Where lipstick is concerned, the important thing is not color, but to accept God's final word on where your lips end. - Jerry Seinfeld
Question #92544 posted on 08/14/2019 10:54 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

trigger warning: sexual assault, victim blaming

I need a reality check from total strangers on the internet. My cousin Jane Doe is married to John Doe. I’ll call my other cousin Kate. (not actual names.) John was married to Jane, but kept flirting with Kate. Kate did not encourage his advances, but did not discourage them either. According to Kate, at the last family reunion, while Jane was running errands, John walked into Kate’s room after his shower, dropped his towel, and attacked her. Luckily, someone walked in at the right time, and Kate got away from John.

My family is planning another reunion and they want me to come.

Reasons I don’t want to go:
* it is possible that John is a sexually aggressive predator. It is not safe for me (or my daughter) to be around him.

Reasons my family wants me to go (I do not agree with or support these arguments):
* Some don’t trust Kate’s account.
* Kate is going, so if she’s ok with it, I should be too.
* As long as I spurn his advances, he won’t try to assault me. Kate was only assaulted because she did not spurn his advances.
* Kate went to therapy after the fact, and said it was because of how guilty she felt. My family members argue that she wouldn’t feel guilty if she hadn’t been complicit, therefore she is not a victim.
* We can just try and avoid him and make sure no one is ever alone with him.

I told my family I will not be going, and they told me I was being overly dramatic and probably nothing bad will happen. So, reality check please. Is it crazy that I don’t want to go to the reunion?


-Paranoid or not?

A:

Dear you,

You are not being paranoid or dramatic. If you do not feel comfortable going, do not go. That is all there is to it.

Plus, the arguments your family has given are all invalid.

  • It doesn't matter if some people don't trust Kate's account; if you feel unsafe around a person who will be at your family reunion, regardless of whether an account of that person is true or not, you should not go.
  • Kate choosing to go isn't necessarily the best decision for Kate, and so it shouldn't be a factor in your decision making. 
  • Sexual predators attack people regardless of having their advances spurned or not. Sometimes they attack specifically because they were spurned. You cannot control another person's actions, meaning that what you do isn't going to have the power to bar John from doing something.
  • Unfortunately, blameless victims in these kinds of situations often feel guilty. This feeling of guilt does not imply culpability in any way, shape, or form.
  • This is just flat out ridiculous. Seriously. The best way to avoid John and make sure no one is ever alone with him is to not go at all.

Finally, it is wise to take precautions even when it is not assured that something bad will happen. I doubt any of your family members would advise against getting an insurance plan because "probably nothing bad will happen." 

It sounds like your family has some serious victim blaming and self delusion issues. Please don't let their skewed views sway you into placing yourself in an unsafe situation.

~Anathema

A:

Dear totally NOT paranoid,

Anathema is completely right. If you don't feel safe going with you and your daughter, don't go. It is incredibly sad how many families will cover up sexual abuse. Since people want to believe in a just world, where people get what's coming to them and aren't randomly attacked at family reunions, they choose to either ignore the true accounts of others or find a way to blame the victims for the assault. 

A few things to be aware of:

  • Depending on how manipulative John is, he may try and persuade the family that Kate and you are crazy and enemies of the family. This is horrible but how some abusers work. So just be prepared to face some outlandish claims after the reunion.
  • Maybe reach out to Kate, especially in the days before and after the reunion, to show her some support. Just as some family members are mad about you not attending, I'm certain she's getting even more heat about being open about the assault. Maybe make it clear that she can call you whenever, so if she's ever alone or feels unsafe she can at least get you on the phone.
  • I don't know if you can do this without backlash, but if there's some way to send a message out that you're open and willing to talk to any family members about John, that may help others he's abused reach out to you. If he's acted this way towards one family member I'm pretty certain he's done this before. Your refusal to go to this upcoming family reunion may help others realize they can come to you for help. I'm also really worried about Jane, but there's not much you can do there until she takes the first step.

You are completely not crazy or paranoid, no matter how much your family may protest. Good on you for standing up for your and your family's safety.

-guppy of doom