Hi. I’m the founder and the main writer of this magazine. Some of you may know me by first name and some of you may not. I want to start by sharing the purpose of this article. Well, Ideally?
Maybe J**** would have stuck with his initial request to collaborate on his song instead of pressuring me to come over to see if we had the “right chemistry” for the “vibe of the song.” Maybe R*** would have accepted, “I’m tired” and “I wanted to earlier but I don’t feel up for it” as “no” instead of grinding on me until I changed my mind. Maybe ******* would have respected the fact that he didn’t get what he wanted from me that one night, bit the awkward bullet, and did his job with integrity instead of showing up late and unprepared to our performance.
I’ve found that people who have experienced toxic masculinity, misogyny, misogynoir, sexual assault, and harassment oftentimes feel perpetual doubt that an idyllic world can exist… where consent, safety, and respect all intertwine, deeming you a person worthy of things outside of what others can take from you. This is rape culture. Enter purpose of this article: I sense we are tired of thinking a safer environment is delusional. I sense we are tired of coercion in the bedroom. I sense we are tired of seeing abusers run spaces, seeing their work everywhere, and seeing our friends follow them on social media. I sense we’re tired of not speaking up in fear of not being believed because “everyone loves them.” I sense we’re tired of feeling like our talent is wrapped up in how much we’re desired. I sense we’re tired of having to lie and say we have a monogamous partner in the nicest way possible so we don’t become a headline, and then laughed at for being dramatic. I sense we’re tired of being judged for what we wear in front of family members, other peoples’ partners, or rapists. I sense we’re fucking tired.
This piece aims to give an outlet to survivors, artists, and humans who have been belittled, hurt, abused, assaulted, manipulated, gaslighted, and groomed; to let them know I’m here, listening, supporting, and understanding. As someone who’s been through similar experiences and as a newer “gatekeeper,” I want to open up the floor to increase awareness on the nuances, the grey areas, and the many, many sneaky, ways toxic masculinity does its work (and the flat out, not sneaky ways). By reading some of our stories, I hope to promote a restorative justice approach in the way you act as an ally, partner, friend, collaborator, and especially a gatekeeper in our DIY community. It’s more than just releasing a statement, cancelling, or cutting someone off. Recognizing and correcting this behavior is work, indeed, but if we didn’t have faith, none of us would still be here making art. Hear us. Be uncomfortable. Reflect.
The patriarchy is the breath of stand up comedy. From the open mic lists filled to the brim with names from the old testament, to the gatekeeper theater owner who smacks and grabs your ass after a few too many whiskeys. There are levels to this shit. In gaining confidence as a woman and finding a voice through stand up comedy I still constantly sought out platonic male attention. Sure, I could make an audience laugh; but do the guys think I’m funny? I would try to justify it in my head, Well, there are more men doing this, of course I want to impress them, I’d think to myself as I scanned the audience to see if my male peers were laughing. This need for approval from male comics was not only problematic and telling of my own internalized misogyny, but ultimately dangerous.
A beloved comedian in the “scene” primed and groomed me from the age of 20 when I was a server at a comedy club. I was so elated and shocked someone so successful and hilarious would pay any attention to me. I was blinded by admiration and naivety. When I was 21 he assaulted me. I was so afraid to say anything, what if I was overexaggerating? I’ve been drunk and made mistakes before? He was sober though? I was drunk? It wasn’t “that bad” because I didn’t remember it? He told me my accusation in the morning made him “feel bad”? He convinced me to apologize to him for accusing him? I hooked up with him for months after that? He said he had all sisters? I was a nobody? Everyone loved him? I’ve had men do worse to me? He could blacklist me? Everyone thought his promiscuity was charming? Was I looking to be a victim? His non problematic friends didn’t think he was bad? I knew female comics that heard he was problematic and still fucked him? Was he manipulating them too? He was short and looked like a rectangle eraser so he wasn’t that threatening, right?
