially says “no thanks” but later says “okay, fine.” If you’re the one doing that stuff, you may just be a slightly unconfident, slightly awkward person who is just trying to see if maybe one of these people might be interested in you vs. a violent predator. That’s always the defense we hear, right? “He’s not creepy, he’s just awkward.” As one awkward person to another, if I see you being huggy and touchy without asking or being invited, and I see that your intended is not responding with active enthusiasm, or if they do rebuff you you’re all “JEEZ DON’T BE SO UPTIGHT,” if I see you working really hard to convince someone to do something after they already said ‘no thanks,’ or I see that they are really intoxicated, or if I see you trying to isolate them from the rest of the group, or be their ride home even though you just met, or tell really offensive jokes, etc. it is going to set off my alarm bells, and I am going to cockblock you.

        *Not the “peacocking” stuff where they wear silly hats. That shit is hilarious, and the shiny shirts and stuff help us spot them in the crowd.

        **Never do this. Assume that no one wants that backrub.

        1. (CN: rape) OK, so, super-personal confession time: I was raped like this. I was raped by a dude who just kept going, from touching my knee to having sex with me and I was laughing and only mildly protesting and he never asked so I never had the chance to say ‘no’ and before I knew it, it was all over.

          For my money there is no non-predatory way to ‘test boundaries’, because you have NO idea what or how the person you are ‘testing’ feels.

          1. I am so sorry that happened to you. Sadly, that’s exactly the goal of the “escalate until she stops you” model of sex. All that stuff is meant to buypass consent and get to the goal of “getting laid” with the least resistance. Of course not all sex that happens this way is rape or rapey, but the painful sad reality for perpetrators/initiators/seducers is that there is a lot of sex that starts like this where the perpetrator, even after the fact, does not know for sure if their partner was 100% into it. And since the man-pursuer, women-object model is so pervasive, a lot of people, even I would say a lot of not-horrible people, have an episode somewhere in their past where they can’t be sure. This prospect is understandably horrifying, so we get a lot of pushback and denial and derailing around it when we bring it up, and a lot of argument that the lack of a clear “no” should be THE standard. But it’s real. I am so sorry that it was real for you.

        2. Let’s clarify a few points:

          * The arm around the back would not occur out of the blue. It would occur after a period of verbal flirting and would simply constitute an escalation to physical flirting. Hopefully after some non-verbal invitation, or at least perceived non-verbal invitation.

          * If the woman in the scenario reacted to the man’s gesture by remaining perfectly stiff, that would be an understandable “no.” By “let’s him touch her,” I didn’t mean total passivity. I meant leaning in to him, putting her arm around him in kind, or just generally exhibiting a receptive posture. Awkward passivity means that your gesture is not welcome to most people. That would be a rebuff.

          * What is a realistic alternative to this dynamic? Do you seriously expect an explicit verbal Q&A prior to any and all physical contact AND for every slight escalation of already established physical contact? “May I place my hand around your back?” “May I now rub your back with the hand that I have placed thereon?” “May I now move said hand to your hair and stroke it affectionately?” That would suck all the sexual tension from the room and turn flirting into a horribly tedious and robotic exercise that I can’t imagine would be especially fun for either party. I agree that “yes means yes” but for god’s sake there’s some practical limits.

          * I understand that this is an emotive issue, but the uncompromising rhetoric really does this movement a disservice. If two people are flirting, one party escalates the level of flirtation after a mistakenly perceived invitation to do so, and then quickly realizes their mistake and stops after a non-verbal rejection, then the harm done (slight discomfort) is quite minimal and the escalating party is not behaving like a predator. This typical dynamic, while not perfect, is certainly preferable to world in which all of us walk on eggshells terrified that we might accidentally bump elbows without a signed contract.

      6. To back up the Captain’s awesome comment:

        Back when I was single, if we were newly acquainted, and mildly flirting, and you put your hand on the small of my back to see if I was interested… I probably wouldn’t have smacked your hand away. I would probably have frozen, and/or tried to completely ignore it, and it would have been not cool. And if you then escalated, because hey! I hadn’t rebuffed you, so it must be okay! then I would have been frankly terrified, and I would have wanted to get away, and I would not have had the faintest idea of how to do it safely, so you would probably have kept going because hey! I still hadn’t rebuffed you, so it must be okay!

        If you put a woman in a position where you’re already Making Your Move and she doesn’t want to go along with it – if you’re at the point where you expect a ‘no’ to include her having to take your hand off her body – she doesn’t know if her ‘no’ is going to be met with verbal abuse, or accusations of leading you on, or an actual assault. Because you are right there in her face, and she is in reach, and you have already made it abundantly clear that you will get physical with her without asking.

        Don’t do this, dude.

      7. Wow, what a strange response to the OP! If boundary testing is the “gauging interest” method of someone who ends up stalking people and manipulating them via suicide threats, count me out.

    2. It says a lot that the rapist creep will admit on a public forum that he’s been accused of rape by two different people. He probably put it out there believing the admission would have no ill effect on him — that nobody would take his accusers’ word over his own. And maybe he was right to assume that. Because so many people are deeply invested in believing that rape accusations are false.

      But… geez. It blows my mind he’d be so comfortable just putting it out there on facebook.

      tessiselated, it sounds to me like you did what you could to get him out of your life! And that you could cut yourself a little slack because you only knew what you knew when you knew it. I don’t know, maybe the red flags were really big, but maybe it was a few bad breakup stories and you didn’t have enough to go on. I’m glad you shared this story and I think it’s important. Reading these stories might help some of us, like me, get better at spotting creepers, and be brave about shutting them down before they hurt someone.

  45. I got a huge amount of satisfaction recently in dealing with a creepy dude.
    I first met this guy in a situation in which he was in a position of power. He did some things there that struck me as odd and vaguely not-good, but nothing specifically bad. But from practically the moment I saw him, I was getting “THIS PERSON IS WORRYING AND POSSIBLY DANGEROUS” vibes from him. Well, when I left, I was talking with my friend and partner. Friend, who was also raised female, TOTALLY agreed. We were both extremely creeped out by this dude, and couldn’t exactly put a finger on it, but he was giving off major bad vibes. Partner, who wasn’t raised female, was totally confused, “I thought he was fine”, “I feel like that’s kind of harsh”. Honestly, it terrified me, as I was afraid of hir being there without the mental alarms that the other two of us had. Like, I was just mentally despairing, like, “but how can I keep you safe?”, which later made me kind of laugh as sort of an inverse of the whole “women shouldn’t [x]” thing, but was just scaaaary, feeling like my partner lacked a tool I relied on to protect myself.

