The first time I saw the boyfriend’s rockstar ego trip, we had been together about a month. He was playing in a collaboration at La Sala Rossa, a venue in Montreal with a Spanish restaurant downstairs. At dinner with everyone he started pushing my jaw and head around really aggressively with his hands, and telling me how to eat and chew in a menacing way. I was taken aback. I noticed the whole table had gone silent. Everyone else sitting there seemed embarrassed for him. I playfully punched him in the shoulder as if to defend myself. I made some kind of joke I can’t remember. I wondered briefly to myself in that silence of the people we dined with, a hurdy-gurdy player among other collaborators, if they were seeing him as an abuser. Most of the rapist’s band wasn’t there in fact. 2 of the members had declined the invitation to dinner. I remember that the guitar player had wandered off, and those that remained were from this story-telling project that was incorporating the rapist’s band and songs. I was worried that these people who were professional acquaintances might be taking what I thought must be a wrong view. When I punched him kiddingly, it broke the tension and everyone laughed. But his behavior confused me.
I went home early that night. I expected him to be out all night. But he showed up 30 minutes later yelling manically about how in love with me he was; how he feared I would make him quit the band. His notion was a projection; I had zero interest in preventing his creative life.
The next time a couple of weeks later that I saw this terrifying side of him again, he was coming back from this “rock cruise” in Florida. He droned on and on about “the hot Swedish journalist who all the guys wanted to fuck.” He never talked about her intelligence or skill as a journalist. He showed me photos of her, and kept talking about how sexy she was. Apparently she had refused friendship with all the other men, eschewing them as somehow sleazy. She had chosen him.
What is ironic is that she was supposedly impressed by the fact that he had a girlfriend his own age. It seemed that I had been used as a seduction tactic for another woman, not a sexual seduction per se, but as some kind of lure for being chosen above the other men, an idea that was very important to him. On the grounds of him being with me, this woman actually believed she was having a friendship with him. But behind her back, he was interested mostly in her body, sexuality, appearance, popularity and maybe her youth.
What was particularly horrifying to me about this were his intentions. At first I resisted the bait being thrown out to make me feel jealous or threatened. I engaged him about it. He had also been making misogynistic comments about “fat girls in bikinis.” It seemed relatively less disturbing to talk about this “hot Swedish journalist who all the guys wanted to fuck.” But he used that exact statement many times. He did not stop talking about her. After 2 days, I was very upset. I couldn’t understand what he was trying to do or say. I suppose maybe I could have understood if he felt insecure enough to try to convince me of his desirability. But there was more to it than this. Only after I was really furious and panicking he told me that he had thought it would be fun to see if he could make me jealous. At least later he admitted it was a dumb idea.
And truly it was. For anyone reading this who has not reflected on what abuse is, let me clarify that his intention to produce jealousy made it difficult for me to trust him. For instance, in precarious states of relationships, while one partner is on tour, or if other instabilities occur, a kind of hall of mirrors opens up: I didn’t know if I was being simply overlooked or neglected, forgotten or worst of all, intentionally hurt – or which of these was the cover story for the others. And if your partner is performing and existing for a mass audience, you have to fight the feeling of being reduced into the alienation of being one of the crowd. I can feel these things about the other even though I also perform music publicly, albeit for smaller audiences.
It’s an act of kindness and generosity, and a huge effort to keep the feelings of alienation, distance and distrust under control. If your partner mocks this harrowing effort, or undermines and demoralizes it, he can create a feeling of despair and misery. It feels that much worse knowing that your partner thinks it would be “fun” to produce these feelings in you.
When the rapist finally returned from tour, he strongly implied that he’d had some kind of a fling. That was a few weeks after the night that he had lied about it, which had taken place during the days right after my father’s death.
But the thing is that he neither lied fully nor did he fully tell me. And because he wouldn’t come out and say it, it became impossible to process or deal with anything. But neither would he stick to his lie so that I wouldn’t have to think about it. It seems that he deliberately trotted out this ‘something’ as a move to emotionally upset and control me. He didn’t want to let it drop either: it didn’t work when I tried to change the subject.
I maintain that he knew exactly what he was doing: that he was *trying* to hurt me somehow.
We’d had, in the past, a detailed and explicit discussion about how it would be better not to tell the other about infidelity; that it was one’s own responsibility, in his view, to shoulder one’s own guilt. ‘To have an affair feels bad in a relationship, and you should deal with it yourself,’ according to him.
As I eventually took the bait and asked him about it, he grilled me about whether I’d had an affair. But there is no way that if he had thought about me for 1 second, about the things I had been going through and been talking about, that not only was me having an affair beyond unlikely, but that I would have told him instantly had it happened and if he had really wanted to know. He accused me of lying anyway.
To give an idea of the timeline:
On May 8 my father died. On that day I left my father’s bedside in NY to attend an 18 day symposium at Banff.
Around May 16, the boyfriend disappeared from skype and texts and I’m pretty sure he either had that fling, or was having some kind of conversation or thought process that was de-meaning to me somehow. Whether or not he had sex with someone else was not very important to me (and I think that I had purged this demon in myself was disappointing to him.) But a lack of emotional loyalty and his callousness toward my situation, the strange, removed, but demanding way he was acting towards me, mattered a lot.
Around May 20th, he returned from tour. He was quite annoyed that I was not already in Montreal and pressured me many times to leave the symposium early. He also stated that he had no respect for academics, for the conversations about culture, economy or affect that we were having, and had no problem insulting my interests.
May 26th I returned from Banff. He texted me that night at around midnight, saying that he was standing in an alley way and was horny and that he wanted me to come over immediately. I was totally shocked that he had chosen that approach. I could not understand it. I felt disrespected and obliterated. I told him I would see him the next day.
In that last week I was at Banff and he was ending the tour and heading back to Montreal we started to talk about breaking up. I had already told him that the way he talked about sex was becoming increasingly horrific for me and that I did not feel that he had respected my emotional experience or boundaries. Finally, I told him that if he could not handle the intense state that I was in that we should break up. In the process of that very emotional conversation we both decided that we were not ready to end it. Still I felt that I did not want a boyfriend who could not be present for such a major emotional event. I wanted him to have the emotional capacity to support me as a committed partner at the funeral or I did not want him to come to the funeral. I felt that if he did not have the capacity to be with me in a sincere way, that I did not want to be his girlfriend. I did not want to be a mother taking care of a child, especially at a time when I needed to be nurtured. I was very specific about all of this. I told him that I would not respond to him for a week so that he could think about it by himself and figure something out about what his capacities for love, commitment and support were.
After a few days, I started receiving text messages from him every few hours. He wanted very badly to stay in the relationship, support me, and to come to the funeral. He asked me many times whether I had bought plane tickets.
As I’ve stated in The Rape article, I did not want him to come to the funeral as some kind of relationship trial. I asked him to come only if we were serious. I had no desire to invite someone I would be parting ways with so deeply into my life. I hadn’t seen my family in 10 years. There were about 5 close friends in NY who had offered to come to the funeral with me. I was resolved to bring 1 person, but I wish that person had not been him. I cannot state how many times during that weekend I wished that totally insincere, checked out and controlling sack of flesh hadn’t been there and that I could have enjoyed the support of any of my other friends. I felt that way even in the 2 days before the rape, even as I got in the car and he acted so shut down and self involved during the drive to the Burlington airport where we would catch our flight.
In the hours before we were supposed to leave to catch the plane, he asked to not go. But it was too late. I couldn’t re-arrange the plan by then and he was responsible for driving us to Burlington. I was very annoyed because I had asked him to be sure many times.
The result of his request was that I felt insecure all weekend because I was made aware that he didn’t really want to be there.
On the last night, hours before the rape we went out with one of his friends and two of mine. He suddenly realized that he could make a creative contact out of a friend of mine. I didn’t get jealous because I had promised him earlier that I would trust him, and because my distrust of him was an ongoing point of contention. But not since the beginning of his tour had he seemed to remember this distinction between emotional trust and some kind of possession of the other’s body that I had so carefully laid out for him. And I was far too preoccupied with grief to really think about it.
On the way back from seeing them, he told me my friends were “too good for me,” and about how he wanted to bring my friend to a festival he was curating. He also said that he wanted me to be part of the collaboration (which was her suggestion), but only because I was his girlfriend; not because of my talents as a musician. He made it clear that he was impressed with her but that I would only be dragged along. I was somehow able to write this off because I wanted to believe that we were on good terms. I told myself that he was just particularly excited about her, and tried to remind myself of positive things he had said about my work at other times. I was not thinking we would break up right away, but I was not completely happy with him, and I assumed that if we did, we would remain friends or on some kind of peaceful terms. With the impression I was trying to maintain of him before the rape, I did not mind the idea of him joining my community. But, again, I had no idea he was going to rape me. I was unhappy with the way he was acting and I was blaming myself for it, thinking that if I just trusted him more as he had requested, we could work anything out (a friendship or some kind of respectful parting) at the emotional level.
It’s much easier to blame yourself than it is to blame the other. I really think this is at the heart of the abuse cycle and why women remain in abusive relationships. When you blame yourself, you believe you have some agency over what is happening. You may think to yourself, ‘I just have to change my approach or strategy, or I just have to remember that there are certain things I cannot say, clothes I should not wear, ways I should not sit or eat; I just have to try to trust more.’ It becomes possible to believe that the ‘I’ can make it all better because the ‘I’ is being blamed for the mistake. How deeply this runs depends on how deeply you have been consumed by the relationship, and whether other life events have made you vulnerable. I was the perfect candidate for abuse when my father died, and the rapist knew it. He knew he had control over me. He wasn’t content to torture me himself, he had to also bring my friends and family into it, and to use them to re-structure my confidence so that the reverberations of torture would be left behind after we were no longer together. Maybe he was gambling on the idea that I would feel too disempowered to talk about what he did.
A few days after the rape when I started to lose control over the narratives of denial, I was excruciatingly angry at him. But then I contained my outburst by apologizing for myself and my anger; by acting like it was my problem. Because again, if I felt that I was to blame, I also felt that I could change myself and control what was happening and make the abuse stop. But I was slowly realizing that I could not change him, and that the conversations we’d had about his bad behavior months earlier had not stuck. He had been hiding himself from me for those months that I was useful to him. Then he saw my friend and quickly realized that he could use her to hurt me, if not as an object of jealousy then as a measure that would make me feel inadequate in some other way. My interpretation is that he quickly convinced himself that I was redundant and inferior and that he would use me to experiment with the fantasies I abhorred before splitting. I had become disposable, he thought he could get away with anything, and he did not believe that I would be confident enough to confront him after he had finished working me over.
I have several further interpretations about what led to the rape. As I’ve said before, I believe that he was on this kind of anesthetizing ego-trip. Praise is a very seductive drug against the pain of life. It becomes possible to hide in press releases and visions of the self as perfect, superior or impressive in order to not have to feel your lower back hurt when you crawl through an attic at work, or when you remember 20 years ago defaulting on a loan from your ex-girlfriend’s father, and then mocking her for crying at the family table to get the money you would benefit from. I don’t know if he thinks about the horrible things he did to other people. But he certainly thinks about what they did to him. The drug of superiority could be crucial for managing any of that.
I think there’s more to it too. His father and guitar player died young. That was the first thing he told me about himself. It was how he bonded with me. Right before and after the rape went down, I thought he couldn’t handle death. I understood his real or fabricated tour fling on those grounds. But I was careful about bringing him to NY because I realized that he was not fully emotionally in control. But it never occurred to me that he would do to me what he did.
