getting out of a suddenly dangerous dating situation
May 11, 2012 10:36 PM   Subscribe

I just had a really upsetting/scary interaction with someone I've been dating/sleeping with and I'm not sure where to go from here.

Started dating new guy that I work with two weeks ago. We slept together on the first date, and that night there were some red flags that came up that I ignored, hoping that things weren't what they seemed. These red flags have to do with aggressive behavior (physical and verbal). Today he said something to me that really made me uncomfortable, and when I called him on it (admittedly more abruptly and harshly than I normally would), he became really upset and started accusing me of taking things way too seriously and suddenly became very, very verbally aggressive. I told him that this was a boundary for me, and that I wanted to slow things down because I was uncomfortable with the way he was speaking to me. He continued to be really aggressive and petulant and told me I was judgmental and being disrespectful to HIM for not giving him a clean slate and giving him the benefit of the doubt. I disagree because his words communicated upsetting physical actions that made me afraid. My personal safety and well-being always comes first.

I don't feel safe right now. I obviously have no desire to sleep with him or date him ever again but I am concerned because I work with him and will continue to do so until the end of June. What do I do? I am scared that I slept with him and that I trusted him enough to spend time with him even though there were warning signs. I cannot quit the job and I have to work with him almost daily on weekdays. I feel like I just made someone who could hurt me really mad and I don't know what to do.
posted by These Birds of a Feather to Human Relations (53 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I am so sorry this happened to you. Please protect yourself as much as possible in the workplace, and don't engage with him at all outside of the workplace. Reading The Gift of Fear, if you haven't (or haven't recently) might be helpful.

Depending on what your workplace policy on intraoffice dating is, it might be useful to tell a trusted supervisor that you and this man dated briefly and that it didn't work out.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:48 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're not wrong to be concerned, and I wonder if you can give more info about the physical red flags. But the odds say he's a paper tiger, merely petulant, manipulative, and aggressive, who will be concerned about his own reputation at work. There are far more people like that than there are "instant psycho" types, and he probably doesn't feel invested in you enough be a real problem. Make ordinary moves to distance yourself, don't over-think the worst case scenario, and focus on what's genuinely likely at each step.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:52 PM on May 11, 2012 [6 favorites]

Hopefully this is not as scary as it seems to be right now.

You don't talk to this guy at all except to inform him, briefly and in writing, that he needs to respect your wish that he leave you alone, and that you don't want any drama or personal interaction at work or elsewhere. If he crosses any line, anywhere, you immediately call the police.

If he doesn't respect your telling him to back off, then you also may need to inform HR that your co-worker, who you dated, has become verbally agressive and that you are concerned for your safety. And you let HR know that you expect them to have your back. Workplace violence can have consequences beyond the individuals involved, so you're not doing anyone any favors by not asking for help if you think you may need it.

Be safe.
posted by Scram at 10:53 PM on May 11, 2012 [9 favorites]

Please do not blame yourself! It's other peoples' responsibility to respect boundaries and be good people, not your responsibility to have some sort of perfect red-flag detection ability and never be attracted to the wrong people.


Not your fault.

The toll-free phone number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233). Please give them a call, and don't worry about it not being a long-term relationship or whatever. They've heard it before, I'm sure, and they just want to help you be safe. They will hopefully be able to connect you with local resources - like maybe your county runs a DV service center with advocates that will help you navigate the resources available to you, who you can or should tell at work, that sort of thing.

It is not your fault. Please ask for help and have a plan to keep yourself safe.
posted by kavasa at 10:53 PM on May 11, 2012 [12 favorites]

Perhaps a conversation with him, with another person present, where you clearly outline your boundaries and expectations. e.g.: "I expect that you and I will behave in a professional manner while on the job. I want no contact with you, other than what is necessary on the job. that includes no contact outside of work. If you contact me outside of work, I'm prepared to escalate it to a restraining order."

If he flips a snit at work, it's HR Time. If he flips a snit after-hours, police time.
posted by quivering_fantods at 10:55 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Familiarize yourself with your rights and options. Document everything; write down what you remember of all of your interactions, make copies of text messages and emails. Try not to be alone with him except when necessary. What HR policies address your situation? What about emergency response from the police? Do they have you call 911 or do they have a different number for domestic issues? How quickly can they get to you? What about building security? Are there people you can call? Does he know where you live? If so, can you arrange for a place to stay in case things escalate? Do you have a friend that could walk you home at night and act as a buffer at work?

Finally, what would it take to get a restraining order? How long would it take to get one? Ideally, you would not have to use any of this knowledge, but knowing your rights and having solid plans to act on them will give you power the next time he threatens you.
posted by rhythm and booze at 10:56 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

What a loser. I'm really sorry you're dealing with this. I would be polite but distant from the guy at work, and refuse to engage in any discussion of what went down between the 2 of you. (Well unless he is geniunely apologizing, I guess, but that doesn't seem likely.) If he tries to push it, say something like "Look, I'm just not interested in hashing it out, especially not at work. Let's just agree to be professional." and then turn your attention to something else. Hoepfully the guy will get over himself and leave you alone, but in the interests of preparing for a worst-case scenario...

