Reeling with bestie breakup over allegations
November 22, 2017 6:05 PM   Subscribe

Last week I broke up with my best friend largely due to his response to sexual harassment allegations. I'm still reeling from my decision and don't know what to think.

This best friend (who I'll call S) and I met ages ago but didn't really become super close until around this time last year. We hang out very regularly, help each other out a lot, and have a long-standing precedence of bringing up any issues we have with each other immediately - and usually they've gone over well.

A couple of weeks ago S, who was about to move overseas for a while, made a request that came off as odd. He wanted some time to hang out with other friends before he moves, which was fine - but his reasoning was that when we hang out in groups enough weird shit happens to me (racist comments, sexual harassment, panic attacks) that it felt too dramatic for him to handle. (Context: we are both queer, he's a white guy, I'm a brown girl.)

I found his statement rather off and it took me a few days of processing with friends to figure out why: he's victim-blaming and putting the onus on me. His remarks cut too close to something an abusive ex used to do, which was to supposedly support my vulnerabilities only to throw it in my face later. I wanted to make time to address it with him - I didn't think he meant to be abusive but I couldn't let it linger.

In the process of trying to figure it out, a mutual friend said this was a pattern of his, and started detailing the ways that he'd taken advantage of and manipulated emotionally vulnerable young girls (including themselves) and how he'd made other people uncomfortable by not respecting their space. S has never made me uncomfortable sexually, but I have noticed him coming on too strong (he has this habit of wanting to charm everyone he sees, sometimes ignoring discomfort; we've addressed it with him before to varying levels of success). I was alarmed at this - I wasn't sure if this was going to be a pattern with me, and also I wanted to keep my community safe (we share a massive social circle and are fairly public within it).

I contacted S immediately to ask him about it and tell him my concerns. It was a very fighty conversation (every so often he'd dismiss concerns as "social drama") and I didn't understand why he was being a jerk about it, but after some time I thought I got partway through to him.

After that phone call I made a post online (friends only but filtering S out) saying I'd been made aware of allegations against S and how I've made people unsafe bringing S to places, that I believe those that have been hurt by S, and that I wanted to keep people accountable. This is something I see a lot of people do in my communities. I stressed that I wasn't here to start drama but I wanted to make myself available to those coming forward.

The post generally had really good responses. A few people did come forward talking about S's behaviour about 4-5 years ago (a common theme) and how he's either grown but has a way to go yet, or he did something unforgivable but the reporter doesn't know what that is, or they've tried talking to him with mixed results. But generally people were supportive of my actions, including people that know S longer than they know me.

The day after the phone call, S messages me saying that he was frustrated that I went over his boundaries and that instead of giving him space I was "punishing him" by escalating things. I reiterated that this was not a punishment but a tough ethical decision, that my boundaries were crossed too and he'd dismissed them, that I recognised the timing was terrible but I was trying to manage competing needs.

That message frustrated me so much that I didn't really talk to him for a while. I felt like the goodwill I got from that phone call was erased. I didn't think I could see him without wanting to punch him and wanted to cool down.

In the meantime I had a LOT of discussions with friends who by and large supported me and gave me tools on how to manage my boundaries. We all wanted the best for S but also wanted to be safe.

I slowly reached out to see how he was, and told him that I was still hurting and needed an apology to feel safer talking to him. He said that was "presumptuous", that I had no right to an apology when I put him on such "public blast", and that I started a "Gossip storm" that made him lose friends. I found that such a betrayal that I wrote a long message explaining in detail what happened and why and why I felt so betrayed, and said I was done. I told him he wasn't blocked from my life but if he didn't have a sincere apology or accountability I don't want to hear it.

It's been a week and I've been an emotional mess. I'm probably the only one I know dealing with regret: everyone else is adamant that I did the right thing. Some friends said they'd dropped S because they'd heard other warnings and were frustrated that I was being blamed for it. I still feel deep love for him even after the hurt and betrayal and hold out hope that he'll come around with "oh boy I fucked up this one" or something, but he needs to earn my trust again because he acted the complete opposite of what I'm used to and that was destabilizing. And there's the aftermath of the allegations too.

I've been trying to keep myself busy, see a therapist, spend time with friends, etc but it's excruciating. I want to know what the hell he was thinking but I don't think I'll ever find out - he's probably cast me from "beloved friend" to "nasty gossip". I get that he probably feels betrayed by me but I don't know why he didn't bring it up sooner. He always asks me to give him the benefit of the doubt but has not extended that to me. I don't really know what to think.

What should I think about all this? Did I do something horrifically wrong? Is it wrong to want your friend back even after hearing very horrible stuff about him because you think he can grow? I see the "is it ok to love a sexual predator" stuff but none of them really address that question and it's killing me.
posted by divabat to Human Relations (40 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I made a post online (friends only but filtering S out) saying I'd been made aware of allegations against S and how I've made people unsafe bringing S to places, that I believe those that have been hurt by S, and that I wanted to keep people accountable.

Im not saying it was wrong to do this, but I'm surprised you thought you could do this and remain friends with this person. Did you think it would not get back to him? A post like that is basically salting the earth of your friendship.
posted by gatorae at 6:15 PM on November 22, 2017 [175 favorites]

What should I think about all this?

My outsider's perspective is that you're being gaslit by someone who does not want to deal with their own problems and is instead foisting the blame on you. That is not the way someone who cares about you or respects you behaves. From what you've described, this doesn't seem like a problem where he's not introspective enough to realize what he's doing wrong. You told him his behavior has been hurtful. He responded by lashing out to try and turn the tables against you. That is not the act of a friend. Your other friends have noted that this is a pattern of behavior. Don't ignore them.

