rax: (vulpix is not pleased)
[personal profile] rax
Content warning: Abuse, rape, sexual assault, discussions of self-harm, PTSD, rax being angry. Maybe other things. This isn't really nice rax and this isn't about nice things. I know a couple of folks just friended me and like. This probably isn't where to start your raxperience? :P

So. There's a person I dated a couple of years back, who I'm not going to name because the point of this post isn't to leave a black mark on their name forever or any shit like that, who I'm going to refer to as X and with the pronoun they. If you know who X is, great, one of the points of this post is to give people with social context awareness of what the fuck went down. If not, that's fine, you almost certainly don't need to know; if you think you do need to know, PM me or email me and I'll tell you. Comments including X's name will be removed. X's actions and our relationship are not the only point of this post; I also have a lot of thoughts and feelings about social groups handling this sort of situation in general. I can't promise they'll all be correct or useful. I can promise that I've been thinking about and distilling these thoughts for a long time, and I find myself with the anger-clarity to compose them now, so I am doing so.

X raped me. I often will describe things as "sexual assault" when I'm unclear if they're rape, which is problematic for multiple reasons but is also sometimes a tool that survivors use to be able to discuss things at all. This one, I am comfortable naming as rape. We had an explicit boundary; X asked if they could violate the boundary, and I said no. With my words. Multiple times. They kept asking, pressuring me to let them do the thing; I kept saying no. They did the thing anyway. It was not a miscommunication (not that that would have made it awesome or acceptable, but it might have made it a different flavor of bad) --- it was an explicit attempt to pressure me into denying my boundaries so they could get what they wanted from me. I made couples therapy a requirement for any continued relationship, rather than just breaking up with them, because I loved them, because I wanted to believe that it was a mistake, that we could make things work. They were terribly dear to me and we'd been close for years... surely this was something we could get through? I didn't tell most of my friends that they'd raped me immediately because I knew they'd try to stop me from staying with X if I did. X's behavior continued to be sexually coercive, including deliberately transgressing boundaries to test my reactions; they threatened me with self-harm; I did not handle it as gracefully as I might if I were a being of infinite patience and kindness, but I got them out of my house and out of my immediate life. What I could not do was get them out of my social groups, in which during the year we were together they were also sexually coercive to two of my other friends.

They were a member of both my in-person social groups and my not-in-person social groups.

In person, most of our friends ended up saying "Wow, what X did to you was really fucked up, I'm not going to completely cold cut them but I don't really want to talk to them again or have them around," and the others faded pretty fast. I assume they're still friends with X, and that's fine. There was a social group that was my safe haven that X participated in, and to their credit, they have almost entirely stayed the fuck away; they had a social group I was making inroads into, and I let it go, and am occasionally sad about that but, oh well, there are many people in the world who I can be friends with. There are a couple of my in-person friends who I know still talk to them, and there's a certain distance I keep with them, but I also accept this; we're in a small town, there are only so many queers with particular interests around, shit happens. I told those people "look if you think X is going to start a relationship with someone, if you feel comfortable doing so, please offer them the opportunity to sit down with me for 15 minutes at a cafe," and they thought that was reasonable. No one's ever taken me up on this, but that's not really my problem. There was a reasonable thing I could do, and I did it, and afterward there was really not much for me to carry or do.

Not in person, though, in the affinity group that we shared, things were and are much dicier. They continue to go to cons; I haven't gone to a con since our breakup in part because I'm terrified of seeing them. I can't realistically expect them to not go to cons, or not participate in large-scale community activities; but when my friends are being friendly with them, it hurts, and when I see my friends _flirting_ with them, it hurts and it's terrifying. (X has also been sexually coercive toward two other people; they seem to target trans mentally ill folks who have difficulty around their needs and desires. This... describes a lot of people I know, and that's why it's terrifying.) I'm scared of X. I am scared that they will hurt people I care about, or hurt me again. I was scared that they would retaliate against me for telling people what happened, and people who only see me once or twice a year weren't there to see how I looked when I was living with them versus how I wasn't, and so I didn't say much, and people didn't realize that this had happened. (I'm still scared that they'll retaliate for this post, frankly, and... well, I hope I'm wrong. But it's important to me to talk about this, so, I am doing so.)  Problem is... when I did start telling people about it, I felt really failed by the community reaction, especially in light of other things going on at the time.

Here's where I start talking more generally about these things.