How big is your workplace? Do you have an HR department? If he makes any kind of threatening action/utterance toward you, document it as clearly as you can (with dates, times, and quotes, if possible) and report him to HR.

You could also talk to the police. If you feel in physical danger from this guy, talk to the police. It's what they're there for. Even if they don't/can't do anything to him right now, it ensures that if (god forbid) something should happen, they have a paper trail.

In case this guy tries to intercept you on your way out of work... talk to a good friend about what's happening, and give him/her the identifying details you have about this guy. Set up an arrangement for the next little while where you call/text that friend after you get home from work, every day. If you miss a day without checking in, they call you up to see that you're ok, and further could supply important details about this jerk if necessary.

And don't blame yourself - sure you ignored some warning signs intially but you recognized your boundaries and clearly put your foot down. Good for you. Lots of people wouldn't have had the sense or courage to do that. Now you know that you have good solid instincts that you can trust.
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 10:57 PM on May 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

That sounds horrible and I can only imagine how violated you feel. If I were you I would take a little time to calm down as you say this just happened. Then if after calming down a bit you feel you need to take action,call the police on their non-emergency line and tell them you were threatened by this person and that you want this logged. Then when you get to work on monday tell your hr department that he threatened you and the police have been notified. This may be overkill in your situation, though. Once you think things through you may decide just to wait until monday and see how he behaves. Hopefully you'll just ignore each other for the month and a half you have left to work there and that will be that. Oh and if he calls you just let it go to voicemail and if he leaves threatening messages that will be great ammunition to take to hr if necessary. Good luck.
posted by hazyjane at 10:57 PM on May 11, 2012

Response by poster: He has made obsessive/intense comments about his interest in me that I, again, brushed off. HR won't work -- I work temporarily at a school. The fact that I dated a coworker even at all puts me in a very precarious situation. And please don't shame me and say that I should have known better because his professional demeanor is so good that you would have been fooled too. I cannot report him because to do so will seriously ruin my life right now on so many levels.

He has been to my home. I am hoping that the fact that he's only been there once and the fact that his job is his life will keep me from any harm, but the tone of his voice coupled with the other previous comments were what got me so worried.

He pushed past a "no" when we were first having sex until I physically made him stop what he was doing so that he would look me in the eye and understand that I had said no. He did it again the second time we slept together on a different day and when I got really serious he apologized and made an effort to really listen. He has a particular sense of humor that just isn't compatible with mine and sometimes he says things like "oh I really want to shake you right now" when what he "really" means is kiss me or hug me. tonight he apparently tried to tell me he missed me but instead said something to the effect of "fucking hate you" coupled with some other things I thought were really subpar.

He's too rough with me and tests waters without asking. That's what makes me most uncomfortable -- the limit testing.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:03 PM on May 11, 2012

Response by poster: he also does things like hold me down during sex in ways that make me feel like he's trapping me. he does it by sitting on my legs or by pressing my abdomen or shoulders down. he also did something really weird when he noticed i had a bruise forming on my body from something that happened at work earlier in the day, and rather than just touching/examining it, he pressed down on it. hard.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:11 PM on May 11, 2012

Whatever you do, please be clear and be firm. Being mealy-mouthed and saying you "just want to be friends" leaves the door open (a door he will barge through without regard to your comfort level). It doesn't sound to me like this is a person you want to be friends with. If you don't want to date him anymore, please tell him so. Honesty doesn't have to be unkind. You can simply tell him that you don't feel you are compatible and that you don't want to break up. You are under no obligation to explain this to him if he presses you. You are under no obligation to allow him to make things up to you or to give him another chance. If you do not completely respect your own boundaries, neither will he. This is your responsibility to yourself and you can do it. You can do what you need to do. And just think--June is right around the corner. Stay strong. Stay safe.
posted by laskagirl at 11:14 PM on May 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

Oh, Birds. I'm so sorry this is happening. I'm not going to name what happened to you, but it sounds like he's really ignoring your boundaries and setting off all your internal warning systems.

If you can, it may help to call the phone number provided above. Or try to find a counsellor in your own area.

You deserve to feel safe. This guy isn't making you feel safe and it doesn't sound like he's being safe. Sometimes, starting to process what's happening can be intense and it may be a good time to start working with a counsellor other support person.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:15 PM on May 11, 2012

his job is his life

Well then, he has a strong incentive to play nice from here on out.

You may know that you won't take the problem to the authorities at school, but you can certainly tell him that you WILL go to them if you feel at all threatened on the job, consequences be damned.

