FYI your friend's a rapist
December 13, 2015 4:27 PM   Subscribe

A new woman friend just told me that a good friend of ours raped her family member twice this year. I'm experiencing confusion of what to do now.

Since telling me I've been distancing myself from my guy friend. Not answering his texts and not sitting beside him when we go in a group to hang out at cafes. Telling him not to pop by cause I'm not feeling well when usually he stops by on his typical Friday night drunken trip around town. He is starting to notice something is off. I don't really know what to do.

He is the one guy that I felt safe with in my friend group. I just told someone last week that tho he's a large guy who drinks a lot that I feel safe with him cause if anything happened to me he'd have my back. When I moved out of my abusive family home he offered to walk my dog with me at night if I was too afraid in my neighborhood. He checked out the word on the street about my building before I moved in to make sure it was safe for me. And now I find out this.

I'm don't feel comfortable having him over anymore. His previous drunken flirting now seems threatening since he raped this woman while partying. I don't really want to be in close company anymore but I don't know what to say.

Is my plan to just keep making excuses OK? I don't know if I should tell him why I don't want him to come over anymore. He does have a temper. I don't know what to say when other people ask what is going on with me and him like they are starting to. Do I tell them why? It's only the men who are asking.

I guess my real question is how do I integrate the fact that there is someone in my friend group and who I previously considered a safe guy who is a rapist. With my trauma history it is really making me question my judgement of people and wondering if I will ever be able to trust men.

I feel like I literally don't know how to tell who is a safe person or not anymore. Is it normal with severe PTSD to be this upset over learning about something that didn't even happen to me?
posted by kanata to Human Relations (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Oh. This woman's family member has support and went to the police but they did nothing due to said partying. I was told as a "be careful" thing out of the blue but the actual survivor is supported so this is a more what do I do with this information in regards to how it is impacting me. Selfish I know.
posted by kanata at 4:30 PM on December 13, 2015

Is my plan to just keep making excuses OK?

The most important thing is that you protect yourself, I believe. If your suspicion is false you'll have inconvenienced this fellow (at worst), but that means very little.

I don't know what I'd do in your situation, outside of remaining safe.
posted by mr. digits at 4:33 PM on December 13, 2015 [4 favorites]

This happened to me, but I was not as close to the guy. I left it a mystery to him & everyone as to why I would leave parties when he arrived and/or set up things and not invite him. I'm not sure whether or not it was the right thing to do, but I feared for my safety if I confronted him or he found out through the grapevine. Recently, we were at the same wedding and I just stayed across the room. I have had to speak to him & I just keep at a level of superficial acquaintance who I have no interest in knowing better. I have also had people ask me what's up and I usually say, "oh people just drift apart sometimes."

There are two things that keep me from being open about why I don't want to be friends anymore. (1) Safety concerns as mentioned above and (2) It's not really my information to share about the person he attacked. I don't know if she wants others to know & I don't know if he would confront her if he found out that others were finding out. So (this sucks but...) I stay quiet about the reasons for her safety too.
posted by CMcG at 4:52 PM on December 13, 2015 [17 favorites]

I'm so sorry to hear about this, and I'm really glad that you're trusting the woman who shared this difficult-but-important information with you. It's scary stuff, for sure, but at least you know and can act accordingly. It's hard to hear someone you trusted is not a safe person, especially when they seemed like a safe alternative to your previous situation. Right now that fear and unease, while awful-feeling, is helping you protect yourself. Eventually you'll feel safer again but for now things will likely feel yucky; please do see a therapist for some professional support if you're feeling especially uncomfortable (or just could use a check-in!) FWIW, the vast majority of men I know and interact with are stand-up people. Most humans are, although it sometimes feels like opposite, especially when you run into a few dangerous folks back to back. To be honest, while I've found some male feminist/ally groups to be awesome, they're not necessarily "safer" either. I can think of a particular situation and how awful it felt. In fact, when abuse does occur in these so-called "safer spaces" it can get swept under the rug: people either don't believe it or don't want to believe it (because the guy is "so feminist" or what have you), and it's a new scary kind of feeling. You knew your previous situation was abusive but here you were thinking you finally were safer, and you've found the opposite is true. It's scary: I've been there as many of us have, and I can say things can feel better and safer again but it sometimes takes leaving the space or distancing yourself from the group.