I've seen tumblr posts saying things like "if you refuse to choose between your friend and their rapist, you are picking the rapist," and I don't think it's quite that simple. At the same time, when people try to take an in-between tack with this sort of thing, I absolutely do feel less safe, and when people act like it's not a big deal I never know whether or not they're trying to keep themselves safe because it's twitchy to discuss, or they don't want to upset me, or they think I'm full of shit, or what. And like, I've talked before in this space about not wanting people's response to my being like "this happened" to totally shift the conversation or suddenly become All About Me because it's kind of twitchy and not usually productive. I've also talked on tumblr about how if 2% of rape allegations are false, treating all of them as true is a good first-pass strategy, but as an only-pass strategy has flaws? And I get why people want to be sure about things and play their cards a little close, especially because in some of these cases X may have told people "yeah rax and I had a really bad breakup, I did some shit wrong but they took it _way_ harder than reasonable because they're crazy" or some shit, who fucking knows. I've watched this happen to other people; I can't even blame them for how they handled it, although I think they were wrong. I think.

But I get a general sense in a couple of my communities that this shit isn't safe to talk about. That it's not okay to ask people to be careful around X, to not want to hear from X or hear about X, that in general how we deal with abusers and rapists is an individual choice and not a collective one. I can't make it a collective one, but I see individualizing this sort of thing as a collective failure. I am not really comfortable with everyone making their own personal decision about how safe someone is, how much of a rapist they are, and acting based on that and having a live and let live attitude toward other people's reactions. On the flip side, I don't want an ironclad banlist or to insist that people with wildly divergent lived experiences be forced to come to agreement and some kind of middle ground. I think that ultimately what I want is to feel supported by my community, to feel believed, and to feel like people will support me in not wanting to be around my abuser, or around other people's abusers who have abused people like me. (Absent significant evidence that I'm lying.) And right now, in the furry community, I do not feel that way, at all.

I've been told that some of why I don't feel that way, and some of why I don't feel that reaction, is because I wasn't up front and loud about what happened to me. I'm not 100% convinced, because I've seen it go poorly for other people to be up front and loud, but here's my stab at doing just that. In response, here's what I want, here's what I think is reasonable to ask for:
  • Please warn me if X is going to be at cons I'm going to.
  • Please warn other people who are interacting with X in a flirtatious way that they're sexually dangerous; if someone wants to get some level of receipts from me, I'm open to that kind of contact. ((Edited to add based on comments discussion: I see this as primarily important in shared community as an avoiding-a-missing-stair thing. And I know that this has both internal and social costs and isn't always a reasonable thing to ask, but where it is, I think it's important.))
  • Please warn me if I'm interacting with other people who are known rapists or abusers, especially but not only in sexualized contexts.
  • Please consider not being friends with X, since if you are friends with someone who raped me, there's kind of a ceiling on how much I can trust you as a friend.
  • Please, if you decide to engage with X anyway, do your best to keep details from me, unless it's important that I know about them. (It's important that I know about it if your engagement with X is likely to lead to me running into X or X trying to talk to me. Example: "Oh, you probably don't want to come to this party, since X is invited.")
  • Please don't make any comments about how I'm taking this hard because of my past experiences of sexual abuse (dating way back) or my mental illness. Please especially don't use those things to brush off my experience, which has happened in the past in my furry circles to me and to other people. Those are reasons that I was targeted for abuse, not reasons that my experience isn't valid.
  • If you are a close friend and/or a partner: Please just don't fucking talk to X, and please support me in trying to feel safe from abusers in our circles in general. If you want to try to stop other people from being friends with X, that's awesome, but it's not a requirement. I understand this stuff has both internal and social costs.
  • Please accept that, if you aren't able to do these things, I will probably drift away from you.
I'm still trying to figure out what's going on here, what precisely I want and what is reasonable to ask for. I think this is a good start, but I'd also like to have more community-focused suggestions. Help me out here: Are there reasons you think some of this is too much to ask for? Are there other things that you've asked for or that you would recommend that I ask for?

