Do I warn a friend that her new boyfriend was my date rapist?
November 22, 2009 12:09 AM   Subscribe

Three years ago, I was date-raped by my then-boyfriend. Some of our mutual friends know, some don't. I just found out that a friend in the know is trying to set up another friend's sister with my rapist. What, if anything, should I do? (Apologies for the lengthy description that follows...)

Almost three years ago to the day, I was dating a guy I had been friends with for years. We had agreed to take the physical component of our relationship slowly; the issue was discussed extensively. We went to a party together and both had a little too much to drink, were sober-driven back to his place, where he raped me.

I was not on contraceptives at the time, and ended up pregnant. I planned to terminate, but miscarried before that happened. Didn't break up with him until that point, either. I was ashamed of what had happened to me (very typical "this was my fault for not having control over the situation" guilt). I broke up with him after the miscarriage, and there was a discussion of what happened that night (which I called rape, but which he flatly denied... whatever, no still means no). I didn't press charges because I didn't want to ruin his life.

The whole thing was deeply traumatic for me. I'm fine now, went through therapy, didn't date for a very long time. I got through it in large part because I have a phenomenal network of friends, and I was fortunate enough to be able to move hundreds of miles away a few months after. We share a lot of friends. Some of them know what happened (i.e. the friends that were more mine than his), but most of them don't. I'd prefer to keep it that way if possible.

Flash forward to tonight, three years later, when two of those mutual friends are getting married. Neither of these friends know what happened. I stayed sober at the reception because a) I want to keep it that way, b) I don't want to ruin my friends' day, and c) I don't make a habit of putting myself in potentially unsafe situations. It's enough for me to deal with that he's going to be there in the first place.

I found out later that my best friend, and one of the only people I've told, is setting up the bride's friend with my rapist. I am (obviously and hopefully, understandably) alarmed at this prospect, as I would never think to set up a friend with a person that I knew to have a predatory past.

I don't know if I'm missing something here. I haven't talked to him since I ended it. I don't know if he's changed - he's never expressed any remorse over the situation to anyone that I know of. When I knew him, he had a temper that flared when he was intoxicated, and which had lasting consequences for me. I would hate to have it happen to another girl if I knew that I could prevent it.

Should confront my friend about the set-up? Should I go to the bride's sister (who I am acquainted with) and tell her what happened to me? Should I just casually warn her off? Or should I just say that the situation is none of my business, since I don't really know him anymore?
posted by honeybee413 to Human Relations (59 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I think you should confront your friend, since she knows about what happened, and see WTF is wrong with her.

If you wanted too, you could at least get in contact with the other girl and warn her off in a non-specific way. Just say "I used to date him and he was a total asshole, I just wanted to give you a warning."

I don't think there's anything wrong with telling people your side of the story, but I don't know that you're obligated to if you don't feel comfortable with it.
posted by delmoi at 12:14 AM on November 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

I have an ex who has a very unsavory sexual past. (Habitual cheating as well as prison time for statutory rape.) Much of my community knew about this past when he and I started dating and NO ONE TOLD ME. After he left me for another woman, (who he'd been cheating on me with) all sorts of people came out of the woodwork and told me about his past. I would have liked to know beforehand, so I could have gone into the relationship with open eyes, or, uh, not dated him at all.

Certainly bring this up with your friend. Whether or not you tell the girl getting set up, well, that's up to the relationship you have with her, I suppose.
posted by mollymayhem at 12:28 AM on November 22, 2009 [4 favorites]

I tend to agree with delmoi that you should talk to your friend to see what exactly she is thinking. Other than that I would hesitate to suggest anything based on such limited knowledge of an uncomfortable and messy situation. But talking to your friend seems like a good idea.
posted by Justinian at 12:30 AM on November 22, 2009

Call your friend and ask her what the hell she's thinking. Hopefully she'll realise that this was a bonehead move, make excuses, and let everyone move on.

If she doesn't do this, call the bride's friend and tell her yourself. You don't have to get super detailed, but make it clear that there was unwanted sexual contact and he had anger management issues. I'm not going to lie: it'll probably be awkward as hell, and she may not believe you. With that said, maybe having the knowledge will prevent her from being raped, either because she won't go out with him or because it'll be the push she needs to listen to her gut at a critical moment.

You said yourself that you'd hate to have it happen to someone else if you could prevent it. You obviously can't be with her to help should it come up, but you can give her the information she needs to make an informed--and, hopefully, safe--decision.
posted by MeghanC at 12:52 AM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I usually stay out of these questions, but sometimes really really want to say something:

Should I just casually warn her off?
NOT this one. It actually reflects badly on you, looking more like bitter-ex or still-into-him than a sincere warning. You can't just say "I used to date him and he was a total asshole, I just wanted to give you a warning" because without context, it is too likely to be sour grapes.

