Dealing with a rapist, 20 years later
February 18, 2014 7:27 AM   Subscribe

Twenty years ago, I was forcibly raped and beaten by someone in my social circle. It happened on a road trip, miles from anywhere, and he made it clear that he would leave me in the mountains if I said anything. I didn't go to the police, because I was a buxom girl who wore revealing clothes and flirted constantly, and had a significant drinking problem. I knew the prosecutor would never try the case, and even if they did, the slut defense would work.

I told a few friends, mostly women who might find themselves alone with him, but other than that, I just walked away from the very insular industry that we shared, and never went back.

A few years ago, I stopped drinking. I've only had one major fall from the wagon, and that was at a convention where I saw a lot of these people for the first time in decades, and something inside me just twitched, and I found myself up all night drinking again.

Subsequently, I felt horrible about myself and the drinking, but got back on the wagon and started working on trying to figure out how and why it happened. Then last week, news broke that one of the linchpin humans of my social group of that period had died. I was asked to help with hostess duties for the wake/celebration, which are being held at another convention.

I was fine with doing it. I had a lot of support built in for the sobriety thing, it was all going well...and then someone invited the man who raped me, and he accepted. My hands haven't stopped shaking since I found out. My stomach is in knots, I'm tremblingly close to tears all the time, and yesterday I found myself parked outside a liquor store. I didn't go in...but I sat there for a long time. I can't do this event. I can't. It's killing me to even think of having to sit face to face with this man and be polite. I can't do it. I can't.

I need help extracting myself from this event, but I need to do it in a way that causes zero drama, and in fact, perhaps passes unnoticed. Someone else made me the "host" of the party on the Facebook invite thingy, there are apparently hundreds of people now invited, and the last thing in the world I want is to be the focus of either attention or drama.

How do I gracefully get out of an event which happens Friday....just days from now, where I am theoretically the hostess?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: poster's request -- jessamyn

Call person who asked you to co-host. Just say, "I am unable to host this, can you please step in for me."

If pressed, simply say, "I have a personal issue that I must attend to and I will be unable to attend."

Do it by email if you can.

No matter what, just don't go.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:30 AM on February 18, 2014 [71 favorites]

You should be able to transfer the ownership of the event/group to a Facebook friend you trust. I'm sure someone else would have better instructions, but it should be as simple as making someone else a coordinator or Admin of the event and then removing yourself.

+ what Ruthless Bunny said. No one needs to know why. "Thank you but I've found I'm unable to attend." Maybe a private message to your friends, "I'd be happy to have dinner with you some other time" if you feel willing to do so.
posted by DisreputableDog at 7:34 AM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Something completely unexpected came up and there is just no possible way to make it. You don't wish to go into detail and you don't have to give any explanation or excuse.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:35 AM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hand off responsibility back to the person who nominated you. You don't need to offer an explanation, just say that something has come up. It happens, people deal. No biggie.

Also, recognize that "Facebook hostess" and "real hostess" are not necessarily the same thing. You may not have as much at stake here as it seems.

Next step: get yourself into some kind of therapy or counseling. You need to deal with this somehow. That's a longer-term project, obviously, but it's likely to be a really important one.

Best of luck.
posted by valkyryn at 7:41 AM on February 18, 2014 [7 favorites]

If you feel like you must have an excuse (and it's fine if you feel that way)... contact another event host for this Facebook thing and say that unfortunately, due to a death in your own family, you will be unable to attend, and ask to be removed.

Go to an AA meeting, even if you've never been, and even if your closest AA meeting isn't your style. You don't have to say anything; just listening can help. Call your local rape crisis hotline if you need to; it's OK that it was 20 years ago. Do what you need to to hang on to your sobriety. Don't let this man take that from you.

I'm rooting for you and wishing your peace.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:47 AM on February 18, 2014 [19 favorites]

I'm so sorry you have to deal with this. It's probably not possible to do it without attracting some attention, but go with something like "I just have a private matter in my personal life right now that makes it impossible for me to be involved. Thank you for understanding." The fact that these people aren't really in your life makes it that much easier.

You may want to re-examine the idea of getting together with these people at all, even setting aside the existence of your attacker, for the sake of your sobriety.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:48 AM on February 18, 2014

If you need help backing out and processing the fact that you've seen this dude (sounds it from what you've written -- you'd probably have an easier time when you've talked it out a little), consider a crisis line for violence against women. Here's the link to the national one, which should direct you. They can talk you through old traumas, absolutely. It's not just for immediate help. They're volunteer run and if you don't like the person you get, call again. RAINN is another good source, directed to and may give you some place different. Again, volunteers on the line. Keep calling for somebody helpful if you don't get somebody at first.

What happened to you is terrible and I'm sorry for it. I'm sorry for your loss, too, and I'm sorry you can't be there. I hope your sponsor and existing support people know everything that's going on and can give you on the ground help. You deserved protection then and you didn't get it. There is nothing, NOTHING to be ashamed of.
posted by sweltering at 7:50 AM on February 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I agree that you do not have to do this. Do not worry about what anyone else will think, if they will be inconvenienced, anything like that. To me, there is nothing more important than not returning to drinking, and I'd be willing to throw pretty much anything overboard as ballast to avoid it.
posted by thelonius at 7:52 AM on February 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Stuff comes up interfering with people's social obligations alllll the time. You don't have to make any excuse; or make up a basic one (work, family obligation, whatever.)

