Saturday, 1 December 2012

Emotional violence and social power

Updated June 26th 2020

Photo taken 23rd June 2020

June 26th 2020:  People are coming to this page to read Emotional Violence and Social Power, my #MeToo article about coercion, grooming and sexual exploitation. It's below. As a result of writing it I received multiple aggressive and lengthy threats by the same individual using the same law firm in July 2014 and again in May and June 2018. Anyone who wants to see the threats can contact me. 

I have also received messages from countless women victims from all over the world over the last decade, from publishing, academia, the media, events production, TV, comics, politics and activism. They range in (perpetrated-at) age from their very early 20s to their late 40s and have detailed their experiences from 2002 to the present, describing precise and identical patterns of speech and behaviour in their perpetrator.

I want to thank the police, Helena Kennedy QC, JB and HW (whose counsel I believe saved my life), MM, my prison and probation contacts, investigative journalist colleagues, specialist prosecutors, 'domestic' abuse and sexual violence charities and numerous MPs working on coercive control, grooming and sexual exploitation, harassment and MVAWG. Thanks to the many colleagues who warned me (too late!).

Regarding abuser dynamics and psychology, a helpful book list is at the bottom of this introduction but a good starter is to Google 'narcissistic sociopath' or 'sociopathic abuse'. Maybe start here and also here, or maybe here, or even here, or here, fetch a sick-bag and go down the rabbit hole.  If you're not nauseated enough, read Anne Ursu's piece, or this particularly emetic post. As you can tell, the patterns are all the same. 

I do believe it's worth making a statement to the police, because the behaviours I am talking about are illegal, criminal acts of abuse. Doing so is horrendously exposing and you need to give exact references, facts, dates and contact points rather than feelings. The police may not be 'nice' and they may well not believe you. But it's your right, they keep all details on record, it goes into the system and they take note when multiple people reference the same individual behaving in the same way over time. They are also in touch with international prosecutors and investigators. The law on coercive control is explained here and a Crown Prosecution Service link is here. Rights of Women has a criminal law helpline that's a good starting point.  In the US the use of deceit and manipulation to gain sexual access is currently under discussion as an amendment of rape laws. If you go down this path, keep all the receipts and a detailed journal of your dealings and conversations with all officials.

For years, people logged on to this page to get the gossip and eat up every detail of my horror, my disgust and sense of violation. They wanted to know about all the times a two-faced sadist gratified himself by manipulating and humiliating women. They wanted to count the ways a perpetrator can abuse women without actually punching us in the face. They wanted to read my five thousand word verbal horror-puke about an abusive man who is such a good actor that he's perceived by everyone as gentle, kind and sincere, as vulnerable, quiet and thoughtful - 'the loveliest guy in the world,' as he was described to me several times before he perpetrated against me. 

Readers want female suffering, trauma and pain, a perpetrator who abuses women and uses institutional grievance procedures to threaten those who speak up. They want to read about male cronyism and collaboration, the sociopathic use of enablers and groupies. But when a woman draws a line and moves towards action and justice, the kick for voyeurs is gone. They enjoy the pain of the suffering victim but are not interested in joining the woman who fights back. Instead, they want to re-read accounts of women's trauma and abusive men's impunity, while nothing changes. 

Everyone wants to know what happened next. The answer is, nothing. Impunity and success for him and injustice and downfall for all the victims. I wrote my piece and took all the consequent trash-talking, the disbelief, the punishment, the threats and betrayal and ostracism. That's par for the patriarchal course. I was one of countless targets in an ongoing, decades-long series with many simultaneous victims. My testimony isn't special and has no power to challenge the overall dynamics. Perpetrators don't change. 

The only thing my Me Too piece enabled was for a rich white man to go to a rich white man law firm and club up with them to threaten me, for years. That is, to use the legal system to terrorise a woman and exercise control while maintaining an outward show of morality, rectitude and wounded sanctimony. That's obviously repellent. But it's not uncommon. 