If you've not yet done so, break things off with him unambiguously, and without apology.

Do you live alone? If so, do you have friends or family you could stay with for moral support?
posted by quivering_fantods at 11:16 PM on May 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

"Hi X, I mean you no harm by this and expect our work relationship to remain completely ordinary, hopefully even convivial, but for private reasons, I'm ending our personal relationship. Please understand that this is not a discussion and that I need us to have no further contact outside the workplace. Sincerely, Birds."
posted by Monsieur Caution at 11:16 PM on May 11, 2012 [7 favorites]

I think you must understand that the actions you described in that last addendum are not OK. Are you posting them so that someone can verify this from their point of view? That kind of behavior is not OK. And it is not an indicator of kindness--something you should require in every future relationship partner.
posted by laskagirl at 11:17 PM on May 11, 2012 [17 favorites]

From the behavior you describe you are very right to have cut this off! Pat yourself on the back for getting out of this now.

You say you're at a school, is this a work-study situation where you are in university? Is he a fellow student employee or a nonstudent? I wonder if there's a way you can talk to your supervisor and get your daily work assignment changed so you don't have to be around him.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:23 PM on May 11, 2012

My personal safety and well-being always comes first.

And yet you "can't" quit this job? So... what does that tell you about your actual convictions?

People are right that his actions aren't your fault, but you have arrived in this situation by defying conventional wisdom (getting involved with someone you work with) and your own standards (the red flags you ignored so far). I think you need to involve someone else in your decision making. If there is no HR, then you need to talk with a counselor, of some kind, right away. Also a trusted friend or mentor.

Also you need to make sure you are never alone with him. And it would really help if you were alone as rarely as possible for the next week or so at least.
posted by hermitosis at 11:24 PM on May 11, 2012 [9 favorites]

This guys is bad news, and you need to end things off with him entirely, and not get back together with him no matter what he tells you. Make it completely clear to him that he has crossed a line, more than once, and you are not joking around, you are not getting back together with him no matter what he tells you, and while you would like to keep things cordial between the two of you, you will consider any attempts to get back together with you harassment and will seek the appropriate help in dealing with them.

Be polite but also be careful not coach your words in a way that can open them to any alternate interpretation.

You should also know that HR isn't going to fire you or discipline you for dating a coworker. I'm sure their policy is "please don't date coworkers" but they don't have the legal right to tell you who to associate with in your free time. Every few years I have to attend some sexual harassment training (in California, FWIW), and so I've been told a few times that asking a coworker on a date once is not considered grounds for sexual harassment, but if the answer is no, any further requests are no longer acceptable.

HR, is are legally responsible for protecting you from harassment from your coworkers, and from feeling threatened because you work there, even if the inappropriate behavior happens outside of the workplace. I'm fairly certain that temporary workers are not considered fair game for sexual harassment. In other words, HR's job is to make it so you don't have to quit to get away from a guy who won't leave you alone.

If there is no dedicated HR staff, that doesn't give the organization a free pass, but it does mean there's a higher risk that they may not realize or may wish to ignore their legal obligations. But you are in the right, and you shouldn't assume they will not honor their obligations. And hopefully the possibility of this should act as a strong enough deterrent that after your talk with this guy, you won't need to find out.
posted by aubilenon at 11:31 PM on May 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

What Monsieur Caution recommended.

This will pass like a blip if you handle it from a place of taking the higher ground. Call him out, as Monsieur Caution advised, without hiding, apologizing, or most importantly, overtly accusing him of anything.

Go gentle. Keep your head up.

PS - he will now slander you to colleagues. keep your head up. don't engage. it WILL blow over if you act above it. stop taking this personally, for your professional reputation's sake.

bide your time. he won't "win" unless you act out of fear in the present. that's how he's gotten as far as he has up to this point. erase your fear, not your intelligence or ability to act. know what I mean?

Best to you.
posted by jbenben at 11:46 PM on May 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: And please don't shame me and say that I should have known better because his professional demeanor is so good that you would have been fooled too.

I believe you. One of my parents has an outside-world-demeanor-that-fools-everyone and I had a front row view of how convincing it was for many years. And anyway when people warn against dating co-workers they are usually warning against the inane workplace drama that can unfold, not something like this that is much more of an outlier situation.

Please don't worry about that, and please ignore anyone who implies that unless you quit your job and be homeless you're just not taking your safety seriously enough. Or any of the other blame hoops people try to get others to jump through in this situation.