    Well, anyway. I went on with my life, and then next time that guy came up, heard some definitely unsavory stories. Not sexual, just unsafe in other ways. And then the next time I saw him, he stood too close to me, and I told him to back off. Kind of harshly. I think he was a little shocked at my tone, because we hadn’t technically met before. But he apologized and did it, and it was very pleasing.

    And then we were at a party. In MY dormthing. Was not happy about him being there, but a friend had invited him so okay, gonna try and be charitable. Aaaaand then I hear him talking to a sub-free kid. Sub-free guy is doing the thing where he explains his motivations to be sub-free, and creepy guy is going all “but [drug] doesn’t have that problem, so you could try that.” Fairly innocuous from the outside, if you haven’t experienced it before. Could be seen as him just trying to be helpful. But I’m sub-free myself and had major pressure from a former roommate to drink, and it was truly shitty and looked a LOT like that. So I turned to him and said something along the lines of, “Hey, let’s not pressure sub-free people to do drugs.”

    And as soon as I said that, someone else turns around, and says, “Yeah, not cool. Don’t do that.”
    And he said “sorry” and knocked it off immediately. HA.

  46. I just remembered something from high school. I was at least a year younger than everyone in my class, which when you’re 15/16/17 is quite a lot. We were at a birthday party. And this guy from my class whom I already didn’t like suddenly asked me and a girl I was sitting with: “So, did you two ever have an orgasm?” We refused to answer, of course, and he kept pushing it and making fun of us for being prudish. See, if he asked his guy friends sitting around him, they all answered ‘yes’ immediately so what was wrong with us that we didn’t answer? I got so, so angry, but I didn’t have the language to express exactly what was so wrong with that question.

    For a while after that he kept asking inappropriate questions to me and friends in class. I made no secret of my dislike for him and when other people tried the ‘That’s just his style, he just has a certain sense of humor’ I kept countering with ‘it’s not my sense of humor, I don’t think it’s funny and I don’t have to put up with it.’ So eventually this equilibrium arose where he and I ignored each other and stayed on opposite sides of the classroom at all times.

    This thread made me realize he was definitely a Creep. Looking back, given my age and the social situation, I’m not unhappy with how I handled it. I spoke up from the start and didn’t cave to pressure to ‘just be nice’. But I wish I had been able to do more to convince others that it wasn’t humor, it was boundary pushing and totally out of line.

    He’s in politics now…

  47. Delurking to offer a (maybe a bit off centre) comment. I’ve been following this site for a few months, having found it in trying to deal with some issues in my life (by the way it rocks!).

    (TW) I have suffered a lot of abuse in my life, mostly but not only from my Darth Vader ex-husband. TL:DR he abused me in a number of ways but I didn’t leave until he kicked me when I was pregnant with our second child. And I have never regretted doing so.

    I can remember a party I went to when we were still together where a friend of his undid my bra through my clothes and he thought it was the funniest thing out. I was horrified but knew if I complained I’d be ridiculed, so I kept quiet.

    But by far the strangest predatory experience I ever had was at college. There was this guy, I’d not met him before but his father was VERY famous (but dead by then) so I knew of him. He was though completely socially awkward, so nothing like his charismatic father. And I thought he was harmless. He wasn’t.

    I often helped other students with their assignments, mostly law students doing a double degree who struggled with the other part. I’d get a request, they’d come to my room or I’d go to theirs, and help them out and that was that. So when a friend of his who was friends with me too mentioned that he needed help I went to his room (NB in this college in Australia there were single rooms only).

    I knocked on the door and was let in, he closed the door behind me and grabbed me, then threw me on the bed. The Gift of Fear had not been written then, but I acted on instinct – I was just furious – and sat up, shoving him out of the way and yelling at him. Don’t remember what I said but I’m sure the word “fuck” featured pretty heavily. He would have been in no doubt that what he’d done was wrong.

    I’m so lucky that he didn’t try again, or attack me physically. Instead, he broke down and cried. It was so weird, finding myself listening as the guy who tried to rape me told me all about his father, and the “experiences” he’d set up for his son. He said that as a result of them he didn’t know how to approach women. Suffice to say I understand why he was the way he was, but I didn’t and don’t think that was an excuse.

    I ended up helping the bastard anyway and left as soon as I could. I forgot about it eventually and then last year, in a fandom I’m involved with, was chatting to a friend who went to the same University as I did, but a few years after me. She told me he had a reputation by then as a creeper, so whatever I did say to or about him obviously didn’t sink in. I can’t help feeling that I should have done more – my only excuse is it was the 80s and my awareness of these issues left a lot to be desired.

    1. You did spectacular, seriously! I mean sure, it always feels like you have a responsibility to other people to keep them save from him, but really, that’s not on you. It is on him (and the community!). I’m glad you got out of there, and your marriage.

      1. Thanks! I’ve been thinking about it and although I was a feminist in practice (and still am) it came from a more personal than global consciousness. After graduating the first job I had was one no woman had held before so there was this daily testing process and I earned my stripes, but until I found this site there was no framework for my views and the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle of my life didn’t fit.

        I’ve learned over the years and from this site about the importance of enforcing boundaries without feeling the need to apologise for them. I’ve also learned the value of trusting my intuition. If I had I would not have married or even dated my Darth in the first place, and I can also see now how those two principles are so valuable in de-creepering social spaces. 🙂

  48. Hey, thanks for this post again. You know what else this is great for? Working out who is probably going to be a terrible friend or acquaintance to know. It’s also made me much happier about being a bit ruthless with my friend group when I know there is shittiness going down.

  49. I’m having half a thought… forgive me, all, while I work it out out loud.

    When the Cap first offered this question, I had a couple of stories but they are all from early college. I thought about it a lot and finally said, “I haven’t had a creeper in my social group in 20 years.” Yay me!