The last verifiable whistleblow I received was at the end of 2019, and they keep coming. But this is nothing to do with me and I resent being dragged into a garbage man's garbage world of lies, games and bullshit drama. Life is easy when you don't lie. My message to the perpetrator has always been the same: if I'm wrong about anything, come clean and say your stuff - all your stuff - right to my face. Don't threaten me again. But telling the truth is the one thing these people can't do. In fact they can say and do anything except what is simple, clear, honest and truthful. It must be exhausting.

My piece was not emotionally cathartic and evidently did not protect potential victims. It delighted gossips and bystanders, empowered anonymous trolls and enabled further abuse against me. It reduced me to Case Study Woman, writing a testimonial about Typical Sociopathic Abuser Guy, then reading dozens of other Typical Sociopathic Abuser Guy testimonials in every single sector in every country on the planet. I am a woman of colour who was perpetrated against by a white man who is reasonably wealthy, charming and plausible on the surface. I do not expect to be believed. I do not expect to be supported. I do not expect to see justice. Something that always stuck with me was that a number of his victims were also women of colour - a disproportionately high number in a very white milieu. I always wondered about that, about the racial elements of these sexual crimes.

But overall, I'm done psychoanalysing the mendacity of abusive men. It's not fascinating, it's pathetic. All it teaches you is that when you roll in dirt, you get covered in dirt. So listen perp. Yes! You got me! And lots and lots and lots and lots of other women. The joke's on us, a hundred per cent. Your bathwater is now very, very, very stale and fetid. Enjoy it.


Trauma and Recovery – Judith Herman
The Sociopath Next Door – Martha Stout
The Body Keeps the Score – Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Remembers – Babette Rothschild
Betrayal Trauma – Jennifer Freyd
Blind to Betrayal – Jennifer Freyd
Trauma and the Body – Pat Odgen
Multiple books on trauma by Peter Levine
Power and Control - Sandra Horley
Why Does He Do That? – Lundy Bancroft
Complex PTSD – Pete Walker
It's Not Me - Anabel Gonzalez

Er, a few of these books (not the first two) have a slightly trashy, self-published vibe and on-the-nose titles, but the content is good. 

Duped - Abby Ellin
Look What You Made Me Do - Helen Walmsley-Johnson
The Empathy Trap – Jane McGregor and Tim McGregor
Psychopath Free – Jackson MacKenzie
The Betrayal Bond – Patrick J Carnes
How to Handle A Narcissist – Theresa Jackson
Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare – Shahida Arabi
Soul Vampires – Andrea Schneider
Revenge: How to Beat the Narcissist – H G Tudor
In Sheep’s Clothing – George Simon
How to Spot a Dangerous Man – Sandra Brown
When Love is a Lie – Zari Ballard
From Charm to Harm – Gregory Zaffuto
How to Kill a Narcissist – JH Simon


I've been attacked.

No, that’s not quite right.

I was targeted, groomed, emotionally manipulated, sexually exploited and intricately played by an industry peer, alongside countless other victims simultaneously. I then found out, through colleagues, that the perpetrator is a known abuser and that his actions are an open secret. What he did was illegal - coercion, controlling behaviour, deception, sexual exploitation, threats and emotional abuse are against the law . But when I did speak up, nobody believed me, his female fans (including women who call themselves feminists) and male colleagues didn't believe me, he threatened me terrifyingly and released a statement in a flagship industry publication calling me a liar.

What is the phrase for what the perpetrator did? Sexual coercion. Emotional rape. Sexual exploitation for the purposes of control, domination and sadistic mental gratification. Careful grooming and precise, subtle manipulation? Deception to attain sexual access? I have no idea. But it was a subtle, highly skilled, multi layered and expert violation.

I have never used the r-word (although the perpetrator's lawyer accused me of falsely accusing him of rape). When a peer asked if I felt raped, I said I feel violated in every way but physically. I have not touched anyone since I was perpetrated against and I was celibate for 10 years before then too. I hate it when anyone stands too close to me. I don't like to be touched. And this is all going on at the same time as me pursuing my work competently, even excellently, working in public life and fostering friendships and colleague relationships. But I feel violated and horrified.

