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Author Topic: confronting an abuser
techie
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Right.

So, more things happened with Guy #2 from this post.

There are things I touched on there - that the one time we had intercourse was because of a 'misunderstanding' - essentially we were kissing, and he just took his trousers down and tried penetrating me through my underwear, and I said something like "yeah that's really not something that feels good" and he carried on and I was like "no really that's not", so he somehow inferred from that that intercourse -would- be something that would feel good, and was like "oh okay if you're sure", and got a condom out, and I was really confused until I wasn't, and then it happened, and it only lasted about 20 seconds, and I had a panic attack directly afterwards, to which his response was "I've got a 7am start tomorrow - either you go home and panic there, or you be quiet and go to sleep. I don't have time for this". And I shut up and went to sleep because I am used to having a partner who couldn't tolerate my panic attacks so I've learnt the knack of having them quietly. Which... yeah.

So that was... dodgier than I'd implied in my original post.

And then there was a much more clear-cut occasion of nonconsent, where I was whacked out on painkillers (legally and non-recreationally), which I'd said in passing I couldn't consent on because I'm barely conscious, and he came over, looked me in the eye, said "yep that looks alright" and went on to finger me, before leaving me to sleep because of the whole barely conscious thing.

I've written him a letter, which is basically structured:

Why I'm writing the letter
Three instances of abuse (in enough detail that he can't not know what I'm talking about)
What it seems like he's doing re: consent and what he should be doing
What I want as a consequence of the letter (ie that I'm not looking for apologies or to reconnect, but just for him to be accountable, because I stopped speaking to him and he's been playing the victim)

Question is: Is this a letter I can send? I have reason to believe that he quite genuinely has no idea that what he's doing is wrong (he's incredibly spoiled and self-centred and got all his sex ed from porn, but I don't think he's actively malicious), and I also have reason to believe that his girlfriend (who he is still with) is treated the same way.

The risks are that he could get mutual friends involved, or that he could flat out accuse me of being mad or lying. (Evidence for the former being that I have recently had a mental break, which puts me on shaky footing for defending my sanity).

I really don't want a public hassle, and I don't want to force anybody to pick sides (especially as we now don't see each other - I see our mutual friends because I live with them, he seems them at lectures, and there's no overlap and therefore no need for conflict), and I don't especially want to have aspersions thrown on my sexual orientation or accused of just being guilty of having been the 'other woman'.

But on the other hand, I could actually affect a change. I could help his girlfriend, and other people he will inevitably sleep with, and I can for once actually put one of my abusers in a position to be accountable.

I really don't know what the best option is.

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Heather
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I think this is a letter you can send, but that you might want to just first get very clear, for yourself, on what you want from it, and check in about how you'd feel if you didn't get whatever that was.

I hear you saying, for instance, you want him to take responsibility when you lay all this out: how will you feel if he doesn't? Still better for writing and sending the letter, the same, or worse?

Ultimately, this is for and about you, and you are the one most likely to be the most impacted by it, so leading with that, what do you think?

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techie
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I think what I want from it is that I want him to know what he's done wrong - after I stopped speaking to him he did start going to mutual friends going "but I'm such a wonderful and supportive friend! and now I'm so lonely!". I've been painted as the bad guy, and I want to know that he knows that that's not the case. And I think I want to feel like I'm not entirely powerless, and that I can actually change things.

If the worst case scenario was that that didn't happen and nothing changed, I could handle it? But the worst case scenario could be mud-slinging and drama, and -that- I'm not sure I can.

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Heather
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I'd say if you're not sure you can handle any of the possible outcomes, it is probably to just write it for yourself right now and only send it if and when you DO feel you can handle any of those outcomes.

That's just what you want to do with anything when it comes to your own basic self-care and anything that's elective in life, I'd say.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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techie
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That probably makes sense. I don't think the mudslinging option would be likely, but just as it's not entirely out of the realm of the impossible, that's still not something I can handle.

I kind of wonder if confronting him in person might go better? I mean, with a letter, he'd have something to wave around in front of other people if he chose to, whereas a his word against mine situation might actually be the one case where a he said/she said would be advantageous?

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acb
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Hey techie! I'm kind of new so I hope it's appropriate for me to jump in here [Smile]

I think Heather's totally right that what's important is how much you can cope with a situation, whether that's the letter or talking face to face.