I quietly moved through it and blocked him, sharing my story with friends and newer comedians. I saw how resistant people were to believing me because of who he was. How they tried to rationalize it in their heads, that was the worst part. I essentially tried to shut the experience out of my head. But his presence lingered around despite me clicking a couple of buttons on the internet. I hit a breaking point when another female comic came to me with a similar story about the same comedian that had assaulted me. When I heard the pain and anguish it caused her, I was furious and disgusted. I was so angry that someone could do that to my friend, although it had also been done to me, by the same man, under the same circumstances. Somehow I only fully validated my own experience once I knew he had done the same thing to someone else. I’m ashamed to admit that I needed someone else’s trauma to justify my own.
As freeing and validating as performing stand up comedy can be, it is built to protect and coddle cis straight men before anyone else. It is an industry, like so many others, that rewards bad behavior from the boys, a warm hug for the ever growing male ego. I often find myself battling with my morality as a comedian, questioning my career choice altogether. I could just move to a plot of land, delete my instagram, get some minimalist tattoos and start a vegetable farm with my girlfriend and 5 closest friends. That dream will wait. Instead of disappearing into the background to likely be replaced by yet another cis straight white man, I will get louder. I am deserving of the space I take up. I can be both grateful and qualified for the stage time I get. Instead of protecting the fragile egos of men, I will make space for comedians that don’t have the privileges I do as a cis white woman. I am cautiously optimistic for the return of stand up comedy. I am hopeful that I will witness and partake in accountability and healing.
I’ve been wrapping my brain around what to say for this article for a long while now. When asked to write about my own experience, I found it was hard to find the right words to describe what had happened to me. Others like me, who are also victims of abuse, have walked this same line. It’s almost like you’re stunned into silence. You have a million words circulating in your mind but they all seem so manic and jumbled when put on paper. How could I have so many triggering thoughts and have nothing to say? When it was hard to sort the millions of thoughts that were racing through my brain- that was really when I was able to bring together what I needed to say. It was only when I was scared and feeling shaky, that I was able to find solace in writing these words. Knowing that my abuser tried to take my voice away from me has given me the strength I need.
My abuser was a really likeable guy in the DIY scene. He was always there for his friends, and people closest to him. This loveable- “cool”- guy couldn’t possibly be capable of the horrific things that presented themselves. This statement sounds like a broken record at this point because of how prevalent abuse is and always has been in the community. My abuser put up this same front to try to downplay everything he did to me. Through this manipulation I even started to doubt if what happened to me was “really that bad.” Honestly, it’s those same words spoken to me and others that’s had us staying silent for far too long.
This man took every ounce of dignity and self-love that I had left. He made me hate my being down to the bones. My friends, my family, my clothes, my body, none of them ever seemed quite good enough to him. In a day, I would hear more things he hated about me than things he liked about me. He was able to trick my mind. People are so quick to proclaim: “well if he was acting like that, why wouldn’t you just leave?” If you haven’t experienced it yourself, then you really have no idea how easily abusers can get inside of your head. They will gaslight you and gain complete control over you.
Let’s talk about the control. About 3 months into the relationship is when my mind was fully being held captive by my abuser. He would say the absolute most degrading things to me, and when I would have had enough and would try to leave, he would say things like: “you are always overreacting.” He would be very aggressive with me, yell in my face, snatch my shit out of my hands, and throw it around without a single care in the world. It was give and take at this point. He was constantly trying to push my boundaries to see what he could get away with next.
Soon after, the abuse became sexual. Since my mind was so easily pliable to him… well, how about my body too? There were times I remember I would tell him I didn’t want to interact with him intimately. This man would tell me: “you aren’t sexually satisfying me enough.” I remember this one time he pushed me towards the couch and said: “once I start, you will enjoy yourself.” He forced himself into me even when my body wouldn’t allow it. Oftentimes I would pray for it to end or pretend to finish just to make it stop. He would leave me lying there bleeding and completely lifeless. I didn’t deserve that. My body didn’t deserve that. This went on for some time. Finally, enough was enough.