For getting out of the situation, I think this guy senses that you are kind of highly reasonable, conscientious, open to negotiation, maybe a gentle person, etc. And is using that against you to try to argue you down, bulldoze your boundaries, etc. My first suggestion would be, just be aware of it when he is doing that. You can be someone who is not open to engaging in negotiations/arguments/explanations with him, who won't have a calm and "reasonable" reaction when he pokes your bruises and does other nasty things. It sounds like he believes you are a little afraid of him or intimidated by him. I think he will be much less likely to fuck with you if he stops feeling like that is the case.
posted by cairdeas at 11:50 PM on May 11, 2012 [22 favorites]

The fact that you feel your relationship with him would not be sanctioned by your workplace is actually a great excuse to extricate yourself from him - and I hope you WILL, because he sounds like bad news.
posted by thylacinthine at 11:58 PM on May 11, 2012

I wouldn't worry about him bad-mouthing you. If I'm understanding the situation correctly, he has too much to lose -- he'd be cooking his own goose.
posted by quivering_fantods at 11:59 PM on May 11, 2012

By "pushed past a no," do you mean that he raped you?

If so, it's not MeFi you should be telling about it.

Take care of yourself.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 12:47 AM on May 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I just had a really upsetting/scary interaction with someone...

Every so often I hear someone say something like they and then they tell a story and I think, "Really? That passes for scary these days?"

This is exactly not like that. I mean, I can understand getting briefly mad at someone your not in a super deep long term relationship over something specific. But this kind of extended unfocused rage after only two weeks is just wacked. Can you find somebody you work with who you can confide in and who can generally be around when this guy might try more of this crap?

Looking back at some of your previous questions, is the work you're doing stuff you need for your degree or just to keep food on the table?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:50 AM on May 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Turn into the storm, and take him head on.

1) Ignore his emotional business. Let him blow the storm and flap his lips. Words aren't going to hurt you, especially not for the next five weeks. Laugh. Whenever he starts getting cray, see him as a small child, in a grocery store, not getting what he wants. He is stomping and screaming -- an angry little man. Have a little giggle inside.

He's using your emotions to try and control you -- that's his game. The best way to win is not to play. If you really want to see some stupid shit, take a mommy voice tone with him, and he will probably lose it. Based on his physical aggression, I'd only suggest that in the company of others.

2) Seriously, stop paying any attention to the situation. Be the duck. Let the water roll off your back. This isn't a rights issue, or a pride issue. Standing up to this is not going to change your life (probably). It's an annoyance, a little wasp, buzzing around your head, occasionally stinging you. Just forget about it and go on with your life.

3) Also, what about learning a bit of self-defence. Either basic martial arts techniques, or a small lock-blade knife. Not a gun as that's a bit too great an escalation, but a few well-practiced defence routines and/or knife skills and a legal blade go along way if you're afraid of being physically attacked. This is generally good For Everybody. When you have a solid base of being able to physically defend yourself, emotional aggression becomes a bit more of the tragic comedy it is.
posted by nickrussell at 2:04 AM on May 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

The fact that I dated a coworker even at all puts me in a very precarious situation...the fact that his job is his life

It actually sounds like you have a fair amount of power; as a permanent, long-term employee he will be in more "trouble" with HR than you, even if the abuse hadn't happened. Since it is a school, is there a union/association you can approach? Where I live (Ontario) we have strong legislation about domestic violence and the employer's duty to protect, perhaps your jurisdiction has something similar? It sounds to me like he is assuming he has bought your silence/lack of public call-out through intimidation and shame. This will continue to be a danger of him crossing boundaries again. If this escalates and it is revealed you DIDN'T involves the proper authorities people will blame you (not fair, I know). Please seek help and don't expect to handle this situation all by yourself.
posted by saucysault at 2:32 AM on May 12, 2012

Best answer: May I make a suggestion that's a little tangential? It might be helpful to you, while the events and feelings are still fresh, to write down in as much detail as you can what happened, and how you felt while it was happening. If that's too painful or triggering, please don't push yourself to do it, though.

The reason I bring this up is, sometimes after a traumatic event, it's easy to begin to question yourself, and your take on what happened. "Wait, was it really that bad? Am I misremembering?" that kind of thing. Especially if the guy is one of those superficially personable types that puts on a good public can be a bit of a mind-twist. Having it written down, in your own words and handwriting, gives you a document of record to go back to, just in case you start doubting the seriousness of the situation later on.

You did solid work standing up for yourself against this bully. I hope you can see that, and that there is zero shame on your plate. Not a lick.
posted by quivering_fantods at 2:50 AM on May 12, 2012 [19 favorites]

when he noticed i had a bruise forming on my body from something that happened at work earlier in the day, and rather than just touching/examining it, he pressed down on it. hard.

That is very, very off. That is sadistic behaviour, which you do not want in a caring loving relationship.

You have had a lot of good advice about exiting this relationship - pick the best and do it. No delays. Now.
posted by GeeEmm at 3:53 AM on May 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am concerned because I work with him and will continue to do so until the end of June. What do I do?

You limit your contact to only being around him when others are around. If he contacts you outside of that, you tell him/text him you can't see him again (very politely), if he pushes it, you make a record of it (when he called/saw you, what he said). You escalate it from there if needs be.