The fact that this guy "has a temper" that makes you worry about your safety and reputation is a sign that he isn't actually good friend, even if you did not know what you do now. Good friends can be sad and disappointed or even a bit angry but they don't scare you or try to harm your social reputation. I believe that more people will eventually figure him out but they may not. Like others have said, I might approach the friend who told you as well as the other privately. (In person, not on any sort of digital record.) If done privately, that conversation may actually be very welcome and validating to her. Maybe not but probably so if approached with genuine concern and caring, with the mutual friend supporting both of you. You may all decide it's time to start telling others but you don't have to decide yet.

Truth is a great thing when you can trust people. However, it's sometimes best to not tell the truth to people who aren't safe (because they don't deserve your trust and may use your confidence in them to do more harm to you or others.) For now, just being busy is a great excuse: the holidays are coming up, work or school has gotten so busy, you've got to focus on xyz-project in the next few months, etc. You could still hang out with the group together but it sounds like that won't feel safe right now, if ever again. However, you can hang out with people one-on-one or in smaller groups. You can tell him you want space but it sounds like just always having excuses is the best right now. You can ignore his texts or reply much later than usual, "Sorry, I can't!" No need to go into much or any detail. He should get the point eventually and, if not, you can take it from there. However, for now, just doing what feels safest -- maintaining your distance -- is absolutely fine. I wish you luck!
posted by smorgasbord at 5:09 PM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Can you seek the friend who told you about this for support in processing this? If she is telling you this out of concern of your own safety and knowledge, then I think it would be wise to seek her out.
posted by yueliang at 5:30 PM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

His being so out of the way protective of you should have raised some red flags, but they didn't. Sure, people are nice but for him to go so far out of his way, as well as popping in uninvited, shows that he is someone who wants to define your boundaries for you. Even without the rape, he isn't someone that you should know. Therapy can help you find your boundaries and stand up for yourself. Until then, your standard response to men wanting to invite themselves into your space is no. If they press for reasons then that tells you who they are. No one should be inviting themselves into your space. You don't have to apologize or give them any reasons why you don't want them to do this. No is the final word.
posted by myselfasme at 6:43 PM on December 13, 2015 [19 favorites]

If he comes by again next Friday night, just ignore his texts or calls, don't answer the door and pretend you're not home. If he asks the next day by text, ignore it. If he asks later in person, just pretend you didn't know he was even there: you were out, sleeping, working, gaming, watching TV, so wrapped up in a hobby, etc. Less is more in terms of excuses: he doesn't need details and you don't need to apologize. Should he start yelling, banging on your door or try to get in, you can call the police (because he would be an intruder!)
posted by smorgasbord at 7:21 PM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've been in this situation twice lately, with formerly close friends. Both of whom i had a similar relationship with(although i'm a guy). I had known both of them for at least a decade, one since childhood. They'd ring my apartment buzzer if they were in the area, text all the time, and we hung out pretty much at least once a week if not more.

One of them was the kind of friend who if they called me at 3am saying their car broke down, i'd take a cab over to help them. I knew their families. My parents knew them.

On one count, i completely quit talking to him after i returned something of his that was at my house(in a public place, in front of a busy shop near my office). On the other, i just sort of pulled a slow fade.

If i see them in person, we exchange pleasantries and make acquaintance level conversation maybe if it's a large party/event or something.

They both got the hint pretty damn quickly and i think i got one message from one of them on facebook in the past like month or more. I ignored it.

Neither of them pushed it. And neither of them seemed to really push it with anyone who knew the person they had assaulted. It pretty much seemed like they intrinsically knew what had transpired backchannel communication wise and why we had quit talking.

On preview, one dumb/scary thing happened where one of them tried to confront me in a bathroom(while i was USING the bathroom) and apologize to me for like... violating my trust... by hurting my friend(??!?!?!) and it was stressful and stupid. I directly told them to never talk to me again, and they haven't. I think part of what spurred it is that he was drunk, though. And i could see that being a factor in anything dumb that happens here.