    But then I thought about it some more and realized, *I don’t have a social group.* I have friends — many and myriad — and some of them know each other. But I’ve worked on cultivating individual relationships with people and I don’t have a “tribe.”

    The thing is, I’m really WEIRD (apparently). I live in Boston(ish) and geeks are dense on the ground here. Every one of my friends has a group — a gang, a tribe, whatever. They have a large bunch of people who they invite to parties, hang out with regularly, and, importantly, have some sort of a regularly scheduled THING with.

    Movie night, anime night, family friend gaming afternoon, grown ups only gaming night…. they have these groups, these weekly/monthly events with their large and shifting groups. I get invited to two or five a week.

    But because I cultivate individual friendships, I tend not to go. I don’t know everyone in the group, and therefore I have only loyalty to one or two carefully vetted people and that’s it. I therefore avoid all the “group drama”. (Also, I’m 40. There’s a lot less group drama than there was 15 years ago.)

    Thing is — I had a tribe in college. Then Stephen and I immolated — messily — and the group mostly chose him, not me. (This seems to echo a lot of other people’s experiences.) A few awesome folks chose to remain my friends and I noticed that I didn’t really miss the rest of them. Thus began my habit of cultivating individual friendships.

    I wonder if that’s part of what’s going on here? We, the Awkwards, the geeks, have often decided our families-of-birth are just not right for us so we work on forming a family-of-choice. But we tend to find it easiest to join an already created group, or to use structured events (like movie/gaming/knitting nights) to create a group.

    Group dynamics, as we’re exploring above, explicitly provide cover for predators. Also, I have a personal theory that geek women are often (but not always) geeks because we have been abused (mentally, physically, emotionally, sexually) in the past. The patterns that set up that abuse are attractive to predators. So geeky groups — with their target rich environments and their tendencies to cover up for problems — are essentially the perfect niche for creepers.

    That’s my half-assed theory written before my second cup of tea. Do I sound remotely rational or merely caffeine deprived? Can we use this insight to help prevent this crap?

    1. “Also, I have a personal theory that geek women are often (but not always) geeks because we have been abused (mentally, physically, emotionally, sexually) in the past.”

      Huh? I don’t compute this. Can you explain a bit more? It looks like you’re saying that women aren’t as naturally programmed to be geeks as men, unless something tragic happens to them and then the Geek Gene activates?

    2. I don’t really have a social group either, and I rarely have (when I have it’s been as a result of external factors, such as when I lived in a boarding house, rather than internal factors, such as a common interest) and though it can be lonely, I admit that most of the Group Dynamic stories that get discussed in threads like this are mostly foreign to me and I am more and more glad of it. I too tend to cultivate relationships with individuals over groups, and I’ve found this works just fine for me.

      I don’t know where you’re going with the “women are geeks becuase they’ve been abused” thing, though, and frankly, I call BS. I’m a woman and I’ve been into geeky things for as long as I can remember, ain’t got nothing to do with my status (or lack of) as a victim/survivor.

    3. I think you are looking at things through the prism of your own experience and applying it to everyone.
      As for the “group dynamics..explicitly provide cover for predators,” that’s some group dynamics provide cover for predators. Several of the commentators here talked about their groups have strategies specifically for spotting and removing predators.

    4. “Also, I have a personal theory that geek women are often (but not always) geeks because we have been abused (mentally, physically, emotionally, sexually) in the past.”

      Wait, what? I don’t follow. You must be talking about a different idea of what “geek” means than what I’m familiar with.

    5. Hi DameB, I am also unconvinced by the generalizations about group dynamics enabling predators and about geek women BUT I am going to think about the individual vs. group friendships thing and the choosing pre-existing/structured groups because it’s giving me a bit of a lightbulb moment to think back on my own life. So thank you for that!

    6. This sounds to me like one of those polyvangelsit arguments, in which someone has a style of building relationships which is different from the majority. and instead of jsut defending it as an option, they go on and accuse.. monogamists with being jealous and all secretly unhappy etc. Or, in your case, living sheepishly in groups despite the fact that your style of relating is superior.

      I think that most of our time as a species we have lived in small groups (tribes etc), so we are obviously good at that, and if most of your friends enjoys being part of groups? then do them the favor of accepting their style of having friendships as something just as good as yours.

  50. Gah. No. that’s no what I meant, though … yeah, that’s totally what I typed, isn’t it? I am very sorry. I should not write before second cups of tea.

    Let me restate now that I’m caffeinated. I’ve noticed, in my travels, that geek women often have (or at least admit to) a higher rate of childhood trauma than non-geek women. I think this may be because they are operating outside the socially acceptable norms for girls. Evidence points to the fact that society often reacts to non-gender-normative behaviors with hostility and abuse. Sometimes it’s abuse from family and sometimes it’s abuse from classmates, teachers, etc.

    Now, I’m old enough that during my childhood, pretty much all geeky behaviors were non-gender normative. I’m hopeful that this is changing.

    1. DameB, I think I would stay away from generalizations about geek women vs. non geek women. Who knows how to define what those even are? I kind of get what you are getting at, but it is distracting from the strong parts of your post, and I don’t want the thread to derail.

      1. I would love to someday talk about what DameB is talking about, since I spent half a year buried in research on bullying in North American schools which really did lead me to believe that here, at least, experiences of identifying as a geek and experiences of being abused, bullied or ostracized are fundamentally intertwined in the community consciousness. I don’t know if the actual rate of adverse childhood experiences are higher in geekdom or not, just that for some people, the link of causation is very clear, and I think they tie together in ways that are rather unhealthy (though don’t need to be).

        However, and this is just my experience, I haven’t observed it as a phenomenon to which gender is an essential component.

  51. I usually try my best to eject the creeper but despite that, I ended up being the victim of friend sexual assault last new year’s. I had a roommate who was a close friend who kept really pushing my boundaries of touching over a several year period, especially while drinking, and I let my other roommate/best friend convince me it was fine, because I didn’t want to break up our friend group. (I had essentially no other support system, at the time.) Aaaand I got blackout drunk alone with creepy roomie and woke up partially undressed with fingernail scratches on me. Worst part was she admitted to doing something, when other roommate asked, and both of them constantly harassed me about even mentioning something because i was “kind of a slutty drunk so you probably got her to do it” and I was “ruining the friend group”.