(I agree with the people saying you have to tell her, but don't want you to think you can comfortably get away with taking the middle road of giving a vague warning.)
posted by whatzit at 12:55 AM on November 22, 2009 [12 favorites]

Yeah, I think you need to talk to your friend and say "Hey, you know, he raped me, what's your thought process here?" The emerging statistics (and this is a pretty new area of research) indicate that date rapists are habitual rapists-- they don't just get one woman drunk and "oops" regarding consent, they have a pattern of preying on their dates and friends in that fashion. They get away with it, over and over, because their friends enable them and overlook their assaults.

(Yes Means Yes broke that down in their Meet The Predators article, if you need some ammunition.)

Also, if someone date-raped my friend, I wouldn't still be hanging out with the rapist, never mind trying to get him or her fixed up with another potential target. Your friend needs to educate herself on the paradigm. You may find it better for you in the long run to distance yourself from people who think it's OK to diminish your experience by continuing to enable your assailant, too, and to let those people know that this is why.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:57 AM on November 22, 2009 [29 favorites]

Yeah, you should definitely confront your friend about this. Her trying to set up a situation where another girl could conceivably meet the same fate you did is extremely uncool—thoughtless at best, malicious at worst. If talking to her about this doesn't make her see the light about the set-up, I agree with delmoi about warning the girl herself in a non-specific way that dating this guy was a bad experience you'd like to see her avoid ("scary" and "pushy" being two adjectives that would convey the right message without having to go into too many intimate details).

Good luck.
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 1:03 AM on November 22, 2009

Question (not confront) your friend. It sounds like your friend knows both of you and has come to the conclusion that your ex is now safe to date. They may not be wrong.
posted by xammerboy at 1:06 AM on November 22, 2009

The person you identified as your "best friend" clearly does not respect your interpretation of what happened to you. You should break up with her and move on. I would be pissed off if my best friend was hooking up someone with one of my ex boyfriends even if things ended relatively well. That's super weird of her.

I don' t think you should mention this to the other involved parties, just try to forget about it and leave it behind.

Even in a situation like mollymayhem's above, if her friends had warned her, she may likely have just gone ahead and dated the guy anyway, because most of us don't like to learn stuff like this from others and because most of us believe people can change anyway. If everyone tells you the guy you want to date is a douchebag and you don't listen and date him anyway then you'll feel extra stupid for dating him when you find out he's a douchebag. "I told you so" doesn't do much for human relationships.

By warning the other girl, you'll most likely come off looking like you are not over this. The information you give her regarding what happened to you 3 years ago is not going to stop what will happen between her and your ex.
posted by pick_the_flowers at 1:11 AM on November 22, 2009

If the guy has a proclivity towards using his sexuality as a weapon against women, I think you have the God given right to warn others about it. That's it. Not fancy. Not wordy. Just warn someone if they could possibly be in danger
posted by watercarrier at 1:20 AM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

It sounds like your friend knows both of you and has come to the conclusion that your ex is now safe to date. They may not be wrong.

Yeah, maybe that's the case (and I say this with a heavy helping of "yeah, right"), but how could she know that? He raped someone. Is the friend qualified to say he won't do it again? "I've known him for X years and he's never raped/taken advantage of me" is not a good enough justification for setting an unsuspecting person up with a known rapist, even if the friend thinks he's now "safe to date" (one might make the case, as fairytale of los angeles did, that such men are never safe for anyone to date, but I digress). There are plenty of non-rapists out there. This is a classic example of "win small, lose big."
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 1:20 AM on November 22, 2009 [4 favorites]

If he were truly safe to date he would have done something to try make amends. Denial that it was even rape is the hallmark of someone who will do it again. Someone who thinks situations like that are normal. Some who is unlikely to examine his actions.

When I was in this situation I did nothing. The woman dating the guy who raped me was also the ex of my brother in law. A whole mess of relationships. My brother in law knew, and tried warning her - he was just a bitter ex, rapist was a nice guy, kind and wouldn't do anything like that. I didn't have the strength to fuck about with it - 8 years on and I still deal with the fallout of 'oops' and I didn't relish the thought of dragging it all out in front of someone who has an emotional investment in denying me. I think your emotional safety is at stake as well - remember that if anything happens it is not your fault. He is the rapist, he made the choices. What you choose to do is not going to change what he chooses. Keep yourself safe. If you feel that you can face the bride's sister and possibly listen to either flat out denials, minimisation or a number of other shitty things and remain somewhat okay, it'd probably be a good thing for you. If you can't, that's not a reflection of fault on you.

