Friend sexually abused his girlfriends.
August 29, 2010 8:46 AM   Subscribe

Found out a good friend sexually abused his girlfriends. Paralyzed.

Last week I found out a friend I see on a daily basis sexually abused at least two of his former girlfriends. I'm close with his latest ex-girlfriend and we are talking about what happened to her.

"He says sometimes sex is just for him."
"He needs it at least three times a day."
"I said that I don't want to right now, but he kept going."
"I was bleeding from it being rough and told him to stop, but he said it's not too bad."
"I had tears in my eyes and stared at the ceiling while he did it."

I talked to my friend, but he seems to have a cold and rational alternative reality where sex is sometimes that gets (or rather has to be) traded for doing the dishes.

Right now, I'm trying to be there for the girl and help her as much a I can.

Personally however I'm paralyzed and helpless. How should I deal with my "friend"? I feel sick just seeing him and breathing the same air as him. Should I break off all contact and risk feeling guilty for him abusing his next girlfriend? Can I do something to make him see what he's doing and get professional help so it won't happen again? Should I try to persuade the girl to report him to the police, despite her saying she can't bear to relive everything again and just wants to forget?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Should I break off all contact and risk feeling guilty for him abusing his next girlfriend? Can I do something to make him see what he's doing and get professional help so it won't happen again?

There's basically nothing you can do to stop your friend. If he's not open to having his ideas challenged and re-evaluating them, you're powerless. Breaking off contact with a straightforward statement of "I can't stand looking at you, knowing what you did" might be a sufficiently dramatic event to cause him to re-evaluate, but don't bet on it. If he goes on to abuse his next girlfriend, that's not your fault. That's on him.

Should I try to persuade the girl to report him to the police, despite her saying she can't bear to relive everything again and just wants to forget?

Yes, but a better strategy is convince her to get professional counseling, where a likely outcome is that the counselor will help her deal with it and then consider pressing charges. You might also put her in touch with the other ex-girlfriends--once they swap some stories and understand that they've all suffered the same way, their perspectives might change.
posted by fatbird at 8:53 AM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

On preview, what fatbird said. I'll add that you might consider calling a rape crisis hotline and discussing these issues with them. They may have something useful to suggest, or at least talk to you about it from a place of experience. The national number is 1.800.656.HOPE. The ex might consider it as well.
posted by Gorgik at 8:55 AM on August 29, 2010 [5 favorites]

Your "friend" is a rapist. The girls should go to the police.
posted by twblalock at 9:08 AM on August 29, 2010 [11 favorites]

This is rape.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:28 AM on August 29, 2010

Get the girls help.

posted by PROD_TPSL at 9:55 AM on August 29, 2010

I would suggest the ex-gf call a local rape hotline and talk to them about her experiences.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:55 AM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with the others that this is rape. But to answer your question, if it were me, I would want to have absolutely nothing to do with someone so vile. I would cut off all contact. If you find out who the next girlfriend is, you might want to give her the 411, but you can't protect everyone on the planet. That is the unfortunate reality. But you can help this girl. And yes, you should persuade her to go to the police. It will help her in the long run (because she is doing something about it, and maybe possibly helping to put a stop to it) and she should definitely see a therapist.
posted by bolognius maximus at 10:01 AM on August 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

You might consider reading _The Sociopath Next Door_. It might help you let go of what is probably impossible -- reforming your soon-to-be-former friend -- and redirect your energies on helping his ex.

Armchair diagnoses are worth what they're worth, of course.
posted by endless_forms at 10:28 AM on August 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

I would urge you to not try to persuade her to go to the police. Especially now, she needs to have control of her own actions and decisions. She needs to express her wishes, and have people listen to them. She knows it's an option, and she's said no. Respect that.
posted by Houstonian at 10:35 AM on August 29, 2010 [13 favorites]

FWIW- The more proper term for this situation is sexual assault or rape depending on where you live. This is a component of domestic violence and it's unlikely professional help will change him long term.
There is so much more going on in this relationship than I think you are aware of. I would suggest being supportive to the ex-girlfriend. Whatever she wants to do is really what's best for her. And let your friend know that, you will no longer be associating with him until he is seeking help on his own. But like I stated before, rehabilitation rates for overcontrolling men is next to none. They may avoid the behavior for a period of time (even years) but, in my experience, they almost always go back to abusing women.

