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Author Topic: Feeling unsafe around someone
Member # 44381

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I'm not sure if this is the right place for this, so please do move it if it isn't.

There's a guy that I have known through a hobby for a few years and we have been on friendly terms. Recently I had a sort of realization that I don't feel safe or comfortable around him. This was when I was in a role-playing game and he was making loud obnoxious rape jokes the whole time. (He was at least somewhat drunk, not that that excuses it at all.) And sure, he was playing an obnoxious character, but he chose to do that, and it was clear that he (out-of-character) found it hilarious. I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only person who was uncomfortable (although I was the only non-dude there, and of course none of them called him out).

Add to this that he was being kinda touchy-feely with me, like he kept taking my hairband off and putting it back on, even when I was trying to stop him, pulling away, and it was pretty clear I wasn't happy.
He's done this before - I was at a party with him where he kept tickling me, and I was super super uncomfortable and he just didn't stop, and in the end I left early.
I don't think I actually said 'stop, you're making me uncomfortable' but I feel like a reasonable person would have noticed/checked in, even if they thought they were just being playful.

So I decided to listen to my gut which is telling me not to be around this person.

I have a few questions related to this.

Firstly I'd like some reassurance that I am being reasonable feeling this way.

Secondly, I have a close friend who organises get-togethers around this hobby, and I want to communicate to him that I don't want to be around this guy. I'd also just like to tell him how I'm feeling as I'm upset and he's my friend. The issue is that he's known the creepy guy years longer than I have, and although they're not super close or anything, they are on friendly terms I think.
I don't know how to bring it up. I'm worried that he wouldn't understand/would try and excuse the other guy/would think I was overreacting. Hopefully he wouldn't do this, of course, but I'm not sure.
Any ideas on how to bring this up with him would be much appreciated.

Thirdly, I tried talking to my counsellor about it and I don't feel like she was very supportive. She didn't seem to know what I meant by 'rape jokes' or why I was really upset. When I talked about the guy touching me she said he must have had no idea he was upsetting me, and suggested that maybe he was trying to flirt with me. (I feel like she tends to do this thing of excusing people's actions - I brought up an issue where I felt that another friend was taking out their anger on me, and she said 'they probably don't realize they're doing it, so can you really say it's their fault?' I feel like regardless of people's intentions, they're still responsible for their behaviour.)
I don't feel great about this. Maybe I should change counsellor. or does anyone have an idea of how I can bring this up with her and say I didn't feel like she was being helpful?
Honestly it seems like she has no idea and would need a lot of education around assault and so on.

Sorry this got so long, I don't have anyone I can talk to about it.

Posts: 161 | From: europe | Registered: Oct 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Robin Lee
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Hey treetops,

It is perfectly reasonable to follow your gut feelings. No question about that. The way I see it, this isn't as much about the guy (I'll address your counsellor's comments in a second) as it is about *your* feelings. You haven't felt good in situations around this guy in a while. His actions have led to you leaving a party earlier than you might otherwise have done. You're tired of feeling uncomfortable and have decided to change this.

I don't think this guy telling rape jokes or touching you when you clearly felt uncomfortable/pulled away/etc is at all acceptable, but his motivations aren't what matter here. Your discomfort and your right to feel emotionally and physically comfortable are what matter.

I'm surprised at your counsellor for seeming not to be supporting you around your feelings but instead trying to talk you out of them. Sure, she can, as part of the counselling, present alternate points of view (though I think her points of view are pretty skewed) but she still needs to be respectful of and supportive of your feelings. Is she a college or high school counsellor? if so, I'm especially surprised that she wouldn't be in tune with the realities of sexual harassment and assault.

You certainly can talk to her and let her know that you haven't been finding her responses to you helpful, and explain why. If she's treating/working with you on something specific, she needs to know that what she's doing isn't working. You can frame this to her as you wanting to work more effectively with her, or, if you prefer, you can frame this as an explanation for why you're requesting another counsellor.

Counselling is meant to be effective for you, so you really can choose how you approach this, and if just getting a new counsellor without talking to this one is more comfortable for you, you certainly can do that.

IN terms of how to approach the guy who runs the hobby events, you can't control how he's going to respond. You can control how you convey your thoughts and feelings to him. You can explain to him how you feel, such as "I feel uncomfortable when I hear these rape jokes and no one speaks out against them." "I felt really uncomfortable/scared/etc when he was touching me, and was upset/mad/etc that he didn't respond to my obvious discomfort."

Do you have any friends who you feel can support you, say if this conversation doesn't go well?