My bigger concern is that your best friend is nothing of the sort. There is no way in hell I would set up my best friend's rapist (if I knew him). No way. I wouldn't speak to him either - not to maintain a politce face or fiction or any shit like that. Maybe if she requested I keep the peace I wouldn't actively do anything, but there's no fucking way I would actively be part of the life of someone who raped my best friend. My friends who know who raped me and were friends with him are no longer friends. Most of them had been friends for years before he raped me - they would not, could not, will not be friends with a rapist. Regardless of his 'safety' around them, or around women in some mythical future where he works out no means no, struggling means no, fighting and crying means no, he still raped me. They made the choice to not be part of his life after his actions came to light because they do not support rapists. Simple as that. They refuse to make my life harder by being his friend, they refuse to make his life easier by being his friend and they refuse to be part of his social support network and minimise his actions.
posted by geek anachronism at 1:59 AM on November 22, 2009 [22 favorites]

I concur with many others that there is something wrong with your so called friend. She either disbelieves you, which is pretty intolerable, or is deluded about a rapists ability to change. Rapists don't change, they just keep raping. They think of it as the woman saying no but really meaning yes or wanting yes.

You need to tell the friend of the bride that this man raped you when you were vulnerable because you'd drunk too much, and you felt she should be aware of that. That's all I'd say.

Here are some more links, which I hope are helpful.
posted by bearwife at 3:05 AM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Somehow I don't feel like this has been stated clearly enough yet so I just want to put it out there:

It is okay to raise an enormous fucking stink about this. It is entirely legitimate to confront your friend and ask her what she's thinking here - did she not believe you? Does she hate this other woman? Does she think the ex has somehow "grown out" of being a rapist?

And you absolutely can talk to this other woman - I would not leave it to your friend, who clearly has impaired judgement. Just something like "Hey Susan, I know Jenny is trying to set you up with Bob but I think you should know that he raped me three years ago. He's not safe to date. Please be careful." I agree with whatzit that you need to be 100% clear here.

Being clear with all of these people is really the only goal you can have here, for the record. You are an ex, your friend set Bob and Susan up, and if we'd seen this question from Susan's side she'd be getting much more mixed advice because this situation is very very fucked up. You can only do the things you can do but by all means you should do them.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:48 AM on November 22, 2009 [26 favorites]

You don't need to have anything to do with these people any more.

I don't know where you live, but unless it's Antarctica, my guess is there are at least 10,000 people within 100 sq. km. of you. Some of them, at least, are going to be better fun.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:15 AM on November 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

In your shoes, I would confront your "best friend" about this in the context of "Look, I can't possibly understand why you would do this, and the fact that you DID means that I really can't continue a friendship with you right now." This woman is not your BEST friend by any means - she either doesn't take your story seriously or has some really big delusions about what's involved with date-rape. To give her the benefit of the doubt, perhaps she buys into the myth that "Oh, well, he was drunk - he wouldn't do it again." He very well might do it again, especially since "Oh, well, I was drunk" seems to be working for him as a cover-story.

As for the woman who is being set up with him, definitely get in touch with her. Tell her what she needs to know. Feel free to add a qualifying statement like "This might come off as sour grapes" or "I'm really on the fence about telling you this since there's a good chance you won't believe me" - but definitely tell her. After that, no matter what happens between her and this guy, you won't have to feel any guilt about "If only I'd said something!"
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:45 AM on November 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

[honeybee413:] “I didn't press charges because I didn't want to ruin his life.”

The very last thing I would ever want to do, honeybee413, is try to place fault with you regarding anything that happened there. You sound like you've come to a good understanding of the truth: this was his fault, it was rape, and there is no reason to blame yourself. However, though you don't give an indication in your post whether you would do the same thing again now with the benefit of hindsight, I do want to warn you against the kind of thinking that says, ‘well, I don't want to ruin his life, so I won't tell the police.’ (You say you decided not to press charges, but it sounds as though you didn't even make those charges – that is, you didn't talk to the police at all about this.) I want to tell you: that thinking is wrong. Please make no mistake – he ruined his own life that day, and any time you tell the truth about what happened, what he did is what hurts him.

I say this not to say you made a mistake, but to warn you that it sounds like you still are dealing with the vestiges of that feeling. You don't say it, but I have a feeling you feel tempted to say "it's none of my business" because you don't want to be seen as a gossip and you don't want to hurt him by spreading rumors. But, as I said, if you tell the truth about what happened out of concern for a friend, you're not being vindictive; you're telling the truth. That's a fair thing to do, and I don't want you to hesitate from doing it out of a misplaced concern for him.

In point of fact, while I want to be careful in saying this, I think that it's important to point out that, while victims of rape deserve our respect and consideration and should have the privilege of owning their own choices in what to do about it, choosing not to report rape simply because you don't want to hurt the rapist is almost never actually beneficial to him. When human beings do terrible things, recovery from having done those terrible things is not as easy as we usually assume. xammerboy says:

xammerboy: “It sounds like your friend knows both of you and has come to the conclusion that your ex is now safe to date. They may not be wrong.”

... but the unfortunate thing is that this is almost certainly not the case. Rape is a serious sin, in a very real sense: it's a betrayal of our own humanity. I believe that it is possible to recover from having raped someone and become a healthy, functional human being, but if so it's a long, hard road. And I cannot imagine a scenario in which someone who's done something terrible to another human being finds a way to get right with themselves by keeping it secret and never owning up to what they've done. To put it bluntly: the only way I can see for rapists to face their rapes, deal with them on a spiritual level, and find it within themselves to move on as healthier, happier, and more functional humans is for them to actually, publicly, own up to what they've done. At the very least, dealing with what he did would have meant him apologizing to you; he hasn't done that.

