My Friends All Hang Out With My Rapist

Two-and-a-half years ago, I was raped by my upstairs neighbor. It was my first day moving into a new apartment, and he came downstairs on my request to fix my computer, then had sex with me while I was incapacitated and unable to consent due to a new prescription medication (Ativan) making me incoherent and incapable of action.

I remember this vividly, remember that the condom was yellow. I woke up the next day alone in my bed, yogurt thrown against the wall (why?) listening to his heavy-falling footsteps upstairs, and didn’t care. In fact, it took me two months to care, for his footfalls to feel like fistfalls, for his increasingly violent interactions with me to cause real distress. I reported it to the police, who didn’t take my claim seriously because why did it take me that long, and why did I let him into my house, and what’s this about Ativan? Clearly, according to their investigation, if sex had occurred at all, it was consensual. And as for his supposed violence toward me, as for the times he’d been risky with my life, attempted to hurt me, to make me feel intimidated – well, that was all in my head.

This may have been a different story if I hadn’t known my rapist, if he hadn’t been my colleague at my university, if he hadn’t been in my MFA program, if he hadn’t been in over half my classes, hadn’t been the eternal presence in the back of every MFA party, every symposium, every reading. If his voice didn’t trigger a sickness in my stomach, cause the hair on the back of my neck to stand up, make me feel paralytic with a rage so blinding white as to feel incomprehensible. Because following that October when the police officers and university decided I was some kind of deluded female crying rape like a little boy cries wolf, nowhere on campus was safe for me. I could not use the private restroom on campus knowing he may exit it, couldn’t touch the sink at an MFA party where he’d washed his hands. I couldn’t attend the symposium of my friends if he would be there, handlebar mustache and tall and stiff, his whole body aware of my presence.

Indeed, though one would think with time this would de-escalate, it was not so. In fact, as months passed, I grew sensitized to him, and perhaps he to me. I could no longer be in a classroom with him. I couldn’t use my office in the TA hall, knowing he may walk by at any moment. And finally, this year, I couldn’t even talk to a mutual friend outside a workshop, because there he was, stiff-bodied, leering at me, and using the weight of his heavy physical presence to intimidate me into leaving his friend alone. 

And yet, that was my friend, too. That was my close friend, who exited his own workshop with my rapist, knowing that I had been raped by him. And indeed, two-thirds of my cohort had chosen, by this point, in September of 2015, nearly two-years past the investigation, that the whole situation was one they would ignore. They were not taking sides. His presence would be tolerated, perhaps even solicited, at all of our events. But if his presence was tolerated then mine must necessarily be eschewed. There was no other option. My friends could tolerate my rapist’s presence, but I could not. 

What does this mean for women in graduate programs, or even undergraduate? It means that Title IX isn’t being upheld by our university. It means that, for lack of “evidence,” I was forced to spend my graduate career hiding out in my bedroom, or in various corners of my department, sequestered away from the overwhelming fear of that man, of that pain, and of the casual disregard for this entire situation that many people around me seemed to show. Because for one reason or another, for legal reasons, because he wasn’t charged, because the top-down system of the university prohibited it, no one could really accommodate me attending my classes by asking him to leave. Instead, if I was uncomfortable, I was the one who had to go. It will always be that way as long as I’m on this campus, unless I sue them for Title IX violation and drag myself through that lengthy and likely rewardless court process.

And really, no one saying, “Just be brave! Just go to the events! Just work in your office! Just go to class anyway!” can know what it feels like to remember the sensation of his body and the very physical pain of that experience. And perhaps the feeling that overwhelmed me in his presence was not fear so much as shame. How could he do that to me, how could he do that to my body, and still be here? Was my body unimportant? Did I matter so little to everyone that his violence could be overlooked because a shitty two-week investigation didn’t turn up results?

What this really means is that my friends chose my rapist over me. 

I don’t have a nice ending to this blog post. I can’t tell you about how it was eventually, finally okay. I can say that there was one friend, even as far back as two years ago, who refused his ride to the grocery store. And she always believed me. I love her for that. But I wish she had not been alone.



