My friend is befriending a rapist. What do I do about it?
August 14, 2013 5:19 PM   Subscribe

How do I advise my (male) friend whose social circle is intersecting with a rapist? Seeking resources as well as advice. [Trigger warning]

Background: Someone I know was raped and abused by her ex. She's been very public about it, has a restraining order and is taking him to court, and I think she has a pretty good chance at the case. I believe her. (I'd like it if the thread didn't go down too many tangents about "well what if he's innocent?", because I think I have pretty good reasons to believe her.) As far as I know, her rapist is denying the accusations and has not shown interest in examining his behavior. He's a charismatic-but-troubled guy and seems to be moving on to social circles that don't intersect with his ex's as much.

The situation: A popular and very social close friend of mine has recently met the rapist and friended him on Facebook (not knowing his history) and has invited him to some social things. It sounds like they have some friends in common who are important to my friend. When I told him about his new acquaintance's history and said that I was uncomfortable about him, my friend was taken aback by the news and agreed to not invite us to the same events. He's also approaching this guy's new female friend-maybe-becoming-girlfriend to see if she knows what she's potentially getting into.

However, my friend doesn't think there's much else he should do about this guy. His history is of abusive behavior in long-term relationships, not of inappropriately skeeving on people or stuff like that, so my friend reasons that it should be safe for his friends to be around this guy in casual settings (and he'll warn them if romance seems to be developing).

I think it's a good start and I feel personally more safe now, but I'm not feeling totally satisfied with this course of action. I think that maybe my friend should confront the guy and see whether he claims he's working on himself or whether he denies and victim-blames. I think that there's a good chance that some people wouldn't feel comfortable socializing with this guy if they knew his history, so I wonder if my friend ought to inform the friends that he's bringing this guy into contact with. I'm also worried about this social circle that I'm part of becoming a place where this guy feels comfortable with his narrative that his "crazy ex" is falsely accusing him, that people will hear about it first from him and believe that and support him in it. And I'm worried (though I feel like it's a less likely possibility) that he'll hurt someone again. I'm also worried that if he were somehow ejected from my friend's social circle, he'll just keep moving on until he finds one where nobody knows his history or where he can convince everyone that the accusations are false.

I know that I'm ultimately not the boss of my friend, and I wouldn't want to control who he is and isn't friends with or make him do things he's not comfortable doing. However, I also feel like I have a responsibility to the guy's victim, to people in my friend's social circle, and to my anti-rape-culture principles to ask my friend to do more.

I'd like some outside perspective (including whether I should push back on my close friend's approach or back off because it isn't any of my business). So I'm interested in the hivemind's insight *and* advice/reading material on the topic that I can share with my friend. I've read Captain Awkward's "My friend, the rapist" article, but it's not about this exact situation (though it has good food for thought and I'm considering sending it to my friend anyway).
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (45 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I think that maybe my friend should confront the guy and see whether he claims he's working on himself or whether he denies and victim-blames.

All your friend knows is that a friend of a friend said that this person is a rapist. I don't see how that puts him under any obligation to confront this person about their alleged behavior. Sorry.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 5:29 PM on August 14, 2013 [13 favorites]

One thing that I think is relevant about a lot of rapists is that they don't think they're in the minority. They think most other men are like them, raping when they have the opportunity and approving of other men who take the "opportunity." And they think there are other men too who don't dare to do the same thing but still approve of it.

They get these ideas based on misogynistic ideas and jokes that innocent guys think are just meaningless stupid banter, but the rapist sees as confirmation and validation of what he does.

So that is one of the biggest things I would be worried about, not that he would "inappropriately skeeve on people" as you said, in an overt way, or maybe not even that he would rape acquaintances or strangers.

But that he would start influencing the guys in your friend group with these kinds of cesspool ideas, that you would start hearing more misogynistic "jokes" or even rape jokes; that, as you said, you would start hearing a lot more about "crazy ex's," hysterical women... the "vaginocracy" and men's rights, etc. etc. etc.

Honestly, if your friend gives that little of a shit that he is befriending a known rapist just for fun, and bringing him into your social circle, I would be taken aback by him. As an adult you can socialize with whoever you want to. I would just let him know that he could do what he wanted but I was not going to be socializing with a rapist, period.
posted by cairdeas at 5:32 PM on August 14, 2013 [40 favorites]

I sympathize, but ultimately do not think that your feelings of responsibility to people that your friend doesn't even seem to know make them his responsibility as well.
posted by sm1tten at 5:35 PM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I can't really tell whether your rapist-befriending friend *does* believe that this guy is a rapist and he just doesn't think that that's enough of a reason to not be friends with him, or if he just doesn't believe that this guy is a rapist. Either way, I would be pretty disappointed in my friend. But I don't think I would try to change his behavior/beliefs.
posted by mskyle at 5:37 PM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

[Do not argue in this thread. Please read the question. Please direct answers to the OP.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:40 PM on August 14, 2013

This sounds like a very unfortunate situation where you found out that somebody you counted as a friend is a bit of a dirtball. You can't fix this guy, you probably can't fix the bad-taste-in-friends friend, but you can fix your own corner of the world and boot the friend and his creepy acquaintance out of your life. I would explain why you are parting ways, with as little drama as possible, and leave the next moves up to him.
posted by kmennie at 5:44 PM on August 14, 2013 [6 favorites]

I think you are spreading your worry too far.

Worrying about his possible influence on a social group you are part of? Valid. I think you can pre-empt this by making it the social group you want first: if your friends are generally in tune with the anti-rape culture stuff you are, and against the default narrative of a crazy ex, then he will not feel welcome to share his story and will find it hard to get them on his side.

Worrying about friends of friends who might one day meet him? Very little you can do here, except discuss with your own friend why it might be a good idea to warn people before introducing them to another friend of his that they may not like (and friend-dump him if you decide you can't stand his decisions).

Worrying about social groups of people you will never know that he might one day meet? Over the top. Leads to stalkerville. Stop it.
posted by jacalata at 5:44 PM on August 14, 2013 [5 favorites]

They guy is probably a USDA choice asshole, but until he is convicted in a court of law, he is not a rapist. Hanging that label on someone is not something to be taken lightly, and until you are wearing judge's robes, I'm pretty sure that isn't your call to make.

You are sticking your nose where it doesn't belong, and you should stop doing that.

Seriously? You think your friend should confront this guy to see if he is working on himself, to the point you feel it is OK for a third party to associate with someone?

If anything, let the legalities of this, and whatever friend dynamic, seek their own fruition. In the meantime, how about you stop and take a breath, and realize where your opinion and judgement fits with this, and more importantly, where it doesn't.
posted by timsteil at 5:54 PM on August 14, 2013 [9 favorites]

Personally? If a friend of mine buddied up to a person I sincerely believed to be a rapist and my friend was all "well, he only rapes women he knows really well, so I'll just tell women that they shouldn't date him"....I would seriously cut back on my contact with that friend and maybe drop them all together. That trivializes rape so incredibly much that I almost can't believe it. I've never heard of such a thing - I've heard of people who just refused to believe that a dude was a rapist because they liked him and didn't want to believe it, but I've never heard of someone saying that a guy was a rapist but they'd still hang out with him as long as he didn't date their women friends. Maybe that's the new rape-denial now that it's a lot harder to flat out disbelieve this kind of stuff.

Rape is really bad. I mean, it's right up there with murder and child abuse and beating people. (And there's abuse in here too, right? Enough abuse that it seems likely to you that this woman will win her case? That's pretty significant.) It's not on a par with borrowing people's stuff and breaking it, or stiffing someone on rent, or even cheating on them.

I am part of a larger arts/political/bohemian kind of community where sexual assaults have taken place and I've seen this play out over and over again. All I can say is that tolerating rapists socially and hand-waving about their subsequent romantic relationships (which is what this is) is supporting rape culture. If someone commits sexual assault and isn't immediately taking steps to change (and I know only one guy who actually did this), then he is a bad person. I've seen this over and over again, and dudes just go, as you say, from one group to another, relying on short memories and social turn over so that they are never, ever accountable for what they did. And the victim has to know that basically everyone picked the abuser's side. And we learn, as a social group, that rape is one of those things that is private, and personal, and we don't really need to talk about it, and it's a character flaw like being a deadbeat housemate and getting kicked out, serious but not that serious.

Your friend is wrong. Cut back on hanging out with your friend. Don't hang out with the rapist. Tell other people in your social circle about this dude and why you believe what's going on.
posted by Frowner at 6:03 PM on August 14, 2013 [89 favorites]

From the OP:
I was hesitant to add this informationat first, but it seems relevant now: the "close friend" is also a person I hook up with on a semiregular basis, who I want to be able to trust and would like to keep in my life. That is the other reason I'm invested in the situation. I'm curious whether that changes anybody's answer.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:12 PM on August 14, 2013

I'd drop the friend. Either the guy doesn't believe you -- and who wants a friend who thinks you're a liar -- or he doesn't think rape is a big deal. It's not like rapists only ever rape people they're in relationships with, even if you are correct about his history so far.

I don't think that the expectation should be that your friend accuses the rapist -- I'm not saying he shouldn't, but I don't think he needs to do so. But I would not be comfortable with a friend who thinks I am a liar or that rape is cool. (It could be different if your friend had already known the rapist before, but he just met him.)
posted by jeather at 6:12 PM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

And on missing the update: drop the guy even faster.
posted by jeather at 6:13 PM on August 14, 2013 [14 favorites]

And -- next time I will think of this all in the same comment -- say why you're dropping the friend. In so many words. "Friend, when I told you that guy was a rapist, and you said he seemed cool to hang out with socially anywhere, I got the sense either that you didn't believe me about the rape or that you thought rape was no big deal. I don't want to hang out with someone who thinks I am a liar or doesn't think rape is serious."
posted by jeather at 6:16 PM on August 14, 2013 [81 favorites]

I got the sense either that you didn't believe me about the rape or that you thought rape was no big deal.

Jeather nailed it. There is no getting around this. This is what it comes down to. There are no other choices.
posted by cairdeas at 6:18 PM on August 14, 2013 [15 favorites]

My answer doesn't change, sadly. I know it's really difficult to act on this kind of thing because human relations are complicated, and the person who makes excuses for the rapist may also be someone who is good to you and has your back. Maybe have a shot at having another serious talk with him? I've found it persuasive to say that there are some situations where you can't be on the fence - you either treat this dude like he's perfectly okay and that tells his victim that her pain is trivial, or you accept that even if he's a funny and charismatic person we have to be on the side of the injured person. Does he get it about, say, Roman Polanski? Perhaps emphasize that this is the same issue writ smaller. It's possible that you can have a couple of conversations and change the guy's mind when he has some time to reflect.
posted by Frowner at 6:22 PM on August 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

I mean, do you trust this close friend now? Because on one hand, he's promised to not bring you and suspected rapist together in the same place, so that's good for you, but at the same time:

so my friend reasons that it should be safe for his friends to be around this guy in casual settings

You're not his keeper, and people should be able to choose their own friends-- he should, and his friends should. At the same time, he's choosing to have as an acquaintance a guy with a (known, not suspected) restraining order against him and a pending court case for rape and abuse. I wouldn't really want to be around this guy in any setting, and I'd be upset if a friend put me or the people I care about in a similar situation. Rape and abuse aren't bogeymen of court cases that just leap out from under the armoire at unsuspecting people: it's indicative of a pattern of violence. Violence that, apparently, only matters to your close friend if it had come out in casual settings-- not when it comes to abusing long-term girlfriends.
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:28 PM on August 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

As you probably already know, rape and it's perception is a very variable topic among different people. What different people consider rape varies - such as whether it 'counts' in a relationship, or whether it counts without a legal conviction. This is also enforced by some (scientifically-dubious) popular quotes on the rate of false rape accusations, and the far less well known statistics on the rate of rape convictions.