Just tell whoever it was who asked you to help, that you can't. Choose an excuse or don't. You had no obligation to take it on in the first place, and it was sweet of you to have done so, but there's no reason you have to go to this event. And honestly, given what we know about how they trigger you to drink, it might have been a bad idea even if the rapist weren't coming. Bow out and feel good about it. Keep your own oxygen mask on.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:02 AM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just "come down with the flu," let someone know the day before by text or FB message and don't go. Getting sick is the best white lie because it comes to an end and people are grateful you're not exposing them to your germs. No "death in the family," no "private matter in my personal life," no "personal issue:" basically, no excuse that invites further questions (and further lies) or assumptions that you are being rude (either by not attending or by not explaining) or, especially, speculation by others in the know of past events (and there may be more of those than you think) that prompts them to reveal your business to others. And take care of yourself that day.
posted by carmicha at 8:03 AM on February 18, 2014 [10 favorites]

The phrase you're looking for is "family emergency" and if people press you on the matter it's "sorry, not my place to say."

Frankly, it is a family emergency - yours - and it's always your place to choose not to say.

You sound like you're being very good at listening to the parts of you that are giving you healthy messages (don't go to this event!) and ignoring the parts that are giving you bad ones (you didn't go into the liquor store.) You can keep it up. Prioritize your own health over your perceived social grace. Anybody who balks at a private family emergency is incredibly less graceful by comparison.
posted by Mizu at 8:03 AM on February 18, 2014 [30 favorites]

"Due to circumstances beyond my control, I can't make it."

Personally, if anyone you told is going, tell them "it's because he'll be there". Maybe they'll figure it out on their own.

If anyone contacts you and tries to put pressure on you "for the group/memory's" sake, maybe being honest would release some tension for you. "I won't be there bc X raped me." Less than perfect timing. But there's been a few FPPs about cons these days changing tack and turning against the rapists and gropers out there. At the very least you won't be hanging onto a secret while he gets to commiserate w old friends w out shame.

Whatever you choose, we're pulling for you.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:03 AM on February 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have found the best 'excuse' is none at all.

You cannot make it. That's all you need. Don't worry about it, I'm sure no one will connect the dots.

I am very sorry that this happened to you. Go do something healthy for yourself, you deserve something nice right now.
posted by ibakecake at 8:07 AM on February 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't know if you can be like, "Why did you invite him? He raped me. Un-invite him." Maybe you could, but I still wouldn't go in case he does come anyway. You can just make up an excuse if you want. Like, claim a grandparent died and you need to go to their funeral in Iowa. Say you are sick. Whatever you want. However, any of those excuses might elicit follow-up questions or comments. "Sorry to hear about your grandma." "Are you feeling better now?" Etc. You can absolutely just say, "Something personal came up and I am not able to host anymore. I'm very sorry, but this something beyond my control." No one would ask you what it was. You could say it's a "personal emergency" or a "family emergency." Anything vague like that should ward off any nosy questions.

I'm very sorry you have to deal with this. Spend the day of the party doing something you enjoy that will be a healthy distraction and don't worry at about the party at all. People need to back out of things like this all the time and it will be totally fine. It's not a big deal so don't let it make you feel bad about avoiding this man.
posted by AppleTurnover at 8:50 AM on February 18, 2014

Please don't lie. Feeling like you have to/need to/are obligated to lie is being manipulated and that will not help you.

And do take the advice to seek help. I think that handling this privately is the best thing for you, but also think that reworking the memory with a professional would help. You don't know that the slut defense would have saved your rapist. You don't know that his wealthy great aunt wouldn't have tried to ruin your life for telling lies about her darling boy. What you know is that he committed a crime and you are recovering and living your life. Perhaps you still have legal options. Perhaps not. Professionals can help you with what you want and need now.

There is no need to go and you can avoid drama. If you want to have a good cry with a good friend or take yourself out to a nice dinner - that's not drama. That's positive reinforcement for handling this event and living your life on your terms.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:25 AM on February 18, 2014

I need to do it in a way that causes zero drama, and in fact, perhaps passes unnoticed.

It's totally fine for this to be your priority. It's going to be hard for you to think about this as casually as you would if you came down with the flu, had to take care of a sick relative, or had some other unexpected thing come up that prevented you from hosting--but stuff like that comes up all the time.

Do you have a trusted friend who could sit with you to compose a very bland email? Something along the lines of, "I'm unexpectedly unable to attend the wake and therefore have to hand off my hostessing duties to someone else. I'll be thinking of you all." Do you have a sponsor who could do this with you? You don't have to reveal more than, "This is a hard thing for me to do, but I need to back out of this event and could use some support," regardless of who you ask. If you're communicating by phone, could you have someone sit with you while you make the call?

Because this can be done in a way that appears low-drama, but for you it is not going to be a calm process. You don't owe an explanation, but it's also fine to say that you have a "family emergency" or you're "sick" or whatever else you need to do keep yourself away from this event and maintain your sobriety.
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:30 AM on February 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

There are a few details missing that would help shape a response likely to generate no drama (like, was the wake being held in your hotel room at the convention? I can see why that would make it hard to extricate yourself) Do you have someone in your life that you trust absolutely that isn't part of that group? Like as someone mentioned above a sponsor that can help you generate a more detailed exit strategy? Or a close friend or relative? You wouldn't have to tell them the reason why you don't want to go - you can just say that the event is causing you a lot of anxiety.
posted by muddgirl at 9:49 AM on February 18, 2014

I came to tell you how sorry I am that this horrible man did this to you, to nth the advice that you simply decline to do this hostess thing without feeling the need to say why -- and to suggest that you may want to pick up and read Drink: the Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol, by Anne Dowsett Johnston. Trauma- related drinking is common for women, not least because alcohol use increases vulnerability, and rapists know it.

This might be a wonderful opening to get some supportive counseling which addresses both your trauma and maintenance of your hard won sobriety.

Hope you will also accept a virtual internet hug from a fellow rape survivor. ((((You))))
posted by bearwife at 10:08 AM on February 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

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