33 thoughts on “My Friends All Hang Out With My Rapist

  1. I wish I knew what to say…except that rape culture is alive and well. It’s not just the rapist who get away with it that keep it alive, it’s all the silent co-conspirators who with their actions ‘choose’ the rapist over the victim. The cop-out of ‘he was never charged’ therefore it doesn’t count as a crime makes me see red. But the trouble is when you do report it and there is ‘evidence’ the rapist can still get away. I was raped by an ex- someone I was in a long term relationship with, it was brutal, I left him and this was his ‘revenge’. I reported it, but because we were a couple it as as if it didn’t count. I knew he wasn’t going to serve significant time for it, but I wanted it as a stain on his record (something he cared about very much). The fortunate thing is I never had to see him again and I haven’t. The only thing I can say is I wish you would finish your graduate degree in the safest and best way you can and you show him. you are an amazing writer, get your work published. And if this is his ‘character’, he’ll do this again to someone else, and maybe that charge will stick. I know it doesn’t bring you any relief from your pain but you can count on Karma to bite him in the ass.

  2. I applaud your bravery. There are so many people that I want to show this too, but unfortunately it’s been too long and they’ve all chosen him over me. It’s fine now, though, since I’ve surrounded myself with better people and been to counseling. I’m so moved by your candid retelling of your story and I can’t tell you how vividly you painted my own picture. You are brave, you are strong, and that one friend who has stood by you will be your guiding light through a lot of dark times. You don’t ever have to have an ending until it’s the ending you want. Never finish a story just because someone says it needs an ending. This is a healing process that is never really over but the hardest times will become fewer. We all want people to understand but we also know that the only way for them to understand is to go through the trauma we’ve been through and no one wants that for someone else. Keep writing, even if it seems repetitive. See a counselor if you can. Keep doing what you love, even if that stage sometimes brings back ghosts and demons those lights will drive them away. Even if the art you create somehow ties back to him, get his presence out of you. You are still in there and please, trust me when I say that you will one day have power again. We believe in you.

  3. Let me just start off by saying I am so proud of you for having the courage and do this blog. I am sorry that the system did not believe you and that you have to live with this inner demon for life. This does not and will not keep you from going on with your life. You are brave and that is the first step for recovery. God knows the truth and the rapist will be judged. I don’t know you but know that you have a support here and there are people out there that can help you and support you in this time. You go girl. Stay brave and stay strong. ❤️

  4. I’d like permission to link this [incredibly moving and important] piece on my abuse support/awareness Facebook page. ( Feel free to check it out before replying; or don’t reply at all and I’ll take that as a “no”.