    Needless to say, I don’t live there any more, and I don’t hang out with them any more either.

    This did happen in geek culture sort of, but really I have enough thoughts about that specifically that it needs another post.

  52. I kind of have a comment, I don’t really think it’s a question?

    I totally agree that if someone knows you were abused and they choose the abuser, you’re better off without them. They could be well-meaning but believe his story over yours, which is too bad, but they are going to keep believing his stories, so again, better off.

    But my problem is…I didn’t realize I was being abused. He never hit me, and the sexual stuff was way too subtle for inexperienced me to realize it wasn’t okay. When we broke up, lots of people tried “not to pick sides” and some of them actually meant it (a lot of people said it and chose him because he said bad things about me, and I was pretty low so I agreed with them.) Some of those people are still friends with him and me, and keep us separate.

    But years later I read a textbook breakdown of emotional abuse, and I started crying and shaking. So now I know it was abuse, and I can name all the other things he did that were Not Okay, but I’m stuck with the situation as it stands because it would be weird in the extreme to try to convince our friends that my never seeing him isn’t enough, he’s an abuser and they should break up with him.

    I just wonder if that happens a lot, because A. thinking you suck and the bad things he says are true is a normal effect of verbal abuse and B. not realizing the things he is doing are abuse is a normal effect and really common with gaslighting. So then you have mutual friends and that’s not a sign they’re bad or anything you can do anything about!

    1. Well, I think what you can do in any case is distance yourself from him (or stay distanced) and not let this be a point of discussion. You can also choose, whether it’s important for you to talk to people about this or not. It’s totally legit to decide to tell your friends “I’ve thought about it and I’ve now realized that what happened in our relationship was abuse. Before, I didn’t think about it much, but now it would mean a lot to me if you {some behavior that would indicate to you they believe you/make you feel more save.} You are allowed to change your mind – or make up your mind¹ and proceed from there.
      I also think that people could be able to see an abusive relationship for what it is, even if the people involved don’t. So your friends aren’t entirely excused just because you didn’t realize what was going on.

      1 Not sure if this has a mean tone to it b/c not my first language – it’s not supposed to.

    2. I’m pretty open about my abusive ex. Similar deal in terms of emotional and sexual abuse but no threats or physical dominance or intimidation, so it took me awhile (after I left him) to recognize that it was in fact abuse. I was lucky that he moved away immediately and managed to burn (all?) his bridges here over the years by drunk calling mutual friends and demanding to know why they didn’t call him more often, not to mention the creepily obsessive questions about me (so I was told).

      I pretty much tell people that I didn’t realize it was abusive at the time because of the lack of physical harm or fear but then point out some of the emotional abuse and so on. I haven’t really gotten any pushback just because his emotional abuse while drunk calling others pretty much speaks for itself. So it’s been pretty easy for me.

      But I can see how it is so much harder now that years have gone by and you and your ex still share the same social circles, however tangentially. You can try opening up one on one with those you feel closest/safest with. I continue talking about him to my current partner and various friends because even 7 years later, I am still verbally processing everything. Every time I find some new online resource about abuse and manipulation, I discuss it with people and it helps me put my past relationship in context.

      Over time, in bits and pieces, it may shift the balance in your friends group so that rather than demand that they break up with your ex, they come to recognize his abusive tendencies themselves and make choices from there. Or you may drift away from them as you find new friends with no connection to your ex and no tolerance of abusers.

      Good luck coming to terms with the situation and your new insights. It’s an ongoing process.

  53. I have creeper stories. So many, so many.

    The one I will tell here, though, is the one of my ex husband’s best friend, the best man at our wedding and my good friend T’s boyfriend, hereby referred to as P.

    P had a reputation for sleeping with his girlfriend’s friends. We were all in a touchy-feeley-handsy group and it took me a while to realize that T had not agreed to this arrangement and was in denial/oblivious to what everyone else seemed to know. The friends of T that P slept with were less than forthcoming, which I chalked up to the secret shame of cheating sex. P was my and T’s safety monitor and sober entertainment person for many of the times we partied together and I had never seen him attempt anything untoward (except, you know, that constant cheating, hello red flag).

    We all, a big group of us, went camping together. There was much drinking around the camp fire. P broke out a jar of moonshine and although I didn’t want more than a sip, he got the group to peer pressure me into having more, then more, before I firmly put my foot down about not wanting to A) go blind or B) vomit. The group of us, which included my then-husband and most of whom were committed couples, were all sitting around the fire laughing and playing friendly footsies. I left the fire to go pee in the woods and wandered quite a ways for privacy’s sake. A few moments later, P appeared in the dark. His demeanor had changed, and he let me know that he’d very much like to get in my pants. Me, his best friend’s very drunk wife. Him, my good friend’s boyfriend. I was still running emotionally off of the safe and friendly flirting vibe that had been going around the fire just minutes earlier, and laughed him off playfully. I don’t know how but I ended up against a tree with his tongue down my throat. Yeah, I froze, and in the midst of that freeze was a coming to my senses drunken WTF moment where I gathered myself enough to somehow push him off of me (his 6’4″ to my 5’3″) and basically bolt back to camp. Where I sat at the fire, silent, with the mood totally ruined. He returned a minute or two later and behaved as though we’d just had a secret tryst out there in the woods. My husband had gone to bed while I was gone so I climbed in the tent with him. P tried to climb in after me and then acted like I’d invited him when he realized that I wasn’t alone in there after all.

    It took me days to process what had happened. I told my husband and he basically was of the opinion that that was shitty but I shouldn’t overreact by, for example, believing my version of events was the real one or not wanting P to come into our apartment any longer. I told my good friend and she didn’t believe me at all. A couple other people did believe me, but laughed it off as just how P was. Our friend group didn’t exactly implode, but when ex-husband passively confronted P about his behavior, P blew his top and accused me of accusing him of raping me and making it all up, and from that point on everyone in our group either pretended like nothing had happened or made a big mocking deal over the fact that I didn’t want the man who assaulted me in my home and how ridiculous was I so let’s have him come over all the time now to teach me a lesson about not being safe with anyone, anywhere, and keeping that shit to myself next time.

    It makes me wonder in retrospect how many of T’s other friends he’d “slept with” that he had pulled that predatory shit on, only they hadn’t gotten away.