I'm not saying this is a be all end all answer in any way, especially because there's other(especially gender) dynamics at play here and this may be a different situation in that sense... But these were people i was very close to, and they seemed to pretty damn quickly get the message that they were no longer welcome and i didn't want to talk or see them. Pretty much, that the slow fade or just straight up ignoring them can work. Oh, and these guys were both drunken party animals.

Is there any other close friend of yours who knows him AND wont talk to him about it or stir shit who you can talk to about your concerns with this, potentially who you could call for support if he starts being an asshole? I wouldn't be surprised if he was, but i also wouldn't be surprised if he just got the message after a few fits and starts and fucked off.
posted by emptythought at 7:48 PM on December 13, 2015 [5 favorites]

"Drinks a lot" plus "has a temper" are a scary combination, even without the rape allegation. With it ... I think you really need to disengage as much as you can, particularly from the pattern where he drops by, drunk. It would probably be safest to talk to him while he's sober, and maybe say that this isn't the sort of thing you want to do any more? It sounds like drinking is a big part of his life; if you're not emotionally available for him when he's drunk then I expect he'd be less interested in hanging out in general.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:13 PM on December 13, 2015 [7 favorites]

Also the not being able to tell who to trust is totally a phase - a long phase granted, but a phase. You have ingrained old patterns that turned out to be wrong and were either deliberately (this is in some ways easier to overcome) or implicitly taught to you as a way to accept and navigate abusive relationships where you had to trust and love abusive people. Now you're making a new healthier pattern in your head and when it jars against the old pattern, it's very uncomfortable. This situation makes you question your judgement because you are questioning your judgement right now, and that's totally okay and a sign of growth. It gets easier and stronger over time.

Focus on what you do have - a few good healthy friendships are worth far more than a ton of harmful toxic friendships. Men can totally be good friends, but they can also be abusive, and having higher standards means you'll have a smaller social circle for a while. It does get better because if you can hang in for them, those friendships will be (mutually) better and kinder.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 8:32 PM on December 13, 2015 [11 favorites]

I am going to buck the trend here. I don't know anything about these people except what you've said, but the first thing that jumped out at me that this is a new woman friend and an old male friend. I would be pretty thrown too if I made friends with someone and they told me that my pre-existing friend had raped their sister (or cousin or whatever). In fact, I did have a situation in which a new female friend (who wound up becoming a romantic partner) who hinted that my then-(male) partner was a bad person, had done some unforgivable things. In this situation, the new person had far from honourable motives and it pisses me off that I was so willing to believe the shit that was talked about. But that is another story.

It is, of course, entirely possible that your new woman friend is on the up-and-up and your man friend did rape someone. But maybe spend a little time thinking realistically about what you know about her and whether you have good reasons for trusting what she's said. If you have mutual friends who might be able to corroborate something, that would be useful. It also sounds like you are jumping to the conclusion that your judgement is wrong, that your male friend whom you previously trusted for good reasons, is untrustworthy. Maybe also think about whether there are previous examples of you having exercised poor judgement about people.

It sounds like you have some reservations about your male friend anyway - the drunkenness, the temper, the flirting. It also sounds like he has actually done some good things for you. Not having been there for any of it, I cannot tell how trustworthy he is. This is something you need to try to evaluate for yourself. If you don't trust your judgement, this is where you fall back on verifiable information.

Yes, it is totally normal for you to be this upset by it. You need to get better at accurately judging whether to trust people and be able to trust in your own judgement to make sure that you don't put yourself in dangerous situations again. Having been through an emotionally abusive relationship myself, I know how hard it can be to trust not just other people, but your own interpretation of them. The temptation to wall off everyone else is strong. But you can do this.

If you do want to distance yourself from your male friend, this is a great time to be doing it as others have commented. Holidays are a difficult time for many people and being a bit of a hermit is a perfectly normal way to deal with that. It can also interrupt patterns of interaction between the two of you that then makes it easier to break it off or do a slow fade.
posted by Athanassiel at 8:38 PM on December 13, 2015 [12 favorites]

I'm not going to wade in here to try to figure out if the story is true, or what this guy is like. It's not really material. The important thing is that you don't want to be friends with this guy anymore. You're allowed to do that. Here's the kicker, you don't owe anyone an explanation for it, or a conversation about it.