  5. Darling it happened to me too and I just gave up. There is no hope. Just let yourself go and say I don’t care how scared I am because well, rape or physical violence isn’t that big of a deal anyway. And it may seem sad but it really helped me come to terms with things and not care so much. At some point you have to realize that your future depends on your grades, so make new friends and do new things and let it go. Personally it happened to me three times and here are my tips:
    1. Pursue a restraining order first. They are easier to get then a criminal charge. You will usually get a restraining order. Lie a little about the level of violence, because even though you might be developing post traumatic stress, nobody cares unless you have a good story. You are responsible for protecting yourself, no one else will. Don’t expect people to believe you if you tell the truth, that’s why exaggerating is better. Believe me, he will come up with a slew of reasons why you are doing this. He’ll say “she is just mad that we had sex and I didn’t want a relationship” or some crazy cliche thing. My ex use to beat me up, I was so depressed. A guy friend of mine came over to our house. That friend slept on our couch and he heard my ex hitting me and I started crying. Well later the prosecuting attorney didn’t even talk to him because he says it wasn’t enough evidence. The prosecuting attorney said people will say why didn’t you report it earlier, maybe you are sleeping with this friend or maybe your ex will claim that you were just into kinky shit. It won’t go past a jury. Sure enough that prosecuting attorney was right. My ex went to our mutual friends and said “oh she’s trying to put me in jail” and they asked him “did you touch her forcefully” and he said that we were into kinky shit. People believed him. wtf!!! One of my friends didn’t though, she called and asked me, that’s how I found out he even talked to our mutual friends.
    2. Don’t tell “everyone”. Your best bet is to lie to mutual friends and find a reason why he might tell people you sought court action against him.
    3. Email yourself the night it happens, have some evidence in case you want to press charges later. Take pictures.
    4. Let it go and forgive the person. Once you do all that you are obligated to do (reporting him), relax and forgive.
    5. Do not trust old friends, an old friend whom I trusted had sex with me while I was crying and drunk. I told a friend and then I blocked him from Facebook, and didn’t tell anyone else. Of course he lies to people saying he had sex with me. He did it again to another girl a few months later and she was so distraught. I felt guilty for not saying anything earlier.
    6. Do not contact the rapist, creep or bad guy. These people are professionals and control. Do not give them leverage. If you text him saying why did you do that to me?! he will use it against you. This was what happened with the first guy. I was embarrassed to tell anyone and he was finding more ways to control the situation. I lashed out after a year of this, he wanted to be part of a group I started on campus and I was so scared. No body wanted to help me. By that point, he already built a web of lies and claimed that I was stalking him and he went to the campus support systems for 8 or 9 months before I knew. I lashed out hard then, I emailed the president of my school, his friends, all our advisers. At that point I was so desperate for protection i was willing to do anything. I could hardly breath from fear when I saw him. No matter what I did, he always had the upper hand. One time, I saw him at a party and so I clung onto the biggest man I found. That man was huge and it turns out these creepers are scared of men bigger than them. If you want, you could pay for a body guard to walk you around once in a while, and believe me he will be so intimidated that he won’t come in your presence.
    7. Tell people if you are struggling. If you approach it from a professional manner, you can get your school and your teachers to cut you some slack academically. It will also make you feel better to be able to tell your school sorry I couldn’t make it, I had a panic attack. Don’t feel embarrassed. If you wait, you will fail. I had the same problem with the ass coming to my classes, I made a big enough fuss that they recorded my classes for me. Since I got depression and post traumatic stress, it is considered a disability and the school is required to accommodate.
    8. See a counselor, take care of your physical and mental health. Remember this happens all the time and a lot of women suffer. Don’t let yourself feel helpless. You may feel scared but just remember that this person is pathetic and you are awesome, don’t let it get into your head that you’ve somehow been maimed or something. You don’t have to tell people and it doesn’t have to adversely effect you. You may feel angry at this other person, or want him to feel guilty; he won’t. Some of these people are sociopaths, their brains aren’t developed in the same way. It is like getting mad at a dog for biting you, let it go, focus on yourself and taking care of yourself. Report him and shut the door, you are more precious than whether he’s punished or he feels remorse. Don’t care about him, love yourself.
    9. If you feel “love feelings” for this abuser, just remember that is normal and a chemical reaction, it is a human protective mechanism. You are not weird and you certainly aren’t in love, it will pass when you feel safe. There are men who have these feelings towards abusive women, and I watched a youtube video of a person explaining why it happens to him. These feelings are especially strong if one of your parents was abusive.
    Best of luck dear, take care of yourself and focus on school. I am pursuing graduate school now and I deeply regret how my undergraduate grades slipped because of these people (especially the first one) in my life. Don’t let yourself suffer. You are more precious than that.
    Much love dear xx

    1. My female professor was the person who kind of “helped” me talk to the school. When I first spoke to her about it. She said “I am sorry to say that this will happen again, this won’t be the last time”… How sad is that 😦 she was right.

  6. Wow! Infact the stories of rape around is becoming alarmingnbeven in my country? What’s happening? Why are the women an endangered species? Honey I am so sorry for what what you to go through psychologically and emotionally. Its tough seeing your abuser everyday and being helpless to get justice. The world justice system is not fair but you just have to make most of it whatever you can.

    I will support you take @lady advice and see where it goes. You have a great future and this too shall past. Thanks goodness you have a positive energy for yourself and much more. I do like you to go for counselling too, these things are deeper than you can handle.

  7. First, thank you for your courage and bravery in writing this… it’s important and it matters, quite a bit, to a lot of people who will read it and not comment at all.

    You can have a lot of hope, no matter what the other comments here say. It will get easier, eventually, although it may take a long time. It might take 10 years for it to even feel like the cloud has lifted, maybe longer – and those years might be hard and awful. I don’t want to tell you that it is easy or that it won’t get worse before it gets better.