You asked if you could help him see what he is doing... He knows exactly what he's doing. He likely regrets his behavior but it's very intentional and manipulative at the time.

Another thing to help the ex-girlfriend - tell her to read this book Without understanding why and how these relationships exist, it's very possible she will end up in another one. Same story but a different guy.
posted by WhiteWhale at 10:40 AM on August 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Cut him off. Tell him why, and show your utter disgust. It's all you can do.

And if anyone asks why you're not friends with this guy anymore, tell them. Tell them exactly why. The only way to protect women from him is for people to know that he does this. It won't work completely, but this is a reputation he has earned, and if it's public knowledge it's the very least of what he deserves.
posted by lemniskate at 10:49 AM on August 29, 2010 [5 favorites]

I would cut off my friend. First, I would tell my friend in very uncertain terms why I found the behaviour unacceptable, and that it was impossible for me to remain on close terms with someone who behaved that way.

I agree with Houstonian and WhiteWhale that it is not your place to try and push the girlfriend into going to the police. I used to volunteer for the crisis line for a Sexual Assault Centre. We were not, under any circumstances, to try and convince someone who was reluctant or unwilling that they should go to the police. Our job was to offer unconditional support to the caller and to present them with available resources, if they were willing to hear about them.

Going to the police is not a magic solution. The officers may not believe her, and choose to not lay charges, particularly in a "domestic situation." If charges are laid, a likely result is a long and protracted court battle with an uncertain outcome. In fact, we had a police officer, and a crown prosecutor (I am in Canada-this is like a DA) come and explain to us the vanishingly small percentage of reported sexual assaults that actually lead to a conviction.

What you can do is offer support to the girlfriend, and, with her consent, offer her support and resources. And you can cut this vile person out of your life. Anything else is out of your control.
posted by Ladysin at 10:55 AM on August 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

Cut him off - yes; tell him why - NO. I would not risk him possibly seeking revenge on the two ex-girlfriends. If one or both of them decide to press charges, telling him would be a different story - the police are then involved and he'd be less likely to do anything foolish. But right now - just cut him off. It's obvious you can't stand being around him, and for good reason.

As someone said above, you'll have to let go of any idealistic notions of helping future girlfriends or reforming this guy. What you're doing now, helping the exes, is the best thing to do. Number two is ditching the friend, cold turkey.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 11:11 AM on August 29, 2010

If I were the ex girlfriend, I would see your decision to cut off contact with your friend as a big reinforcement that he is a bad person, and that what happened to her is not her fault. I would see helping a woman who is hurting now as more important than sticking around for the sake of hypothetical future girlfriends.

Nthing the suggestion to give her information on available resources, but not push her into doing anything that makes her uncomfortable.

If you cut off contact, you may be surprised at the lack of support you receive from any mutual friends. Your friend's behavior is ugly, and a lot of people seem to prefer to deal with ugly realities by minimizing them and ignoring them, not confronting them. Your willingness to deal with your friend's behavior head-on, and not rationalize it away with lines like "we can't know the whole story" or "I don't want to take sides" says a lot of positive things about the strength of your character.

Finally, I'd point out that stalking or continued harassment after the end of the relationship is pretty common behavior among abusers. In the event that you don't cut off the relationship with your friend, or if you do cut it off but maintain mutual friends, I would be very careful that you don't unwittingly enable that behavior by passing back information on what the ex is up to.

This is a blog written by a woman who left an ongoing abusive relationship. Obviously, she's describing her personal experience and everybody's story differs, but you may find it helpful in terms of understanding the type of things your friend's ex may be going through.
posted by psycheslamp at 11:21 AM on August 29, 2010 [7 favorites]

I agree with "cut him off, tell him why". Do it quickly. Simply. Really be done with him. It may be the only thing that he loses as a result of what he's done: friend/s, the respect of his peers. Will this stop him? Could therapy help him? Is there any rehabilitaion for this type of behavior? This isn't clear cut and if you "cut him off" no longer your problem.