So, there are some fairly likely scenarios
- your friend doesn't believe that the rape in question actually happened, or
- your friend doesn't believe that it was actually rape in a relationship (it is), or
- your friend doesn't think that the rape was a big deal, or
- your friend thinks it's highly likely that the rape was a false accusation (it isn't likely), or
- your friend thinks it's required to have a legal conviction to be rape (it isn't)

As far as friendship goes... I would personally have a problem with a friend knowing that the guy in question was a probable rapist and continuing to expand the friendship. Like, I wouldn't consider him obliged to confront the guy, or refuse to go to events where he is present - but continuing to take initiative in inviting him? That's actively choosing to interact with him, and actively choosing to allow his friends to interact with him.

Why? One of the main problems with people who interact with this is that they're rarely told their behaviour isn't socially acceptable. Many of them think that everyone is like that, or okay with that.

I also generally consider the people I meet at my friend's social events as 'safe' - inviting them is a declaration of 'you can trust them'. I'd be very annoyed and hurt by a friend who put me in that kind of situation. Plus, I'm hardly going to check with the host before getting to know someone better - he can't have an expectation of warning anyone before it's a problem.
posted by Ashlyth at 6:33 PM on August 14, 2013 [6 favorites]

I think it is reasonable for your friend to cut off contact with the accused rapist--if that is something he is willing to do. Did you specifically ask him to do just that? Because asking him to do that is different than asking him to out this guy as a rapist to other people. He can't control other people anymore than you can. So ask him, specifically, if he is willing to cut off contact with this guy without worrying about the broader social circle.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 6:35 PM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

If I were seeing someone who tacitly condoned rape in the way that your hookup buddy is doing, I would DTMFA. I wouldn't be able to see them in the same way. YMMV, but if you keep seeing him, you are adding to the condoning of this rape.
posted by Rainflower at 7:05 PM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

His history is of abusive behavior in long-term relationships, not of inappropriately skeeving on people or stuff like that, so my friend reasons that it should be safe for his friends to be around this guy in casual settings

I wouldn't trust someone who considered this reasonable. I mean, sure, we all know people who know how to be great friends, but don't have great relationship skills, and I'm not saying that you shouldn't be friends with anyone you wouldn't set up with your sister--but. There is a huge difference between thinking, "Steve gets kind of clingy with his girlfriends, which often leads to them breaking up with him, but he's a fun guy to hang out with as a friend," and thinking, "Steve is abusive toward his girlfriends, including an ongoing criminal trial, but he's a fun guy to hang out with as a friend."

Frankly, whether he's conscious of it or not, your friend seems to think either that this guy is innocent or that he is abusive toward girlfriends but that that doesn't make him a bad guy. If I were you, I'd either distance myself from him, or confront him: "I'm having trouble understanding your rationale for being friends with Steve. If you believe that he has a history of abusing women, is that really the type of person you want in your social circle? Do you not think that his vile behavior toward a partner says anything about his character?" And then based on his answer I'd decide whether or not to keep spending time with him.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:21 PM on August 14, 2013 [20 favorites]

I'm willing, for the sake of discussion, to accept your premise that the accused rapist is guilty. That puts you in a horrible position, having to watch this criminal walk around free to rape again. But, unlike you, your friend has no way to know that. So far as your friend is concerned it's, only, well, second-hand. How much should your friend do to cut the accused rapist dead if all he has to go on is a second-hand accusation? Unless you and friend are so extremely close that you should be able to expect him to unquestioningly accept your judgement on faith, I think not much. He doesn't have a jury's verdict to go on, and he hasn't talked to the victim. If you want him to take it more seriously, I think you'd have to do more to convince him of the truth of what you say. I can't say whether that would be worth the effort.
posted by tyllwin at 7:30 PM on August 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

there was a rapist in my social circle a year or so ago - he actually moved cities to change social circles and run away from the rape charges brought up against him. i am grateful for the woman that spoke up about him, and how she spread the word from one city to another so that we all may know what he had done. previously i had hung out with him while out with friends a few times, and there was one night when we were dancing, kissing, and likely could have gone home together had more convenient circumstances allowed. i am thankful now that i know the truth about who he is. i have a few male friends that have stayed friends with him because they were really close with him, but i approve of the way they dealt with the situation - they had an intervention, they told him that he is not welcome around us (the social circle) anymore, but that they would stay friends with him if he sought out help. so much as i've heard he is now in AA and therapy. i hope something there helps.

we have to do everything we can to make sure it is heard loud and clear that rape isn't okay but also that sweeping it under the rug isn't okay. so many people just don't want to deal with the reality of the situation - that there are rapists amongst us. sometimes folks just want to keep things light and casual, not bogged down with heavy things like this but the longer we stay silent the longer rapists think that what they're doing is acceptable. it's better to rock the boat and let it be known who they are and that what they've done is wrong. sure it makes people uncomfortable to talk about it, but you know what? i'd rather talk about it to everyone i know then think about the women this person is meeting that DON'T know what he's done.

my advice for you about your close friend/hookup: he seems to be doing the right thing in so far as not inviting you to things the rapist is at, and for looking out for this new potential love interest... but really what he should be doing is telling everyone in that social circle what he knows. if he has doubts, he should confront this person ala the captain awkward article. there IS more that he could be doing, and it bothers you that he isn't. you know what your stance is and you want this person to be on your side and when it comes to this situation i think he needs to do more in order to get there. listen to your instincts on this one.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 7:32 PM on August 14, 2013 [5 favorites]

I don't really know about that whole confrontation bit. I think you might want to take the survivor into consideration here. I imagine a scenario where your friend confronts this guy, and the guy retaliates against the woman who has a restraining order against him. Restraining orders don't always work with abusers - well, the research is inconclusive on this, at least, and anecdotal experiences I've heard suggest the same.