I have a recurring nightmare. The perpetrator and I are in a neutral space - a hotel corridor, a back office, a bland apartment. He passes by me. As he does, he turns his head and smirks full into my face. His eyes say, 'I know what I did to you. You know what I did to you. And I got away with it'. In that moment I feel every bit of the humiliation, evisceration and horror and am consumed by it. And the next morning, in reality, I get up and live my life. As the years pass, as more women victims and
witnesses contact me, the feeling gets worse as I realise he is abusing compulsively, with impunity. This is who he is.

A very close friend of mine was sexually exploited for over a year, her body used, her emotions manipulated, her face lied to by her partner. She described it later as “emotional violence.” I watched, over the following six years, as her trust, strength and happiness were replaced with something wired and watchful. It’s called cheating not because specific restrictions have been broken but because the lover has been cheated out of their faith in the world, their trust, their sense of good judgement and
their peace of mind. In time, she rebuilt herself. But she lost the career that she loved. When the revelation came it was too humiliating to go to meetings, knowing that everyone knew. There was a particular look people had - of revolting open-eyed pity for her, but no censure for him. Seeing that 'liberal' industry for the protection racket that it really was poisoned her career. She was punished for being a victim and he was rewarded for being a perpetrator. The perks and job offers went to him and she was frozen out. He is now rich, famous, thriving, happy and busy. She left the country and lost everything.

The phrase “emotional violence” stayed with me. At the time I thought she was talking out of her immediate devastation, but I now understand. The pain is physical. For a year after my discovery of the perpetrator's real character my skin crawled night and day, I felt nauseous, food tasted like ashes, my muscles were tense and, if I heard the perpetrator being praised as an unbelievably lovely, decent and gentle guy (as I do often), my heart pounded and felt as though a metal vice was squeezing it, I went hot and cold, then started sweating, shuddering and retching. I realise now that these are triggered trauma responses. I didn’t know there would be a feverish restlessness and that my skin would feel as if it was being cut across the surface. I remember standing in the shower, feeling my back burning, certain that it was running with blood, slashed in a diamond pattern. I accepted every invitation, every work offer no matter how pointless and exhausting, because whenever I was alone,
my skin crawled in one piece.

After that I felt numb and heavy for a year, as if my limbs were made of lead. I only wanted to be alone. My skin crawled when I was with people. And then it was all just cold, and grave, and realistic, and even. I see clearly now. I see him thrive. The fear has calcified, the horror has set, the wariness soured into cynicism. “I’d say it took ten years to get over.” “After six weeks, when I phoned to check she wasn’t dead, she said, ‘I’ll live. Just.’” “I’d say it took…five years?... to feel like myself again. It’s just the thought that I didn’t even figure in his thoughts. What it would do to me…” “Even now, five years on, I wonder if it’s something I did.” “Don’t be embarrassed. I still talk and think about what happened to me, five years later.” These are all quotes from women victims and witnesses I have been in touch with, all strong, all successful, all different, with different lives and personalities, none of them stupid or na├»ve. It gets worse with time, not better.

Now that the scales have dropped from my eyes I’ve been horrified by the hypocrisy and protectionism which surrounds these people. They are abusive men, nothing more, acting with forethought, secrecy, control, coldness and multiple simultaneous victims. Their victims are women, not men. The fact that the perpetrators pretend, at the same time, to be feminists, in order to get close to and then harm the women whose destruction will give them the greatest kick, compounds the unspeakable nastiness of their misogyny. Meanwhile, the misogyny of the beholders runs so deep
that they just don’t care how much these men abuse, because their women victims are not human, it seems. Women are not even animals, for if any of these men had been witnessed mistreating a dog or a cat, people would be appalled. I have sat back in astonishment as ‘nice guys’ easily, happily praise and defend abusive men, in comically identical language. In fact I have never heard any man describe another man as 'wonderful' except when the second man was abusive towards women.