Posts: 6066 | From: Washington DC suburbs | Registered: Dec 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 44381

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Hi Robin,

Thanks for answering. Yeah, with the counsellor it's not that I would mind her pointing out other viewpoints, it's more that whenever I mention that I've felt hurt by someone's actions, she always seems to go out of her way to make excuses for them/minimise their actions, when I really want to talk about my feelings. I'm going to have a think about whether to try and talk to her or whether to change counsellor.
It's a counselling service which is a charity, and the counsellors are all volunteers so it's pretty variable I think. I don't know how to find a good/knowledgeable counsellor.

The problem is that the guy who runs the hobby events is the closest friend I have, and no, I don't have anyone else I could talk to about it if it went badly. That's why I'm so worried. Normally at least I can talk to my counsellor about stuff but I don't feel like I will get support from her around this.

You're right that I can't control how he reacts to what I say, but I'm scared to say anything at all.

Posts: 161 | From: europe | Registered: Oct 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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Hi treetops,

I'm going to agree with Robin and say that you should definitely trust your gut around this person, who sounds really gross and not fun to be around at all.

One of my favorite blogs has a LOT of content about dealing with creepy folks, people who make terrible jokes, and friends-groups that do a terrible job of cutting creeps out of the group. Two posts that may be particularly helpful are this one, on creepsters in social groups, and one on people who make horrible "jokes" about stuff like rape (which is pretty much NEVER OK to joke about). You may find the discussions there to be helpful? If nothing else, I think it can be really affirming to hear a lot of people share stories similar to yours with tips on how they've tried to handle the situation.

Also, I am giving a pretty big raised eyebrow to your counselor right now. Making excuses for people who hurt you and trying to argue you out of your feelings is... pretty much the opposite of what I expect a good counselor or therapist to do.

I am so sorry you're dealing with this; it sounds like a really uncomfortable situation. I hope you can find support in your friend, at least.

Posts: 1352 | From: San Francisco | Registered: Jan 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 44381

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Hi Molias,
thanks for your reply. I actually read Captain Awkward regularly, and these exact letters were in my mind when I was thinking about the situation. It helped me pay attention to my gut feeling of 'eurgh, this is not good'.

I really don't know how to deal with the rape jokes stuff in this group; I don't have much of a social circle due to health problems and I don't want to lose this. But when this stuff comes up it makes me really uncomfortable.
Mostly the guys are OK, some are nice people I think, and most of them don't make rape jokes. it's just that in the group there's a sort of unwritten rule of not being unpleasant to anyone/causing drama. (I think that might be a Geek Social Fallacy actually.) So when someone does make rape jokes/says something otherwise problematic, no-one really says anything because they don't want to be mean, I guess. I have sort of tried to speak up about things before but I feel super uncomfortable doing it and I don't feel supported.
A lot of the uncomfortable feeling comes from the fact that I think some of the guys in the group are nice people, and wouldn't want people to feel hurt etc, but that maybe some of the other guys aren't speaking up because they just don't care. And if no-one speaks up, it's hard to know who is a decent sort of person and who isn't. I also think that guys are generally a lot less aware of things like rape jokes etc, because they're never the target/subject of them.

In an ideal world I would have social/friend groups that just get this stuff, but I have no idea where to find such a thing and I have no energy to do so anyway.

Thanks for the supportive words. Any further thoughts would be appreciated.

Posts: 161 | From: europe | Registered: Oct 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Scarleteen Volunteer
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Well, I'm sad I wasn't pointing you towards a new resource but glad you'd seen those already. =)

You are totally right that the "no drama" idea is GSF material. And what happens is that "no drama" usually turns into "if you have a problem with anything keep quiet, because it's more important to have the illusion that everything's ok than to address issues and make everyone feel comfortable." Which is a terrible dynamic to operate under, and of course it turns out that - surprise! - it's usually marginalized folks who are being further marginalized and made more uncomfortable.

I know it can be a lot easier to make plans for how you're going to handle a situation than to follow through in a stressful moment, but I'd work on being very clear that he's violating a boundary if he touches you or makes nasty comments. Even people who protest that they don't understand what consent looks like understand what a firm, icy "NO" means. If he touches you I think a great place to start is giving him a really loud NO (it's ok if other people hear it - he's being the jerk, not you) and removing himself from his reach. If he's actively holding you in one place, then you have every right to make a big fuss about it.