I'm just saying that you'll be safe in assuming that he isn't "better" or "fixed." That would take many years of therapy and a lot of soul-searching on his part, and the circumstances suggest that it's highly unlikely that he's been through that process. Warn your friends.
posted by koeselitz at 4:48 AM on November 22, 2009 [9 favorites]

Or: what DarlingBri said. In spades.
posted by koeselitz at 4:51 AM on November 22, 2009

I think your friend doesn't believe you. If I were you, I'd consider using this as an opportunity to get rid of the dead wood, so to speak.

My guess is that if you question your friend, or tell the woman who is dating the guy, you will be met with the following:
  • You weren't raped; this was your boyfriend.
  • You are just jealous/bitter.
  • If you were raped, why did you stay with him afterwards?
  • If you were raped, why didn't you file a police report?
  • That was a long time ago, you and he were young, and he's changed.
  • Both of you were drunk, and he didn't rape you, he just misunderstood.

    Please note, I'm not saying those statements are true. I'm saying that's the thought process that must be in place for your friend to introduce a rapist to another woman. I'm pointing it out because I hope it will protect you, in that you won't be caught by surprise.

    I bet you worked out all that in therapy, so do you really need friends who believe those things? You don't. So, I would question your friend and then when she comes up with one of those statements, I would use that as the wedge that ends the friendship. Have friendships with people who believe you; cut off people who don't. Generally, I don't feel this way, but in this case I do -- it's just too important to your mental health.

    Along the same lines, if you tell the woman who is dating him, she will hear him and your friend tell her one of those statements. Maybe she will believe you (a stranger to her), or maybe she'll believe them (a friend). Perhaps it doesn't matter, and you should tell her just to possibly keep her safe. But, can you do this for all the women he comes into contact with? For the woman, I recommend doing whatever works best for your mental health -- tell her or don't tell her, based solely on what is best for your mental health, because you can't control the result and you can't save everyone he comes in contact with. Do what feels right for you.

  • posted by Houstonian at 5:37 AM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

    I agree with what a lot of people are saying about how this indicates that you and your "best friend" have some issues. Some years ago a close friend I had, who had really poor judgment, had a couple of long-term relationships with men who would rape and abuse her (she married one of them and is still married to him as far as I know), and I hated those men with a deadly hatred. Damn straight I'd never fix them up with anyone, not even my worst enemy. You just don't do that to another woman.

    Talk to your friend about it so she knows how you feel, but I just can't conceive of any perspective on this that she might have that is anything other than fucked up. And yes, talk to this other woman who is being set up with this guy. If I were her, I would want to be warned.

    But honestly... once you've done those things, I really recommend that you find a new best friend and avoid this man and anyone else who knows what he did and still wants to be friends with you both. You don't need that, and you don't want to be in the position of repeatedly having to warn any woman whom this man might date.
    posted by orange swan at 5:58 AM on November 22, 2009

    I strongly agree with Darling Bri, koeselitz and Houstonian's comments except for this

    Maybe she will believe you (a stranger to her), or maybe she'll believe them (a friend). Perhaps it doesn't matter, and you should tell her just to possibly keep her safe. But, can you do this for all the women he comes into contact with?

    The answer is, of course, you can't, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try, if that's what you want to do, in a scenario where you do have access to another date and another potential victim. I'm not saying you need to be a vigilante or that you should follow this guy around his whole life tossing ticker tape that says RAPIST COMING THROUGH (not that he doesn't deserve it), but if you feel the gut instinct to tell the woman that she's getting set up with your rapist, then listen to it. Your best friend is a shitty or bizarrely antisocial person and I really advise against caring what she thinks, and that goes for any of your friends who have associated with your rapist over the years. I mean, what? Really? This attitude has been expressed in the thread earlier, but are they all fucking insane? Um, anyways, if you feel comfortable doing so, you could give this woman the heads up you didn't get.

    When I was raped--I hate the term 'date rape' because it sounds like something a Fox news anchor came up with to make sexual violence sound palatable--by my then boyfriend, I wish anyone, be it the cab driver, my mom in Ohio, or some strange girl I'd never spoken to--would have warned me that he was a serial rapist. Maybe I give myself too much benefit in the crystal clarity of hindsight, but I can't imagine a scenario in which a stranger grabs my sleeve and says, "Hey, awkward, I know we don't each other but that man raped me and I'd feel guilty if I didn't tell you" and I shrugged it off without a second thought. I sure as shit would have re-evaluated all the weird signs that I earlier dismissed (rapists have those in spades, even the smart ones) and maybe, probably?, I would have decided that he was bad news.
    posted by zoomorphic at 6:09 AM on November 22, 2009 [7 favorites]

    I don't understand why you're still friends with people who are friends with someone they know raped you. I mean, either they don't believe you (which means they're not supportive friends) or they're okay with the fact that he raped you (which is truly fucked up and scary) so...DTMFAs already. You deserve much better than this.
    posted by balls at 6:10 AM on November 22, 2009 [4 favorites]

    Ugh, I typed the A and wrote "already" too. Please excuse the redundancy
    posted by balls at 6:11 AM on November 22, 2009

    If I could be harsh with you, I think you need to think about this in a different way. I apologize in advance for this line of thinking because I really do empathize with your situation. It's just that, at this point in your life, you shouldn't be questioning what the right thing to do is.