Concentrate on what you can do. That is, continue to be supportive to your friend, the woman that was the victim of this guy's abuse. Direct all of your energy there.
posted by marimeko at 11:29 AM on August 29, 2010

When I found out a friend of mine had confessed to and been convicted of lewd and indecent contact with a child (his 12-year-old niece), I cut him off cold. (Just to be clear, this wasn't a case of "he was taking a leak outside and she saw him," this was straight-up unpleasantness.) He was repentant, and the offense was non-coercive (but still totally icky and messed her up quite badly), but I just couldn't do it any more. I never told him why; I figure he's a smart enough guy to figure it out, but then his conviction was a matter of public record.

I'd cut him off, and only tell him why if he asks.
posted by KathrynT at 11:41 AM on August 29, 2010

(a) As mentioned above, you may want to contact a crisis line or counseling resource for processing your own emotions, and for suggestions as to how to provide support for your friend while also going through your own reactions.

(b) Suggest that your friend (i.e., the ex-girlfriend, because the dude is not a friend) pursue counseling (with a provider experienced in sexual assault issues) or contact a rape crisis center or hotline. They will have more experience helping her process what happened and her decision whether or not to press charges. If you think she'd appreciate it, and you're able to do so, offer to come with her to a meeting/appointment or to sit with her while she's on the phone. Let her know that you appreciate her trust in you for sharing her experience, and you will respect her privacy. If you don't know what to say or do at any point, you can say that, too. Tell her that even if you don't have the exact correct thing to say or do, you support her. If she wants to talk about it more, or if she doesn't want to discuss it more with you, that's up to her, and you won't push her to do so.* You simply want her to get support and help. Ask her what she needs, if she is able to articulate those needs. Sometimes people don't know what they need, and they have to figure it out before they can ask you to help them in specific ways. Again, that's why it would be excellent if she is willing and able to seek help from professionals and resources designed to support someone in her position.

(c) Since it seems that you have already confronted him about his actions, so it's not a question of him knowing that his ex-girlfriend has revealed these things to you, then you should break off contact with him. Social sanctions are the absolute least of the consequences he should face, but consequences need to start somewhere. If he confronts you, you can either ignore him or, if he persists, tell him that you simply cannot be his friend in light of his expressed views about his entitlement to sex from his partners. Don't engage him beyond that. Do not allow him the 'chance to explain' or to quiz you about what his ex-girlfriend may have told you. Mutual friends may want to 'explain'/'intervene' on his behalf as well. Tell them it's not a subject you're willing to discuss or negotiate, and change the subject. Don't share information about her with mutual friends. Again, just change the subject if they ask or press. They may or may not be able to deal with either part of that.

People who abuse others are not demons who deserve no empathy or humane treatment, and in light of your prior friendship, I can see why you want to encourage him to seek professional help to change his ways. But someone who is engaging in partner or family abuse--and you say that this man has sexually assaulted multiple partners--usually has become very good at bargaining and explaining and rationalizing what they do. They can also be very good at manipulating mental health providers, especially in one-on-one scenarios.

I am not a LMHC, licensed social worker, or anything similar, but in my previous job working with young boys, I had plenty of pleasant conversations with parents/guardians/caregivers whom I knew for a fact did things like shut their son in a room and nail the door closed** so he would stop "bothering" them (i.e., "stop being a small child"). If they acknowledged such acts at all--and every so often some would describe their methods so that I'd know how to deal with their child--they felt their actions were a reasonable part of a parent-child relationship, and not a sign that something was terribly wrong. Not even that they were doing something wrong--I mean they didn't acknowledge that something was wrong with the situation at all, except to note that their son 'had problems.' More chillingly, sometimes a caregiver would say things like 'I hate using such methods, because I know it's not politically correct. But he's so bad that I have to [commit X horrifying act of neglect/abuse].' You see the total abdication of personal responsibility and denial that there could be alternatives to committing terrible acts against another person.

Most of them claimed to love their boys dearly. I believe many of them meant that, insofar as that was the limit of their capability of experiencing and expressing love. If it is possible to shift such an extremely distorted framing of what is and is not reasonable treatment of another human being, I had neither the training nor the resources to convince them of that. It was one of the first and most difficult things I had to accept: that my personal intervention with abusive parties was unlikely to be the tipping point that motivated them to get help and change. The best way that I could be of help was to provide support and resources for the abused child, and get them out of danger ASAP.