So, I don't know. This all sounds very hard for the survivor, and I think that she needs to be taken into account, too. In this way, I think your friend's plan is actually not a bad one. I think that it will protect the most people - people who are potentially getting into a relationship with him, and the woman that he already abused. Confrontation has the unpleasant possibility of opening up a hellstorm on his ex, who, I am sure, has already had quite enough of those from him in her life (and who is about to endure more - those court cases are nasty, awful, horrific things to go through, I've heard, even when the outcome is favorable).
posted by sockermom at 7:40 PM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

However, I also feel like I have a responsibility to the guy's victim, to people in my friend's social circle, and to my anti-rape-culture principles to ask my friend to do more.

Just thinking about this more. If you feel like this is your responsibility, why don't you take matters into your own hands and just inform the social circle yourself? Why are you placing your responsibility on your friend?
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 7:45 PM on August 14, 2013 [5 favorites]

It sounds like they have some friends in common who are important to my friend.

There is a really ugly calculus to this, so please don't take my explanation as endorsement, but what's going on here is that your friend (or hookup or whatever) is dealing with indecision paralysis, much the same way you are, except his indecision paralysis stems from the fact that if he chooses to confront exactly how awful this guy is, out loud, he will be tossing a huge grenade into his social circle and possibly getting ostracized himself. This is giving him a whole lot of reasons to be in denial about all this, on top of the problematic things he already hears from society on a daily basis. So he's in denial about all this.*

But there's hope.

I think I have pretty good reasons to believe her.

In your situation, I'd present my case to him. Then, either he's still not willing to act (in which case, if your case is good, I'd probably walk away), or he understands the gravity of the situation and the two of you should sit down, now that he understands the consequences of inaction, and figure out some middle ground for the two of you. Some course of action in which he is not completely dropping bombs into his social circle, and in which you don't feel like you're enabling a rapist.

A good thing to think of ahead of time is: What would be a satisfactory outcome for you? Be prepared to ask him the same question.

While considering that, please consider this:

my friend was taken aback by the news and agreed to not invite us to the same events. He's also approaching this guy's new female friend-maybe-becoming-girlfriend to see if she knows what she's potentially getting into.

That first part is, as you say, a good start, but the second part is huge. If he goes through with this, it shows that he's willing to take a giant risk in order to do some part of the right thing. I would take that as a strong indication that he's acting in good faith. Some people will say you should stop seeing him and some people will say you shouldn't - I only suggest you take that into account when you make whatever decision you make.

* Again, this is only an explanation of what's going on in his head, not an indication of approval, so please don't think I am saying it's completely okay that he's doing this
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:45 PM on August 14, 2013 [10 favorites]

I'd be appalled if someone I knew had the reaction to this news your friend did. It's fine to socialise with this person because as far as he knows they only abuse long term partners? And to integrate him into your social circles further? That's pretty vile reasoning to my mind. And I doubt, given that he seems to believe you about this person's character but is still willing to socialise with him, that there's much you can say or show him that will affect him. There's an outside chance that once your information sinks in, his attitude might change, but if it doesn't I'd stop associating with him. Sorry.

(And it is totally your business. It's your safety and that of your friends and others that we are potentially talking about here. You don't have to demand he wears a rapist sign, but you don't have to make it easier for him to potentially suss out new victims either.)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 8:03 PM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

This like saying: Well, my friend is a Neo-Nazi, but he only likes to beat up Jews when he gets them alone. Since I'm not Jewish, I'm fine. And I can warn all my Jewish friends not to be alone with this dude, so they're fine too. Yay! Um, no. I am confident you wouldn't accept such reasoning on behalf of a friend of yours, much less someone you're intimate with, so why should you accept it here? I don't see the point of your friend getting into a big confrontation with this dude -- I don't see how that solves anything, and it could at least potentially make things worse for the rape survivor if it enrages the rapist and he takes it out on her in some way. And, it's not like a confrontation is going to make the rapist not a rapist. If I were in your shoes, I would want my friend to STOP BEING FRIENDS WITH THE RAPIST. Like, stop inviting him to shit! Stop hanging out with him! He doesn't need to get in some knock down drag out fight in public. But why would he want to associate with someone like that? If he does, I would seriously question his character.
posted by rainbowbrite at 8:09 PM on August 14, 2013 [12 favorites]

What you are up against here is that there is no win-win situation. That's why it's hard. You can either drop the fwb and the social group, or you can drop your principles. There is probably no way to have both.

"You are only as good as your worst friend." I judge people by that and hold myself to the same standard. It makes for a boring life. Sometimes the choice is between boredom + principles, or fun + no principles. That's why it's a no win situation.

PS, I once removed myself from a social group for a very similar reason. There was a sociopath/abuser who got a leadership role, and I couldn't stick around a social group that was okay with that. I was really sad because it was a fun group, and I may never have that much fun again. I still left though.
posted by htid at 8:11 PM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have some empathy for your friend here and I think the expectations that he should act affirmatively to confront the accused rapist are too high. He's pretty far removed from the victim here. In order to do what you're hoping he'll do, he'd have to have a conversation that could very well start something like "I heard it from a friend who I believe to be a good judge of character who told me that you raped a friend of hers, and she believes her friend, and I believe her."
posted by MoonOrb at 8:22 PM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

You can't tell your friend that he has to confront this guy. And you can't do anything about the fact that this guy is going to claim his "crazy ex" is making up stories or the fact that this guy is going to find people who won't know his history. You can tell your friend that it makes you deeply uncomfortable that he is friends with someone like that, you think it would make other people uncomfortable to hang out with someone like that (even if his abuse only occurred in a long-term relationship) and you think it's shitty. If it bothers you enough, you can tell your friend that you can't be friends with him anymore. Either your friend will want to save you as a friend or said guy. You have a choice here and you can set an ultimatum, but you can't make your friend choose, even if his behavior is wrong.