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but when I was reading this something jumped out at me as seeming kind of familiar to me. I often feel like if I think someone might be being abusive and another person might be a victim of abuse, I have a duty to try and educate them to stop them, regardless of how vulnerable that might make me feel. If you're feeling strong enough to confront people then it has the potential to be powerful but ultimately you are not responsible for their actions. You don't have a duty to send this letter to make sure he's not hurting his girlfriend - he should be doing that. What seems to be the most important thing to me is that you take care of yourself. [Smile]

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Redskies
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I think acb makes an excellent point about the feeling of "duty" we can often feel.

Really important: in-person confrontation always has the potential to be dangerous, either physically or emotionally. It is not usually recommended because of that risk to your safety. When someone has abused or assaulted us, they may be able to use the hurt they have already caused us to manipulate or hurt us further, and they likely know the techniques to use to hurt us most deeply and efficiently. In-person confrontation is not always ruled out completely, but it should only ever be done after lengthy and careful thought and planning, with 100% supportive people there for back-up to ensure your safety, after role-playing how you might respond to any possible thing the person might say, and when you feel able to handle any possible thing they could say so that it would not increase any hurt or harm you're feeling. In-person confrontation should not ever be done with anyone who has ever been physically violent.

techie, given that you've described this person assaulting you, I would be earnestly concerned for your safety if you were to confront them in-person, and can only strongly suggest that you don't. Also, the same considerations of "could I handle it if... " as with a letter apply, and in-person, it's nearly always more intense and difficult.

--------------------
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.

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techie
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You've both raised very good points, thankyou. I know that it should be his duty not to abuse rather than mine to inform him, but I do feel like I can do something. I don't know, it's a source of conflict. And I know that I do feel guilty about things because with previous instances of abuse I've been told that if I didn't go to the police, I was equally as complicit in their abuse of other people, and just... this isn't the police, this isn't even campus security, I feel like I ought to be able to handle this? An in-person confrontation is almost definitely a bad idea, though. I'll concede that.

I don't know. Things I worry about:
-He might hurt himself, which he threatened before [am I responsible for this though?]
-He might tell mutual friends [it doesn't seem like it's in his best interests to bring it up though?]

I mean, the latter situation doesn't seem -likely-, because that's not an accusation you want to spread around, right? And I don't think he'd actually go so far as to try and gaslight and tell me/others I'm insane. If I could know how to handle the latter, and that the former isn't my responsibility, I think the letter is something I could do.

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Redskies
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Saying that you would be "complicit" in future abuse if you did not report was an absolutely hideous thing for anyone to say to you, and I'm so sorry that anyone did. It's not true. When someone has abused or assaulted us, we owe ourselves kindness and recovery before we owe anyone else anything (beyond the basic benchmark of not being abusive ourselves, of course). We have already had the job of our own recovery foisted on us without getting any say or choice in it. We do not also have to do further hard jobs simply because we were abused. We do what we can - what we Truly can, without harming our recovery or having more of the life we wanted taken from us or delayed - and anything and everything else is someone else's job.

Interacting in any way with someone who abused or assaulted us is actually usually very tough, so no, it's not something you "ought" to be able to handle. Quite apart from that, there are really no "oughts" or "shoulds" about what you or anyone who's been assaulted might be feeling. You feel what you feel, and you are entirely allowed that.

You are not responsible for him hurting himself (short of actually suggesting it to him, which I'm sure you wouldn't do). Making threats like that is a thing that some abusive people do, as a way of trying to wield more power and control.

Per you figuring out what to do, maybe this will help: What do you want to do, for yourself, that will benefit you and your recovery?

--------------------
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.

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techie
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You are very much saying what I needed to hear here, thanks.

(Just for one more check of reassurance: even if he's said "if I ever found out I'd done that [assaulted someone] to someone, I'd kill myself", in telling him he's assaulted me I'm definitely not implying or suggesting he should?)

Honestly what I want for this is for it not to just be something I've experienced. I'm really tired of different men having been abusive to me, and me realising that it was abuse, and just... quietly getting on with my life. Internalising it and trying to unlearn it and them being solely unaffected by it and able to just carry on with their day to day lives with no awareness or responsibility or retribution or anything. I just want at least one person to -know-, and to know they know, and for them to know I know they know. (This is starting to sound reminiscent of a Friends episode, but hopefully you understand what I mean, there.) And maybe I send the letter and nothing happens as a result, but it stops being something that just happened on my body and in my head, you know?

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techie
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I'm not sure that was clear, so I'll try to reiterate it:

I want at least one of my abusers to know that he was abusive, and to know that I hold him accountable, rather than the outcomes of the abuse being limited solely to my life and my responses, and being something that is only known by me in my own mind.