I leapt off his couch one day in late January and exclaimed: “you hate my family, you hate my friends, you hate my clothes, you hate my music, you hate ME. I don’t want to hear it anymore. I’m leaving.” I made my way to the door a little too late. He had me blocked in; he wouldn’t allow me to leave. Once again, he grabbed my stuff and threw it. He said: “I’m not letting you leave until you tell me why you are breaking up with me.” I repeated the same statement as I had before but it wasn’t good enough to make him move from his spot in front of the exit. I begged and cried for an hour straight for him to let me leave. I was sick with anxiety/ panic at this point. I couldn’t even look at him, I was so afraid. I started running towards his bathroom to at least lock myself away from him. Once again I got there a little too late. He kicked the door into me, snapping my wrist all the way back. I was crying and screaming. He broke his own damn door and had the audacity to say to me: “look what you made me do to the door.” Finally, after what seemed like an eternity later, he opened the door to let me go. I gathered my thrown items and exited as quickly as I could. Halfway down the stairs he ripped my bag off my shoulder. He literally tore the nerves in my shoulder; it was so aggressive. He then grabbed me from behind; trying to drag me back up the stairs. I screamed for help hoping his neighbors would hear me. They didn’t. Eventually he unhanded me. I thought it was the end but he had blocked me in from one final door. He said to me: “I’ll only let you leave if you can look me in the eye and tell me that you don’t love me, and don’t want to be with me anymore.” I did exactly as he asked. He whipped the door right open. I left and never looked back. I was in shock and in a lot of pain. Everything hurt, bruises all over my body, but I felt immediate relief to be out of there for good. Weeks later I met with him and asked him why he had done those things to me. His response: “if you hadn’t made me so angry, then I would have never put my hands on you.” His complete and utter lack of accountability is truly terrifying. He has been abusing people the same as he has done to me for many, many years. The red flags were there and ignored early on.
My whole point in sharing this story with you is for you to be aware of true accountability. One simply cannot just say they are holding themselves accountable and not do the actual work. That is how we get repeat offenders, people. So often that people pick and choose the things they want to be accountable for to try and save face. No one questions this behavior and the lies hiding behind fake accountability. This is how abusers keep getting away with the atrocious things they’ve done. What we need is full visibility and awareness. I also want to highlight that it is super important to believe survivors, and listen to what they have to say. If you stand with survivors like you say you do, then you cannot simply be idle when presented with these situations. If you know your friend is expressing red flag behavior, then it starts with you saying something. Stop it at the root of the problem before it’s too late. From my experience I believe that if we do not change, then the abuse will continue and only get worse. I’ve learned to use my voice to inspire others to do the same. Please say and do something.
It was a rehearsal fueled on tension and wine and I’ll admit, I was feeling it. He was showing signs of interest and so was I. However the night got away from us. It got later and later to the point that it became implied he would be staying over. My mood shifted for many reasons; the sobering realization that we were rehearsing for a gig the following week and maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, maybe the window just sort of…passed, I was tired and ready to go to bed… and pulling from experiences I had before, I knew what to expect when a guy would sleep over and I mentally prepared myself to be faced with a version of him that I wouldn’t like if I were to express any of these “excuses.”
Well. I tried to say all those things. In bed. Clothed. “I’m tired.” “Honestly, I was in the mood earlier but I kind of feel like we missed the mark, I’m tired now.” “I don’t know if I want to mix business and pleasure.” Every single thing, he talked me out of in the lamest way, which not only was uncomfortable and coercion by definition, but completely showed colors I wish I could unsee with lines like “well, can’t we just jerk each other off,” “I don’t know if you noticed I have a giant boner” and to my business vs. pleasure comment, discounting that we had any business- especially in that moment. When I finally gave in, it was for one reason. I didn’t feel he was taking any of my “no’s” as an answer, and I was already so bothered, that low self esteem mixed with fight or flight lead me to do what I figured I knew how to get the uncomfortable banter to stop so I could sleep, get through our gig the following week, and never work with him again.