Did I do something horrifically wrong?

You aired your personal business in public, which is never a good look. It would have been best to ask people more quietly. To him, that's going to be viewed as a betrayal. But you learned valuable things from your friends about him in the process. Red flags. Warning signs. I suspect you're better off.

Is it wrong to want your friend back even after hearing very horrible stuff about him because you think he can grow?

No. But it is worth asking yourself if the pain and potential disappointment will be worth the effort.

I have a personal rule that I don't go into relationships (romantic and otherwise) assuming that I can change people for the better. It's not my job to fix people. That's on them. I can be supportive and kind and empathetic and helpful. But starting or continuing a relationship hoping someone will become a better person is a recipe for disaster. It's a thankless task and disappointing role that rarely gleans positive results, because you can't change someone who doesn't want to change. And it's presumptuous to think you can save them from themselves, or educate them regarding how to act like a civilized human being. Most of the time, people will resent you for wanting to change them into something they're not. This person has already been disrespectful, and has already expressed a low opinion of your behavior. Do you think they will want your help?

Are you protecting yourself from being hurt further? Or opening yourself up to further heartache?
posted by zarq at 6:25 PM on November 22, 2017 [14 favorites]

I believe that "starting drama" wasn't your motivation for writing the Facebook post (although I don't completely understand what was), but publicly calling out a person who is known to be dramatic is going to start drama. Sounds like this guy has been a missing stair and you've just now discovered it. He doesn't act right with people so I think your expectations of him acting right with you are probably too high.

I understand it's hard to let go of a friend, and I understand if you don't want to, but what is the path forward here? He probably feels he can't trust you not to say things behind his back (and rightly so), and you can't trust him to have your back when others are racist etc towards you (and rightly so). This doesn't seem like a solvable situation. I had a sharp break with someone in my community earlier this year - the circumstances were different but the emotional impact was similar - and ultimately it was for the best. I couldn't continue to lose sleep wondering what he was doing or thinking or saying. He's out there ruining his own reputation but at least I'm no longer entangled in it.

If it's only been a week, shelve it and distract yourself 'til the end of the month. Try not to talk about him, at least not with others in the community. See if you feel better without his drama in your life.
posted by AFABulous at 6:31 PM on November 22, 2017 [7 favorites]

This guy is at best a jerk and at worst an abuser, so ending your friendship with him was definitely the right thing to do. It's understandable that you miss the good times but after you get some space you will probably realize they were not as good as you remember.

As the posters above have pointed out, airing your personal business in public, especially with a dramatic person, is not a good way to avoid drama. Still, in this case, it doesn't sound like you've lost much.
posted by rpfields at 6:35 PM on November 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don’t think publically supporting people who have made allegations against S is a “bad look.” If he’s crossing physical/sexual boundaries, it’s exactly the right thing to do.

It’s possible S might come around. The only thing that seems off to me is that you seemed not to think making this post to your friends would affect your friendship? You made a choice between him and his victims in that moment. Perhaps he is not egregiously bad and he will mend his ways and turn over a new leaf, but you seem to have done the right thing either way.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:41 PM on November 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

AFABulous's "missing stair" reference for those who haven't heard the term before:

A good read indeed
posted by Jacen at 6:45 PM on November 22, 2017 [5 favorites]

Sorry, I misread a little, it sounds like it’s more along the lines of emotional abuse and physical boundaries than anything sexual.

If you’ll forgive my presumption, I think the reason your post sounds a bit incoherent is that you love this person who clearly sounds like someone who likes getting under people’s skin. He does not sound like a healthy person. You’re reacting to this obvious bad behavior of his but also trying to paper over it because you want to be his friend. People will get angry at you because the “civilized” thing is to keep drama to yourself, and you don’t want to admit what kind of person he is, so people get even more angry because you’re a “victim” who won’t acknowledge it. It’s a revictimization cycle.

But you were brave to tell people you believed and agreed with them. Your friend sounds like he was toxic.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:46 PM on November 22, 2017

The focus on the offender - someone who has repeatedly "taken advantage of and manipulated emotionally vulnerable young girls" and "made other people uncomfortable by not respecting their space" - to the point of worrying how to maintain his friendship is evidence of his overall pattern of victim-blaming and manipulation having spread out from him to the community around him.

Of course he was pissed off, you didn't defend him or insist he is salvageable, or throw enough doubt about the assertions (putting all of them as from 4-5 years ago is part of the 'sow doubt' toolkit). You did it in a way that meant there is a public record of how he has affected people, and he is likely to be feeling a lot of shame about it too. That's just how it is when you fuck up like that, and how you move on is key to working through the structural issues. How he deals with that is evidence of if he is salvageable. Thus far he is acting exactly like someone unrepentant, or at least totally unempathic towards the people he has hurt (including you).

You are trying to walk a line of supporting him, over the women he has hurt, and that is going to cause you pain. That's just the reality of it. There is no way to reconcile supporting and listening to victims AND working with their victimiser that doesn't entail creating distance between you and one of those parties, at least temporarily but often permanently.

Making it about you and your relationship with him is fine for you, but it risks taking the focus off both fixing the rot in the system, fixing him as a human, or supporting the victims. That's probably part of the discomfort you're feeling.