Chap: “George Best, what a wonderful, wonderful footballer. My father [who was a doctor] treated him, you know.”
Me: “For alcoholism, or for wife-beating?”
Chap (reddening): “Oh – for alcoholism.”

Even when I have outed abusers to colleagues, the colleagues do not then refuse to work with the abusers. Yet these men and women would, I am sure, would hate to be treated in the way I have described. Meanwhile, the gratuitous slandering of innocent women is endemic in public life and general conversation, as is the silencing, punishing, trashing, disbelieving and blaming of women victims who dare to speak out about what we have survived.

The effects go far beyond the incident and are enmeshed in a wider culture which does not punish this mistreatment but excuses and even rewards it, while attacking victims. When I have confronted abusers myself they have laughed in my face because they know that their abuse is not only protected but rewarded. It was devastating to learn, through experience, the ubiquity and connectedness of professional discrimination, personal abuse and cultural excusal, of perpetrators covering for each other and assisting each other’s careers. These men don't love women, as abusers forgivingly say of themselves. They hate us. If you spend years playing women, coercing women, tricking women, setting women up, using women's bodies, duping women, lying to women, exulting in women's obliviousness, humiliating women, you are an abusive man.

Regarding the individual who perpetrated against me - let's call him Jekyll - his entire public persona is built on his decency, his fairness, his niceness, his strength, his activism, his progressive politics and his integrity. This was a drive-by shooting, a womanhating hit and run, a hard lesson taught to a stranger, a knifing by a passer-by. I told my mother about you and showed her the thousands of words of sly texts, endless emails and carefully crafted handwritten letters, including the classic line, 'You ask if I am playing you. No defensiveness intended, but how would that work exactly?' Jekyll, it would work by grooming, coercion, compulsive and pathological lying, mercenary professional exploitation, manipulative mental games, sexual exploitation, emotional exploitation, hypocrisy, control, sadism, repeated and sustained deception and betrayal. My mother, a scientist and academic, said, 'He writes fantasy stories, doesn't he? He created a fantasy persona for himself: the little boy lost. He uses it to trick women. And he targets the clever ones. He uses his looks to deceive women - not a good look but a hurt, vulnerable look. I used to think there was something more to it with him but now I think he's just a piece of rubbish.'

Threats and abuse are very effective. As a result of what the perpetrator decided to do, and the subsequent threats, I am braced in fear at all times. When I walk down a street or enter a party I scan it to check he's not there. Once I worked my way down through all the various layers of deceit - the shifting storylines, fudges, feints, conditions and tales a liar has to tell to keep themselves steady on wobbly ground - there was nothing left. It is dizzying to contemplate the massive distance between the outward image and the incredible sadism behind it. How could anyone do that - be so abusive yet so careful, so nasty yet so systematic? And how is it that apart from some surface static electricity, there was no consequence in the outer world? He flourished. Women and men flocked to serve and enable him. Everything was given to him and, typically, he took everything he could use.

There is the appalling knowledge that he is doing it to many other women simultaneously and I cannot warn them because no-one believes me. There is the horror of knowing that, across months and years, a person can create and then enjoy pain in women, for fun. There is the steepness of his hypocrisy and the psychosis of his pretence, in which the mask doesn't slip for one moment. Serial
killer by night, pillar of the community by day.

When I am triggered by the mention or image of the man, which is frequent as he is an industry peer, the physical reaction is immediate. To describe it literally and in order: I feel I have been stabbed in the heart with something thin like a knitting needle; a sour poisons slip down my throat into my stomach and curdles there; a sizzling shock spreads from my heart through my veins, running out in thin lines until it reaches the surface of my skin and burns; the blood drains from my face and my
lips go numb; I begin to pant and feel light-headed; my stomach turns over and I retch; finally, heat and adrenalin rush to my face and I cry thick tears, shaking with horror.