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-21 03:06 am (UTC)
pomona: A stylized sun rising over a mountain range (Quiet)
From: [personal profile] pomona
I don't have anything to add but ferocious hugs, but

/ferocious hugs

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-21 02:40 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
I bear witness. I think you are being entirely reasonable.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-21 03:24 pm (UTC)
fandomonymous: Gray @ on black background (Default)
From: [personal profile] fandomonymous
This all sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-21 04:12 pm (UTC)
damerell: NetHack. (normal)
From: [personal profile] damerell
Thanks for the context, sort of thing.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-21 06:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] daharyn.livejournal.com
In addition to cons specifically, you may want a heads up if X appears at any event, especially a regular (even annual) event, that you are likely to attend and/or others know you are planning to attend. Parties, etc. Reading this, it seems to me to be important to not let X take cons or other gatherings of value away from you (but I understand the fear of a casual run-in, especially since so many cons are poorly-managed, socially and sexually).

I do in fact think it is fair to ask your friends, especially close ones, not to be friends or have contact with X. I understand the complexity of this sort of situation but I do not think it is appropriate to try and still be friendly to someone who has raped someone you care about. Shunning is effective even in small doses, your people should have your back, and rapists are assholes. (In all seriousness, it is my belief that people who want to hedge their bets and retain relationships with both you and X are setting up social conditions under which assault might happen to other people. This worries me even though I don't know you terribly well and have zero idea who X is.)

I would encourage you to consider whether or not this country's fucked-up justice system could be strategically applied in any way here, with the caveat that said system is pretty well fucked and may not give you the consideration you deserve.

I send gentle hugs if they are welcome, and supportive thoughts in general. I may not know you all that well but you seem pretty rad to me.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-21 03:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rax.livejournal.com
I appreciate this, thank you. I considered a restraining order, but X would probably challenge it, which would lead to having to face X in court, which would lead to having to interact with X and tell the whole all-the-nasty-details story in semipublic and just. ugh. They've been pretty good about leaving me alone and I think doing nothing is the best way to keep it that way?

(I did briefly consider pressing charges at one point, but I don't trust the justice system to be fair to either of us because of our various marginalized identities --- and I do trust it to be shittier to X than X deserves.)

In all seriousness, it is my belief that people who want to hedge their bets and retain relationships with both you and X are setting up social conditions under which assault might happen to other people.

Yes. This is kind of why I hate this situation (other than the, you know, trauma bit), and the reason I'm making this post now is that I'm pretty sure this is happening. :( :( :(

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-21 08:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ff00ff.livejournal.com
I neither know who X is nor if I interact with you or they regularly in not in-person ways. I do know I don't interact with either of you in in-person ways. If you know more than me and know where you interact with me or X interacts with me online, and something I could do in that venue would better make you comfortable in that venue I am open to it.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-21 03:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rax.livejournal.com
I am like 99% sure you don't know them. If you're super concerned, message me privately and I'll make sure.

(You almost certainly don't interact with me online without knowing you do, unless you're in Homestuck fandom? I'm not in any of the usual furry places.)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-21 05:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] csbermack.livejournal.com
Your list of boundaries is generally good and I am glad to see them explicitly written down. It helps your friends to have them.

I have a comment about your boundaries list, because there is a thing that is squicky to me. It's asking friends to warn others that X is dangerous.

It is okay that you have that boundary; it crosses my boundaries in an uncomfortable way.

You're asking me to try to control someone else's behavior on your behalf, asking for me to intervene in something three tiers out from you. (Tier one: stuff directly to do with you. Tier two: stuff between me and someone else. Tier three: stuff between someone else and someone else). I might decide to do it anyway, either out of respect for your boundaries or because of my own discomfort, but I still don't like being asked for it.

But again, it is okay for you to feel that way, and for you to want people to do that. Your safety comes first

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-21 05:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rax.livejournal.com
I think that's understandable, and I probably should have said both in the partners section and there that I understand that those things have internal and external costs, and not everyone will be able to do them all the time.

I get what you're saying about third-level boundaries, but I also think that the intersection with community boundaries is important --- it's not that I wasnt someone to be meddling in other individual decisions, I want to extend my safety to the safety of my community, especially in small communities full of vulnerable people who like to hang out in sexually charged atmospheres. The thing I'm trying to avoid is the missing stair, I guess? If X wanders off into model train enthusiasts and starts chilling with folks there, sure I'll talk to them if they need to know something, but otherwise that's not my problem and not really my friends' problem either (unless they're model train enthusiasts, I guess). But inside my community --- which I probably should have specified --- I do think this kind of thing is important?