I am saying this as someone dealing with fallout from #metoo and finding out a friend is somewhere on the spectrum between creep and sexual harasser, and watching others deal with this conflict for their own friends/predators, and it is a difficult place to be. But we cannot change the system and the culture by prioritising our own feelings above victims, or our own ease and comfort above making communities safer. I am viciously angry with my friend for hurting women, and for making me complicit, even if I do think he is probably salvageable in some way.
posted by geek anachronism at 6:51 PM on November 22, 2017 [14 favorites]

He doesn't sound like a person I'd want to be friends either. However, I don't think I'm too comfortable with your actions either. You seem to be calling him out for things that you were not affected by, without directly witnessing those things either... And they sound like behaviours that call for the voice of the victim, since boundary crossing and manipulation is hard to identify from the outside without clear cut power issues (employer/employee etc). Then there seems to have been some kind of public judgement/discussion... Still from ppl who weren't involved directly? This seems less than ideal.

Having said all that, he does sound awful and if I knew him I would probably avoid him and not engage with him. I might even warn friends about him. But doing it soooo publicly seems like something that is better done by the people he manipulated, or with a focus on areas that did affect you directly, imo.
posted by jojobobo at 6:59 PM on November 22, 2017 [8 favorites]

After that phone call I made a post online (friends only but filtering S out) saying I'd been made aware of allegations against S and how I've made people unsafe bringing S to places, that I believe those that have been hurt by S, and that I wanted to keep people accountable.

My reaction might speak more to my age (much older than you, I'm thinking), but this strikes me as appalling. Is this something that young people do regularly?

I have read your post a few times, and it seems the rift between the two of you started when S said he found you (or situations that occur when you are around) to be too dramatic. I don't know you and I don't him, obviously, but is there any chance there might be a bit of truth in this? And is he not entitled to have his own feelings of comfort or discomfort regarding you?

In the process of trying to figure it out, a mutual friend said this was a pattern of his, and started detailing the ways that he'd taken advantage of and manipulated emotionally vulnerable young girls (including themselves) and how he'd made other people uncomfortable by not respecting their space. S has never made me uncomfortable sexually, but I have noticed him coming on too strong (he has this habit of wanting to charm everyone he sees, sometimes ignoring discomfort; we've addressed it with him before to varying levels of success). I was alarmed at this - I wasn't sure if this was going to be a pattern with me, and also I wanted to keep my community safe (we share a massive social circle and are fairly public within it).

This strikes me as both vague and perhaps inappropriately inflammatory. First, you say "he's taken advantage of . . . vulnerable young girls." Do you mean sexually taken advantage of? And "young girls"? That sounds like -- 12 years old, maybe younger. Is that what you mean? Because that would be terrible, but it is not at all clear that it is what you meant.

Another of the (very few) things you specifically complain about is his "coming on too strong" in the sense that he wants "to charm everyone he sees." You segue from that right into talking about "keep[ing] your community safe." Again, this may be an age issue, but I don't see where the issue of safety comes in at all. Perhaps you and I have very different ideas of what "safety" implies, but I am not seeing where his wanting to be charming, even if it sometimes leads to "discomfort," is something that would make people feel unsafe.

I made a post online . . . saying I'd been made aware of allegations against S and how I've made people unsafe bringing S to places . . .

This is another statement that strikes me as very loaded, and perhaps not appropriate to post online? Maybe it is simply that you have not provided much in the way of specific allegations here, but I can only go by what you have posted.

Again, clearly I don't know either of you, but based on what you have written, and due to your public post, I am surprised he is speaking to you at all.

Did it ever occur to you to pause before making that post? Or, if you were determined to make it, to NOT filter him out, so he would have a chance to speak up for himself, and maybe to learn something?
posted by merejane at 6:59 PM on November 22, 2017 [114 favorites]

"I don't want you to hang out with my friends and me, because my friends are racist and they harass women, plus you have panic attacks when it happens."

That was a good enough reason for your friendship to end. Even if that had been the only thing, you'd probably still be upset -- breaking off a friendship because of someone's values is always hard. It involves realizing you've been friends with an asshole, maybe wishing you'd seen it sooner, and putting up with their excuses and criticism.
And also you lose the friend. Even though he did and said a lot of dickish things, you still felt he was a friend, so breaking it off is a significant loss and may feel like one for quite a while.

Calling someone out and breaking off contact for good reasons isn't undue drama. It's understandable that you were (and are) agitated and upset, and it led you to publicize the issues less coolly than if you'd been calmer. So it wasn't the BEST way to handle it, and the drama that ensued may have made things harder for you. Sure, he believes it's unfair. But I think the lasting effect on his life is no worse than if you'd posted without naming him, or contacted people privately. And he was going to be angry and critical no matter what you did.
posted by wryly at 7:06 PM on November 22, 2017 [10 favorites]

It is ok to choose not to be friends with S, but to me what I hear is: you've had a very close friendship for the past year with someone who up until last week you called a best friend. Something happened and rather than talking to your best friend about it, you consulted other friends for advice. You talked to your best friend, and then sent a message to a group that I am guessing spanned both of your communities explicitly calling your best friend out. To me that doesn't sound like the behavior I would expect from a best friend. Now you've given him an ultimatum and told him to apologize - and mean it - or you won't be friends again. It is super tempting, but we can't force others to do anything. All we can do is to make our own choices about our own actions.

It sounds at this point that you've made your choice about what you want - that you will not be friends with S. Moreover, he's about to move - so maybe there would be some geographic separation anyway. I would try to feel some ease with the decision and not revisit it for a while. Did you make a mistake? Did you do the right thing? Doesn't really matter right now - just try to develop a sense of peace with being where you are right now and moving forward.