What I hate about this is that I feel like I'm putting all this responsibility on you to manage it, because I can't shake this guy by the shoulders and say WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, STOP IT. It isn't your job to turn him into a decent human being. But if you make a habit from now on to be verbally clear about how you feel about his actions, there's no way he can say he didn't know you were upset. I'm pretty sure he knows now and doesn't care, plus he maybe thinks he can hide behind plausible deniability. But if you can remove that, that's maybe a step towards showing other people in this group that he's a real problem.

You say you feel like other people might be bothered by his comments; can you approach them personally and let them know you're going to start calling Creepy Dude out on his comments and actions, and asking for backup, either in the form of them calling him out too or at least saying "yeah, that is a problem" if he protests to you that he's "just joking?" It's possible that there are other people who are unsure of how to proceed and y'all can back each other up.

I think a way to approach your friend who runs these games is just to make it really simple: you don't feel safe, you get the feeling that other people are bothered by these comments, and it's making you have a lousy time at events you're supposed to feel welcome at. And if this guy brings up the "no drama" thing? Please let him know that like I said above, sweeping problems under the rug doesn't solve them. It just means that things fester and get worse.

I'm curious - you said you were the only non-dude in that game, but are there other non-dudes who are in this wider social group at all? Because I bet if there are you can find some allies pretty quickly by talking to them. And if you are the only one, well... this guy (and other people like him, if there are) could be a big part of the reason. If your group leader has ever complained that there aren't more women interested in being a part of this group, the conversation with him is a great time to remind him of that comment and explain that women will often get the hell out of dodge when they don't feel safe and respected in what should be a fun social group.

Speaking up is really hard. But maybe a way to think about it is that now you know you are uncomfortable and feel unsafe (and I can't get the idea of him tickling you out of my head; that is really wrong and not ok, and that almost more than anything else is a huge red flag to me), and if you bring this up there's a possibility that you'll feel let down by your friends but things could also change for the better! So you're trading definite badness for the possibility of positive change in your social group.

Posts: 1352 | From: San Francisco | Registered: Jan 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Scarleteen Volunteer
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I agree with Robin and Molias.

For talking to your friend, might it help to tell your friend at the start of the conversation what you need? For example, if you don't need your friend to immediately think the same way as you, but you do need them to accept that you feel what you feel, you need them not to try to explain away the other person's behaviour, you need them to support you in you taking whatever action to make yourself feel safe and comfortable?

With the counselling, it depends where the charity is getting the counsellors from. Part of people being healthy is to recognise that we are not in control of others' behaviour, but what we Can work with is our own reactions. Some people with only basic training seem to get this a bit wrapped round their neck and use it to, in effect, explain away other people's unacceptable behaviour and ask us to Change Our Perception of it. Grr. (Personally, I had that experience with "counsellors" who actually only had basic training, and also from an otherwise excellent and highly trained therapist who just wasn't educated about disability perspectives and thought that Changing My Perception would be a good approach to dealing with other people's prejudices.) It depends whether you feel that this counsellor's approach on this is a barrier to you getting what you need. If you do, then it's reasonable to ask the charity if you could have a different counsellor. It's in everyone's interests if a client gets the most appropriate counsellor for them, so I'd hope that the charity would be receptive to you asking if they have a counsellor who has some training/experience in assault issues as well as the core things you need.

I don't know what country you're in, and this is very changeable from country to country. In the UK, there isn't one overall qualification that establishes someone as a counsellor (as opposed to a "listening service", which is really what some "counselling services" should be more properly called) or not. Someone who's likely to have the required training to be properly good, though, should have completed or be in the later stages of a counselling qualification where at least two or three years' study is required, and already have some practical experience as part of that training. It's important not to exclude people who don't already have that formal qualification, because charities often rely on people who are working toward that and who volunteer their time in order to get the required practice hours so they can qualify. If that's being done properly, you should expect trainees to be properly supervised and working on their own professional development while they are your counsellor. Many of these folk can be truly excellent, as they're being very open-minded about their own development and learning, and particularly conscientious about serving their client well. If I remember correctly, a proper counsellor should also be registered with a professional organisation, even as a trainee (with trainee status). Also, a proper counsellor always has formal supervision from another trained counsellor, and a good counsellor will always be doing something for their own professional development, no matter how experienced or qualified they are.

The most important thing with counselling is the relationship between counsellor and client. So, the biggest question for deciding on a counsellor is really "do I feel comfortable with this person? Can they understand and communicate on my wavelength, do they "get" where I'm coming from enough?"

The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

Posts: 1786 | From: Europe | Registered: Sep 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator

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