For what it's worth, I think there's nothing wrong with the way you feel. If I knew something like that, it'd burn me up that anyone even gives him the time of day. So I'd probably feel the way you do. But unfortunately, you will never be able to stop this gross guy from making friends or telling his side of the story. You will just have to let the justice system hopefully do its job and try to convince your friend to do the right thing. But if he doesn't, you need to be prepared for that.

edit: I agree with others that you could let people know yourself, but I'd personally be wary of doing that when the rapist is around. I'm not sure you'd want to get into a confrontation with a guy who clearly has issues.
posted by AppleTurnover at 8:41 PM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

confront the guy and see whether he claims he's working on himself or whether he denies and victim-blames

I don't see any point in this. Maybe he (I'll call this he "R") denies because his lawyer told R to do that, maybe R claims he's working on himself but it's a lie. No useful information will come of this confrontation.

approaching this (R) guy's new female friend-maybe-becoming-girlfriend

That's something that probably won't be possible if your friend ("F") confronts the guy first.

It doesn't seem all that likely that R will make a point of going around drawing attention to R's being an accused rapist, which would be a necessary prelude to the narrative you are worried R will introduce. However, R he does start spouting this narrative, he will be warning people about himself.

The idea that women will just be warned after someone notices them getting involved with R though, shut that whole thing down. Talk with other women in the group, let them know. It's so easy to figure someones OK because you have all these friends in common, to assume they wouldn't be accepted by the group if they had behaved that way.

the "close friend" is also a person I hook up with on a semiregular basis, who I want to be able to trust

Ask yourself: How are you feeling about trusting F, now that you've heard how he feels that what R did was acceptable in an ongoing sexual relationship? After hearing F react that way, would you feel at ease trusting him even if he chose to mollify you by not socializing with R?

You want to be able to trust F, but you are doubtful if trusting F is a good idea. I'm sure not knowing if you can trust F is painful to you, but I don't think anyone here is going to be able to give you the right answer on that, you will need to listen to your instincts. Listen to your own thoughts, and give all of those thoughts a chance to make their voice heard.

I'm worried (though I feel like it's a less likely possibility) that he'll hurt someone again.
Many of your other concerns seem rooted in the idea that it is likely R would hurt someone again. It seems strange that you then state this is less likely, particularly since you seemed to find it unlikely that R was working on himself.

I'm also worried that if he were somehow ejected from my friend's social circle, he'll just keep moving on

Well yes, it's likely R would find a new social group if he was ejected from F's circle. This may well happen down the road. It seems here that you are worrying over whether or not something that, absent some sort of violent intervention, is incredibly likely.

You've had some personal issues come up for you over things with F here. You might feel less anxious about all these things if you could have someone to talk to who isn't involved with this situation at all.

If you are having thoughts about how to prevent him from moving to a new social circles as you are worried about, please seek a professional that you can talk this out with.
posted by yohko at 8:57 PM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes. As jetlagaddict and Meg Murry said, there's this vibe that he thinks raping long term gfs is not so bad. I mean, it's bad, but not like jumping out of the bushes and raping strangers would be bad, right? I seems like there's a bit of retro thinking going on here, the kind that we assumed we were past. The idea that intimate partner violence is pretty much just the business of the people involved and we should stay out of it, mind our own business, not judge. The idea that intimate partner rape isn't really RAPE-rape, after all she was with the guy so she must have liked him and they must have had sex before and these things can be so murky... I have found that this retro kind of thinking is often quite deep-seated and hard to reason people out of...
posted by cairdeas at 10:06 PM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't condemn your friend, but that doesn't mean you have to continue being friends.

Rapists need friends too. Seriously. How can we expect rapists to get better if we don't provide them with some sort of support toward improvement?

Your friend sounds like he's taking this seriously — it sounds like he believes that guy is a rapist, and it sounds like he's taking action to protect people around him. If he is strong enough to be friends with a rapist, then I say more power to him.

That doesn't mean you have to keep your friendship. This is a perfectly fine reason to break up with your friend. You can even say, “I'm not comfortable being your friend if you're friends with a rapist.”
posted by Renegade Duck at 10:33 PM on August 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

I don't see where you have any grounds for trying to control your friend's behavior. You can control only your own. Analyze what you said: you want someone you wish to hang around with to stop handing around with someone you won't have anything to do with.

Well, you said your piece to this friend, and he's made his choice. I guess it's time to make yours. In this case, you can believe that you gave your friend fair warning about this rapist.

This is where laying down with dogs causes you to get up with fleas. If I were to assume that this is more complicated than is on the face of it (It probably is), then your mission would be to figure out whether you need to approve of the friends of your friends, and make decisions on a case-by-case basis. Not all friendships need be calibrated by a "what's in it for me?" factor. Sometimes the wear and tear of a friendship isn't worth the companionship.

A couple of years ago I cut loose someone I had a great deal of affection for because he injected to much wear and tear into our relationship. I don't mean simply that he was a pain in the ass--our relationship was toxic. I still miss him. I am glad to no longer be a member his drama club. It may be precious of me to mention that not all good decisions make you feel good.

I assume you'll be visiting the trial when it comes to pass, and supporting your friend who was victimized. There's where the real stuff is supposed to go.
posted by mule98J at 1:32 AM on August 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

Hey, i've been in this exact situation like 3 times! woohoo!... -_-

However, my friend doesn't think there's much else he should do about this guy. His history is of abusive behavior in long-term relationships, not of inappropriately skeeving on people or stuff like that, so my friend reasons that it should be safe for his friends to be around this guy in casual settings (and he'll warn them if romance seems to be developing).