If you're able, forgive yourself- and forgive him. Go outside and stay active. See friends who aren't part of this bubbling cauldron (and don't fill them in on the dirt). Drink water. Read a good book. Good luck - I'm feeling for both you and S this week.
posted by arnicae at 7:57 PM on November 22, 2017 [6 favorites]

This is a long post that's still quite vague and it's really hard to say what's going on here. The public post, in my opinion, crossed a line, especially considering it was based on second hand accounts that didn't involve you. Everything else is just.... vague, largely because it's based on second hand accounts and interpretations. What exactly does it mean that he came on too strong? How exactly was he taking advantage of young girls? He did something unforgiveable.... but no one knows what it was? What exactly does that mean? Did he need some space from you specifically because of others' comments toward you, or is it because he considers you high drama?

I think your mistake was involving so many other people here. Their accounts are going to influence your interpretation of what happened here. Unless he assaulted someone, let go of what happened from five years ago. It's over. If you have a problem, talk to him. If you need to confide in someone, pick one or two people who can keep a secret. If you confide in a group of people, call him to tell him what you guys talked about, then post about it online, there's going to be a lot of drama.

Of course, if he's a known abuser, that changes everything. But the specifics here are so vague that it's hard to say if that's actually the case. With how it reads, it seems very possible that he has a very different story here.
posted by Amy93 at 8:06 PM on November 22, 2017 [28 favorites]

when we hang out in groups enough weird shit happens to me (racist comments, sexual harassment, panic attacks) that it felt too dramatic for him to handle.

This is creepy and victim-blaming and enough of a red flag that I think you were right to confront him and draw the boundaries you did. I'm also inclined to believe he has behaved badly toward other people, given that he said this to his best friend, got defensive when you talked to him, and wouldn't apologize. The public post does seem like an odd choice if you were hoping to maintain the friendship. But ultimately, would you want to? He treated you badly and wouldn't apologize for it. You can't make him see he was wrong and you can't make him apologize, but you can draw boundaries and accept the consequences. You're more invested in his potential to grow than he is.
posted by Mavri at 8:27 PM on November 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

I get that he's moving overseas and communicated with you that he wants to hang out in larger groups without you because he finds you "drama." This is a hurtful thing to hear because you've also heard it from an abusive ex.

After that, you went looking for answers and allies. The truth is, though, that none of us are perfect and it is easy to find someone to talk shit about anyone else, especially within a larger group of people. Not everyone gets along or understands everyone else. Someone we think likes us also has complaints about us. It's a discomforting thought, but it's true.

You inadvertently go into great detail about how you've gossiped about S with others in your group, and then invited an online pile-on. It looks to a dispassionate reader like you tried to incite your social group against S right after he was not open to your rebuttal over the phone. Essentially, it sounds like: "You called me drama, now I found people who think you're abusive! You're worse!!"

You've proved his original point about drama with your post here.

Maybe do some soul searching about your own ethics towards others people and their boundaries? I'm sure it hurt to hear his negative opinion about you, hurting him back by inciting your social circle against him isn't making him incorrect in his assessment about you.
posted by jbenben at 8:50 PM on November 22, 2017 [45 favorites]

I've rewritten this a few tries and trying to filter myself to not be too harsh, but if anyone owes an apology -- it's you. Posting something very serious online publicly about someone, without letting them defend or speak to it? Expecting them to apologize to you on top of that after? Claiming that they are sexually abusing young women (and that's a quote from your post), while there doesn't seem to be a specific incident to speak to (and maybe there's history I'm missing here, but in the beginning of your post you only mention "boundary pushing" and "coming on strong" which in itself is very vague)?

This friendship is over. You're both probably better off for it. What I would do, moving forward to minimize drama and emotional turmoil, is to not speak to him. Do not talk about him to your friends. Get a therapist to process your feelings around this, as clearly a lot happened. And the next time you post something online about someone, take a serious pause and consider all the consequences. Sometimes it's worth it, in the cases of sexual abuse claims. But there's always a price, and in this case it was your friendship.
posted by treetop89 at 8:52 PM on November 22, 2017 [46 favorites]

Others have said what I was going to, so I'll just mention one practical mistake: bringing up an apology. That's ultimatum-talk. At that point you made further negotiations very hard, uphill slog though they were.
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 8:58 PM on November 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

He wasn't sticking up for you when racism happened- he was calling you overdramatic. That's bullshit and you should have dropped him right there. I think your FB post calling him out was probably your unconscious getting revenge. Also, siding with his victims was your conscience making the right choice. This friendship was toxic bullshit. I know it hurts now, but that's just gaslight residue. You won't miss that dude in 6 months' time.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:12 PM on November 22, 2017 [5 favorites]

I think merejane’s comment is right on target, and put much more elegantly than many of us would have.

There’s far too much drama in this. Drop the friendship and the matter.
posted by Kwadeng at 9:36 PM on November 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

This is a bit of a roundabout answer, but I read Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair by Sarah Schulman earlier this year and found it really helpful when processing similar conflicts in my queer communities. Maybe give it a read?
posted by kylej at 11:14 PM on November 22, 2017 [14 favorites]

You called him out publicly on secondhand information, he said she said bullshit instead of having a private conversation. I bet he's pissed. I don't think this is a person you want to be friends with but I also think you could have handled this much better. Either way, it's done now. Not much you can do but walk away.
posted by Jubey at 12:55 AM on November 23, 2017 [9 favorites]

Yeah, it’s all been said, but I’d like to add my voice to those saying you need to examine the proportionality of your own conduct here, even though your ex-friend wasn’t blameless.

You make it sound like you’ve been inadvertently harbouring a criminal of the worst kind. Of course he doesn’t like being publicly shamed in those terms. You’ve said nothing to indicate that he deserves this level of condemnation, either.