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-21 05:54 pm (UTC)
pyrrhocorax: It's an edition of the Daily Bugle newspaper, with the headline EVERYTHING AWFUL Oh God Somebody Do Something (everything awful)
From: [personal profile] pyrrhocorax
I'm sure I have nothing to do with this person but I'm very sorry for what they did to you. not "just" the initial assault but how they've warped and fragmented your social life and your friendship groups. I hope they never have a chance to rape anyone again.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-27 04:24 am (UTC)
tixagon: Mawr looking distressed. (Tears)
From: [personal profile] tixagon
In the interest of full disclosure and transparency, let me preface this with the note that I have recently become friends with X, and that said friendship is growing stronger over time.

I support your decision to isolate yourself from X, though I do not support the desire to insist that those not close to you isolate themselves from X. If the desire is to prevent the spreading of what has been called rape culture, shunning those who have crossed that boundary will leave only those who enable that behavior for them to turn to. This is, as far as I'm concerned, akin to the issue of criminals finding tips and connections to further their illegal activities when thrown in prison with other criminals.

I recognize that this was unacceptable behavior from X, but I do not believe unacceptable behavior is beyond forgiveness, nor is it behavior that cannot be unlearned if X is held accountable for it.

I like you, Rax. I don't want to lose you as a friend because I am friends with X, but I understand if you feel that I am untrustworthy as a result of my association. I will be happy to inform you of where X will be (when that is relevant) to ensure that the two of you avoid one another.

I wish you only the very best.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-27 05:58 am (UTC)
tixagon: Happy mawr face ^^ (Default)
From: [personal profile] tixagon
I am in no way attempting to tell you how to relate to X, nor am I making any attempts to tell you what you should or should not do with regards to them. Those are your decisions to make, and you are entitled to them. Your feelings are more than valid on this issue.

I am sorry for upsetting you with my words. You asked if any of us thought some of this was too much to ask for, and I responded with my feelings on the subject; nothing more.

I will miss you.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-27 03:44 pm (UTC)
tixagon: Happy mawr face ^^ (Lemmings)
From: [personal profile] tixagon
A good friend, in my book, is someone I trust and respect that trusts and respects me in return. I don't know that you ever trusted me, Rax-- and after this, I don't expect you ever will.

I came here to tell you that I have become friends with X because I feel it is information you have a right to know.

I bear you no ill will, but considering prior to this conversation we hadn't spoken a word to each other since awkwardly bumping into one another at FC 3 years ago... It's not like either of us are losing anything here.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-27 04:16 pm (UTC)
tixagon: Happy mawr face ^^ (Heart)
From: [personal profile] tixagon
I want to respond to that comment about our conversation regarding my husband: I feel it is not a factual summary of nor a truthful quote from that conversation and taken significantly out of context.

You are a good person, Rax. I miss the friend I had all those years ago, but I'm glad you're finding safety and security in this decision. I hope you also make peace with that which troubles you, and that you go on to live a long, fulfilling and happy life.

Perhaps our paths will cross again some day.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-27 03:55 pm (UTC)
phi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] phi
I'm going to point out some things that rax didn't, both because I love rax, and because, as I am a rape survivor myself, some things you said were triggering, enable sexual violence and generally are profoundly unfuckingacceptable.

let me preface this with the note that I have recently become friends with X, and that said friendship is growing stronger over time.

Points for honesty, I guess, but then deduct them right back for smugness. There are many ways to insist on staying friends with a rapist that aren't saccharinely self congratulatory, and you managed to avoid all of them.

I do not support the desire to insist that those not close to you isolate themselves from X

Rax never said they want people who are "not close to" them to isolate themselves from X. What rax asked for, as a condition for rax to feel like they can trust and be close to you, is to "consider not being friends with X" not "avoid ever running into X at cons or other events." Rax also asked that people who choose to be friends with X anyway "do your best to keep details from me," a boundary you trampled on in your very first sentence.

Generally this part of your post comes off as willfully obtuse and deliberately misrepresenting rax's requests to make your own decision to be close friends with a rapist look better.

If the desire is to prevent the spreading of what has been called rape culture

This is the part of your post that made me, as a rape survivor, most infuriated. There's so much to unpack in just this one phrase, I had to sleep on it before I could even remotely attempt coherence.

"If the desire" --> Starting with this if-clause carries the strong implication that you think rax is being disingenuous in their stated goals. You're saying you think they have some hidden agenda and are using sexual violence as a cover story or excuse. That's a really harsh thing to imply about anyone working to end sexual violence, but doubly so for a rape survivor.

"what has been called rape culture" --> What has been called? Seriously? You might as well have said that you think rape culture--that is the persistent, pervasive attitudes that dismisses sexual violence as no big deal and dismisses survivors as either duplicitous liars or unreliable crazy people--doesn't exist.

Also, the point here, as I understood rax's post, is not to prevent some nebulous rape culture out there (something, I'll point out, you are perpetuating in your post here) but to make a specific set of vulnerable people, including rax and some of rax's close friends, safe from a specific known rapist. The primary point is to prevent rax themself from being retraumatized by their rapist and their rapist's friends, and the secondary point is to prevent rape, not prevent rape culture.

shunning those who have crossed that boundary

You mean "shunning rapists." If you're going to defend a rapist at least have the decency to use the word instead of using deliberate circumlocutions to soft peddle what X did.

will leave only those who enable that behavior for them to turn to

I don't believe anyone deserves to be raped, ever. In fact, IRL, I am tangentially involved in a group that is trying to end prison rape, because even violent criminals don't deserve to be raped. That said, if a result of social shunning of rapists means only other rapists and their apologists get raped, that is bad, but far preferable to people who are not rapists or rape apologists getting raped. Hell, maybe it might make some of those rape apologists think twice about their rape apologia.

There is also the option, that you seem not to have considered, that severe consequences for raping people might make rapists stop raping. That's been the case for one of the men who assaulted me. I still don't want him anywhere near me, but from what I've heard through the grapevine, he's done a lot of work to make sure he doesn't hurt another partner the way he hurt me, in part because parts of my social group just PNG'd the shit out of him.

This is, as far as I'm concerned, akin to the issue of criminals finding tips and connections to further their illegal activities when thrown in prison with other criminals.

This is so out of place, bizarre, and non sequitor I'm not even sure what point you're trying to make here. The closest I can come is that you are accusing rape victims who want to shun their rapists of enabling criminal behavior? Is that what you really mean? What remedy do you recommend? Enforced fraternization between victims and their rapists, lest the rapist rape again? Really?

I do not believe unacceptable behavior is beyond forgiveness

X didn't rape you. It's not your place to offer X forgiveness. It is only and entirely rax's decision whether to forgive or not, and it is so not your place or mine or anyone else's to tell or even imply that rax has to ever forgive X.

nor is it behavior that cannot be unlearned if X is held accountable for it

Just one paragraph earlier though you argued against consequences in the form of social shunning. Do you or don't you believe that X needs to be held accountable? And if so, by whom? Rax has good reasons for not going to the criminal justice system, which means it is us to the communities rax and X participate in to hold X accountable.

Edited Date: 2015-01-27 04:02 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-27 04:19 pm (UTC)
tixagon: Happy mawr face ^^ (Default)
From: [personal profile] tixagon
I am not interested in having a dialogue with you, but I wish you well.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-27 07:47 pm (UTC)
laura47: (Default)
From: [personal profile] laura47
perhaps you shouldn't say such horrible things IN PUBLIC on the internet if you don't want to be called out for the fact what you have some reprehensible ideas in your head that you choose to inflict upon people you claim to care about in a way likely to be very emotionally damaging. saying you "wish people well" does absolutely nothing to make what you said more acceptable, lest you think your tone is the most important thing here.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-28 03:13 pm (UTC)
tixagon: Happy mawr face ^^ (Default)
From: [personal profile] tixagon
You are right; I never should have written what I wrote. It was a terrible attempt at making a point I ended up barely flirting with and was completely without consideration for Rax's feelings.

The reason I responded to [personal profile] phi the way I did was because I realize my words have effectively struck a bee hive, and there is no way I can undo that damage with more words. I have to accept that I have done this damage and there is nothing more I can do but apologize for it.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-28 03:12 pm (UTC)
tixagon: Mawr looking distressed. (Tears)
From: [personal profile] tixagon
Rax, I want to apologize for writing this.

I wrote this from a place of frustration and upset at being forced to chose between friends for a second time. I am not able to selectively disable empathy, and being given a choice between you or X, what I wanted was to abstain... but your post makes it clear that isn't an available option. This upset me a great deal for a long list of reasons; some of which I stupidly tried (and miserably failed) to summarize above. This was neither the time nor the place, if ever there was one, for such a discussion. I've been thinking about this post ever since I wrote it, and kicking myself for being stupid enough to convince myself these words were at all meaningful in the first place.

I fucked up, and for that I sincerely apologize.

I expect nor deserve your sympathy or response, but felt it important to share my feelings with you regardless.

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