Guys like this don't like looking like the bad guy when there's an audience. You keep yourself in front of others and you have very minimal contact with him.

I also suggest if you haven't already that you tell close family or friends about him (you don't have to go into specifics - "guy I was seeing at work turned out to be a total creep") so that you have people outside of your workplace who have your back.
posted by mleigh at 3:55 AM on May 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

...sometimes he says things like "oh I really want to shake you right now" when what he "really" means is kiss me or hug me...

...when I called him on it...he became really upset and started accusing me of taking things way too seriously and suddenly became very, very verbally aggressive...

What you're describing is textbook behaviour from a man who is violent and abusive in his relationships. I know this is the internet and I've never met this guy, but what you've said here is enough. Take it from people who've been there! You're doing the right thing by cutting this guy out of your life without delay.

What happens next?

1. Make it clear it's over. Be firm but neutral. Don't go into details. Don't get drawn into discussions or say you want to be friends. He will probably act self-pitying or do something emotionally manipulative, you will be too smart for such nonsense.

2. Document it - what's already happened, and anything else that comes up. You can email it to yourself at work so it's date stamped. Look up advice about bullying at work for more about this.

3. Get advice from professionals - DV phone services and such. Sounds like you may want to get advice about protecting yourself from stalking too, even if just to put your mind at ease.

4. Tell people. You may wish to keep it to yourself at work for the time being, but if anything happens that makes you feel unsafe, you must tell your boss, HR, your agency or such. They have a legal responsibility to address these things. You are not in the wrong. The dynamics between you will also be in your favour if you aren't isolated.

5. If you need to interact with him, do so only when other people are around. This isn't harsh or rude, it's commonsense.

Know that jerks are less likely to cause trouble to those who stand up for themselves, so do what you have to do to keep your boundaries firm, and yourself safe.

I have just spent 30 minutes thinking this through, that's how much I want you, dear internet stranger, to have a life free of this kind of shit.

Good luck - let us know how it goes!
posted by inkypinky at 4:04 AM on May 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Oh and you sound like a kind and reasonable person so I want to remind you that not everyone deserves kindness. If his wife left him or he's still sad he didn't get a pony when he was a kid, he can see a therapist, not get around pressing on the bruises of nice females.
posted by inkypinky at 4:10 AM on May 12, 2012 [10 favorites]

And please don't shame me and say that I should have known better because his professional demeanor is so good that you would have been fooled too.

Honey, no one here is going to shame you. If he were posting, that'd be a different story.

Please do read the Gift of Fear asap.

You don't have to take care of this at work, in front of everybody. Remain polite and professional at work. But when it comes to the more personal contact you've had with this joker, shut it down. If he texts or calls to hang out, the response is "No." If he whines and cries and asks why not, the response is, "I've told you the reasons and there is nothing more to say on that subject." If he accuses you of over-sensitivities or being judgmental or disrespectful, hang up, walk away, block his number. If he shows up at your house, call the police.

Or, if you feel you can manage it safely, when he accuses of you being disrespectful to HIM, say, "No, it is disrespectful to push sexual boundaries and it is disrespectful to try and cow me out of my principals." Then walk away, hang up, block him while all of MeFi cheers for you.

It truly does sound like YOU can manage to break this off and keep things professionally -- always be impeccable about it so that when HE fubars everything you are above reproach from third parties like HR.
posted by mibo at 6:19 AM on May 12, 2012

HR won't work -- I work temporarily at a school.

Then you need to have a quiet word with the principal (unless this prick is the principal, which would make the awful much more complicated).

The fact that I dated a coworker even at all puts me in a very precarious situation.

There's a hierarchy of precarious. Physical safety is higher on it than job security. Put your physical safety first, even if you believe that doing so will have negative consequences for your job security.

And please don't shame me and say that I should have known better because his professional demeanor is so good that you would have been fooled too.

The standard advice (never date co-workers ever ever ever) is not based not on any kind of moral principle, and failure to follow it doesn't make you a bad person or deserving of shame. Choosing whether or not to follow that advice is a matter of personal risk-management policy, not a question of whether or not one can be "fooled" by a colleague's professional demeanor.

People who follow that advice do so precisely because they'd rather avoid the risk of ending up with their personal safety and/or emotional stability at odds with their job security, as has just happened to you. Workplaces that have an official no-dating policy do that to avoid the risk of productivity-disrupting and expensive workplace drama, not to enforce a moral code.

In any case, your employer has a legal obligation under OH&S rules to provide you with working conditions that are reasonably free from foreseeable risks to your safety. Regardless of "whose side" you think the higher-ups might be on, if you've told them that you have a well-founded concern about workplace victimization from Mr. Press-your-bruises then they are legally obliged to make sure he doesn't bully you at work.
posted by flabdablet at 6:55 AM on May 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: This guy is a sadist and/or abuser. I speak from experience. Here's what I would do in your shoes.