    Step outside of yourself for a moment and imagine that, three years ago, instead of having been raped, you witnessed someone else get raped by this man. You saw it happen and you didn't report it.

    If you took yourself and your personal involvement out of the equation, I doubt you would've hesitated to report a rapist to the police. If you saw a stranger get raped by another stranger, you wouldn't have let him get away with it. Likewise, there'd be no hesitation if you knew you could forewarn someone else from being placed in the same situation.

    I know how difficult it was for you and, again, apologies. But this is where I'm going to be harsh:

    You let this guy get away with rape. He violated someone and you let him off free to do it again. Now, you have the chance to warn someone about him and protect her, keep him from messing up her life.

    Personal involvement does change everything. He was a friend of yours. He was your boyfriend. No one in the world ought to fault you for not having taken action back then. It's extremely tough and I understand that.

    However, if someone were there to warn you before you met this guy, would you have wanted to hear from them?

    I'm pretty sure the hesitation is coming from the desire to keep this private. I think you have to get over that. Your friends (the real ones) will understand why you're telling her and why you kept this private for this long.

    I think EVERYONE surrounding him needs to know he raped someone. Women need to be protected and forewarned about a guy like that. If your "friend" isn't going to do it, you have to.

    And your friend needs to be confronted. She ought to be helping you, not hurting you. If you can't confront her, you need to end it with her.

    Sincere apologies. I do not think this was your fault in any way. The blame solely lies with him (and your friend for thinking "let me set someone else up with a rapist"). I just don't think you'd be all too happy with yourself if you ever heard this new girl were also raped and you didn't protect her. You would've wanted someone like that to have done the same for you.
    posted by smersh at 6:22 AM on November 22, 2009

    Smersh, if you don't think the rape is the OP's fault "in any way," then how about stepping away from some of the victim-blaming language you used, eh? You make some good points, but they're sort of lost in the accusatory words you chose.
    posted by runningwithscissors at 6:29 AM on November 22, 2009 [10 favorites]

    At least when this happened to me, the guy apologized right after.

    Go have that talk with your friend and then call the other woman. You'll sleep better.
    posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:36 AM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

    It sounds like your "best" friend doesn't believe that you were raped... Since they know of and have discounted the claim of rape, I'm not sure that anything is to be gained from confronting them about it. It would just make a bad situation even worse and will likely make their feelings even stronger.
    posted by glider at 6:38 AM on November 22, 2009

    I'm starting to see people in this thread declare authoritatively that your friend is thinking X or doing Y. They, and you, don't know what she is thinking or doing. You need to talk to her about it. There are a lot of possible explanations for what is happening, and it could also be a misunderstanding. If you consider this person a close friend, I strongly urge you to go to her, tell her what you heard, and ask her what the situation truly is. You may learn that it's not what it sounds like, or you may learn that it's worse, but only after speaking to her will you have enough information to know what to do next.
    posted by prefpara at 6:45 AM on November 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

    I am not clear why any of your friends who know what happened are still friends with this guy. This doesn't seem like the kind of case where you don't want to take sides.

    First thing is to bring this up with your best friend. "Look, friend, ex raped me, and now you're setting him up with someone? Why are you doing that?" Either she doesn't think it was really rape, or she thinks it was some weird situation that won't recur, or she has an actual reason to believe he has changed. Then you can figure out your next move about your friendship.

    Then, yes, if necessary, tell the other woman. You can even ask one of your other friends who knows about the rape to warn her, if that would work out.

    Either the other woman will believe you from the outset or not, but if she doesn't, it will be there in the back of her mind and hopefully she will be more alert to weird signs.
    posted by jeather at 7:00 AM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

    After reading what smersh said, I thought about this strategy:

    You don't go the, "Hi, I used to date Bob and I have something to tell you about him . . . " route, but instead you say, "Look Susan, this is none of my business, but if you decide to go out with Bob and he ends up hurting you physically, this is my number/email, contact me...."

    Even after reading all the advice from the hive saying you should straight up tell Susan, it just doesn't seem right to me. But if you tell Susan she can contact you in case anything goes wrong I think you may come off better in the long run.
    posted by pick_the_flowers at 7:03 AM on November 22, 2009 [6 favorites]

    I agree with pick_the_flowers' strategy. I think if you come across as being concerned for this woman's safety, it will at the very least plant the seed of doubt in her mind about this asshole. I can't imagine her not being freaked out by it. She needs to be freaked out.
    posted by orme at 7:38 AM on November 22, 2009

    I agree that at the very least, she should talk to her BF about her thought process behind all of this.