You’re going to find yourself on the sharp end of your group’s purity standards before you know it, because they’re unattainable standards enforced by accusation rather than conflict resolution. If you want to improve group norms, start by taking the plank out of your own eye.
posted by tel3path at 12:58 AM on November 23, 2017 [29 favorites]

I stressed that I wasn't here to start drama but I wanted to make myself available to those coming forward.

Rule of thumb: if you have to say "I'm not here to start drama", you're doing something that will start drama. Nobody strolls in and does something totally innocuous like ask what's for dinner but preface it with "I'm not here to start drama" (and if they do, you immediately start suspecting that there was a poisoning incident in the past or something).

Your friend sounds like he was maybe a bit of a jerk -- though like others I'm having a hard time figuring out through all the vagueness exactly what he said or did. But his primary criticism of you (repeated in several different contexts) was that too you were "too much drama" and based on your own account of your actions, it kind of sounds like he's right.

I'm not saying you should go try to be friends with him again. I don't think either of you sound very good for each other. But maybe take this opportunity to think long and hard about the role your own actions played here, and why you found it so important to take so many (from my perspective) inadvisable steps?
posted by forza at 2:21 AM on November 23, 2017 [27 favorites]

The day after the phone call, S messages me saying that he was frustrated that I went over his boundaries and that instead of giving him space I was "punishing him" by escalating things.

He is right.

Maybe he really doesn't like the drama howsoever it is presented or why. People are allowed to end friendships for the reasons they find to end them. Let that sink in. People are allowed to leave. It's not dangerous, [unless you're escaping abuse] it's just grooving along with all the other people on the planet until we don't.

So, he stated his desire to take the level of intimacy with you down a notch, and you responded with an aggressive social campaign against him. Numerous people in person, numerous people online. You got your validation by apparently making a faux apology to the group about your place as the person who brought S into the group. I think it was not about 'safety' but to garrison yourself so that you could critique and pore over his past for clues. The clues are that he's had friendships that didn't last a whole lot of time, but who knows why. I don't mean to be harsh, but you in my opinion, need a reality check. Don't post slander about people online.

It seems to me that S did the right thing in telling you what he wanted, and you couldn't respect that.
posted by honey-barbara at 4:28 AM on November 23, 2017 [32 favorites]

I want to know what the hell he was thinking but I don't think I'll ever find out - he's probably cast me from "beloved friend" to "nasty gossip". I get that he probably feels betrayed by me but I don't know why he didn't bring it up sooner.

First - talking about friends behind their backs (which is what you did when you excluded him from the conversation) *is* being a gossip. Think about the definition of that term and how it is used. Whether your motives are noble or not, it's not unfair to be characterized as such. You gossiped.

Second - if a friend put me on public blast and specifically excluded me from the conversation, even if it was for legitimate reasons, I would not "bring it up soon" to them. You made it clear that you wanted to have that conversation without him by excluding him, and so I don't know why you think he owes you a quick response to it. He had to find out about it second hand.

Honestly, this guy may indeed be a creep and some people might see the overall net benefit of what you did as a positive, but you went about doing the right thing in a very callous way for someone you consider a close friend.
posted by notorious medium at 6:34 AM on November 23, 2017 [14 favorites]

My addition would be - if I were part of your community I'd steer clear of both of you, but particularly you. I'd have seen you seemingly friends with S and wonder what would happen if we were friends. Would you call me out on Facebook if you were unhappy with me? Seems too dangerous.

Divabat, you're an incredibly valuable member of THIS community. I know some of these answers will feel pretty on the nose but please know we like you here. I'm sorry you've had such a tough month.
posted by stewiethegreat at 7:31 AM on November 23, 2017 [27 favorites]

He sounds awful and I think you are better off without this "friendship."

But at the same time, you created enormous drama and behaved in ways that many people would find inappropriate and/or rude. The whole thing sounds exhausting and frankly terrible to be around. Healthy, adult friendships do not have this level of drama, and there are healthier and happier ways to communicate.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:01 AM on November 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think different communities have different ethics about this kind of thing, and so I don’t think I can say whether your post to your other friends was appropriate or not. I also don’t have specific advice about how to get over this. But your whole description confused me, and I want to point out why in case it can contribute to your thinking about this.

1) his first statement seems really egregious, enough so that I’m surprised that there is still room for you two to be friends right now. He was either saying that you do experience aggressions when you two are in a group, but feels like you should let them go; or he was saying that you are manufacturing aggressions where there are none. Either is a serious charge that does not reflect well on him and how he values you.

2) you then discovered that he’s made people uncomfortable, not quite clear how, enough so that you felt you had to write your statement. I’m confused then about how you see your friendship subsequent to that. It seems like a big enough deal to you that I’m surprised you would still be able to value his friendship absent some serious changes on his part.

Basically, he doesn’t seem like someone who fits well in the role he has had in your life.

Good luck!
posted by OmieWise at 8:13 AM on November 23, 2017 [10 favorites]

I hope the following won't be taken in the spirit of minimizing the harm that your friend caused you, because the things he did sound really crummy and hurtful.

I've often seen a similar thing to your post done within accountability processes for abuse, but with one pretty crucial difference.

Often, people I've known who have been abusive have given consent for a friend or someone in their community to publicly post, "[This person] has been abusive and I'm working with them on an accountability process. If you have also been harmed by this person and would like to take part in this accountability process, you can contact me [the friend], or one of the following people about it."

The crucial difference is that this is a step that the person who has been abusive consents to, in order to become more aware of what they did and to, ideally, help move forward.