*This advice is modified from years of working with victims of child abuse and ending up the 'first reporter' of an abuse case, so I've left out the part about handling mandatory reporting.

**this is a hypothetical example, and not drawn from a real case.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 11:59 AM on August 29, 2010 [8 favorites]

Please talk to a rape crisis hotline, and then tell your friend to call. Your question is a pretty common one.

There are a some well intentioned posters giving (in my opinion) poor advice. Don't pressure her to go to the police. There are very real consequences to pursuing legal action. The most obvious one: she will have to be comfortable with speaking to many people about what happened, and sometimes they won't believe her.

Don't use the word "rape" if she doesn't want to. I might get flack for this, but she owns her experience and your priority is empowering her. It might be clear to you and me that it's rape but it's not really important to frame it that way except if you're pursuing legal action. In other words, it's not essential to the healing process.

However— and this is most important— she needs to know that it wasn't her fault at all and that she has a right to feel angry, hurt, betrayed, jealous, aroused, whatever. It's called crisis for a reason, and everybody deals with it in their own way.
posted by yaymukund at 12:00 PM on August 29, 2010 [8 favorites]

I just want to underscore what the young roperider and others have said about making sure that whatever you do, you give the ex-gf the reins.

Sexual assault is about more than bodily injury-- it's about subjugation, and about taking away a person's agency and control over some of the most basic and intimate aspects of their lives. As a friend an ally, one of the most important things you can do is help her get her sense of agency and control over her own life back.

Don't tell her what she -should- do. Don't pressure her to take any particular course of action. Listen to her, help her do the things -she- wants to do, and resist the impulse to judge.

And seriously, seriously-- don't disclose anything about this to third parties unless she expressly gives you permission to do so.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 1:32 PM on August 29, 2010 [5 favorites]

I don't have anything to add to what people have said, except I'd like to co-sign what young rope-rider said.

If you tell him why you're cutting off contact, he may react violently against her, he may not. (He's certainly shown an ability to do so.)

But I'd imagine she disclosed this information in confidence, so you'd need her consent to let it go to anyone, let alone this creepy psychopath.
posted by kensington314 at 2:02 PM on August 29, 2010

I'm sorry. You're in a tough spot. If it were me, I'd cut off 100% of all contact with him and make damn sure he understood why. I can't be friends with someone I can't respect, and certainly not with a rapist.

"Should I break off all contact and risk feeling guilty for him abusing his next girlfriend?"

I don't know if there's anything you can do. Your 'friend' is a bad person and I doubt anything you'd have to say will change the way he views women. This isn't just about how he views sex, by the way. It's also how he views women. There are reasons why he treats women the way he does, and that level of wrongness isn't easy to undo. I wouldn't be surprised at all to learn that his father was a rapist, or that his uncle was abusive. I'd be more surprised if that weren't the case, in fact.

"Should I try to persuade the girl to report him to the police, despite her saying she can't bear to relive everything again and just wants to forget?"

You should do what you think is best, but I don't think I would. She may not be strong enough to go through that process, and that is understandable. She's already been through so much.

Is there any chance of getting several of the exes he abused together to talk about it? Strength in numbers? ...?

Best of luck.
posted by 2oh1 at 2:28 PM on August 29, 2010

I think you should break off contact with your friend, but ask the ex if she wants you to tell him why. You only get to choose to be friends with one of them (though it looks like you have no interest in being friends with the abusive jerk), and I'm on the side of not choosing the rapist. (Lots of people have already said this, and more eloquently than I have, I am just adding to the chorus.)
posted by jeather at 3:19 PM on August 29, 2010

I want to offer you support; you should know that abusers are often very very good at hiding their behavior. They are charming, loving to partners in public, good friends, great neighbors--all the abuse is saved for the one they're abusing. And those who are abused are often too ashamed/afraid to tell. And when they do, because the abuser has covered their bases so well w/ friends and family, they are often not believed.

So you should not feel bad you didn't know, or that you were friends with someone like this, for the record. Nor should you feel obligated to police your former friend's behavior.
posted by emjaybee at 5:59 PM on August 29, 2010

« Older High temperature adhesive for ceramics?   |   Unprotected sex without STD testing first? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.