UGH. I can't stand this kind of hair splitting "Well i mean, he isn't a super rapey rapist. He just like abused his ex this one time and i think he's pretty much ok in social situations and probably better now.

Read this, and hell, skim over a post(which references that first blog post) i made about this subject in a broader sense.

I find it extremely hard to believe that people, or even sections of or entire groups of friends haven't cold shouldered this guy for this kind of shit before. I also find it equally hard to believe that the incident(s) you've heard about are the only incidents of this guy being like this.

There are friends i've entirely drifted away from, or only hang out occasionally with one on one or with small groups of specific people now because they sided with, or continue to hang out with guys like the dude you're describing here.

The biggest thing i can say, and like i wrote in my post i linked... You will not win this argument. If you want to avoid sketchy rapist dude you'll probably have to ditch this friend. Most of the time, it seems like these guys only get ditched by the closest friends of whoever they assaulted and maybe a few other people who stop and go "wow, that's fucked up". People who otherwise seem decent, level headed, and like they'd have solid opinions on this type of thing tend to waver when it actually becomes full on in their face and in their life like this, and would rather minimize the incident then realize that a rapist isn't some hulking figure in a dark alley that they'll never meet because "they don't hang out with people like that".

So pretty much, your friend cares more about preserving his just world fallacy-o-rific world view than protecting his friends from a potential rapist, or implicitly saying he doesn't acknowledge what the guy did.

There's more to this too, about how your friend doesn't want to touch something that happened in a relationship because "that's between the people who were dating" or some weird 1950s your-home-your-business shit that just lets abusers continue to cruise along and operate with tacit impunity in most friend groups.

Oh, and i also think your fears that this wasn't some one time thing and this guy will probably do something fucked up again are NOT baseless or irrational or anything. This kind of shit is not a One Time Thing.

The point at which i'd draw the line of no, never do this is at trying to proactively warn people you don't even know about this guy. If you really go out to try and do that, eventually someone who is charmed by him will say you were the one who told him. And if you've done it to several people then you'll have an angry asshole to deal with. Look out for your friends, but you're not batman. Don't go outside your circle just to try and head this guy off at the pass, it's potentially not even safe.(I actually almost got stabbed this way once, warning people that someone was a thieving violent asshole and word got back to him... and the guy who threatened me later turned out to be a rapist, fancy that!)

Really though, to do a quick summary of my point: You're likely going to have to stop being friends with this guy if you don't want to associate with rapistman(which is totally reasonable!). Convincing him is a tough row to hoe, and even if you have mutual friends who agree that none of you should be hanging out with this dude you'll likely end up in some situation where he just secretly goes and has a couple beers with rapist dude randomly, or something like that. I've been up and down this road several times and it seems to always end with "Well i'll just never hang out with them together! i'll hang out with that guy sometimes, and with her other times!" and just failing to communicate that this is the plan if it seems like you would be upset. It's not really up to you who he hangs out with, and as one of my oldest friends said "When i was in grade school and a friend asked me to pick between them and another friend, i always picked the friend who didn't ask me to choose".

The possibility of getting a lie here or just being told "well ok" and having him slowly ghost is pretty high. If you're that opposed to hanging out with this guy you're probably just going to have to ditch your friend.

On preview cairdeas said a lot of the same things i was saying about intimate partner violence Vs random person violence, but i had to let this post sit and marinate for a few hours while i ran my partner to the hospital.. ugh
posted by emptythought at 2:03 AM on August 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

I am blown away at your fwb's naïveté. When he brings the rapist to social events, he is putting your female friends safety at risk. First, your friend has no idea whether or not this guy will rape women who he is not in relationships with. Second, his plan to warn his female friends will probably come too late. even if your fwb's is super close with everyone in your group, the rapist may start romancing one of his female friends on the downlow. And if this guy is a rapist and an abuser, that means he is going to be very good at sucking women in.

I recommend having a come to Jesus talk with your fwb's where you explain this to him. It is absolutely unethical of your fwb's to prove a whole new batch of potential victims.

As for your relationship, I suggest thinking long and hard about being involved with someone like this.
posted by emilynoa at 5:14 AM on August 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

I agree with emilynoa. This guy should be treated as a pariah. Rape should not be treated with anything but full rejection. Inviting him into social circles knowing what he did or night have done is an unacceptable form of acceptance.
posted by Dansaman at 6:55 AM on August 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

But let's look at what you can independently verify and factually state: "FF has a restraining order against Ex, and therefore doesn't want to be at any place where Ex is going to be. I also don't want to be in Ex's presence, because I have good reason to think he's dangerous. FF is also pressing charges against Ex, but regardless of whether any of the charges are upheld, I think we have enough reason to see Ex as a danger and to decide against introducing him into our social circles." You don't have to call him a rapist, nor wait for him to be convicted in a court of law, to say that.

If someone said in response to that, "The restraining order is only evidence that Ex is dangerous to FF, not that he's dangerous to anyone else, so I'm going to ignore this," I'd think they were being obtuse.

What your FWB actually said, though, is worse. He has said that you only have evidence that Ex is dangerous to FF *and any future intimate partners*, so he's going to… seek out Ex's potential future intimate partners and "see if she knows what she's getting into"… what does that mean, he's going to, like, put out feelers? drop subtle hints? Or, he's going to warn her that Ex is dangerous to his intimate partners so she shouldn't consider a LTR with him, but hanging out/hooking up/fooling around is fine? And meanwhile, Ex gets to circulate freely in this social group as long as he doesn't get into any serious relationships as a result?

This is, as others have pointed out, completely inconsistent. How is it even supposed to work? Is FWB going to keep the secret while also policing all of Ex's interactions with all women and then put out feelers to see if they're aware of Ex's record so that they don't make any long term commitments to him? Well, it won't work. It's not workable.