I can't comment on the effectiveness of this tactic, since I haven't been directly involved in this process as the abuser/friend coordinating accountability process/person who has experienced abuse, but I wanted to provide context that that is more often the way that I've seen this type of thing done.

It's possible that looking at more resources on accountability processes might help you clarify what your goals are here and how to move forward. This page has a ton of different resources on this and related topics.
posted by ITheCosmos at 8:15 AM on November 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

I feel for you, because these are difficult times we are all living in, where we are as a society starting to more fully express (generally on the part of women) and more fully understand (generally on the part of men) the damage that creepy behaviour does to our communities and selves. This friendship is part of the collateral damage here, regardless of where the fault lies or what it was worth, because this new understanding recast everyone's relationships.

So how do you move on? I think you need to be clear on your narrative. You are living in a time where speaking out about the impact of predatory-style behaviour is something that women are increasingly expected to do. You are living in a call-out culture online.

And you decided at some point that you were going to speak up for your own experience with this person as well as solicit stories and input from the collective. In other words, you put your feminism (or whatever you want to label it) above your friendship. That is a defensible position, ethically.

But both that decision and the tactics you chose to achieve it ended the friendship. That's all. You took a principled stand, in a perhaps less than optimal way, and as a result, the friendship has ended. It sounds like that was a surprise to you.

Whether you could expect the friendship to continue...I too am An Old but I would have ended it. For me, friends who want to remain friends do call each other private. They acknowledge that change takes time, many conversations, and that we are all flawed human beings. However, I also do not stay friends with people where I feel that adhering to that view of friendship is doing damage to others. So, I think one thing you can move forward with is understanding that when you put your principles above a relationship, it can end the relationship. That's what putting them first means.

TLDR; You put your desire for change above the friendship and as a consequence it ended. Moving forward, try to be more aware of the choices you are making before you make them.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:27 AM on November 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

Nobody likes being talked about. Imagine if S took his issues with you online to discuss them with your friend group instead of talking to you, soliciting stories about your behavior. You would be mortified. Anyone would. If I were S, I would never speak to you again.

There really isn’t enough information here on what S did wrong. His unwillingness to deal with racism you encounter in public would put him on a “not a good friend” list, and you would be within your rights to back off or end the friendship over that, but your response was so over the line that what he did wrong pales in comparison. That is unless there is something really egregious you haven’t specified.

You seem very dependent on what other people think about your relationship, and I think your desire for their takes on this is what steered you wrong here. This would be something to talk to your therapist about because it cost you a friendship that you valued. And yeah, the friendship is over.
posted by FencingGal at 8:41 AM on November 23, 2017 [8 favorites]

a great rule of thumb is to not say something about a person behind their back that you wouldn't say to their face.

You excluded him from your post because you knew perfectly well these allegations weren't something you'd repeat to his face. Maybe because they don't even sound like they were founded in any factual information?

It sounds to me like you were angry at him for calling you overdramatic, and so in a fit of pique masked as righteousness you went and publicly called him a predator (wow) and then to cap it off you want him to agree with you that you were righteous to do so?

In future, anyone whose friendship you value, talk your problems with them out to their face, not behind their back with a megaphone. And don't expect people you attack to thank you for it.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:55 AM on November 23, 2017 [14 favorites]

I think this is really hard (duh), given everything that’s happening currently with sexual assault and #metoo.

I feel like the commenters are missing the dynamic of he’s a white guy and you’re a brown woman – you can’t ignore this shit. And that you’re in a community where people have heard similar things about S, so you’re not alone in this and are able to support each other re: S. FYI, I’m a woman, Chinese, born and raised in Canada, spent some time in activist-y circles.

Let’s start with his comment: he didn’t want to hang out with you because you’re a WOC, and you attract racism, sexual harassment and [have?] panic attacks. So therefore, he’s ok with his friends being racist and sexual harassers and he doesn’t feel like doing anything about that because you cramp his privilege. Great.

You wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. Then you talked to a mutual friend for support and found out some unsavoury things about him. I also wonder what “manipulated emotionally vulnerable young girls” means. I assume you’re in some kind of activist-y circle, or at least people who purport to be “woke” about privilege etc., so his habit of coming on too strong, ignoring discomfort which you and your friends have tried to address, is grosser than in normal circumstances (if I can say that?). So of course you were worried that it’d happen to you. You’re getting a fuller picture of S and it ain’t pretty. This is where things start to get muddy.

So you talked to him what you’d heard about him. Sounds like you might have put him on the defensive, and that’s why it was fighty and he was a jerk. Or could be that he just couldn’t own up to his actions, I dunno. Either way, you felt like you left the convo in a relatively good place.

Then you made the post, which a lot of the commenters take issue with. I understand why you did this. You wanted to tell/warn your community about S’s problematic behaviour and to apologize for any (unknown) complicity in his behaviour. You were trying to make yourself accountable, I feel. I disliked merejane’s comment and to answer their question “Is this something that young people do regularly?” Apparently yes, because you said “This is something I see a lot of people do in my communities.”

This is where it gets really hard because on the one hand, we want to be able to deal with people with problematic (and worse) behaviours – how do we do that? Unfortunately I believe that making that post did create drama, because you are talking about someone behind their back, and yet it was done for the purpose of trying to create safety. Creating safety always comes at a cost, to ourselves as WOC, is tons of emotional labour, and if that person is in a more privileged position than you in society…

And you know what, maybe he deserves to lose friends, IF he is a creep and can’t hear feedback about his problematic behaviour.