The obscenity resides here: how can he laugh, talk, joke and socialise with such clear-eyed cheerfulness? How can he deceive, plan, use, enjoy? How can he pretend to be a good person? How could he set up, mentally eviscerate, sexually exploit and deceive so many victims and make it look like they were mad when they sensed something was wrong? How could he groom and use women, pretend to cherish us, pretend to feel it mutually, use it as a smokescreen as he abused us, then throw it back in our face?

Jekyll, you ....I can barely write this... you pretended to be shy, unworldly, innocent, hesitant, awed and delighted. And while you did that to me, you did it to many other women simultaneously. You wrote that it was 'life-changing, when that door opened'; 'Your worst fears about me are not true'; 'I have never, in my life, so enjoyed waking up with someone'; 'I like how I am with you. I play when
I'm with you. I never usually play.' I love that you notice me - I love that you notice things about me.' 'The way you kiss me...' 'Every time I touch you, it's electric.' 'I will never not want you. You'd have to change your pheromones.' 'I'm not a sadist, I'm not a sociopath. I'm not a sadist, I'm not a sociopath.' You texted, 'I cannot even believe what you are.' 'Oh my sweet thing, oh my gorgeous girl.' 'Well, for a start you're heart-freezingly, heart-killingly beautiful.' 'The taste of you....' 'I crackle in your company.' 'I love your crackling energy! I'm trying not to get obsessed with you.' 'I see your eyes everywhere.' 'I feel filled up with you. You fill me up, Bidisha.' 'I have been going around my room smelling all the places you've been. I caught myself breathing through the T-shirt you wore like a diver breathing through a regulator. I even considered tying it up in a plastic bag to preserve the smell.' 'I'm sorry, I'm smitten. I'm gone on you.'

I'm an idiot, right? A total freaking idiot.

I found out that you are a decades-long, multiple simultaneous victim perpetrator through a colleague. When I confessed what you did, she blanched and rolled her eyes. She revealed that this was your method with all the women you trick and abuse simultaneously, and has been forever, including to a close friend of hers who had been 'distraught' and whom she had supported through the 'fallout'. How crushing to know that your satisfaction came from setting up the trick, using my body for sexual pleasure and a sense of control, manipulating me and then seeing how tormented I was, knowing instinctively that something was wrong, while you gazed at me from three inches away in gentle puzzlement, blinking and watching all the while.  How crushing to learn years later that this is what you were doing and are still doing, not just with me but with countless other women. 

Because of your sadism, Jekyll, I fear you. Because of your hypocrisy and impunity, I fear you. Because of your strength, I fear you. Because you target, use and harm women, I fear you. Because you are such a good actor, I fear you. Because you pretend to be a feminist when you are a man who hurts women, I fear you. How easily you abuse. How assiduously you take. How smoothly you lie. You wanted to deceive, sexually exploit, professionally use, emotionally eviscerate, mislead, sabotage and betray women, and you did. You thought you would be assisted and protected by countless other men and your own groupies, and you are.

I do not understand. Surely it takes more effort to mistreat and threaten women than to be a decent human being? Surely it does not feel good to behave this way? How can it be that everything you have claimed about yourself is a lie, everything you do is part of a gigantic game and every way you present yourself is a front to facilitate your abuse of women? You know how to give feminist quotes and say all the right things about women'a rights. You know exactly what to do to advance yourself
publicly, how to use and hurt women privately and make sure nobody finds out and that victims are silenced through legal threats.

It's funny. I used to pride myself on my shrewdness but now I realise how naive I am, how stupidly trusting, how innocently attackable - how easy to knock down and infect with fear. I have written about these issues throughout my career yet when it happens inside the circle of my own life, I am devastated. Jekyll, I think that you yourself would not like to be set up and harmed, then threatened years later when you speak out. Why do that to women, while talking softly, blinking gently, standing
diffidently and pretending that you are a principled and progressive thinker, a supportive friend, a stalwart colleague and doting partner.

'How did he get away with it?' I asked my mother. He's cleverer than you, in that regard,' she said sadly, 'There is such a thing as the perfect murder.' When I found out what you were, you jeered at me openly and snarled, 'You know nothing about me, my sex life, what I do.' 'It's none of your business what I do with my dick.' 'If I want to get off with someone I'll never see again, I will.' 'Huh! And now you're going to tell everyone what a shit I am.'

In the years of the aftermath I have confided in too many women who then paled and told me that you had done exactly the same to them, or to a close friend, or colleague. I have learned, with a sickness I cannot put into words, that your mistreatment is not just serial but simultaneous: there is a mass, a morass, a mess of abuse. I feel humiliated, yet I have done nothing wrong. I do not co-betray other women or stand by while other women are mistreated. I have never been abusive to anyone in
any way for any reason. And I don't cover for perpetrators, or practice diplomacy with them, or speak well of them as though their mistreatment of women is somehow separate from the rest of their activities, nor do I help their careers - although I helped yours, Jekyll, and you took this help and used it for yourself.

Jekyll, do you realise that where sexual attention is procured under false pretences, consent cannot be freely given? I would never choose to touch the person you really are. Know that I would rather be punched in the face once than chosen out of a crowd then used and destroyed from the inside out, only to discover years later that this is your strategy with all your targets except those grovellers you use once like wank tissues and the colleagues you court to utilise.

I know, Jekyll, that I was nothing to you, just another victim to be killed alongside the others. And there is some humour in realising that I am not the star of a story but another nameless faceless dupe, set up and used by a con artist. But I am something to myself: a kind, strong, clever and decent person who was light on her feet, strong, open and affectionate. That person is dead. You offered many gifts, which I see now were carefully selected props and that I was one recipient among many. I have returned these of course. But the two greatest presents are ones I cannot return and do not want: they are sadness and fear, extreme fear of you and of a world in which perpetrators are helped and victims are punished. Now when I see your face I do not see beauty there, but the silent gloating of a corrupt exploiter. This used to be my world too, Jekyll, but I can no longer survive in it. I have been defiled by you.

Jekyll, you do not live in Purgatory, but I do. I am caught between the memory of a happy past and a disillusioned future in which anything anyone says to me is met with suspicion and uncharacteristic mistrust. It is a warped reality in which exactly those 'nice guys' who go on about being male feminists are the biggest abusers. And they can be assured that their actions will be condoned by apologists and that women who speak out will be attacked and punished. As if any woman, in a million years, would drag her own name through the muck to make up a lie as humiliating as this.

The idea that I am lying, mistaken, exaggerating, malicious or immaturely upset-because-jilted is utterly grotesque. It's gaslighting at its most toxic.The idea that someone like me would bother constructing a narrative so sordid and demeaning is absurd. Or that, at the age of 41, having been in public life since I was 14, I have somehow misconstrued what happened due to a lack of worldliness.
Yet here I am. I told the truth and nobody believed me. I spoke up, and the perpetrator released a public statement calling me a liar, then threatened to sue me. Twice. Across four years. One year's perpetration has become every woman's decade-long living nightmare. Meanwhile countless other women victims, and high-profile female and male witnesses across a panoply of different fields sent whistleblows about the perpetrator to me - most recently at the end of December 2019.

Every victim, witness, specialist (in the police, the justice system and the rape, domestic violence and abuse charity sector) knows that abusers perpetrate compulsively and never stop. When caught, they merely become cleverer in their manipulation, calculation and concealment. Now I know that perpetrators can be plausible, fluent, highly educated, well-read actors, well-versed in talking about
equality, feminism and discrimination. That is their front. They know exactly what to do to gain trust and approval from the strong women whom it is their greatest triumph to mentally violate, sexually exploit and destroy - and if it hadn't been done to me, up close and personal, I wouldn't believe it either. All the witnesses and whistleblowers who've contacted me, and some of the other victims, are eminent women who are either fully in public life or well-known in their fields. They - and I - do not speak up more because, on top of knowing that we ourselves will be put on trial, destroyed and ostracised, we do not want to be defiled through association with the perpetrator.