  54. Before I go into my own (negative) experiences in a separate comment, I’d like to share a (secondhand) story with a happy ending. A friend of mine (my former roommate, though I hadn’t met him yet at this time) went out with some friends of his at a dive bar. He doesn’t drink and is rather introverted, so he just sort of hung back and watched the action. He noticed a group of bridge-and-tunnel young women partying hard and one of them was more drunk than the others. She was stumbling from table to table striking up conversations with strangers, and chatted with my friend for a while. Eventually, her friends left the bar without her and she had no idea. A group of guys were staring at her and whispering. As my friend and his group were about to leave, one of these guys started to approach the woman, who by this point was totally unaware of her surroundings.

    My friend waved her over and said, “We’re going to a party, care to join us?” Once outside, he asked if she was okay and needed help getting home. She claimed she was sober but looked at the time and said, “Oh fuck, I missed the last train home! I can’t afford a cab all the way out there! What am I going to do?” He and his friends asked if she had enough money for a hotel room or something and she said no. My friend offered his couch and when she hesitated he said, “I’m just offering an option, you don’t have to if you don’t want to.” She went home with him and while they were chatting on the way home it was clear that (a) she was only 19 (under the drinking age where we live) and (b) still totally drunk. When they arrived at the apartment, which is laid out in a straight line, she even got lost walking down the hallway to bathroom. On the way back, she walked past the couch, into his bedroom and sat down in the bed and told him to lie down and chat with her. Turns out, she’s really funny and tells good stories. They stayed up all night talking and he made her breakfast in the morning. They’re still friends.

    I wish everyone were more like my friend. I wish it weren’t true that sometimes when he tells people how he met her, guys ask ‘Why didn’t you hit that?’ and he has to say, ‘You mean, why didn’t I rape her? Because that’s what you’re saying.’ But I’m really glad he sticks to his guns and says that.

    1. Sort of half-on and half-off topic but Jesus, “hit that” is the most revolting phrase. I mean, it’s got all the violence and one-sidedness of actual assault only it’s the “polite” version that isn’t actually “why didn’t you rape her”.

    2. I wish it weren’t true that sometimes when he tells people how he met her, guys ask ‘Why didn’t you hit that?’[.]

      Sometimes I really don’t care for members of my gender very much. God I hope I’ve never ever uttered anything that revolting. Good on your friend for calling them out on it. Maybe he’ll wake someone up before they actually, y’know, rape someone. :-/

  55. I used to work as a bouncer, at an all-orientations bar. Sometimes I’d have to actively intervene when someone (usually a guy) wouldn’t leave someone alone.

    But I was amazed at how easy it was to start intervening–when I noticed someone wheedling a ‘but c’monnnnn, babe, let’s paaaarty,’ I’d lock eyes with the douche, raise my eyebrows a bit, purse my lips, and shake my head slowly. That worked a lot! Sometimes I think the guys were active, intentional predators, and would give up when they saw someone was onto them. Other times, I think they were too drunk and self-centered to notice their advances were being met with subtle attempts to edge away, and getting called out like that shook them into slinking away. Either way, it was a good strategy for me as a total stanger and generally non-confrontational person.

  56. Successful Creep! intervention story:

    During the process of joining a new social/hobby group one guy started seriously creeping me out. This was a particularly huggy group so at first I dismissed the discomfort as a result of my gender-segregated upbringing. I kept closer to people I felt better around and kicked it out of my mind. Then he started seeking me out towards the ends of events just so he could hug me – serious target lock-on behavior. At one point I put my hands in front of me to ward him off and he bear-hugged me and took a long sniff of my neck (CREEPY CREEPY CREEPY).

    Now I was new to the group, he was a well established member, and his wife was standing a few feet away from this scene. I didn’t want to end up being ostracized from this cool new group I’d joined and didn’t know what to do. After a few days of worrying I went to a married couple that were well established leaders in the group. I laid out the situation and told them that if he tried to touch me again I was going to make a loud, messy scene. When Mr. Friend tried to downplay the situation (“He’s harmless!” “We all hug!” “Just avoid him!”) Mrs. Friend stepped up, backed up my complaints, and physically demonstrated the problematic Creeper behavior so he could see the problem.

    I never heard anything more said about it (it’s been 3 years) but Creeper did not show up for any social gatherings for a year straight. When he started coming around again he never approached meand I haven’t seen him hugging any women. I don’t know what they did but I fully appreciate the results.

    This sort of indirect approach only worked because I had support from others in the group, but it was a strong indicator that these friends were worth keeping.

  57. Relevant to the last link, I cut a toxic friend out of my life this past spring after reading some posts about african violets on this blog. I was nervous about sending the “I don’t think we should be friends anymore” message, but once it was sent all I felt was overwhelming relief. It was immediate confirmation that I made the right decision, and I haven’t regretted it since. It can seem scary at first, but wow is it nice when it’s done.

  58. This is literally happening right in my main social space right now and it’s really scary to see how absolutely in knots people will twist themselves to ignore a sexual predator who’s already assaulted someone in the club. Of somewhere north of 40 regular attendees, literally two people have said a word in public against him. Like idfk, if he shows up to the hallowe’en party dressed as himself and goes “I’ve come as a rapist” I swear people would laugh and go “oh how funny and ironic you are a card”

  59. I was thinking about all this today, and most specifically I was thinking about how people respond to being told that a predator they know is using stories about sexual assault, rape and other boundary violations to take the temperature of the social group and see what they can get away with in that environment.

    I had a Douchey McDouchepants in my social circle not so long ago; and I was fortunate to have a number of friends who knew us both and agreed with me on the subject of his general douchiness. But when I started talking about predators methodically testing their social waters, and gradually escalating their behaviours, these same friends suddenly looked dubious.

    ‘I don’t know,’ they said, all their responses running to more or less the same tune. ‘I mean, I’m not denying that he’s an arsehole or anything. But that kind of pre-meditation… I dunno. I don’t think he’s really thinking about it that hard. I don’t think he has a plan or anything. I think he’s just an arsehole.’

    ‘Well, I don’t mean he’s doing it consciously or anything,’ I tried to explain, but then of course I was in woolly territory, because you can make all sorts of claims about what someone’s subconscious is up to, and nobody can prove or disprove it. My friends remained largely unconvinced of my theory that McDouchepants was subtly testing us to see if our social group would overlook a rape.

    And now, something’s come clear to me on the subject: Testing the social waters isn’t a predator-specific behaviour. It’s not something that most predators carefully plan and then execute. It’s actually something we all do, out of plain human instinct, all the damn time.

    When I meet new people and they seem cool, I’ll drop a test or few out there to find out if they are ‘my people’. I’ll casually reference a past girlfriend to check for homophobia, surprise, or other indications that someone thinks it a Big Deal in some way. Ditto for feminism. When I meet someone at the pub and they try to read my pin but stumble over the pronunciation of ‘patriarchy’, and then make a skeptical face after I answer ‘What does that mean,’ that tells me these people are Not My People. I test social waters ALL THE TIME. I am looking for shared beliefs, shared values, and to some extent shared interests too.

    This is no different from what a predator does. At the end of the day, we are all just looking for Our People. The only difference is this: a core component of a predator’s beliefs and values and interests is that other people’s boundaries don’t matter. Their instinctive sense of a group being Their People is a social environment in which people are uncomfortable enforcing their own boundaries, where drama is shunned as the source of all evil, and where the language of sexual assault is held up as a goldmine for jokes.

    1. This is really brilliant. What a great insight! People act like predators must be so deeply, horribly different from the rest of us–like they go to their lair of evil and think long and hard, “Hmmm, how can I find a good place to rape people?”

      When really, no, it’s that on a day-to-day level they feel okay not thinking about the wants and concerns of other people, except insofar as to make themselves attractive or endearing; and they feel uncomfortable in situations where people fault them for this. It’s being self-centred, and wanting to find people who will let them be that way.

      1. Yes! Exactly! Thank you for summarising so well; being concise has never been my strong suit. xD

    2. This is just a really great comment. Really great. Because it’s so spot on about the objection people have to calling out predators and the response. It doesn’t have to be intentional in the sense that the predator sets out with a blueprint and a master plan to assault someone. Predators test the water, just like everyone else, to see if they can be comfortable being themselves in the group. The difference is not *how* they do it, but what they are testing for.

      I love this comment soooo much.

      1. For some reason people believe that to be manipulative, one has to be both deliberately malicious and some kind of expert on human psychology. Neither is required! Look how manipulative pets or small children can be! All it takes is for someone to say, “Me me me, I want I want I want, I’m always right and you’re always wrong, regardless of the facts!” The worst gaslighting I’ve ever experienced was by someone with zero self-awareness and zero understanding of social interaction, but he was really, really certain that he was correct and rational in all things, so if I ever disagreed, then I was wrong and irrational.

    3. Thank you so much for letting these thoughts out of your head and into consideration. Brilliant.

      1. That’ll be totally off-topic, but I have to ask. Ona555 are you, by any chance, from Poland?

        And on-topic – this thread is amazing! I’ve never seen so many tactics actually helfpul, thank you everyone:) You can also check out this great comment by Anonymouse, posted on yesmeansyes in the cockblocking rapist thread about ‘testing boundaries’ vs ‘gauging interest’.

  60. griffykate, thank you for this insight, that makes so much sense! having a lightbulb moment here! of course it makes sense, we all look for ‘enablers’ of our worldview in some way, it’s just that while some are being enabled to feel safe and happy in a way that doesn’t hurt others (e.g. to be openly lgbt, feminist, poltical, a knitter, a geek) some are seeking to find an environment where they are enabled to cross other people’s boundaries without consequence. this is good awareness to have!

  61. (I am slightly confused about the pronouns here, but I think you are not using male pronouns for your friend’s partner? So I’m going to use “she” for your friend and “they” for the partner.)

    You’ve got a lot of bad feelings about the partner – firstly, they’ve incriminated themselves in an assault, and secondly, it appears that they are a controlling, isolating and quite probably an abusive partner to your friend. The first thing here is that there are NO good options here for you, because the partner is an abusive shit. There are several possible ways of handling it, but there isn’t a single right way, so try not to spend too much time beating yourself up about what the “right”, “correct” way of dealing with it is. If this partner is abusing your friend, and your friend is not ready to recognise it and walk away, you can’t do anything to “fix” it. Taking a bigger stand against rape culture in general might take a backstep to supporting this specific friend who is in an abusive relationship right now, and that’s a totally reasonable set of priorities to have.

    Here are some things you can do:

    1) tell your friend that you don’t want to mix with partner, and that you’re worried about her relationship with partner, but stress that you’re there for her, and you always will be, up to and including a “help me” phone call in the middle of the night, or a place to stay, or whatever else you think she might need.

    2) Generally speaking, once you’ve had this conversation once, leave it, and try and keep the conversation on other stuff that’s fun. That way, you’re less of a threat to the relationships that she’s still invested in keeping (so she’s no incentive to break the friendship) and you can also be the “holiday place” where she can go and talk/think about things that aren’t the abusive relationship, which can be incredibly important and strengthening.

    3) See if you can keep ordinarily asserting your friendship with your friend, without making it a big deal, whilst not fighting back against the partner? One thing you could do is just stick to a narrative of “me and your partner don’t get on, it’s no big deal”. You know that you “don’t get on” with them for abnormal, think-they’re-abusive reasons, but if you keep asserting that it’s totally normal for friends and partners not to get on, and you don’t consider it a big deal, then they are the one who has to make it a big deal. And it gives your friend an excuse for continuing to see you without, again, seeing you without the partner being a big deal.

    4) if, despite your best efforts, the partner does succeed in driving a wedge between you and your friend and you can’t see each other so much, try and find other ways of staying in touch. Again, try and keep it light and non-threatening, like breezy emails or comments on her FB wall saying, “hey, saw this tshirt and thought of you! Hope you’re well, would be lovely to hear from you. Take care, xx” If partner manages to stop you guys seeing each other, you can bet they’ll be telling your friend that everyone hates her, or that she’s pissed you off, or that nobody wants to be her friend or whatever other poison. Breezy emails that just keep coming every week or two, regardless of whether or not she answers them, make it just a little bit harder for that lie to stick.

    Massive good luck to you. You’re in a really, really difficult situation, so give yourself a break and don’t beat yourself up for not having the perfect way to handle it. Hope it goes well.