As you could imagine, the sex was bad for both of us and resulted in both of us laying there in which he said “I feel like I forced it,” and I said, “This is exactly what I didn’t want to happen.” “Are you good?” he said before bed. I layed there feeling like a tool that didn’t even work.
What’s worse is the performance at the gig. We had to completely skip a song of mine because he couldn’t play it, and we had to discuss on stage- thankfully it was a brunch gig and people were chatting so it wasn’t career-threatening-awfulness. But nothing I’d ever like to happen when I’m singing my music on stage, for sure.
I “fired” him prior to the following gig we had already booked. It took me a while to process how shitty and small he made me feel in the bedroom, and then how he took the result of not getting what he wanted (even though he still did!), and belittled my musical career further by being late, not knowing the songs, and giving a lack-luster performance. When I sent him a long text explaining why his actions were harmful, I f0r whatever reason, still protected his ego and told him I don’t think he’s a rapist or a sexual assaulter; I just think he needs to be careful with how he communicates and treats women because this is how he made me feel. He called me, and then texted me saying “I want to make sure we’re on the same page with how the night went down,” immediately diminishing my feelings and making me feel like the wine, the invitation to sleep over cause it was late, and everything else I said or did was the result of the harm. I never called him back or talked or worked with him again even though I know a lot of my friends still fuck with him. He considers himself an ally and I wonder if he considers me someone who’s owed an apology. I truly wonder.
I really like to analyze his awfulness as how it shows in his dumbass art…. Ev*n had a very distinct art style, one that was grotesque, matter of fact, existential, and darkly humorous! His style was known and APPRECIATED by his peers; it’s really no wonder he was voted to direct our school’s upcoming urban arts festival. But also, the undertones were violent and disturbing. In the semester before his outing, he wrote, designed, and illustrated a comic about a protagonist that saves his sister from a rapist and brutally murders him (fact check? lol…. please see the Facebook post)…it was some redemptive savior bullshit in retrospect!! His art style was filled with expressions of harm- of harm that he thought was ok- that he had performed. It was all there.
I first interacted with Ev*n over Facebook message in 2017. I’m not sure how we met or became Facebook friends but he messaged me to suggest we should “throw some paint on canvas” together after I posted an image of a painting I had made. (I’ve since thrown it in the trash.) I’ve always doubted my own artistic abilities so it was validating to be affirmed by an artist in my “community.”
Later that year I met him, to my recollection for the first time, at a Halloween party thrown by a local theatre collective in my neighborhood (which I later learned he had been kicked out of for being a pervert and groping other members). Moved by their performance and feeling the love of being apart of an artistic community, I bought pizza for the performers and the small group of friends still hanging out. It was also the first night I’d met Annaleigh. It was a really special night.
So our first date was the result of him “paying me back” for that pizza party. It wasn’t even a date, until a few drinks in when I guess we decided to kiss. From the beginning, it was a relationship centered around validating and exploring each others’ artistic musings. We kept it low-key, (which I am inclined to) but for him, it was to shade his dishonest behavior. He was in a monogamous relationship, that he expressed disdain for (in reality, he was refusing to disengage with Annaleigh, despite her trying to dump him, numerous times)….but in that private sphere of us, there was romance and swooning and lots of time spent together- I mean LOTS (to the point where I would have to make up reasons to take space from him.) We’d sit around making art, or watching movies, or dreaming up movie scripts, doing dance and movement exercises. We created whole worlds together…We’d have deep conversations and I’d find phrases I had said to him, embedded in the art he was working on. I had become a muse. I felt seen and heard and admired. I felt like what I had to say was important, not frivolous. We lived close and were always entangled, there was no space to see past the grand gestures and displays of romance.… I was in my last year of college and finding my place and feeling like I was right where I needed to be. So when his harm came to light, everything was destabilized…
Now almost exactly three years after our initial romance and going into the winter, the city is full of painful reminders.