At the end of the day, you got a lot of support for what you did. He’s leaving soon, you lost a friend, and you felt betrayed by him. That is painful, and you should grieve. Maybe you could have handled things better, but maybe he shouldn’t have done all those problematic things? And also, creating community accountability is hard. Really hard. I don’t know where your community is with that. Here’s a resource that might interest you if you don’t know it already and another.

To your questions:
What should I think about all this?
Unfortunately that S is a creep, maybe you didn’t handle things in the best way but there’s really no handbook on this sort of thing and you should forgive yourself. That there are dynamics at play here that are hard to unravel (he’s white, you’re WOC), that social media is a great tool that can also harm, and that community accountability is really hard. Let go of the expectation of an apology and hoping you’ll know what he’s thinking. Try to learn from all this.

Did I do something horrifically wrong?
We all make mistakes. I think where you went wrong is that this all started with a fucked up comment to you. It was personal between you and him, and then you took the bad things you heard about him to the community. So you did escalate it. How did you think S would respond to this? At the same time, this wasn’t news to your community, as people confirmed what you’d heard about him. And I understand that you were trying to make yourself accountable for bringing a potentially unsafe person into certain spaces. Was it the right or wrong thing to do? I don’t know. You’re in your community, none of us are.

Is it wrong to want your friend back even after hearing very horrible stuff about him because you think he can grow?
No, this is very human and we always want to believe the best in the people that we love. Sometimes we have to let them go if they’re toxic though.

At the end of the day, this is a sad, emotionally draining situation and I feel like what we’re seeing is we don’t know what to do with allegations against a loved one. You came to askmefi to get perspectives and got additional pile on, which is ANOTHER thing to deal with. I hope you’re not taking all the comments too hard. Hugs if you want them.
posted by foxjacket at 9:06 AM on November 23, 2017 [20 favorites]

These kinds of callouts happen in radical lefty/queer/political circles and are kind of an understood part of being in a community like that.

I do think your callout of him broke some norms of how those are done. (Getting his consent first, and maybe not excluding him from the post, etc)

But I also don't think it's quite as weird/overdramatic a thing to do as it's being labelled here. Non-radical types (which probably comprise over 90% of the people of MetaFilter) DO NOT do stuff like this, so they are appalled.

But again, radical types toootally do stuff like this, and will probably interpret your actions differently and give you different advice. So I think you should ask a very small number of trusted people in your own community (or strangers in a similar community, maybe on Queer Tumblr?) for better insight about what actually happened.

Also want to re-iterate that this guy was an unsupportive, gaslighting friend to you before (being ungenerous about the racism & sexism you experience, and your having panic attacks), and I really think that you were blinded to it by love for his charm.

I really think that when others pointed out he was unsafe, you on some level realized he had also been making YOU unsafe all along, but you hadn't noticed... and that's why you made that post- it wasn't just about how he had treated others- on some level you were also reacting with shock and horror about how he had treated YOU.

I'm not sure the friendship is salvageable, and I also think that if you don't save the friendship, your mental health will thank you in the long run when this all dies down.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:32 AM on November 23, 2017 [9 favorites]

 I still feel deep love for him even after the hurt and betrayal and hold out hope that he'll come around with "oh boy I fucked up this one" or something

I'll just address this part. If you are hoping that he will move past his own defensiveness and will come around to seeing your point of view; yes, it is possible that people come to this point after some reflection and some growth, people do come around, however ime this is a long process for most people, like years, and only after processing it with other people. Maybe then the person reaches out to you and apologizes, and maybe you accept the apology, and maybe the two of you process it together a little more, but by this time you have also grown and changed, and a little sliver of mistrust still exists in the back of your mind, and the relationship is never quite what it once was.

You are grieving the loss of your friendship right now, which is quite normal. I'm sorry that you're going through it.
posted by vignettist at 9:48 AM on November 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

We don't have enough info to tell whether you were right or wrong to call him out publically (from your post the "threat level" to others could be anywhere from literally nothing to high risk of sexual assault, and more likely is somewhere in between... like most men, honestly). "Manipulating" and "taking advantage" and "unforgiveable" could describe horrific, predatory behaviour or completely normal, innocent behaviour that was perceived differently by the recipient. Without knowing what he actually did, we (and you) can't tell the difference.

What is very clear though is that what you did burned a bridge, and I'm not sure why you want to repair it so badly if you genuinely believe that he's a serious danger to people in your social circle. Why would you want to be friends with such a horrible, dangerous person? Life's too short. It's like keeping a vicious dog around because it's nice sometimes.

On the other hand, if you don't think he's a serious danger (relative to any other man) or even if you're not sure what he actually did in the first place, then why on earth would you post something that serious publicly? Particularly when it's very unclear that the vague, scary words you used accurately represent his actions?
posted by randomnity at 10:05 AM on November 23, 2017 [9 favorites]

It sounds like you were triggered by your friend, feeling like you were losing the relationship because he was drawing boundaries around you, and lacking closure from him because he didn't respond to the way you were hoping for when you called him out for the shitty things he said to you. These are perfectly appropriate feelings to have, but from the chronology of what happened, it sounds like the way that you responded to having these feelings was to try to assert control over your friend and gain closure using the norms, values and language of your community - which sound like the values of a lot of social justice orientated communities, because I've seen this play out over and over again.

I mean, you say that your motivation for calling him out publicly was to apologize to anyone you made unsafe by bringing him to places, and to hold people accountable, but I think you need to honestly ask yourself if that really was your main motivation here. Come on - your apology here is hollow and performative, because you know that no one will reasonably hold you accountable for his behavior and for not knowing everything about his background. And if you really thought your friend's actions were that drastic and wanted to give people he harmed a voice, you wouldn't be doing it in a public forum like this where no one knows if anyone who supported him was reading and holding it against them in the future.