  62. The closest thing I have to a creeper intervention story would be the time in college when a guy in my loose friend circle liked to come up behind people and hug them. I warned him that if he tried that on me, he was likely to get hit, because I have a VERY strong startle reaction and a fair amount of self-defense training. He didn’t listen. He got an elbow in the gut and a foot to the instep, and then got laughed at by the rest of the group, because dude, she warned you. Not that violence is the answer, but… well, he never did that again to ME, or to any other person in my sight. *He did it to guys, too, if they were smaller than he was, so I mostly think he was just an asshole.*

  63. I wrote out a novel-length reply but realized it was more like a stream-of-consciousness journal entry because I was still processing some things. This is the TL;DR version. TW: gaslighting, sexual abuse

    I’m getting out of a relationship that was outright abusive and has improved to just plain unhealthy. My partner’s friends and family are seriously dysfunctional people who treat each other like shit and treat him like shit, but he thinks that behavior is normal, so he treated me like shit. I’m fairly new to the city where we live and he’s lived here his whole life, so for a while there I was immersed in their social circle, which just added to the gaslighting and made it that much harder to recognize/stop the abuse.

    I’m not going to miss the mutual friends whose boundary-crossing, creepiness and misogyny enabled my partner’s gaslighting and sexual abuse. Also, from what I hear, my boyfriend’s ex was abusive to him, and their friends not only pressured him to stay friends with her, but several of them had sex with her right after their breakup. None of them ever said anything resembling, “Hey, sorry I hooked up with her while we were high. Was that weird for you? I didn’t mean to make you feel weird.” I do not want to experience any variation of that clusterfuck.

    However, there are a few mutual friends I do value, and I’m not sure if those friendships can be salvaged. Some of these people have been really invested in our relationship. You know that bullshit about how all dv victims have a Beauty and the Beast fantasy? I didn’t have that fantasy. My friends did. Multiple people have told me, “Oh, but he loves you so much! He wants to change for you! You’re the woman in the relationship, it’s your job to help him grow up!” One person literally told me, “But I ship you two so hard!” Another knows he raped me, and says I should forgive him because he was drunk each time. These people are making an effort to keep in touch with me independent of my partner and are affectionate but I’m not sure I can forgive their role in this fucked up situation.

    Others I really, really want to keep in contact with, but I’m scared that losing coupledom status will make it harder to see them. Like, there’s this one friend who has been super busy since he met his fiance, and now they do everything in pairs. I think they’re more comfortable doing double dates and I don’t know if I’ll ever really see him again. There are a few other similar examples. I’m trying to make my own, new friends as much as possible, and I know that’s the long term solution, but I also don’t want to lose the people who are worth keeping.

    I don’t know what to tell these people about the breakup. I do want a period of no contact with him but I don’t fear for my safety when he’s around so I don’t think it’s necessary to ask my friends to not invite him places, for example. A part of me wants to warn people that he’s not as sweet and angelic as he seems, but another part of me thinks it would just come across as bitter bad-mouthing. I think I’m worried about everyone blaming me for the relationship not working out. And yet as angry as I am, I’m worried he’ll hurt himself once I’m gone and want to warn his friends to check in with him regularly.

    Ugh, it figures that a social circle with so many enablers would have lots of social complications afterwards. Anybody have advice from the other side?

  64. This is a great post. My example of building a safe space in college…

    I was in the trombone section of my college marching band and was in a leadership position sophomore to senior year. The whole band, but especially our section, prided itself on having safe & fun parties where you could drink and have a good time without worrying about getting taken advantage of. We weren’t perfect at it of course, but it made the space so, so much safer than any other college party I went to.

    First, we had a few people designated to be sober or at least not drunk to watch over those who were getting very, very drunk. We also encouraged everyone to have a drinking buddy to check in with.

    Second, no one was ever pressured to drink, period. We got really mad if anyone tried to push this even a little. If you wanted to drink, great, we had it all, but you had to ask. This was so effective I actually didn’t drink at the first few parties as a freshman because I was being too timid and no one even offered in a casual way. I can now look back and see this as such an excellent statement on boundaries and consent that it really set the tone for these parties nicely.

    Third, if someone was too drunk to drive/walk home, they were offered a ride by someone we knew well or they were offered a couch or patch of floor to crash on. We watched over the crashed out folks too.

    Fourth, none of the older folks were shy about calling out creepy or other not-cool behavior. We rarely kicked people out as it wasn’t usually necessary, but we were willing to if needed. We also especially watched out for the freshmen.

    Fifth, people who were really, really drunk were not allowed to leave with someone for a potential hookup. At the time, I didn’t understand this to be a potential rape situation, just that they were too drunk to make decisions. Sometimes there was grumbling the next day, but too bad, don’t get so drunk next time if you truly wanted to hook up.

    Six, we had a big brother/big sister system that also helped with this. Each freshman would get a big brother or big sister (same sex as them which obviously is not a guarantee against potential trouble, but it eliminates a lot of it). The big would teach the little the ropes and was also someone who was supposed to look out for their little. Not everyone did a great job of this, but most took a lot of pride in it and again, this helped convey the “We’re watching out for our new folks” message to any potential predators.

    Again, I don’t think our rules were perfect as we didn’t have the concepts of consent and boundaries as firmly established as we should and we didn’t always have the words for what we wanted to do, but damn if it wasn’t nice to have a safe space to party in and to help make a safe space for others to party in too.

  65. I’m a little late to this discussion, but I thought I’d share an instance of (I think*) Bystander Intervention Done Well.

    My last semester in college, I had a really awesome class where the final project was a big group simulation of a political crisis. Think LARPing for Poli Sci majors. Awesome.

    The small group that I was in consisted of me and two guys. At first, everything was fine and cool! Then one of the guys started to get a little weird. Leaning a little too close to me in meetings, making prolonged eye contact, stuff like that. A couple of times when other people weren’t near, he touched me–not gropy touching, but a plausibly-deniable hand on the shoulder sort of touching.

    I was really uncomfortable with his behavior, and also really uncomfortable, in the ways young women often are, with calling him out on it or standing up for myself directly, so I took to making sure I wasn’t standing or sitting beside him while we worked, but really didn’t do anything else about it.