- I would cut off all contact outside of professional interaction at work. I would not answer his calls, texts, e-mails or Facebook messages. Block him everywhere. I would not engage in conversation at work outside of direct, necessary professional interaction. I would be very cool and detached but professional. If he wants to hang out after work, you are "busy" from this point forward. In real, live adult world, this is an accepted social convention which allows both people a clean, face-saving break. If he doesn't - or won't - get that message, then I would....

- Break up with him in person, during the day, in a public place, ideally under circumstances which do not require a special trip by either of you. Say, immediately after work one day at the McDonald's or Starbucks or food court nearby. Somewhere close and convenient for you to make a quick exit with plenty of pairs of eyes and ears nearby. Keep it short and to the point, as impassive and unemotional as possible:

"Alex, I'm not interested in dating anymore. We're incompatible and it would be a waste of both our time to continue. I'm not going to call you any more and I'm not going to answer any calls from you. I will treat you with professional courtesy at work and I expect you to do the same. I have to go now." Then just get up and leave. He'll want to talk; you owe him nothing. Always remember that. You owe him nothing; you owe it to yourself to get away from this creep right now. Also, and I cannot stress this enough, nothing you say is going to change him. Nothing. Resist the urge to try to educate him; he's not an apt pupil. He doesn't really care about your opinion of his behavior or feelings, anyway.

Personally, if I were you, I would also tell a close, trusted friend or family member when and where I was meeting him and have them call me 15 minutes into the meeting, just in case he starts badgering or refuses to let you go without being a creep. I'd take the call - "Alex, I have to take this call. Good luck to you." - and leave. Keep talking to the person until you get to your car. In any event, make sure someone knows who this guy is, what he's like, why, when and how you're ending it, and that you're safe afterward.

Now, he might do some creepy things after the fact. He might call you. He might leave notes on your car. He might make some grand gesture - a dozen roses on your desk, or something - to make a big show of getting you back. Ignore, ignore, ignore. There is one caveat to this - if he shows up at your apartment unannounced, call the police. Don't open your door to him. Just call the cops, tell them a guy you broke up with has showed up unannounced and you fear for your safety, and then let them handle it. I doubt it will get to this point but, if it does, take definitive, unequivocal action.

I'm sorry for you and I really do understand the fear you feel right now. You have the right to take this very seriously and you absolutely should. But I want to stress to you that you do not have to live every moment in fear, as if, because he is a creep, he holds all the cards. He doesn't. He feeds off intimidation and power imbalances. You can maintain your dignity, protect yourself, and refuse to play games with him, and all without opening yourself up to further abuse and intimidation. The best way to do that is a swift, clear refusal to play his game. Best of luck.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 6:58 AM on May 12, 2012 [29 favorites]

(admittedly more abruptly and harshly than I normally would)

This is a red-flag warning for me, about you, that you're already excusing his behavior and blaming yourself on some level. THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT. This guy is a jerk. You're allowed to stand up for yourself, and he's already proven he doesn't listen to rational, well-deserved "No." Take care of yourself.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:16 AM on May 12, 2012 [8 favorites]

And please don't shame me and say that I should have known better because his professional demeanor is so good that you would have been fooled too

I'm going to say you are doing well in noticing warning signs early.

You may be detecting that you have issues with high-chemistry partners not being good for you and transforming that into it being your fault. It isn't.

Take away the lesson that your doing it right.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:40 AM on May 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

when he noticed i had a bruise forming on my body from something that happened at work earlier in the day, and rather than just touching/examining it, he pressed down on it. hard.

Well, maybe you could tell HR about this, and simply not mention the sex. That's physical abuse, which in most workplaces is utterly not acceptable. If he mentions the sex and they bring it back to you, tell them how you went out for drinks, things got a little frisky, and he kept ignoring your "no's" and doing things that made you feel trapped and unsafe. Describing a quasi-rape scenario like that won't send him to prison, but he might lose his job and at the very LEAST they'll tell him to avoid you.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:29 AM on May 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would agree with talking to HR/someone at the school. I'd think, given as it is a school, and he is a permanent employee, they'd be grateful to have this kind of info about him so they can, at the very least, keep an eye on him, especially if he has access to female students. You might well not be the first person to have these kind of problems with him.
posted by EatMyHat at 9:57 AM on May 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

there were some red flags that came up that I ignored, hoping that things weren't what they seemed.

I don't have advice for you outside of saying the red flags are always what they seem. No exceptions. No exceptions. You don't have enough days in you to count the number of women who've tried to find the exception that proves the rule.

And I don't care what anyone else says ("He's changed.", "He's not like that anymore."), the only way a bad guy ever improves is to become a better liar. Take that to the bank.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 1:02 PM on May 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Don't take any chances. File a police report immediately!
posted by lotusmish at 2:02 PM on May 12, 2012

IF you break up with him in a public place and he grabs your arm or blocks your path to make you stay and listen to him, scream. Loudly.