I think it's telling that you asked for an apology in the aftermath of doing this. He did something you considered cruel and triggering on a personal level, and you started a conversation about it, and you didn't really get a validating apology there. So instead, you gathered all of this information on him to prove his behavior is problematic - but then you approach him again and ask him to apologize for what he did to you personally again? It really sounds to me that you were trying to get him to follow a script - everyone in an anti-oppressive community knows that the appropriate thing to do after they've been called out is to apologize. You weren't able to get the apology that you felt like you deserved out of him on a personal level, so you escalated the severity of the call-out, threw the community behind it, and then demanded again.

I mean, I could be off-base here, but I behaved like this, I would be feeling really damn guilty and emotionally torn up about it too - even if the rest of my community thought I was in the right and reassuring me about my behavior because they rightfully if clumsily wanted to normalize boundary-crossing men getting consequences.
posted by Conspire at 10:18 AM on November 23, 2017 [31 favorites]

If there has been a pattern of him repeatedly inviting you to hang out with groups that end up being abusive toward you or blowing you off to hang out with those people, I think you were totally right to call him out on it.

If not, given that the guy is leaving the country soon and has otherwise proven to be a decent fellow in the time you've known him, I'd think it just as likely that he wanted to say goodbye to some people from his past that he knew would be shitty if you were to be around. If that's the case, in his mind he was probably protecting you from the bullshit while still saying his goodbyes to these other people.

After that, I can't speak to any of it since it all seems..radical to me. That's just not how things are done among people I know. I'm not making a value judgement here, just professing complete ignorance to how things are done in your social group.
posted by wierdo at 6:52 AM on November 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Granted, your social circle sounds far more radical than my own, but if I shared a massive social circle with a friend and I put that on blast on social media by making a post about all the grievous harm I thought friend had committed to our shared social circle, but I also blocked that friend from being able to see the post... oh boy, what a massive drama bomb. Making a social media post about this stuff is understandable, I guess, but specially filtering it so that the person you're talking about can't see it is pretty over the top. I can absolutely understand why your friend thinks you're stirring up drama and being a gossip, because what you're doing is indistinguishable from actions that people undertake when they're trying to stir up drama and gossip about others. I honestly don't understand how you expected to maintain the friendship after pulling a "burn the earth and salt the ashes" move like that.
posted by palomar at 10:37 AM on November 24, 2017 [5 favorites]

(1) The guy's initial comment was cruel and reflective of a very weak character, and if you had wanted to drop the friendship based on that alone, it would have been understandable. So please don't take this comment as an endorsement of him or his character or his actions.

(2) What you then went ahead and did was nonetheless thoughtless and immature (I was genuinely startled to look at your profile and see how old you are--I was sure you were going to be some kid fresh out of college). I am not saying this from a "radical vs. non-radical" perspective. I am saying that, if this kind of callout behavior is going to be part of your practice, there are multiple considerations you must take into account before doing anything so dramatic and with such potential for causing harm. Because any technique can be mishandled or perverted to unkind or unjust ends, you must must must commit yourself to observing the appropriate safeguards.

First, you should have a good, solid grasp on your own feelings and your own potential not-entirely-disinterested motives. You should always, always be able to look at your emotions and ask yourself seriously and carefully if you are thinking about doing something less because of "concern for the community" or whatever than because of your own anger, hurt, or other negative emotions. Now, it is very easy to fib to yourself about this, and no one is ever going to achieve complete disinterestedness. But it doesn't sound as if you reflected on this possibility at all. If you had, maybe it would have occurred to you how high a chance there was that your desire to call out someone a mere day or two after he'd really hurt your feelings might not be entirely "pure," and thus at least chosen to wait for a few days til your emotions had settled before reviewing whether calling him out was the best course of action to take.

Second, you should be aware that taking such an action will cause harm. You sound genuinely baffled by his negative reaction to your post. "But it was a righteous callout! How could he possibly respond in any other way than with a sincere apology?!?" When in fact your callout consisted of saying genuinely awful things about him to his social circle. Even if it was completely justified, it was a hurtful thing to do. You do something like this because you think it's necessary to prevent or redress more harm, but you don't forget that it is harm, and so should be done thoughtfully and cautiously. You cannot be oblivious to this basic fact, as you were here and still seem to be.

Finally, because it is harmful, you should have a damn good idea of what it is you think the person has done to merit the callout. Maybe you've posted here vaguely on purpose, but otherwise it's very hard to understand what you even think he did. "Emotionally vulnerable young girls?" Are you all hanging out with teenagers? If not, what a bizarre thing to say. "Unforgivable" acts that yet no one can specify? What? You have to know what you're talking about. You just do. This is basic responsibility for your own actions.

Bottom line: I don't know if you did something "horrifically wrong," but you certainly, and quite predictably, trashed the friendship. It's entirely possible that the guy's prior behavior might have made that a necessary move. (Just based on how it all started, I certainly wouldn't rule that out.) But you'll never know, because, at least based on what you've said here, you simply didn't bother with that calculus. You took a tool for social justice and used it as a blunt instrument against a friend with whom you were having a personal dispute. By doing so, you have contributed your own little bit towards making that tool unusable, as it is rapidly already becoming. Please, if your social circle's idea of being "radical" or "enlightened" leans towards alternative social practices that license aggression without corresponding limits or safeguards, find more thoughtful radicals to associate with. Radicals can get high on their own supply just like anybody else.
posted by praemunire at 10:43 PM on November 24, 2017 [40 favorites]

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