    Then on one of our last days in the simulation, we had a larger meeting, involving members of a couple of other groups. We were beside a bench out in the hallway, and again, it was mostly men in the group. Several of the guys were sitting on the bench, and I had once again positioned myself so that I was not standing directly beside Creeper. Then out of the blue, a couple of the guys on the bench moved to make some space and offered me a seat. Just like that, I didn’t have to worry about Creeper getting access to my space, nor did I have to worry about calling him out, nor did I have to spend the entire meeting just feeling generally uncomfortable. And they managed to sit next to me the whole time without once touching me or making uncomfortable eye contact! Imagine!

    That small action made me feel safer in that group of people, and I think if I hadn’t been graduating and moving on, and if I’d had an ongoing problem with Creeper, at least one or two of them would have backed me up.

    *I’ll never know for sure whether this was a deliberate intervention or a happy coincidence, but I lean toward the former. It’s likely the people involved A) noticed Creeper’s creepy behavior, B) noticed that I was uncomfortable and had some good guesses why, C) had prior knowledge of Creeper’s tendency to creep, or D) any combination of the above.

    tl;dr: unobtrusive, casual bystander intervention can be totally effective!

  66. I have a few community response stories. Both stereotypically victim-blaming/ostracizing and rape apologist.

    In 2011, I was coercively raped by a prominent Steampunk musician. In the last few years of recovery, his career has flourished while mine, as a Steampunk author, has been shattered because I couldn’t write again until earlier this year.

    The community who knows what he did in great detail from my blogs and private emails continues to make excuses for him and calls me a liar. SteamCon, a Steampunk convention in Seattle, bestowed a great honor on him this year. The greatest, as he was Guest of Honor.

    I’ve become known more for my writing on abusers, rape, and trauma recovery (at and than I have for my fiction.

    The second story is worse. A little less than a year after the 2011 Steampunk rapper rape, way before I accepted it as such, my then boyfriend (the auctioneer in my blog posts) raped me twice. First time as punishment for making him angry, second as some kind of power game. Again, it took me months to accept it as such. I was shattered. Not functional at all due to the repeated trauma. I spoke up to our communities, the Austin Polyamory Community, the Austin Burning Flipside Community, and the Austin Ecstatic Dance Community. They all responded by shunning me and embracing him. The PTSD was so intense I had to give up my dream job and my home, moving across the country, just to feel safe again.

    Very few believed me. Those who did stayed silent.

    I’ve had a few vocal supporters in the Steampunk community, one woman who contacted the Alliance of Steampunk Conventions about the musican, all but one dismissed the information and my detailed account as “we take sexual assault seriously, but our hands out tied” or claiming they couldn’t do anything without more “proof.” The second, the woman who told me about this post named him publicly on her “In Solidarity with The Order of the Whote Feather” post on her Silver Goggles blog.

    So. Geek spaces: beware the Steampunk chap hop artist, named in Silver-Goggles. Others have been named and are on the White Feather blog, where I welcome your stories as well.

    (Forgive me not posting direct links to the referenced blog posts. I’m traveling and only have my iPhone)

    May you all find peace.

  67. Something I’ve realised about trying to remove predators from social groups is that committing to doing that means accepting that I might be unpopular or even be hated by some people. Which is actually quite difficult as it goes against the conditioning a lot of us women have to try to please everyone, find solutions that will make everyone happy, make sure that everyone likes us etc. No matter how creepy, inappropriate or downright abusive someone’s behaviour is, they will always have friends who don’t see a problem. Particularly with abusers, sometimes only the person they abused plus one or two others will know that they are abusers, and as far as everyone else is concerned they are a really great person. So when I’ve taken action to try to get rid of people who I know are abusers, every time I have had to be willing to be on the receiving end of a lot of anger and hurt from people who genuinely don’t understand what’s going on and why I’m suddenly being mean to poor old Bob. Sometimes individual members of the friends-and-allies-of-Bob club gradually realise that Bob is a manipulative rapist (usually when Bob gets bored with them and goes off to hang out somewhere else with better access to fresh victims) and it’s possible to rebuild the relationship, but usually not in my experience. So I think going into a predator-tackling situation requires a commitment to see the thing through and not back down even if this means being labelled the evil disruptive bitch or losing friends.

  68. Thank you for this thread, as it connects to something I’ve been worried a bit about.

    A friend a month or so ago told me she had been raped by a very close friend of mine, and she couldn’t meet up with me or my wife for social functions anymore. We got in touch with her (we live apart from her so this was all in email) and said we wanted her to know she was safe with us and we wanted to break contact completely from the rapist. She thanked us, and let us know his name. And my wife and I cut off all contact, and promised her that any social event we were organising, she would be safe knowing he wouldn’t be there. She was very worried we would want to tell other people about this, but we promised not to, (it was at this point a lot of reading was done on some of your columns-which helped a lot!).

    Since then things have been going okay. She hangs out with us when we’re in the same town, comes to parties we know are safe, and invites us out to things as well. I can see she’s supported by other friends too.

    The thing I worry about is my wife and I have a lot of mutual friends with the rapist, who aren’t aware of what happened, and my friend doesn’t want them to know through us. So it’s very possible in the future we’ll run into him again at one of those mutual friend’s parties. We haven’t confronted him to say we’re ending contact at this is why, because we don’t want to expose her, so he may not even know we’ve done this. So, what do we do if we run into him again? What do we do if he asks to meet up, or asks why we haven’t been talking?

    This may never happen, and I hope it doesn’t but I have no idea what to do if it does.

    1. Has the rapist done anything else, legitimately or blown-way-out-of-proportion-y, that might form a convenient (and utterly false) excuse for you to cut contact? Maybe something boundary-pushing to you or your wife, or an unrelated person, which might cause either a reasonable person or someone who is just 100% done with his bullshit, to become angry, if not cut contact?

      A smiling “I don’t really feel like discussing it”, losing the smile after it has to be repeated more than once, can be a very effective tool also.

      I hope other folks have suggestions as well, and good luck.

    2. I think I’m not quite following — cutting off all contact means no contact, doesn’t it?

      So if you see him at a party, you leave. If he contacts you, you don’t respond. If he accosts you in public, you tell him once not to speak to you and then walk away.

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