By which I mean, don't be afraid of causing a ruckus and being called crazy (he will do that and this is good).
posted by Omnomnom at 2:36 PM on May 12, 2012

Just want to come back and say one more thing a bit more specific - this may be an obvious observation but in case it helps to hear someone else say it --

when I called him on it (admittedly more abruptly and harshly than I normally would), he became really upset and started accusing me of taking things way too seriously and suddenly became very, very verbally aggressive.

This is his attempt to train you to submit to him, not do anything "against" him, not ever say or even imply that there's something wrong with anything he does. He is trying to make you believe that if you do, no matter how justified or how benign your action was, he will retaliate with 1000x the force.

And he is showing that if you do that, he will try to get you to second guess yourself, feel wrong, stupid, crazy, bitchy, mean, an overreactor, etc. [And I think it worked a little given you said you feel your perfectly proper reaction was made "admittedly more abruptly and harshly than I normally would."

The thing is, it's counterintuitive, but I believe submitting and/or just tiptoeing around these people puts you in a much more precarious position. Because I think they feel more free to do their nasty things because they believe that they will get away with it. They keep you trapped in a much tinier corner so you end up facing more of their "consequences" for smaller things.

In this situation, I think his behavior won't scale. If he retaliates with 1000x the force when you say a justified and benign thing, he's still within the range of anger that could look normal to some other people who didn't know the whole story. However, if he grabs your arm in a restaurant and you SCREAM that he is HURTING you, if he retaliated with 1000x the force in that situation, he'd get arrested and go to jail. If he is not completely divorced from reality, and he's also not an edge-of-society type who has nothing to lose, then I think he will be too scared to go there. Most likely, he sounds like will fit in with most bullies where the minute he thinks HE will be the one to get hurt or face consequences, he'll be outta there.

Also watch out for him to try to provoke you, taunt you to emotional explosions or erratic behavior. Then he can point to how you are the crazy and overreacting one. That doesn't mean you can't react to his physical assaults on you with screams. Just be aware of when he is TRYING to push you there.
posted by cairdeas at 4:50 PM on May 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

I guess the TL'DR of what I'm trying to say is when you do things that you are afraid he will react to, do not show fear and be fully bold with them. It is a win-win because either he will back down, or he will have some extreme reaction that will show everyone that he is a psycho and it will be easier for you to get him dealt with.
posted by cairdeas at 4:54 PM on May 12, 2012

Uh just chiming in about the self-defense thing. Unless you are being confronted by someone with a gun, your best defense is to get away. Going all Miyamoto Musashi on an attacker sounds great in theory but remember that there is nothing to win in a fight you don't want to be involved in.

If you do want to learn some self defense, go after grip breaking techniques so that if your first clue that you are under attack is being grabbed, you can get ungrabbed and proceed wit the getting the hell out of Dodge ASAP. After that, the last I knew was that police endorsed self defense courses stressed swift, sudden attacks that would slow your attacker down while you make a break for it.

Knives in particular are abysmal weapons for a number of reasons and require significant skill to use. Also, while noodling around with some dagger disarms with an Illinois State Trooper and a Federal Marshal (this makes more sense in you understand that we were dressed funny during this) they did a really good job of showing me why a guy with a holstered gun (i.e. potentially them at work) is pretty much screwed if facing a guy with a knife out who is 20 feet away. (Drawing a weapon any time this guy is within 20 feet of you, is just a different more messy way of quitting your job.)

Remember too, if he gets you to where you feel you are in dire danger and you escalate, unless there are a number of witnesses to all that has transpired it's your word vs. his, and you're the one with the deadly weapon, so it would not be hard for him to make you look like the psychotic knife wielding girlfriend from hell.

There are lots of good reasons to take up some sort of martial art, but trying to become a kung fu master so that you can go toe to toe with this nut by the end of June is not really a solid plan.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:38 PM on May 12, 2012 [7 favorites]

Someone needs to know what is happening. Dont try to hush this up or keep it low. If he is a bully he needs to know that only you are not the one who knows this. If this man is a physical threat then he needs to clearly know that you are not afraid and hiding it from others. OTHERS need to know that you are at physical risk. Get aggressive yourself and dont take rubbish from some guy who thinks he can raise his voice and scare you. Do NOT cower down, fight back!!
posted by pakora1 at 7:46 PM on May 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

He pushed past a "no" when we were first having sex until I physically made him stop what he was doing so that he would look me in the eye and understand that I had said no.


he also does things like hold me down during sex in ways that make me feel like he's trapping me.

Sweetheart, there is nothing "quasi-rape" about this. IT IS RAPE, especially when you already told him no! When a girl says no, she means no. Period, end of story. He forced himself on you against your will, and that is rape.