As we started getting more involved, he told me he hadn’t always treated women with respect, but I was different. He was learning how to be gentle with me, I was worth changing for… I ate that shit up. I felt special. I felt loved and worthy and valued. In retrospect I was groomed to be on his side, to defend him…He even posted on Facebook about feeling like he “hadn’t always treated women well” but now he’s different or whatever. I liked it, and smiled feeling like it was all for me… but it was just the beginning of accountability. Because he never mentioned what “not treating women well” even meant. But when people started coming forward with their experiences with him, it was so much more sinister than a lack of respect towards women…
When his harm came to light, everyone I knew had either a negative experience or knew someone else who had a negative experience with Ev*n. Everyone had a strong opinion. And I found myself blinded in the crossfires. I believe every account, I believe that he had caused harm and he needed to be held accountable, and initially I did try to help him. People were calling for him to step down from his newly elected role as the Manifest Director and I encouraged him to do so, too. I really believed he was ~already~ learning and there was space for him to be held accountable and achieve some sort of redemption. I was behind him during his outing and felt I had a unique position to influence him to grow, to be held accountable, (now I see it was a space in which I was coddling him and trying to do the work for him.) He came to me with his Facebook apology post and I tried to advise him on his wording (when I read it now, I can see myself in it and I am so ashamed for the hand I played in that situation). When he received a comment praising him from some toxic masculinity bro across the globe, he was ecstatic and I was appalled, ONE, that he thought some fuckhead on the internet with shitty views could absolve his character of the harm he’d committed and TWO, that so many people I respect called out this apology as not good enough. I had to accept that he couldn’t be redeemed through a Facebook post or an apology. It is NOT (ever) that easy.
At the time, only my closest friends knew I was seeing him and had romantic feelings for him. I turned towards them for advice, initially feeling VERY conflicted. I obsessively read through tweets, Facebook posts, reassessing our entire relationship up to that point under a new lens, looking for answers. How could I have fallen so deeply for someone so garbage? What did that say about me? Had he changed? Why had he never told me about any of this? (idiot) I asked my friends so many questions hoping for someone to tell me what to do, in a way that I could keep receiving the love I was getting. I knew they were exhausted of my moral quandary and felt as if there was only one easy choice to make and I just needed to make it, immediately. I took a week of internal conflict to make that decision, but the damage to my friendships was already done. I symbolically cut all my hair off & we went on a walk. I gave him a token of remembrance (literally a ball of hair) and told him I couldn’t be associated with him; a clean break. I felt lighter.
But this was an abusive person I was trying to walk away from. It just couldn’t be so simple, because he wasn’t capable of respecting boundaries….
It was New Years Eve, a truly cursed holiday, and I was feeling dread. As I was leaving my house to drink through my emotions at a party, I found a gift and a note from him outside of my apartment door (meaning he had let himself inside my building). The note was sentimental and the gift was in reference to a sappy inside joke. I was touched and furious. I’d never received such a romantic gesture… a love note? Pledging eternal love? The day after I decided to walk away, I was so vulnerable and confused. I was furious that he would initiate contact after I had ended things, furious that I felt sentimental and conflicted all over again, furious at the desire I felt. Drunk and sad and infuriated by this obvious violation of my boundaries but wanting so desperately to be held at 4 am on a New Year where I kissed no one and pissed myself at a karaoke bar, …I texted him to come over. We fought, made up, and I spent the first day of the New Year with guilt and him in my bed… a New Years’ promise to myself (to not see him again) immediately broken. At like 4pm, I once again had to kick him out to reclaim my space. I felt conflicted and told a close friend about the encounter and alluded that I wasn’t going to give up on this love. She nodded but after that night, she never spoke to me again. At the time I felt I was being measured by the man I was with, but now I know that associating with someone who caused people you care about harm is an ACTION and is never passive. So now, I can’t hold it against her.
