Dear Fuck-Up: Should I Warn an Organization About a Rapist?

Illustration: Benjamin Currie/GMG
Ask a Fuck-UpAsk a Fuck-UpAdvice from someone who should know better by now

Dear Fuck-Up,

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?

Sincerely,

Stuck


Dear Stuck,

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.

Love,

A Fuck-Up

Got a question? Email bjensen@jezebel.com.

Brandy Jensen lives in New Orleans with her two dogs.

DISCUSSION

Diosabella
Diosabella

I ran into this similarly recently. A former colleague who I know was “let go” for inviting a minor student to come talk to him where he then dropped his pants in front of her* is now running for city council type position in the new city he moved to. Super lefty, super progressive, such an organizer! But. . . also a fucking kid toucher. And his current partner is an adult woman who he groomed when she was a minor and he was an advanced degree having/ 25+ year old adult around her.

I’ve been grappling with whether to report this to the local media where he is now or what. I will, but ultimately, I just want to get all my ducks in a row so I can explain this as clearly and concisely as possible.

Most of all, I just can’t imagine having the fucking audacity to run for PUBLIC OFFICE after that. Like, to have the unmitigated, illogical confidence of a mediocre white man. I’ve ruled out running for office because someone stole and leaked my nudes when I was 18. This guy is out here waving his dick at kids and he’s just happily running for office. 

* “How was he not arrested?” Great question. Private, religious school that was already getting bad press, so they did their best to make the problem go away. And it did. And he did (with the public answer that he was let go for embezzlement, even though everyone knows what actually happened. That said, being terminated even for embezzlement should probably nix any future political aspirations somebody has).