Let me talk now about the long aftermath. When anyone touches me (I mean, a friend clapping me on the shoulder), my flesh goes numb. If an acquaintance is sitting or standing too close to me I get out of the room. I can't think of anything worse than being found sexually attractive or being responded to or approached in a sexual way by anyone. I like meeting people, am friendly to every new colleague and am a good co-worker precisely because nobody gets anything of me except my
professional self. I am invisible to men sexually and they are invisible to me. I never mention the perpetrator to anyone of my own volition because they immediately say how nice he is and how much they like him and his work.

I accept all this. I have continued, taking every hit, every injustice, every insult, every betrayal and act of bad faith - and I still showed up. I sat while strangers discussed me on the Internet as if this is some scintillating piece of gossip or debatable hypothesis instead of the experience of my violation, humiliation and demise. I sat through woman after woman contacting me saying that you abused them, then threatened them into silence or compliance. I have seen that colleagues, my own friends and feminist socialist women friends of the perpetrator passionately want to believe that for some utterly perverse reason, I am lying. It's ridiculous. It's irrational. But they so want to go on helping and worshipping and enabling this abusive man, they will convince themselves to go along with it. They impute the perpetrator's careful malice, twisted motives, hidden cunning and deep sadism to the victims and punish us accordingly. The most horrifying thing has been witnessing eminent women who tell me they believe me and then promote the perpetrator.

The effect is worse now than immediately afterwards as I realise what I lost, what the world is like and how things must be if I want to continue in it. I am happy to be celibate for the rest of my life, if I am not defiled again. I do not look in the mirror. I can no longer 'feel'; my body. I don't feel like I'm inside my skin and have no sense of myself physically. I get up in the morning, do whatever work I have, do the public events I am committed to, and that's it. I go home afterwards and then I go to bed.
Occasionally I see friends, ladies like myself, and we go to a gallery or to see a film and then we have lunch, and that is that. I can't imagine putting my hand on another human being and I can't imagine someone looking at me closely, saying and doing nice things, without it being a trick. I am afraid that if I am intimate with someone, if they get below my surface, they will find the perpetrator. They will find all my horror, all my humiliation, all my fear. I will freeze up. I will have to tell them the whole story. I'll cry, and they will be unnerved, or repulsed, because I don't seem like that kind of person - and, but for what the perpetrator did, I am not. They will not believe me, or they'll tell me how much they love the perpetrator and what a 'nice guy' he is. I will flee, and that will be the end of that. This too I accept.

I am serving the perpetrator's sentence. I have not touched, spoken to, looked at or any anythinged with anyone since being perpetrated against and had also been celibate for ten years before encountering the perpetrator. I am now a recognisable, indeed a classic type: the elegant, cultured spinster. I am resigned to this. But before the perpetrator, I was many other things. I was joyful, buoyant, delighted, hopeful, open-hearted. I was trusting. I was strong. I trusted the world, I trusted my feelings, I trusted other people and they had never let me down. I didn't have any enemies and I didn't need allies. I grieve for the person I used to be. My emotional world used to be rich, eccentric, joyful and affectionate. It is now repetitive and claustrophobic, stained by ambiguity. I am ashamed of this and do not want anyone to see it.

I will no longer stop people when they mention That Person’s name because I can’t deal with their puzzled reactions, their disbelieving revulsion (against me, not the perpetrator) and the new light in which they see me, as something broken, scarred, damaged and pitiful. I never think about the perpetrator consciously but he is always there, a shadow stretching around my life. The shadow trembles with jeering laughter.