    I too was in a similar situation (abusive ex), and I approached his brand-new GF (who I had known socially for years) and told her if she ever experienced outbursts or abusive behavior from him, she could call me because my kids and I had been through it.

    She said, "All relationships have problems. Maybe you shouldn't have made him so angry."

    I think they may deserve each other.
    posted by dzaz at 7:45 AM on November 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

    A known danger creates a duty to warn.
    posted by Ironmouth at 8:16 AM on November 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

    koeselitz: "Or: what DarlingBri said. In spades."

    posted by radioamy at 8:23 AM on November 22, 2009

    I agree with the majority of posters that you should say something, but I wanted to add that you needn't give her any details. If she presses you for them, like she wants to vet your story for herself and decide whether it was "really" rape, you don't have any obligation to answer. Just, "It's a distressing subject, and that's all I'm willing to say. Do what you will with it."

    Also, in light of dzaz's story, I wanted to say that she may very well say something hurtful and dismissive to you, and it may seem like your good deed came to no purpose. But planting the seed is your goal here -- not convincing her not to go out with him, necessarily, but making her wary of him, helping her to see earlier signs, like the drunken anger, that she might have rationalized away otherwise.

    And, dzaz, you did a good thing, and it's quite possible that when he started hitting her, instead of thinking, "I must be doing something wrong," she thought, "dzaz was right, there's something wrong with him."
    posted by palliser at 8:50 AM on November 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

    A lot of excellent responses above, but I want to encourage and empower you to talk to this woman and tell her any level of the truth that you're comfortable with sharing. It's horrifying to think that he may have raped someone else (or multiple someone elses) before he raped you, but that none of the people who could have told you, told you. I really just want to emphasize to you: if I were the bride's sister and you came to me with this information, I would be grateful to you for all the rest of my life for having told me.
    posted by so_gracefully at 8:59 AM on November 22, 2009

    I would say you have not just the right but the ethical obligation to warn the woman, just as you would when you see anybody who will potentially step in harms way but doesn't know it.
    posted by Astro Zombie at 9:18 AM on November 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

    koeselitz: "Or: what DarlingBri said. In spades."

    posted by radioamy at 11:23 AM on November 22 [+] [!]

    Ya, I'm gonna add, "for real."

    As far as I know, never was I the first victim of any of the people who ever sexually abused me. In some instances there was nobody to warn me, but boy am I disappointed in the people who didn't take action to protect me.

    (You could probably substitute much stronger words for "disappointed in," at your discretion.)
    posted by bilabial at 9:20 AM on November 22, 2009

    Just to emphasize what a few people have already said: tell potential new girlfriend specifically that he raped you, not just that he's an asshole or some such. Plenty of people would tell a potential new gf that their ex was an asshole regardless; only a few with mental illness would make up a rape story out of whole cloth. Telling her about the rape specifically greatly increases your credibility to a stranger who has a (weak) built-in motive to distrust more general complaints about this guy.
    posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:44 AM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

    Nthing DalingBri and adding good luck. I know this can't be easy for you but it is impressive you aren't going to stand by even though it is difficult. If more people were like you the world would be a better place.
    posted by Silvertree at 10:03 AM on November 22, 2009

    Also, I just now realized that the date rape occurred only three years ago. There is no reason to assume the ex is somehow better and can be trusted with anybody. It took me three years to learn how to balance my checkbook. Three years is nothing.
    posted by Astro Zombie at 10:16 AM on November 22, 2009

    I think that you need to do whatever feels best and healthiest for you. If that means confronting your best friend, do it. If that means simply ending the friendship, do it. If that means contacting the bride's sister, do it. I agree with the consensus that DarlingBri's advice is excellent.

    I think that you might come across less as the "bitter ex" if you framed your comments in terms of something like "I heard [best friend] was trying to set you up with [ex]. I used to go out with [ex] and he raped me; it was a traumatic and awful experience and [best friend] is one of the few people I told. I don't know why she's suggesting you consider dating him, but I think you should be aware of his past behavior." In other words, you're warning her against trusting your friend's evaluation of this man rather than being the bitter ex trying to scare off potential new girlfriends for your ex.
    posted by Meg_Murry at 10:28 AM on November 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

    +1 jeather, +10 DarlingBri.

    You have to specifically tell the new woman that he raped you. She, most likely will not know whether to believe you or not. Probably she will end up brushing it off as a crazy ex, so expect that and don't let it hurt your feelings.

    BUT, she won't forget you told her. And she may be more careful about putting herself in dangerous situations with respect to him, or have a more critical eye about his personality when he drinks. That may be all it takes to keep her safe until she figures out on her own that this guy is the way he is.
    posted by ctmf at 10:56 AM on November 22, 2009

    Often close friends and relatives of rape victims don't believe it happened because it is easier for them to think that the victim misunderstood or misrepresented the incident than to think that something so horrible could have happened to someone close to them. Sounds like your friend has a good old case of denial.
    You should talk to her about it, at least to understand why she's trying to set someone up with him.

    You don't have to tell the bride's sister unless you want to. You can tell her that he has a temper when he drinks and even forced himself on you. ["forced himself" tends to get a better response than the word "raped", don't know why].
    posted by Neekee at 11:01 AM on November 22, 2009

    Nthing the "Tell the bride's friend" - as said, she may not believe you, or may think that she's different or whatever.

    But in a somewhat similar situation (my ex, who'd cheated on me in particularly risky ways at the end of our relationship), I did tell his next relationship about it. She thought it'd be different with her - but having heard what I said made it easier for her to get out of the relationship *much* faster when she started seeing significant problems herself. I'm glad of that, though still sorry about the lasting damage she took on before that happened.

    In terms of how to phrase it - another option besides 'forced himself' might be to say 'refused to take my saying '"No!" seriously" or "Continued even after I said 'No'". Yes, we all know that's pretty much the definition of rape, but it has the benefit of reframing it as a specific action, rather than an identity (which gets you into the "He's a nice guy, he can't be a rapist" problem territory).

    Also Nthing the "Are you sure this best friend is actually your good friend?" question, too.
    posted by modernhypatia at 11:38 AM on November 22, 2009

    Read the story by Accordion Guy Joey deVilla, on how he was warned about his crazy new girlfriend, early enough, and convincingly enough, that he got out unharmed.
    What happened to me and the new girl (or: “The girl who cried Webmaster”)
    It's a great story. But more importantly, it will help you prepare your approach to the sister.
    posted by gmarceau at 11:42 AM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

    In sort of the flipside of zoomorphic's story, I was warned like that once, and I'm very grateful for it. I know it wasn't easy for the woman who warned me -- I don't think she managed to say the word "rape", and it took me a few moments to understand what she was telling me. That was one hell of an awkward conversation, especially since we weren't at all close. But when I got what she was saying, a dozen subtle little tells of his suddenly clicked into a pattern. It's not exactly that I believed her absolutely, but I judged that what she was saying was horrifyingly plausible.

    She'd talked to me because she'd noticed that he'd started directing a lot of charm and brilliance at me. I started being more cautious with my safety around him and soon he lost interest in me. About a year later, two other women charged him with rape. You can't warn everyone. But it's good to warn the people you can.
    posted by sculpin at 11:50 AM on November 22, 2009 [5 favorites]

    "Hey Susan, I know Jenny is trying to set you up with Bob but I think you should know that he raped me three years ago. He's not safe to date. Please be careful."

    That sounds perfect; use that. Clear, direct, no vague hinting that could be misconstrued as sour grapes. If you first want to talk to your best friend to see what the hell she was thinking, fine, but talking to the woman being set up with a rapist is, well, mandatory.
    posted by mediareport at 11:50 AM on November 22, 2009

    As a bit of an addendum, the woman who dated my rapist, refused to believe the warnings she was given and is still dating him, 6 years on. I don't know how she is. I don't know if he did it again, if she thinks it's normal, if she's okay. I know she thinks I'm one of those bitch feminists. One of those stupid women who get drunk and cry rape the next day. You know, one of those women nothing like her, so anything that happened to me cannot possibly happen to her. I'm spouting lies because I'm a bitter ex - sour grapes if you will.

    My entire social network fractured over this, for all that I only told three people in our circle (my husband, my best friend and my brother-in-law) (my husband and my best friend were both my rapist's friends first and extremely close). Some people still treat me differently, some refuse to talk to me, some I refuse to talk to. Those of us who are still close have huge holes in our shared histories as we dance around the fact that my husband's (ex) best friend raped me. Stories aren't told, anecdotes cut short because we all have this burden from this one act that was none of our faults. That is on top of my personal fallout and how that affects my relationships. Being upfront, being clear, being truthful in the face of this is going to be fucking hard. I really don't want to be negative about this, but having your social circle know about rape is really fucking difficult.

    Just don't expect that warning her will either change anything or end there - it may change everything for the bride's sister, it may not, but the fact your friend has either 'forgotten' about the rape, or doesn't care, is something that can have more of an effect on your social network as you deal with that. And that is absolutely something that you need to deal with because what if it was you she was setting up? Your sister? Your best friend is actively enabling a rapist - there are very few ways that is not terrible.
    posted by geek anachronism at 1:15 PM on November 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

    Absolutely yes. If you had been a victim of any other violent crime at the hands of this guy, would you even hesitate?

    How would you feel, what would you do if you stay quiet and the guy rapes your friend?

    Tell her.