    But the good news is that if you hang in there, it will get better. It won’t go away. Nothing can change the past.

    A lot of the survivor community gives really good support, but there is one big flaw – they are stuck on being survivors. You can do more than that. You can thrive. It might not seem possible now, but it is totally true. The fact that you made it thru that situation is proof. You can keep going, and you can reach your dreams, no matter what this asshole did to you.

    There may not be justice, but you don’t need for him to be punished in order for you to thrive. Somewhere along the line, he will get his. There are things you can do, if you choose, later on – and if it feels right, you will. Maybe you’ll choose not to do anything, maybe you’ll do something… the important thing is that you can choose.

    The most important thing you can choose is to make better friends.

    Sometimes betrayal trauma is worse than the original trauma. That’s happened to me too; being totally abandoned by the people who you love when you need them most, after you have been hurt beyond belief.

    You’ll learn from this. As you move forward and you look back, you’ll learn more.

    But one of the most important lessons in life is that we can choose our friends. Choose them wisely. Offer them the best love and trust you have, and pay attention to what they do. If they act shitty, ditch them. They don’t deserve you. Cultivate your garden of love. Surround yourself with incredible people who deserve the kind of love you can give.

    This is your tribe. Look for people who are thriving. There are many of us who have been through awful things and have learned to move forward. You are doing it now, and we are together.

    Anyone who would abandon you in a crisis is not your friend. It is a blessing to know the difference. The wisdom of discernment comes with age and experience. Unfortunately the worst experiences sometimes can teach us the most. Sometimes they just suck. Life is a bitch like that.

    I don’t know why people can be so cruel and awful, but I know that they can be equally incredible and beautiful and kind. Seek out the kindest, most loving people you can find, and let them hold you close – when you are ready. Truly loving embrace does wonders. It won’t fix the shitty, fucked up justice system… but it will help you to heal, stronger than ever.

    1. “A lot of the survivor community gives really good support, but there is one big flaw – they are stuck on being survivors.” Not always a choice, Aaron. That “stuckness” is a well-documented, common long-term effect of having endured trauma. And of all things to be “stuck on,” if it WERE always a conscious choice–what better than one’s own survival? I, a survivor myself, don’t see how that’s a flaw at all. Your comment about how “Sometimes betrayal trauma is worse than the original trauma” feels much more compassionate and understanding.

      1. Hi Smfleegal, I completely agree that being stuck “is a well-documented, common long-term effect of having endured trauma” – no debate there.

        In brief, thriving is better than surviving. I’ve seen a lot of people get stuck on the level of “I’m alive, what more can I expect? I don’t deserve to be truly happy.” Thriving is much more than mere survival. It’s about being happy, fulfilled, content, secure, and safe. Surviving almost always feels like a perpetual state of terror – like hanging onto the edge of the cliff.

        Life can get much, much better than that.

        Here are some additional resources:

  8. You are so strong. Thanks for sharing this. I think it’s so helpful when survivors speak out about their continued struggles in the aftermath, because so much is stigmatized and misunderstood. We could all benefit from learning how to avoid being complicit in rape culture, and your post speaks to that. Love and light to you.

  9. What can I say but – seriously shitty situation… just goes to show that one obviously only gets a certain amount of real friends, cherish that real friend you have and be strong, this too will pass.

  10. It’s very unfortunate you were raped. We live in a society where, before you can be convicted of a criminal offense, you have to be tried and proven BEYOND a shadow of a doubt to be guilty.

    People break laws every day. If there isn’t proof, it’s likely to end in the criminal running off scot-free.

    So, what I’m trying to say——-This man is innocent until proven guilty, and deserves to be treated as so. For all the justice system knows, you could very well be a toxic employee who is trying to ruin his life. (I’m not victim shaming, just stating what the defense would say, which would likely result in their favor, given you have no proof.

    If there is ever a time when you can be convicted WITHOUT PROOF, rape or not, I don’t want to live in a country like that.

    Take justice into your own hands if you feel it’s necessary.

    Have a good day.

    1. Aw man, why are you telling her what everyone else does? This is about healing, not retribution. If this post was about anything, it was about encouraging a different view of the trauma experienced, not revisiting it’s causing factors.