Much of my disgust is about the mismatch between the outer appearance and the inner reality, the distance between surface good manners and abusive actions conducted in secret. It would be easier if people with nasty personalities had nasty faces to match. I have read and indeed written countless articles about how we must change our thinking about abusers and move away from the extreme language we use about them. Abusers, rapists, beaters, bullies, exploiters, manipulators and
violators are not oddities. They should not be thought of, with a tabloid mentality, as weirdos or masked lunatics waiting in alleys. They are functional and that is their cover. That is how they get away with it. Perpetrators are ordinary-seeming individuals, sometimes pillars of the community, able to talk to neighbours, colleagues and friends and leave them with an excellent impression of intelligence, decency, civility and normality.

Bad people are good actors. I know this not only through personal experience but through my professional experience of working in prisons and other institutions and talking to perpetrators, victims, psychologists, victim support workers and police officers on all sides of the abusive situation. Of all the abusers, the charming, voluble, politically sophisticated ‘really nice guys’ are the most pernicious of all. They don’t have split personalities and aren’t suffering from any clinically diagnosable psychological condition. They are not abuse victims themselves, nor do they come
from deprived, troubled backgrounds. They are just good old-fashioned arseholes: entitled, misogynistic, arrogant, duplicitous and hypocritical, brought up neck deep in privilege and patriarchy, no matter what feminists they pretend to be. They enjoy abusing women because they hate us, and if they did not enjoy it they wouldn’t do it.

They are perfectly capable of maintaining high level and sometimes public careers and pretending to be egalitarian, or humanitarians, or charity workers, or whatever, because they get off on the extreme contrast between their successful outer pretence and their abuse. They are intelligent and strategic enough to fool everybody, including me. In the case of abusive relationships, their victims are usually deep within the abuser’s strategy by the time their instincts tell them something isn’t right.

For a long time, I was cut through with pain and confusion and the sheer naive hope that it had all simply been a misunderstanding. It’s only when I confided in a few people that I discovered the perpetrator is a serial, simultaneous, long-term, pathological abuser; that this is, indeed, an open secret in our industry. I realised I had been set up, professionally used, sexually and mentally exploited and then hardcore scammed. In a weird way, I found it comforting that there had been many other victims simultaneous to, before and after me and this wasn’t just my special karmic destiny, as if I was one cursed individual going round with Kick Me written on my forehead.

In the last few years, I've undergone the visceral metamorphosis that is the result of emotional violence. I marvel at the eloquence of the human body in its ability to express mental anguish: the nausea, the burning and freezing reactions of panic and dread, the loudly buzzing confusion, the skin-crawling high alert, the pounding heart, rank disgust and trembling fear, the hives and stress acne, the loss of physical strength, the humiliation poisoning the blood and filling the guts. Those reactions
have subsided but can still be triggered.

I have learned my lesson: I must never trust or get near to anyone or let them get near to me. I must not give or receive letters, emails, gifts or text messages (not that the opportunity has arisen even once). It's all a trick; they will be collected and shown to a lawyer so that the perpetrator and the lawyer can cook up a way to threaten me later. I must not believe anything anyone says or does. Pillow talk is at best a crude lie and at worst part of an elaborate trick; it is not meant for me alone
but can be used on any one of multiple women being told the same things by the same perpetrator at the same time. It means nothing.

It is unpleasant to go through life without trusting anyone or anything or expecting any good to come from any person, experience, promise, gesture or opportunity. Nonetheless, I have not hidden. I said yes to every work opportunity and showed up for every appointment, literally from the day after I discovered what the perpetrator was. For work, I walked the streets and went to venues even when I was likely to bump into the perpetrator. I sat there while the (genuinely) lovely, politicised, progressive women around me praised the perpetrator.

I have continued with my work in the knowledge that the perpetrator has slandered me to peers and colleagues, just as he slandered countless women to me. I subsequently met all these women and they were, without exception, intelligent, accomplished, worldly women who had been perpetrated against by him.  I have done nothing when I found myself suddenly cold-shouldered by female peers I always liked and admired, who I later found out were buddies or groupies of his. I told the truth, I lost everything, I gained nothing. Not peace and certainly not justice, just the brute grinding day-by-day knowledge that a man can abuse woman after woman after woman after woman and thrive.