If your plan is to ghost the guy, that's cool. He may press for a conversation or a reason or whatever, but it doesn't matter, you don't owe him that and you don't have to do anything you don't want to do.

And yes, it's perfectly normal for a person with or without PTSD to be upset about hearing information about someone that is pretty terrible.

As for trusting men (and women.) You will trust the trustworthy. You won't offer that trust too early, nor will you offer that trust if there's something about that person's behavior that sets off your alarm bells. If you're not working with a therapist, find one. If you are, this is an excellent thing to discuss with her.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:39 AM on December 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

You think the guy is a rapist. You don't owe him courtesy. Be as polite as you want to be/feel you need to be for your safety, but you don't have to let him in to your place, or answer texts or even hang out in a group with him. (I wouldn't, but that's up to you) Even if you didn't have this new information about him, you don't own him your friendship. Its cool to ghost away.

As for trusting people in general, its hard especially when you've gone through some of the stuff you talk about. It gets easier, but the hardest part of trusting is accepting that you might still be wrong.

And I'd recommend seeing a therapist so you can talk about this to someone outside of your friend-group to work through your own feelings about the subject.
posted by GilvearSt at 6:36 AM on December 14, 2015

Oh wow, I don't think you need solicit others to "corroborate" her story as you clearly have the info you need, and you've said you're uncomfortable around him, and your question was not about whether or not to believe he did this anyway.

You don't have to be around anyone who makes you uncomfortable, PTSD or no, "corroborated" rape story or no. Continue to fade him out.

It is totally normal to be upset by this news; the rape itself didn't happen to you but your trust in a close friend was violated and that is incredibly upsetting.

In hindsight, you can maybe now see that drunken flirting, a temper, and unsolicited protectiveness (possessiveness?) are not the best qualities in a safe male friend. However, you could not have known his true character. You now have more information and you revoked your trust. Sounds very healthy to me. I think if you keep doing that, giving your trust to friends but revoking it in light of damning information, you'll be okay.

Personally, I feel a little skepticism about men is healthy given the rape and assault statistics, and it seems totally normal to me if you're shaken for a little while. I'm not saying you should not trust men but it's not like you're crazy for worrying about which men it's safe to be around.
posted by kapers at 10:42 AM on December 14, 2015 [6 favorites]

Just to clarify, I don't mean you should try to corroborate the rape story - at best that is pretty tacky and at worst it lends credence to the whole women lie about rape myth. I meant in terms of the overall trustworthiness of this new woman friend. What kind of person is she? What else do you know about her? Are there mutual friends who have known her for years and say she is aces? Does she have a history of being friend-dumped? I don't know - like I said, we don't have this information. But ultimately it comes down to - how do you work out who to trust? How do you learn to trust your own judgement about people?

This might sound callous, but I tend to intellectualise things when I don't trust my feelings. I work in information management and you learn different ways to assess trustworthiness and accuracy of information. One way to do this is by triangulation - gather information from multiple sources and try to use that to assess whether there are areas of weakness or inaccuracy. If multiple sources, especially if they are trusted sources, tend to agree on something, it's an overall indicator of reliability. Nothing is ever 100% guaranteed of course, but you have to take some chances. I guess it sounds pretty clinical to apply it to people's trustworthiness, but I've found it a useful tool when my confidence in my own judgement has been shaken.
posted by Athanassiel at 4:21 PM on December 14, 2015

I don't know what to suggest on the what to do part of this question, but I did want to drop in and say that, yes, it is entirely normal for this kind of news to hit you hard. It's a recognized form of trauma called secondary trauma. It's very common for people close to victims OR perpetrators of violence to experience it, and it's also possible to experience from, say, news stories about violence, etc.

A good therapist can be very helpful in dealing with the aftermath of traumatic experiences. I've had great effect using EMDR to recover from trauma.
posted by spindrifter at 10:00 AM on December 15, 2015

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