The idea that "the grapevine" is an effective way of safely containing dangerous people within a social circle is wrong, BTW. Years ago, I was on a residential course with my teacher's teacher, and on the last day of the course, the grandteacher got me alone and felt me up in the kitchen. I wasn't particularly upset by it or anything - I'm not bringing this up as a traumatic incident from my past - but it *was* sexual assault and could have been worse. When I mentioned it in annoyed tones to my fellow students, you know what they did? Nodded sagely, and said "ah yes, it's a family of strange tensions" and "oh definitely, Grandteacher can't be trusted in those matters, you know, Teacher always says that she loves him like a father but she wouldn't be alone in the house with him." !!! Well, Teacher, who supposedly always said this, never said any such thing in my presence, nor did anyone in whose presence Teacher said it pass it on to me, and Teacher lived in Grandteacher's house for several years*, and now everyone who isn't me is nodding sagely at the fact that Grandteacher copped a feel?

I look back on that and shake my head. Quite possibly the information was only known to one or two people, and the rest just wanted to seem sophisticated and insightful or like they had the inside track and their finger on the pulse and so on and so on. But, see, this is what happens when you're uncool, apparently, the cool people will watch you being harmed and do nothing to help and everyone will agree that it's a bit thick, but you're just expected to know this and if you don't it's because you're not cool enough, rather than because nobody told you.

And that's just one scenario of how spreading information by word-of-mouth isn't likely to work. There are many other ways this can go wrong.

Bottom line, you can't go into a social group which includes dangerous people and manage it by dropping hints here and there that So-and-So is dangerous. The only other option is exclusion. Let's look at that.

Can you bar Ex from *your* social group and take the position that you will not be present at any event that includes him? Yes, that's completely reasonable. You can state this whenever it comes up "No, Ex is invited to this event, and my friend has a restraining order against Ex and a pending court case against him so I also don't feel safe being where Ex will be. I hope you understand and thanks for inviting me."

Can you demand that FWB bar Ex from his social group? No, you don't have that kind of control. However, I think that after further discussion if he still wants to take the wishy-washy approach, you would have to reevaluate your relationship with him in that light. A "come to Jesus" talk is a good idea - this stuff is hard, and nobody gets difficult stuff right on the first go-round, so give your FWB a chance. However, it is a matter of personal safety and if you can't get your point across, your relationship is inevitably going to have to get less close.

Can you do anything to stop Ex from making new friends and joining new social circles in the future? No, and it's not your place to do so. It's entirely out of your control, I somehow doubt you'd really want to have enough power to stop a person from ever having friends again in his life (no matter how strongly you think he doesn't deserve any friends! I feel ya), and if you could it would just make it harder for Ex to turn over a new leaf in the event he actually wanted to. Bottom line, you can't drive Ex off the face of the earth.

I do understand that it's nerve-wracking in the information age, when undesirable people you thought you'd got rid of still keep popping up in the periphery even when *neither* of you wants to cross paths again. But you have to allow others their place, albeit on condition that it's away from you.
posted by tel3path at 6:57 AM on August 15, 2013 [6 favorites]

However, I also feel like I have a responsibility to the guy's victim, to people in my friend's social circle, and to my anti-rape-culture principles to ask my friend to do more.

I think the best antidote to rape culture is healthy boundaries and your sense of obligation to control your "friend"/fwb, his social circle, and all potential social circles of this man you believe is a rapist for all eternity is not healthy.

You need to deal with the person in the mirror. I suspect that your fantasy of controlling your friend, his social circle, etc, is likely rooted in the sexual intimacy you have experienced with him and do not wish to give up even though he is now actively befriending someone you find unacceptable and reprehensible. I suggest you journal. I suggest you consider dumping him as a potential hookup. I suggest you sort out your very strong emotions about a sitiation that you rightfully find personally threatening. Yes, this likely says something about the fwb's sexual mores. You can't control that. All you can do is decide if this is a sexual dealbreaker for you.

That's the real issue here. No, you do not get to control him, his friends, and the entire world so you can feel comfy continuing to casually hookup with this guy. That's basically psychotic. You get to decide to either keep casually hooking up with him, try to propose a more serious relationship where he has an obligation to not hang with (known rapist), or part ways. I think parting ways is the one that makes the most sense. You do not want to do that and that's why you are asking this bizarre question in the name of moral superiority about just how many people you can try to control. If you want to be morally superior, try just saying no to casual hookups with guys whose sexual morality is not that well known by you.

I am sorry about the abuse your friend endured. That isn't the real issue here. If you want to strike a blow against rape culture, then look for another sexual outlet for yourself and do some work on yourself, like: Ask yourself the hard questions about why mr. hookup seemed like an okay guy (to sleep with) to you when this current situation is casting light on his less than persnickity views about rape and morality.
posted by Michele in California at 7:06 AM on August 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