That said, I believe there was a catch 22 happening. Had he not gone to the funeral and we had broken up earlier, the break up would have taken place on my terms. He would have been admitting to a personal inadequacy. I do not think he would have been comfortable walking away branded as ‘not good enough.’ He decided instead to go to the funeral to prove himself. But he excused himself from all of the terms of the funeral I had imposed by telling me at the last minute that he did not wish to go. During the weekend all emotional terms became his. As he held court telling my family about how famous he is (because they had no idea and only ended up finding ways to compliment him out of respect for me and the desire to be accommodating and polite), he revised the system of what was central and important at the funeral. Just by being there, Mr Famous was doing me a favor. He turned the weekend into being about his new collaboration with my friend who was, according to him, “too good for me,” and he further got rid of the experience I was having of my father’s funeral.
I do not think he could bear the idea that the relationship would end on my terms. His prior girlfriends had broken up with him, and he was on a new superiority trip since them. He had to prove he was above me.
Most troubling is that I believe he raped me because he wanted for the ending to feel unresolved; to create, in fact, a traumatically unresolvable ending. He knew from discussions we had many times, that nothing makes me feel crazier than lack of resolution (though this had happened in the past on a much smaller scale.) He knew from how I had described my past relationship that I would pursue him in order to resolve the end somehow. He also knew that he himself would not bother to resolve, but that it would make him feel infinitely superior and desirable if I were to try to contact him as he made himself increasingly inaccessible. I needed an apology to deal with this unfathomably evil thing that he did; I needed and wanted for him to acknowledge how horrible it was. But he reconstructed my needing to get in touch as my desire for him, and used this interpretation to make himself feel superior, desirable, pursued. His attitude towards me was demanding and flirtatious. The message was that if I were charming I would be allowed to have a “date.” He seemed to claim that I needed to perform for him, even while he grilled me repeatedly over whether I had a new boyfriend. It was sickening.
As I speak to other survivors of PTSD, trauma and Gulf war syndrome, I understand that the events after trauma are crucial for how trauma gets implanted and how it sticks. For instance: were you to run to a safe place after your house is blown up, you might recover better than after wandering homeless for days afterwards.
As it turns out, my desire for that apology and resolution was an incredibly healthy instinct. It was my desire to reduce the impact of what had taken place. But the rapist did not want to reduce the trauma. In fact, in the one time I saw him again, he sat and espoused how he did not love me and how much I annoyed him; simultaneously he told me how badly he wanted to fuck me. It was the most horrific and confusing encounter. I tried several strategies for letting him know that I would not have sex with him, but that I did need to have a real conversation. In the end he only wanted to give me what I most definitely did not want: sex. When I walked upstairs from the street on that horrific night, I flipped out for hours. My body temperature plummeted. I got hives that lasted a week. I was hysterical and thought about suicide. I felt like I had been raped again. I have no doubt that he either went out on a date afterwards, or went home and jerked off.
After many attempts to get together to confront him over the months, I resorted to email confrontations. He barely responded. About 15 months later, I wrote to his band and asked them about what had happened on the tour bus to make his attitude towards me become so abusive. I had a brief exchange with the wife of one of the bandmates who was not on the bus, but whom I want to believe understands something about the truth of what happened.
Not one of the band members ever wrote back to me to say that I was somehow incorrect or that on the tour bus they had only ever witnessed me being talked about as a beloved girlfriend. How could they? I had already witnessed enough of a discussion in which only my body was relevant. With their silence, I became increasingly certain that what went on behind my back was abusive. I’m guessing the rapist’s conversations tried to involve his mates by getting them to participate in some kind of violence against me. At first they offered to get a manager to manage me. But even that didn’t happen and the line went dead. The rapist wrote a lame and meaningless few sentences in English that was too grammatically correct to have come from him. But there was so little substance to it that whether or not he composed it himself was irrelevant anyway. It seemed like another strategy.