The first few weeks of 2018 were confusing. I pulled away and he had pulled me back in again. I constantly felt sick. He went to LA for J-Term and I told him not to contact me. When he came back, I gave him all the clothes and books I had borrowed and once again told him I could not see him, and would not be interacting with him in our upcoming gallery management class, that semester.
Then the semester started…I worked hard to avoid eye contact but peeked from time to time, keeping a scowl on my face as much as possible. I was not doing well, socially. It was even more upsetting to see him take up space in that class, brazenly, charismatically. People liked him and some even flirted; people I didn’t expect. I just tried to remain calm and shot daggers in his direction. It was five excruciating weeks of avoidance and watching my classmates and teacher interact with him with ease while I struggled to keep my heart rate steady. I was filled with so much rage and shame and guilt. At this point, my two closest friends who I had depended on most during his outing had cut me off and I was so furious to have lost close friends while he brought books on enlightenment like, “Letting Go: the Pathway to Surrender” to sit on his desk during class, as if to say, “Hey look at me! I’m healing, I’m changing! Im better!” He even rebranded his art, where once sardonic dialogue and twisted clown faces were replaced with obnoxious smiley faces and toxic positivity bullshit like, “let go of negative energy and free your ego” or what the fuck ever.
Needless to say, I relapsed and reached out. We had a sloppy, messy, unpleasant, reunion and the next day I went to my 9 am class at 10 am with a hangover and a secret: That feeling of being lauded with constant attention, being plied with gifts and meals, and affection- I was greedy. But I knew it was wrong. It was especially sobering when my roommate, who seemed so far removed from the whole experience, shared that one of her friends had a negative experience with Ev*n too and asked that I didn’t bring him into the house, so I ghosted him. He wasn’t worth the heartbreak, the trauma, or the trigger that his very being was to the people in my life. I think a lot about how vulnerable I was when I cut things off initially and how this worm took advantage of that vulnerability and the boundary I had set, weaseling his way back in with sentimentality (to this day I remain heavily sentimental) and gifts and insisting that I could love him and be innocent. But I couldn’t and I lost a lot of connections figuring it out.
In retrospect I can look at our short but intense relationship and know that there was a lot of manipulation and patterns of emotional abuse, and if people hadn’t come forth and said something, well who knows… We spent an absurd amount of time together, to the point where I had to feign illness to get out of the space I was in. But at the same time I was so desperate for love that I ignored the warning signs and by the time he was outed, I was already so far in, I had a hard time seeing out. I tried to love someone because I was high on the feeling of giving and receiving love but ultimately I couldn’t love someone without also taking on their very real and present harm. I couldn’t do it without being complicit.
It has taken years to believe myself that I am not a shitty person, by proxy, for having loved a shitty person, and that I am not a shitty person for falling for someone that was so obviously disgusting. And I am not a shitty person for making bad choices. And I have learned that love is not a scarce feeling. It can be found through friendships and healthy relationships; it doesn’t only exist in the excitement and exhilaration of dangerous relationships, and you don’t have to compromise yourself to receive it. I know that while it took me longer than I am proud to admit to break off my entanglement with this abuser, that people coming forward and disassociating with the abuser, empowered me to do so, too.
I wish my story ended here but it doesn’t, because as it stands, harmful men still take up too much space.