    2. Innocent until proven guilty beyond REASONABLE doubt. Hopefully the females in your life haven’t endured this abuse. Or have they? You have a nice day too.

  11. I have not been where you’ve been in terms of sexual violation. But I’ve been in an MFA program and can only imagine how difficult it must have been. Every workshop, every reading–the same people circle around like socks in a dryer and cling to one another. That you continued to go on–and that you write about it–holds a depth of bravery I can’t begin to admire enough, though I imagine it may not feel like bravery. It may feel like survival. Or it may feel like torture. But your words are those I want to hear more of. Please, no matter what, keep writing.

  12. I can’t tell you how simular this story is too mine. Although I do not even have one friend by myside and im devastated and I actually don’t know what I’m going to do to fix this I feel hopeless

  13. I know this feeling well. Too well.I was raped repeatedly by my husband and divorced him. I told my family he was abusive without going into details. Because I had already been in a similar relationship (where I was also abused) my family treated me like I was making it up, embellishing, don’t be so dramatic, ect. I wish I could say that I kept viewing him as a rapist but I didn’t. He is my son’s father and over time (and literally YEARS of my family belittling my abuse) I came to see myself as guilty. Why I saw it that way I will never know. Today he tried to invite himself to my house and then grew outraged when I refused to let him “hang out” at my house. I have cried most of today because I am finally accepting what it has taken me years to understand. He never felt any remorse for anything that happened. It would hurt less if my family didn’t choose my rapist over me.

  14. This is so similar to my story. It was a friend at university. The betrayal of my friends not choosing me over him crushed my heart way more than what he did to me. It’s quite black and white for me… either you believe me and you are in solidarity with me (my friend)… or you disbelieve me /you’re complicit (not my friend).

    But the conflict came in not being able to back up the strong talk with strong action. I desperately wanted a social life and to not give up on who I was before, that I even went to a party at his house once, just because ‘everyone’ was going, and I didn’t want them to bond more with him than me. I left feeling so dirty and like I’d betrayed myself… and others questioned why I would go to his house if he had really raped me. Yeah, overall bad choice.

    Anyway, its been 7 years and I rarely see any of this group now as I now live abroad (surprise!). But I see photos of them on fb sometimes together and I feel the venom in my veins again. I’m going to delete them all I think.

    Oh… here’s what the caption said: ‘amzing night in great company and having a feminist rant’. Did i seriously just read the word feminist in a caption of my rapist? Eugh.

    1. It’s true that the betrayal of friends sometimes hurts more. It hurts when we expected and needed that empathy and dignity from our friends more than ever, yet did not receive it. You shouldn’t need to justify yourself to them if they were real. I hope you’re around nicer people who deserve to hear you.

      Sometimes trauma is funny. Sometimes we don’t even understand our own reactions. I remember feeling like this a lot too, and doing stuff which did not help my cause or make sense, and being questioned by it etc – as if now that meant it was all me, and he was not to blame.
      Even thought sometimes these responses seem confusing, especially to outsiders, I guess they are part of the adaptation to survive and cope with the trauma and maintain a sense of control, power, security and social support.

      Yeah right I hate that feeling so much, wondering how it is possible for them to be so remorseless when I know who they are and what they’ve done – and how it is possible for others to support them. It’s unbelievable. Well, you know.

  15. ‘There are no sides’ ‘I’m not taking sides’ ‘There’s two sides to every story’ ‘ You can’t control what people think’ ‘Why didn’t you bring it up sooner?’ ‘You should have…’ ‘You’ve got to move on’ (Common abuse apologist responses)

    Cognitive dissonance has something to do with this:

    Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are
    presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new
    evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is
    extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it
    is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize,
    ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.”
    ― Frantz Fanon

    Unfortunately, for the enablers, it is not all about integrity. It may be about greed and/or fear. It may be about who holds the social power and influence in that situation – and who is loyal and complicit with them.
    It is about rape culture and other social/cultural oppression’s and systems which silence abused women.
    It is about an imbalance of power.

    An article on The Conversation: Powerful men have tried to silence abused women since Medieval times.

    ‘The language of madness is the last resort for a society that can no longer deny the evidence of structural oppression and violence.’

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