    Don't you wish someone had told you?
    posted by justcorbly at 3:09 PM on November 22, 2009

    Another phrasing you could use if you decide that you don't want to use the term "rape" -
    He was violent with me.
    posted by LobsterMitten at 3:50 PM on November 22, 2009

    I'd be pretty fucking pissed if a friend tried to set me up with a rapist. Tell her, in whatever way you want.
    posted by guniang at 4:43 PM on November 22, 2009

    You are also free to completely ignore anyone telling you, however nicely and however carefully worded, that you must redeem yourself for not reporting your rapist at the time by trying to protect this woman from him now.

    Fuck that noise. You have nothing to make up for here, you did nothing wrong, and the source of all evil in this situation is him, not you.

    This is like no other crime - physically, emotionally and socially, it is a unique experience. What each victim does in the aftermath is the best she can do. Very few people who have not been through this or held the hand and the sanity of someone who has have any idea what the choices that look so clear to everyone else really entail.
    posted by DarlingBri at 4:47 PM on November 22, 2009 [10 favorites]

    Thank you everyone for your advice. I do appreciate it.

    I don't need to justify my reasons for not reporting my rape. Some people will think that it is an enabling behavior, and that's fine, but I did what was right for me at the time. I had just ended an abusive relationship, had the stress of the holidays coming up, was trying to finish a major research thesis, and was applying for medical school and getting ready for interviews. I wanted to be able to put the event behind me as quickly as possible, and this was not something that I wanted to keep revisiting.

    As far as keeping the circle of people who knew the whole story limited... I told the people I was closest to, I didn't tell people if I thought they would judge me. This boy and I had been friends through high school and college, and I introduced him to most of his college friends. He had the benefit of living in the same town as they did - perhaps if I had been around to defend myself, I would have been more open about what he did. But, I really did not relish the idea of being gossiped about and having no capacity to refute his lies.

    I've decided that I'm going to have a conversation with my friend, and also the sister of the bride, hopefully tomorrow or Monday. I want to take some time for both conversations, to think about what I want to say and how I want to say it. Again, thank you for your advice, and for many, your kind words as well.
    posted by honeybee413 at 10:42 PM on November 22, 2009

    Good luck, Honeybee.

    I wanted to add that my best friend in college was raped our freshman year by an acquaintance and, to give you some idea of what "three years" meant to me and how I and some of our mutual friends felt/acted in the next three years: it would never, ever cross our minds to do anything but, at best, pretend he, or anyone that knew about it, which was limited in this case, too - didn't exist. He knew I knew and at least made it easier for me by continuing to be an asshole and not pretending to be anything else.

    I remember seeing his ugly, smug face at graduation and hating him with all my heart.
    posted by Pax at 6:41 AM on November 23, 2009

    honeybee413: “I don't need to justify my reasons for not reporting my rape.”

    Damned right you don't. Nobody should be afraid to report a rape because they're worried about ruining a rapist's life; but the very first and last consideration really had to be what made sense for you and what best aided your process of dealing with it and moving forward, which is vastly more important than whatever happens to that dude, honestly. And good on ya for keeping that in focus.

    And I want to be completely and totally direct in this: I'm very, very sorry for any implication otherwise. I really wish I could take my first comment here back, since DarlingBri has really said it better than I could – of course. A million times over, I'm sorry. It's sometimes easy for those of us who can't fully appreciate what you've been through (read: guys) to think of such situations in an abstract, detached way, and with such a mindset what really stood out to me immediately was that I don't want victims to feel afraid of hurting rapists by reporting. But the little lesson for me that it's worth keeping at the front of our minds is that this is a personal thing that you experienced, that it's always more complex than I'm seeing it in my head, and most importantly that you're absolutely justified in choosing your own path and sorting it out in the way that's most healthy for you. It's arrogant even for me to pretend I can imagine it, but I have a feeling that if I went through something like that I'd find myself suddenly forced to admit that a lot of my grand illusions about standing up to rapists publicly and legal action and police involvement in my personal traumas would have to take a back seat to the much more important task of doing some healing and moving on in a healthy way. You've been a hell of a lot braver about all this than I think I could ever have been.

    Please forget or ignore everything I said in my first comment here and just know that you have my spiritual support and frank admiration, for whatever it's worth. I think it's exceedingly noble that in the face of all this you're still trying to do the right thing, even though you have no obligation to do so and would be quite justified in hanging back and not getting involved. Good luck.
    posted by koeselitz at 9:16 AM on November 23, 2009

    I saw this happen too, and the "friend" who set the rapist up with someone else definitely accepted that he was a rapist. He just thought it was ok, years later, to set the rapist up with someone, and couldn't justify it with anything in particular. The fact that your friend did this does not necessarily mean that she doesn't believe you.
    posted by pluma moos at 12:09 PM on November 23, 2009

    Has he stopped drinking or gone through therapy or done anything that might convince your friend that he has changed? I'm just throwing that out as possibly something she's thinking.

    You should still tell the other woman your story, however.
    posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:25 PM on November 23, 2009

    honeybee, I just wanted to check in, see how this all went, and see how you are. I hope, whatever happened, that you are well.
    posted by DarlingBri at 6:26 PM on December 18, 2009

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