In December of 2019, nearly two years later, I was at a point where I rarely thought of him, or if I did it was a passing thought. But I had gotten word that he had moved to Rodgers Park, my neighborhood at the time, and I was on edge that I would see him. I passed him once on my way home from the train and nearly shat myself, meaning seeing him was a guttural, visceral, contorted reaction. It had been so hard and I “lost” so much trying to pull away from him that the thought of him perceiving me, in itself, felt like a violation of boundaries. The day after I got home from my holiday trip to the suburbs, I decided to visit a local coffee shop to read and decompress after an entire weekend of being infantilized and misgendered. I ordered my drink and stepped into the back room to be met with wall to wall framed illustrations by Ev*n. I couldn’t believe my eyes…. the content was bright and positive and oblivious to the artist’s harmful past, but the line work was unmistakable. I immediately began shaking and locked myself in the bathroom to regain my breath and composure. I reached out to Annaleigh, who at this point had become one of my closest friends, despite not knowing of me at the time of Ev*n’s outing. I finally calmed down and thought maybe I can do this anyway. I sat down at a table but could not chill out and pulled off one the frames and wrote “RAPIST” on the cardboard backing. I left it on the table and decided to be more actionable. I approached the barista and with my voice shaking and cracking, I asked who the artist was. They told me it was “Art by E” and began to give me his instagram; I cut them off, I knew E. I gave him the moniker the last time we were seeing each other, secretly. Trying not to cry I said, “No thank you. I know the women he assaulted. It is very triggering to be in here and as curators of the space, you should know that. Do what you want with that information.”
I left and once again, Annaleigh saved me and held me while I cried on her couch. We spent the whole weekend together and brainstormed the chap book that would explore our vastly different experiences through image and text.
A few weeks into 2020 I walked past the coffee shop again and the art was taken down, the walls left empty. A small victory for an otherwise dismal year. I imagined if someone else had walked in, who may have experienced emotional or physical harm perpetrated by this artist, how they may have felt. How their stomach may have clenched up. We have a responsibility as a community of artists to warn each other. To protect each other and to de-platform abusers, even at the most basic levels. For this person who has caused so much harm, to change their artist name, to rebrand their art, to take up space, is just another example of an abuser participating in performative apologies just to try and separate themself from the harm they’ve done. This person, who has taken up space on bodies and minds of people throughout the artist community, has made it clear they value monetizing their self-expression over any accountability. I hope this person knows as long as they are in Chicago, there is no space for their art, not while people are hurting and healing.
If you’ve made it this far in the article, thank you. Thank you for taking the time to read our stories. But now what? Here are a few takeaways, boundaries, and suggestions to work accountability, trauma informed language, and ally-ship into your day to day, with help from Laura Kinter, Executive Director of the Awakenings.
Listen to them
Thank them for sharing their story with you
Check in with them
Engage in relaxing and safe activities with them
Remind them they’re loved
Educate yourself on what they might be feeling
These conversations will always be difficult, especially when a survivor is disclosing to you. If this person is a dear friend and you feel the need to step in, always ask permission. “Do you mind if I share my opinion?” or “Can I share what this sounds like to me?”
If someone you know sounds like they might be experiencing abuse or worse, ask them how they feel, and then ask if they are getting the support they need. While it might be hard not to urge them to seek help, try something like, “That sounds really scary. How long has this been going on? And is there anything I can do to help?”
If you see (or hear) something, say something. If your friend or acquaintance makes a joke, tells you a story with red flags or flat out abusive behavior, or picks apart a survivor’s story/ defends an abuser, try some of these responses
If someone says something offensive or ignorant, ask them to clarify. “What makes you say that?” It encourages them to reflect on their biases and gives you an opportunity to share a different perspective with them.
If someone makes an offensive joke, call them out. Try something like “I wouldn’t kid around about things like that. You never know what people have gone through, and jokes like that perpetuate rape culture.”
Practice consent into your everyday actions
Hugging, touching other people, tickling. Ask permission before touching anyone! It can be as simple as “would you like a hug?”
Always remember to be an active listener – ALWAYS! If someone is speaking, don’t interrupt them. Try to avoid giving advice and simply reflect what that person is showing you. Instead of saying, “You should never talk to him again,” try “It sounds like he made you feel really unsafe.” Active listening gives agency and power to the storyteller to define their own experience, and it will make you a much better friend!
Never assume! While you might know your good friends’ gender identities and sexual preferences, never assume those of others. Try using less gendered pronouns in your everyday speech.
Thank you so much to our survivors for sharing their stories. Contributions from: Cache Taylor, Marisa Thompson, and more.