In addition to the comments about my ass and the circulation of the photos, here are my grounds for believing that I was talked about in a horrific way:
The rapist loved to tell the story (among many others) about how one night on tour, the 4 of them were drinking beer or having dinner. They had a petite waitress and they were trying to guess her height. Apparently the rapist yelled out “I would fuck her even if she was a dwarf!” According to him, they all found this incredibly funny. They sexually harassed a woman at work, and possibly terrified her because there is nothing more frightening and horrible than a group of men talking about you like that. The rapist acted disappointed when I did not laugh at this story of sexual harassment.
Many men who get famous young treat women badly because they have power, especially over girls, that they never learn to be responsible for. In other stories the rapist laughingly tells, he has sex with 16 year old girls and insults them. He describes being excited to have had a promoter in Russia offer him sex workers as payola, describing them by the color of their hair. He tells a story about a woman who lost her virginity with him, but that he dumped after a week for her best friend.
He doesn’t have any respect for the bonds between women. He doesn’t respect our lives or our psychic realities. When he gets attention for music, he becomes dependent on being superior and he will sacrifice anything or anyone to maintain his self image. His band mates are exempt from this because he needs them. When he is not inside the rockstar delusion of being a god, I’m guessing the girlfriend then becomes indispensable, as I was for most of the period before that tour.
That said, I am guessing that he is being hyper-vigilant right now, and that maybe the whole band is as well. I’ve watched with disgust as they’ve pulled a stunt with a disabled kid, plugged a song that tries to cover up for their racism. I’ve listened to women compliment how great they are. I’ve seen him display a very ignorant kind of fondness for Pussy Riot that I speculate would make those women spit on him. I’ve watched him try to emphasize various forms of “care” and pc on his fb page with a new interest that he never had before I confronted him. And I strongly suspect that my accusations have protected his girlfriend from getting raped and thrown under the bus, as he performs the “good man” and tries to beef up a personal reputation. I’ve written to the band to let them know that I will hold them accountable if there is a second incident. But until I get some kind of guarantee I can trust, I do not see how I can take the pressure off. And he has given me no reason to believe that he understands either the medical or emotional ramifications of what he did to me.
I want to add that I’m not being selfless here. If another woman were raped by him, I would have to live through my own horror all over again.
There is a side of me that wants very badly to out who it is so that women can proceed with caution around him, and use what I have written to identify the warning signs. On the other hand, I don’t want to tie my identity to his; I don’t want my name associated with him. I don’t want my musical life as an underground artist broken through, repressed, reconceived or in any way steered by a mainstream performer for whom I have no respect or affection. If there were material “benefit” from any notoriety that association with him could cause, I would want to reject it. Even when I went out with him, I ignored his proposals for getting me agents or contacts, emphasizing that his audience would not appreciate my work. I never told him about the people I know or have worked with, or tried to impress upon him or persuade him that we in any way shared a musical world. The only time I seriously thought about working with him and desired to do so was when he was talking about including an artist that was part of my aesthetic community, and in an emotional context in which he was manipulating my emotions.
To have my work associated with him, or to become known as the woman raped by him, would hold my life back by giving him a symbolic control over it. I fear it would somehow, symbolically or otherwise, lock me in the very abusive relationship with him from which I seek freedom. I cannot get rid of what the rape did to my life and that is why I write about its imprint. Writing is an attempt to move towards freedom. I want my work understood on its own terms.
I write about him to try to understand because neither he nor his community gave me that. I hope all of them know that I can never forget about what happened because the trauma was too unparalleled and deep, and had too many lasting effects. But until it is made clear that the rapist, and all of these men involved, understand what I am talking about, I am unable to let this go.
I will choose carefully whether to publicize his name.