Welcome to Ms. Opinionated, our weekly advice column dealing with questions of life, love, feminism, and pop culture. Submit your anonymous questions here. This week, Nicole Georges writes back to a woman who has to deal with an abusive ex in her town’s close-knit music scene.
Dear Ms. Opinionated,
I am dealing with a difficult situation involving my partner of three years and many friends and acquaintances. A few years ago I was in an abusive relationship with a man I met through the music scene. He sexually and emotionally abused me and used me financially.
I have met several of my close friends through him and even met my current partner through going to underground rock shows with him. And although my current partner knows what I went through with this man, he is still involved with him. I was able to cut ties with him safely with the support of my partner over three years ago when I moved to a different city. But he lives here now too. The abusive ex is highly involved with the music scene in my city. He often puts on shows and plays music in a band that has toured with my current partner after I told him how uncomfortable his involvement made me. He claimed he did not have a choice and that his band mates made the decision. I have been tricked into riding in a van with him since cutting contact with him, I see him at venues often and I see his Facebook posts through mutual friends because he organizes shows.
It causes me so much anxiety that I have panic attacks now. Not many of my close friends know what happened between us but they don’t seem like they would care. My old roommate who lived with my current partner and me even invited the abusive ex into our house when we lived together. Even though I stated he was not welcome.
They sat upstairs chatting and playing games while I hid in my bedroom for hours. And when confronted the roommate and partner insisted I was overacting. This man raped me and hurt me and I still have to see his face and see him in person and left parties and because my friends invited him. I feel so isolated by his persistent presence. It seems impossible to win in this situation and I simply cannot move to a different city. How do I get my partner and friends to take me seriously?
Why do they associate with this abusive man after they know what he did to me?
p.s. This is the only problem in my current relationship with an otherwise supportive partner.
Sincerely seeking advice,
Isolated in the City
There are so, so many people in the world, I’m sorry you have to keep running into this one. With that said, you are allowed to make boundaries about who you are and are not around, and then enforce them.
I have two prongs of approach to offer you. One is a fresh slate, and the other is for cleaning up the slate you already have.
1. MAKE FRIENDS OUTSIDE OF “THE SCENE”.
There are so many people in your city! They may not all be into the exact same music as you, or know the same places, but there are decent human beings who have more in common than you’d think based on the cut of their pants. They will support you or hang out with you without this cloud of “but-he’s-a-cool-dude-in-a-cool-band” hanging over them. Unconflicted, friendly, fresh-slate support.
2. BOUNDARIES, BOUNDARIES, BOUNDARIES
• Block him on Facebook
• Decide, concretely, what you will and will not tolerate.
• Realize that you cannot control your friends or your partner, but you can control yourself.
• After you decide what you will and will not tolerate, communicate these boundaries to your partner and friends in a calm and loving way. If they choose not to respect these boundaries, you get to make a decision about whether these are really your friends in the way you need friends.
1. He is not allowed in your home, period. If anyone invites him over after knowing the circumstances, you need to reconsider living with that person. There are plenty, PLENTY of places to hang out in your town, in any town, and your horrible ex doesn’t need to be stationed on your couch.
1.5. Your partner needs to be working for the good of the team (that is the two of you), and that means respecting you. He doesn’t need to boycott Sir Scenester, but he certainly shouldn’t be inviting a wolf into your space.
2. You could ask your friends to please warn you if he is invited to a party or place where you will be. You don’t need to take out the violins and tell them the whole story, you still get to maintain your privacy, but as an adult you get to choose whether or not you attend parties where this fellow will be.
3. You energy will be better used by inviting friends over and hosting parties than it is for you to emotionally batten down the hatches and attend Sir Scenester’s shows where you have to be in his space and watch him suck up to your loved ones.
Your friends might keep him as a friend. That’s their right. It’s cruddy, but they get to choose who they spend their time with. You get to choose to stay out of that particular friend-mix, but it could be valuable to let them know what’s going on. It could go a long way to say, “I can’t be around Sir Scenester for personal reasons. If I disappear from a party early, or don’t show up for an event, it’s not because I don’t want to support you, it’s just for my own personal safety and well-being.”
(Can you imagine inviting your best friend’s rapist to a party and then being mad if your friend left early? I can’t.)