In college, I was a member of an organization with a serial rapist. He was popular and well-liked, involved in leftist politics and campaigns, and regularly drugged and raped women. I never really knew him—I talked to him maybe a couple of times—but I knew two women he victimized, and I know they are not the only two. Every now and then, when my mind wanders to my college years, I think of that organization, and of him—what he did, and what he might be doing now.
Today, I Googled him. He’s still running in similar circles as he did in college: leftist groups, political campaigns, labor organizations, etc. From my quick Google search, it seems like he still harasses women, but hides behind his status as a “lefty organizer” to brush off any accusations.
I worry he is still raping women. Should I try to contact the organizations he’s in to warn them? Am I being too… nosey? Is it just not my story to tell? I fear that if he catches wind of someone trying to tip people off about his past he would think it was one of his victims and try to seek retribution against them.
I feel guilty I didn’t do anything back then. I didn’t know he was a rapist before he graduated, but I feel like I should have known, I should have read the signs, and I should have done something about it when he was still a student. Should I do something now?
It’s become trendy in recent years, for some good reasons and some bad, to talk about traumatic events in terms of “stories.” Our stories belong to us alone, they are meant to be empowering when spoken aloud, and that empowerment is supposed to be part of a process of healing. It’s always been considered somewhat of a transgression to share a story that is not your own—to gossip, more precisely—although the sin is now in robbing someone else of the chance to speak their truth on their own terms.
But you don’t have anyone’s “story,” Stuck, what you are in possession of is relevant information. Yes, you should share this relevant information! It’s not being nosey at all since this guy made it your business when he raped at least two of your friends. In all likelihood, he’s raped many more women, which also makes your fear that he would trace any accusation back to a single victim pretty unfounded.
It’s not your fault that you didn’t know at the time and you have no cause to feel guilty about that—imagining there are always signs and signals to be read, ways of knowing who is dangerous and who is safe, is just how we attempt to wrestle some measure of control over our lives—but doing nothing now would indeed make you culpable. Sharing this information is of course no guarantee that anything will be done about it, we all know men who get away with it for years and years, but you will know you did what you could.
There are so few moral choices in life that are easy. You have one in front of you, so make it.
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