Consult your area's Domestic Abuse hotline or Planned Parenthood or someone professional who can advise you better than we can. My heart goes out to you. There is nothing easy about this. Please please please take extra care and protect yourself.
posted by chatelaine at 11:32 AM on May 14, 2012

Get a restraining order, have it served then have have him arrested if he comes in to work.
posted by canalien at 5:36 AM on May 15, 2012

Response by poster: So today I had the opportunity to tell him that I was not interested in being anything more than coworkers. He will no longer be working at the school in an academic capacity, but he will be around the campus in general. He became very, very rude and tried to guilt me into giving him chances to make it up to me, and then when I told him that this was exactly the kind of behavior I asked him to stop doing (pushing past a "no"), he started getting even more judgmental and pushy. He did everything he could to make me feel like a bad person for not giving him another chance. I ultimately wished him well and talked over him as much as I could and then got off the phone.

The problem is that earlier today he said something that really unnerved me. He told me he had been in my neighborhood this weekend and that he (in his usual joke-y way) was "stalking" me. I immediately told him that was creepy and not funny, and he implored me to stop taking his jokes so seriously, so I shook my head and left. He even approached me in the middle of a lesson (where my student were doing independent work) to try to talk to me about our relationship. This is extremely inappropriate and I did everything I could to redirect the conversation toward what help I needed in the classroom (I was not allowed to kick him out).

What HR person could I anonymously submit a report to in order to let them know that he has been behaving inappropriately at work and that he could pose a potential threat to female coworkers?
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 6:50 PM on May 15, 2012

The principal. Unless he is the principal. In which case, in your shoes, I'd move employers.
posted by flabdablet at 7:28 PM on May 15, 2012

Response by poster: No, he's an assistant. He used to work in resource.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:06 PM on May 15, 2012

Does the school actually have a formal no-intimacy-between-staff policy? I can't think of a reason why any sane school should. "Don't get involved with a student" is the only hard and fast rule I've ever seen a school apply along those lines.

If it doesn't, then I can see no downside beyond possible initial embarrassment to your seeking out the principal for a discreet chat . And for a safety issue (which this undoubtedly is) it seems to me that a certain amount of embarrassment is a small price to pay for speedy and satisfactory resolution.

I can't see anonymous complaints going anywhere good; they're basically non-actionable.
posted by flabdablet at 8:42 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry this happened. You've been on my mind since I first read your question.

It's time for you to start documenting everything. Exact times, dates and places for these interactions. Save any telephone messages. Save any text messages. Save any e-mails. If you haven't done so already and it applies, now is the time to block him on all social media.

It's time for you to tell some people in your life about this guy. You need to make it plain what he is and what he's said to you. Don't be embarrassed. You didn't make this guy a creep; you've detected his wacko nature early on and you're taking steps to create distance. This is absolutely the right thing for you to do and you are brave and smart to have caught on to his bullshit so soon and to be taking action.

You must also now stop all communication with him. No conversation at all. He has no boundaries to begin with and is currently in what I think of as the "brooding" phase, wherein all he's thinking about is how to convince you (and thus himself) that he is not really a creep, that he is not really an abuser, that he is not really sick. This is a volatile phase and you need to keep a safe distance. The only thing you should say to him at this point if he approaches you - and I mean the only thing - is, very calmly, "Stay away from me or I will call the police, Alex." You want to avoid escalating but you must make it plain that you are serious. You must also keep moving away from him; always be moving toward a safer, populated area. If he escalates, meaning he gets physical or starts yelling or in any way makes you feel unsafe, immediately pull out your phone and dial 911. Do not hesitate.

You can submit an anonymous report to the principal of your school but you should know that this is a very serious accusation and there is likely nothing the principal can legally do to help protect you. If I were in your shoes and I felt unsafe in my work environment, I would do one of two things - I would find another job or I would tell my boss why I was afraid for my safety. You do not have to go into detail about having had sex with this guy. You don't have to tell them anything more than, "I was briefly involved with Alex and now he is making me feel unsafe at work." If your boss asks for specifics, tell him what Alex has done on school grounds. There is, of course, risk involved in doing this. Only you can decide if the risk is worth it. You've done nothing wrong. You will not be the first teacher to have become involved with another teacher, I promise you that much. What your principal will likely be concerned with, as much as s/he is concerned about your safety, is the safety of the students.

I wish you the very best of luck. Stay calm and focused and don't let him intimidate you.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 8:49 PM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you for all your support and guidance. Within a few days of my last post in this thread, I was able to set very distinct boundaries with the guy in question. I made it very clear that if he were to ignore my request, I would let the right people know. I feel very empowered by this experience and I am grateful to those of you who were kind enough to check in with me. Based on the evidence at hand, I can confidently say that I dodged a major bullet, and from now on I will listen to those warning bells immediately rather than push past them.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 6:17 PM on May 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

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