My Friends Still Hang With the Guy Who Sexually Harassed Me


Welcome to Friendzone, Jezebel’s column devoted to dealing with the valuable people in your life who you’re not humping. Got an issue and looking for guidance? Email [email protected].

My boyfriend is awesome but my friends hate his political beliefs. He’s an economics/poly sci student who spends all his free time researching issues and economic theory. My friends know very little about current events and don’t care to. He often posts statuses that are very feminist and liberal, usually criticizing the top 1%, big banks, or drone strikes. Lately my friends have been commenting rude offensive things on his posts. Examples: “Are you fucking dumb” on a post about banks; “Get your head out of his asshole” directed towards me when I tried to defend him. Is it worth it to say something? I’ve never been a confrontational person but their behavior makes me not want to be friends with them anymore.

Your boyfriend may well be an annoying whiny liberal (the flip side of the annoying whiny conservative), but your friends sound like fucking dumbasses (if I may employ some language they would probably use). They also sound incredibly mean. They could choose to engage him in friendly debate, but instead they word-barf nasty retorts onto Facebook. Tell your boyfriend to unfriend these people on Facebook, or tell your friends to hide his posts or unfriend him.

Why do you hang around with these losers, anyway? Are they shitty people you’ve known since childhood, to whom you feel obligated? Gross. You are a grown up. Choose to spend your time and energy on people who actually make you happy. This isn’t about defending your boyfriend – it’s about associating with individuals who accord you the love and respect you deserve. And if things go south with this boyfriend, don’t you dare go crawling back to these jerks with your tail between your legs. They are not kind or smart. You are kind and smart. Bye-bye, shitty friends. Hello, new adult relationships based on mutual trust and affection. It may take some real effort on your part, but I want you to get out into the world and focus on making new connections. Also remember to nurture and celebrate relationships with friends who don’t go aggro on a guy who makes you really happy.

Some of my close male and female work friends are still really chummy with my former friend and industry colleague who sexually harassed me a lot. Back when it all happened, I told my mutual friends about his behavior and they agreed he was out of line. They even said they’d tried to intervene and get him to knock it off (BTW he has a really great wife who is also our friend). They suggested I confront him in a direct, professional manner, and I did. He and I are no longer friends and merely acknowledge one another in public at industry functions. But it’s like my buddies think it’s totally okay for them to party with him and post fun pics on Facebook so long as they don’t invite me along, too. What should I do?

Here’s how I see your situation: you gave your friends information about the way in which a particular fellow acted towards you. They chose to support you in your decision to part ways with him. But they also chose to continue to support him as a friend. They have different relationships with each of you, and perhaps they have never experienced his creepy, gross, awful side. The unfortunate thing is that the women may eventually be subject to his unwanted advances (or he’ll harass their sisters/wives/friends etc.)

Now, I do not believe that the enemy of my friend needs to be my enemy, as well. Once upon a time, I certainly did! But now I know it is entirely possible to love two different friends who can’t stand each other.

However, this isn’t just about two buddies who don’t get along. In this case, the man did something predatory and disturbing. I want you to ask yourself honestly if you need to maintain anything more than friendly working relationships with these colleagues. If the answer is yes, and you cherish any of these friendships on a deep level, speak to these friends one on one. Without any expectations, tell each person, “I care about you and I want to be honest with you about something. Your friendship with Douchebag worries me very much. He really hurt me and scared me, and I just don’t understand why you would continue to spend time with someone who did those things.” Listen to their rationale and judge for yourself if their arguments have merit (spoiler alert: they probably won’t).

One more thing. Have you considered reporting his behavior to any professional associations/groups with which you both may be affiliated? If he did this to you, it’s likely he will do it to other women in your industry (and he probably already has). Just a thought.

I was just diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and my doctor and I are trying to find the right medication for me. I can’t help but feel like I’m unraveling. The job I used to love is now a grueling task. My studies which used to be fun and easy, I now fail at consistently. I used to do play guitar nearly every day, now I can’t be bothered. My drive, my emotions and my motivation change like the tides and I’m struggling to keep myself together as I keep failing, failing, failing. My highs and lows are also affecting my social life. One day, I can’t muster up the energy to talk to anyone and I close myself off completely. The next day I’m the life of the party. I’m afraid my friends will hate me if they know the truth. What should I do?

Your friends will not hate you if they know the truth. Your friends will love you even more for telling them the truth. Some of them may need some education and may ask a lot of questions, and others may worry about you very much. But giving them some insight into your situation will do wonders for your life.

Here’s your script: “I’m having a hard time lately. I’m working on it, but I’m going through a rough period. It has nothing to do with you, friend — YOU are awesome and one of the coolest people I’ve ever met/one of the highlights of my life/so fun/etc. Just know that if I act a little funny, it’s not anything to do with our friendship.” If you feel able, you can tell them about your diagnosis. Remember that it’s just a diagnosis of something with which you struggle. It doesn’t define you as a person. You’re still you, underneath the foggy depression and dizzying mania.

Here’s another approach. Ask your friends a very simple question: “Have you ever been through a rough personal time?” And man, will the stories come pouring out! They may not be about mental illness — they may be about breakups, job losses, etc. But everyone has been through some shit. And everyone has a story to tell. You may even end up helping your friends by opening up an opportunity for them to get real with you about their own issues. I don’t want you taking on anybody else’s troubles, but I think that connection is really important right now. I don’t want you to isolate like many of us do when we’re struggling.

Eventually, things will even out for you. You’re absolutely doing the right thing by working with a doctor. You may try different meds and different therapies, but you’ll get there. I know this sounds ridiculous right now, but trust me when I say your life can be better than you can possibly imagine right now. I’m not saying it’s going to be perfect, ever. It’s not. But it’s going to get better inside your head. Just keep breathing and don’t give up. Every single day, I’m glad I stuck around. I hope you stick around, too.

Image via Shutterstock

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin