Doctor’s Note: Today’s column includes discussion about rape, sexual assault and false rape allegations. Because of the sensitive nature of the topic, I will be very strict about moderating the comments.
Hi Doc, I really appreciate everything you’ve written and I have a question about a situation that’s a bit of a twist on the old scenario, Mostly because the predatory party is a female. Forgive the upcoming wall of text but this is a long and complicated story.
For a little background I’ve known this person, let’s call her Alpha, for years and actually met most of my current friend group through her. It has never been a secret that she’s not the most stable person, nor is the fact that she has feelings for me, another woman who happens to be a lesbian. But I have no interest in her for a myriad of reasons and have made that crystal clear. The first time it came up I politely turned her down by pointing out the fact that she was married, even though it was an open relationship and I have no problem with that in principle. That reason happened to have her the least personally insulting one I could come up with for turning her down, but it’s obvious to everyone who knows her that she, and I’m quoting here, “covets” me to this day. Now knowing this about her and other things including the fact that she is bipolar and very hypersexual I have always kept her at an arm’s length, because something just seemed off. Unfortunately I have since found out I was properly paranoid to be cautious.
I drifted away from her over the years for various reasons including realizing that she’s in general just kind of a shitty friend. While her mom was dying of cancer a few years ago I tried to be there for her as much as I could but when my own mom got cancer it was radio silence on her end. During that period I also realized that she’s incredibly jealous of a friend of mine, Phi, who actually was there for me when all this was happening. At one point she attempted to reconnect with me but by then that ship had sailed because I realized she was only interested in being a friend when it was beneficial to her and she was still hoping to get in my pants someday. After that point contact between us generally ceased.
Enter Delta. He is another mutual friend of ours who I know has had feelings for her in the past. And at some point last year I became aware that something had happened between them that made them not want to be around each other. To say that what he told me in private made me furious is an understatement. Essentially she arranged for a situation where she stayed over at his house overnight without actually needing to, lured him into the guest room and attempted to have sex with him, with her as the clear aggressor. It got as far as her throwing a condom at him before he made an excuse to leave the room and then locked himself in his own room for the remainder of the night. The next day she acted normal and didn’t acknowledge anything had happened, but a few days later she came after him insisting he had assaulted her. She then dragged his name through the mud to other people we know and effectively got him blacklisted from our community.
I was furious to find out she had sexually assaulted my friend and then tried to blame him for it. And I fully believe Delta, in part because his story is almost identical to one Phi told me years ago about going to Alpha’s house when she was there alone to pick something up and she blatantly came on to him. He was more puzzled than anything and wasn’t receptive and he has never done anything physical with her, and I know Phi well enough that there is no reason he would lie about it because it’s just not in his character. Then the story gets stickier since at the time Alpha told other people, including Delta, that she was in a casual relationship with Phi, and worse, claims he was abusive to her. I only found out about this after Delta confided in me about what she did to him, and at this point we both realized the depth of her lies and the likelihood she has done this to others. It’s clear that he method is to falsely claim someone had abused her in response to rejection.
I have encouraged Delta to come forward to some of the people with influence in our community but he is reluctant to do so and thinks he will not be believed because he’s a man. I have offered to go with him since I have some training in this area and I believe his account is credible. But I know I can’t make him. He did eventually talk to Phi and they compared accounts so now they both know, but things are at a stalemate. Alpha has since become increasingly erratic and has separated from her husband to live with a boyfriend and is purposely going unmedicated for her bipolar disorder. I’m certain she will do this again to someone else if given the chance, and it pisses me off to know we have a predator in our community hiding being a lie of victimhood. But I also can’t do anything without the victims being willing to come forward.
On a personal note this infuriates me because I had my own experience with a guy in our community who harassed me for not being receptive to his advances (because lesbian) and Alpha went on a virtual crusade against him that ended with him getting banned, but now I find out she’s just as bad if not worse because her actions have progressed to the physical. I have avoided her as much as possible so my temper can’t get the better of me, since my reaction would probably be to cuss her out and reveal that I know her true colors.
So what do I do? Or have I done all I can for now? I just can’t stand the thought of this woman still being out there doing this to others.
Conflicted and Enraged
This is a tough one to answer, C&E, in no small part because this scenario is precisely the sort of thing certain groups like to toss around as “proof” that women make up allegations of sexual assault for clout and/or power and that the #MeToo movement is nothing more than women trying to take down men because FUCK YOU PENIS, THAT’S WHY. Similarly, plenty of folks will dismiss the story of a guy assaulting people — see also: Mignogna, Vic — but accuse the victims of inventing the entire thing because reasons.