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Sam W
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Hi techie, I hope you don't mind if I step in while Redskies is away,


It sounds like you have a clear sense of why you want to send this letter. If you think that sending a that letter will help you move on and heal, then that's something you get to do.

I do want to reiterate the point to consider all the possible outcomes of the letter in regard to your own safety and well-being. What are the worst case scenarios and what you will do if the worst-case scenarios start to play out? That sort of thing.

And, since you asked, I will gladly repeat this: You are not responsible should he choose to hurt himself. That choice, like the choice to abuse, is in his hands, not yours.

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techie
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I don't mind you stepping in at all! I'm grateful for all contributions.

I think I can reasonably and rationally say that the worst case scenarios of him getting mutual friends involved would be exceedingly unlikely because he wouldn't want anybody to know that we slept together, let alone that I wasn't consenting? And even if he did, I barely see our mutuals as it is - I'd like to see them more, but if I had to not see them that's something I could handle?

Other worst case scenario, he turns up at the house - and I can avoid this by either sending the letter once one/both of us have left for the end of term (we're both at university, so living away from home), or just threaten to call campus security on his ***.

So I guess the only worry I have left is that the letter is meaningless - that he could read it and still not know what he's done wrong. And I may just have to ask somebody (a friend or my therapist or something) to idiotproofread it, and make sure that it's clearly written.

I don't know if I'm being overly optimistic here, going from "my name shall be dragged through the mud!" to "I can totally handle this", but I don't feel like I was being totally rational before.

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Sam W
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I think, as far as your worry about the letter being meaningless goes, there's on thing to keep in mind: even if he reads it, shrugs, and throws it away? It wasn't meaningless. Because by writing it, you let yourself take a step to help yourself heal. And, for all you know, maybe it will have an effect on him. But ultimately, your best bet is to focus on yourself and what you need and how you feel rather than on what his reaction is (with the obvious caveat of monitoring how he reacts to keep yourself safe from violence)

If you haven't I would talk over the letter and the scenarios you've discussed here with your therapist (if you haven't been doing so already),so they will be better able to support you in the aftermath (be it positive or negative).

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techie
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You know, my therapist and I don't really see eye to eye on the topic. He thinks that I'm not going to be telling him anything he doesn't already know, whereas I'm not so sure that that's the case. But I am being referred on to someone else who deals with more complex mental issues (apparently I'm complex), so I imagine that I will probably see this new person -instead- of the man I'm currently seeing. I get the impression he's sort of there to bridge the gap to make sure I wasn't not seeing anybody while I was in crisis. In any case - I think I'm working through these scenarios alright by myself? And I'll probably ask a friend I trust to read over the letter. I've had two offer already without me asking, which is helpful.
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Sam W
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Good to hear you're moving on to a new therapist. If you get to the new person before sending the letter, they may still be a valuable pair of eyes. I would say you are working through the scenarios realistically (given my limited amount of info), and we are here if you feel the need to run more of them by us.

And I think it's great that you have friends who offering are their support [Smile]

Going forward, is there something particular within the scope of our services that you'd like us to help you with?

[ 04-07-2014, 06:47 PM: Message edited by: Sam W ]

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techie
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You know, I think I'm alright now. You've all been really helpful and as far as the services on this forum go I think I'm all settled up.

Thank-you

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Sam W
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I think I can speak for Heather, Redskies and myself when I say that you're very welcome, we hope everything goes well, and we'll be here should you need more help
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techie
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I hope you don't mind the thread bump, but I didn't think it was worth the creation of a new one - I did it! And his response was pretty much the best case scenario. He apologised, acknowledged what he did, thanked me for telling him, vowed to change, and told me that he respected and understood why I didn't want to be friends, and wished me the best with the rest of holiday and my degree. Honestly, that was not an outcome I'd prepared for! It's a weight off my chest, really.
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Heather
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That is pretty amazing, techie. I'm so glad it went the way you wanted!

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Redskies
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I'm also really pleased for you that this went how you wanted. Thanks for letting us know!

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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.

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Sam W
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Ditto what Redskies and Heather said. I am so glad it worked out how you were hoping it would!
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Snorkmaiden
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Wow, that is very cool. I'm happy for you!
*high five*

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techie
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Thanks for all your support! All your messages here were instrumental to me finding the confidence to confront him, I couldn't have done it without you. And your happiness for me now is really great [Smile]
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