Hi. I'm a girl using my friend's profile (for the record). I feel like what I am about to say would be better received in light of this fact.
While I respect the passion Frowner and other users have about this issue, I can't help but feel that cutting out your friend is the wrong response.
You ask that we consider the rapist to be guilty. Under this assumption, you, and others, then express a desire to warn people or inform them of what he has done so they may make their own decisions. In spite of this, people suggest that you ignore/avoid this man and people willing to associate with him. This would drive the rapist to a new circle of people who have no idea about him, which is not something you seem to want.
I think your friend is being very accommodating in light of no official legal verdict. Others would probably feel more comfortable just staying out of it altogether. YOU SHOULD KEEP HANGING OUT WITH HIM. He seems very willing to monitor this guy and his behavior in your place, and upon an official conviction, he seems like the guy who could make sure his behavior stays appropriate in social situations while potentially acting as a positive role model to this troubled man.
If the following is accurate:
... he would start influencing the guys in your friend group with these kinds of cesspool ideas, that you would start hearing more misogynistic "jokes" or even rape jokes; that, as you said, you would start hearing a lot more about "crazy ex's," hysterical women... the "vaginocracy" and men's rights, etc. etc. etc.
Why would you ditch this guy? Your reasonable men friends are far less likely to embrace such jokes if there is a woman clearly expressing her discomfort at them in the group. I understand that being in a group of guys including a rapist is NOT COMFORTABLE. But adjusting men's perceptions of rape culture cannot be done by ignoring them. Honestly, I think the previous quote really only applies to a specific type of rapist and specific types of men. Adult men are not herd animals.
Ultimately, I encourage you to not ostracize people who talk with this guy. You do not have to have contact with the rapist by any means, but you cannot make the difference you want to make by ignoring people or attempting to make a point by ditching them. People rarely react to being ditched by fixing who they are, far more frequently it only gives them a negative perception of who you are.
posted by SinisterPurpose at 11:28 AM on August 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm SinisterPurpose and I endorse the above message.
posted by SinisterPurpose at 11:29 AM on August 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ask yourself the hard questions about why mr. hookup seemed like an okay guy (to sleep with) to you when this current situation is casting light on his less than persnickity views about rape and morality.

Not replying to you Michelle I.C., I just wanted to expand on this bit to the OP.

Don't beat yourself up about this part. "Well, it couldn't have been that bad" and "it happened in a relationship so it's not our business and were only getting one side of the story and its couple drama and..." Are all rationalization a and minimizations built DEEPLY into our culture. Yes, this is rape culture, but everyone has been steeped in it from a young age.

Very very decent people, and many of whom will later change their minds(or even very soon!) think this way. It's the default mode of thinking if you haven't ever been pushed or really had to think about why you think that way and really analyze or defend it.

If you're someone who's seen this kind of shit first hand, or is just otherwise more educated about it then the default response seems to be a very tumblr SJ warrior "fuck it, they're storm troopers. They're still part of the empire. If they don't agree on the one true way to act about this then fuck them" is a very quick way to lose a lot of friends who are likely pretty sympathetic to your cause, or who would be generally supportive.

I'd bet a lot of people don't know what the deal is with this guy. There's some who have the aforementioned fucked up ideas as well, but I bet a bunch don't know.

There's a large element of dissonance here where people go "but bla bla is my friend, I wouldn't be friends with a person who did that" and their brains lock up.

I don't see this as some gigantic moral failing or holding awful shitty views, but just as someone who hasn't seen much ugly in their life yet, especially ugly involving their family or friends.

This isn't something that's easy to know about people until you really get to know them, like often as long time friends or more than casual hookups. I bet you have a lot of friends who have been very close to fucked up situations who would be like "WOAH yea, fuck this guy" but I don't think this is information you can reasonably be expected to have about someone you've just been casually boning, or that you should be questioning yourself that much about. Because its pretty damn situational for it to come out.

I mean fuck, I've been friends with people for quite a while before I found out they had shitty views about this type of stuff, or something else where I was like "WOAH you really think that? Jesus", or that they always treat the people they date like garbage despite being awesome to their friends, or...

It just isn't the type of thing you can judge at a glance, Unless you're shopping for partners in a frat house. And even that might not be a fair wisecrack.

Also, as it says in that linked blog post I posted, and mentioned in my post, the whole "he'll have a rape babysitter, it'll be fine!" Thing is a shitty plan. I really don't like the "people will police him" line of thinking. You can't follow him around 24/7, and every person like that guy I've ever known has ended up leaking his shit in to my or my friends groups and preying on people. Your fwb deserves no gold stars for trying to police him.
posted by emptythought at 12:25 PM on August 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

Wow. Your friend is a repulsive, disgusting scuzzbucket who you should ditch immediately.
posted by pineappleheart at 1:36 PM on August 15, 2013

Thanks, emptythought. I am not suggesting the OP beat herself up and it did not occur to me anyone might hear that, a fact that often gets my remarks wildly misinterpreted. However, some people can "tell at a glance." For example, I generally have good instincts about such things. However, I was molested and raped as a kid and have spent a lot of time thinking about it, reading about it, etc.

So while I am not suggesting the OP have a guilt fit or blame herself, I am suggesting that this incident casts light upon the character of her fwb and this is a good time to re-examine everything he has ever said or done in light of this new info. Also, as someone who has seriously studied it, I have found that this is not extremely difficult to determine early-ish in a relationship if you know what to look for, which, apparently, many people do not know.

In brief: People tend to either respect the boundaries of others or they do not. Most people seem to think boundary violation is not a big deal. But the definition of rape hinges upon consent. Rapists are people who first and foremost disrespect other people. It is possible to get better at recognizing such patterns and when you get better at recognizing it, you become less lkely to get blindsided by a development of this sort. Child molesters, habitual abusers, sociopaths, etc start by walking on the boundaries of other people. They make no effort to hide that fact. It is done openly. That lack of respect is your first clue that it is perhaps not a great idea to trust the person in question.

Child molestation does not start with rape, it culminates in rape. Abuse of women also does not start with rape, it culminates in it. People need to start recognizing that boundary violation is a real problem and take it seriously. Currently, it is culturally acceptable to claim it was a joke, to play it off, to suggest the victim needs to politely go along to get along and so on. That does not work and that stuff needs to stop. That practice empowers abusive people to openly shape others into professional victims.

There were signs. There always are. You just missed them. Look for them in retrospect now that you know your fwb is kinda cavalier about consent. Learn from the experience so you recognize it earlier next time, so it doesn't take this kind of extreme wake up call to wonder about the morals of your future sex partners.

I hope that makes my intent clearer.
posted by Michele in California at 1:38 PM on August 15, 2013 [9 favorites]

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