In reality, not only are false accusations so rare as to be statistically non-existent, but the vast majority of false — not “unverified”, not “not proven in court” but actually made up — almost never involve a named perpetrator. It’s “I was assaulted” not “Joe Blow assaulted me”. In practice, women who come forward with stories about rape or sexual assault tend to get put through the wringer, by the authorities, by the public, even by family, while the perpetrators are rarely punished, or the punishments are laughably lenient — see also: Turner, Brock. This is why people say “believe women” or “believe victims”; not because women never lie or mislead or because people haven’t lied about being a victim of a crime, but because our societal default tends to question victims’ versions of events at best or to call them liars at worst.
And the story of a vindictive, possibly mentally ill woman tossing around sexual assault accusations… well, that fits in rather well with the narrative that MRAs, Red-Pillers and assorted fuckheads make up in order to discredit victims. So needless to say: I’m a little skeptical.
But with that in mind: being a shithead knows no gender and some folks will do shitty things to other people because they feel justified in doing so. So I’m going to proceed with caution here.
The issue here is that we end up with a conflict between two mutually exclusive desires: the desire to believe our friends when they tell us their story, and the desire to believe victims. On the one hand, we want to believe the folks in our lives, especially our close friends, would never do such a thing. On the other hand, history is rife with people who believed that their friend was innocent and incapable of doing such horrific things, only to discover that no, they were very capable of doing so. It becomes a difficult needle to thread because we’re pulled in two different directions, both of which seem equally valid.
In your case, you have reason to believe Delta and Phi, because you know them, they have similar stories and Alpha’s behavior when you met her set your Spidey-sense tingling. That, understandably, puts you more firmly on the side of believing them. Their reticence to come forward also adds to their credibility in this case. While it’s by no means proof, lots of people who want to (literally) blame the victim will shout their version of the story from the mountain tops, not quietly try to just move forward with their lives.
So let’s say that this is 100% legit. They’ve told you God’s honest truth, Alpha is prone to tossing around stories like this to cover for her embarrassment or anger at being rejected and the only thing they’re guilty of is being briefly interested in someone who is not in good working order (to say the least.
Here’s the problem, C&E: there isn’t that much that you can do. The problem with cases like this — whether taken to the authorities, or simply being reported in the court of public opinion — is that there’s no evidence. It’s the literal definition of “he said, she said”, which then comes down to “so who are you going to believe?” Without any concrete reason to cast doubt on Alpha’s credibility (and HOO BOY does that get problematic), there’s simply no good or clean way of handling this that doesn’t open up a veritable typhoon of problems. If Delta and Phi were willing to come with you to talk to people in your community… well, that might help, it might not. But that’s more or less the limit of what you can do to address these issues.
The other issue is that she’s a less visible missing stair than others. The term — coined by Cliff Pervocracy — is a metaphor for somebody in the community who is a known problem. The malefactor is akin to an issue with a house — a missing stair in the stair case to the basement. People who know about the missing stair know to simply step over it and often get used to the fact that it’s not there. People who don’t know that the stair is missing, however, are prone to falling and getting hurt. The folks who live in the house are used to the stair, they’ll warn people to watch out for the missing stair… but some people don’t get the warning and end up hurt.
The obvious answer is “stop stepping over the damn thing and fix the fucking stair,” or, rather: dropkick the person out of your community so hard they achieve geostationary orbit. But in this case… well, it seems like your community doesn’t realize there’s a stair that’s missing.
If other people don’t know that Alpha is a problem, then it’s very hard to do anything concrete about it. You could start a whisper network and warn people on the down-low to avoid her and fill them in on her proclivities. This is, needless to say, problematic as fuck; you are, for all intents and purposes, creating the missing stair issue. But without compelling evidence or a pattern of behavior that you can point to, it’s going to be hard to convince people that this is a problem. So the least-bad option would seem to be to limit her access to people and minimize the potential harm she can do.
As much as it sucks and as awful as it is, it may well be that your only option is to wait. If this is a pattern of behavior for Alpha, then the odds are… one hesitates to say “good”… that she’ll do this again. And if she is choosing to not treat her bipolar disorder, it’s entirely possible that she’ll reach a point where her behavior will be obvious to everyone. The problem is, not only does this not help Delta and Phi, but it also risks harming future victims and Alpha herself.
Similarly, I don’t think publicly accusing her or going off at her will help. At best, it’s just spectacle. At worst, you risk coming off as someone who supports a couple of rapists and accusing a victim of making false rape accusations. And, in the process, putting a very large target on your back. After all, you’re the one palling around with rapists so what does that say about you, etc. etc.
So, yeah. It’s a case of “suck or suckier”, where there really are no good options and the only choice you have is the one that’s the least bad. Supporting your friends, warning others and possibly talking to folks within the community about Alpha and Phi seems to be the least bad choice. At least in this case, it potentially limits the damage that Alpha can do, with as minimal exposure for yourself as possible. Otherwise, the only thing that’s left is waiting for Alpha to self-destruct (metaphorically, one hopes) or reach a point where her malfeasance is obvious and she can be removed from the community.