*see below for update*
There’s a woman you may know, knocking around feminist circles. She’s funny, entertaining & charismatic. You know the one; always ready for the craic, always has a kind word to say, happy to take the men on when they find their way into our twitter feeds. So far, so lovely.
But (and its a big but), this woman has something to hide, and we’re all helping her do it. She slides into your private messages, on Twitter or Facebook. You share a joke, have a bit of a giggle, criticise stupid men, moan about work, your kids, & rail against male violence.
The messages increase, she builds your confidence. You’re friends, right? You can tell her anything. So you do. You tell her things you don’t usually talk about. You share your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, experiences. She understands – sometimes she tells you that she’s been where you are. She’s been you – she gets it. You open up to your lovely friend, who messages you a lot (and I mean A LOT).
As you share confidences, she tells you about her need for special friendships. She tells you she’s tired; she wants to have deep and meaningful friendships with women, not just superficial online ones. You connect. You start to develop feelings for her, and she feels the same. You arrange to meet up.
When you meet, she reminds you of all the things she knows about you. How connected you are, but how she finds it so difficult to emotionally connect.
She tells you about a couple of previous women she’s been involved with. She discloses the abuse they put her through. She describes how they preyed on her, how they sexually assaulted her, how much they have damaged her mental health.
You understand because this has happened to you as well, although it’s usually been men who have damaged you. You empathise. You look at these women in a different light and detach yourself from having contact with them. You know she appreciates your support.
She tells you that she’s never met anyone like you before, you’re a shining light in her life. You laugh together, she cooks for you. You take selfies and enjoy your special time together. You have sex*.
Let’s keep this special thing to ourselves, she says. Let’s enjoy it without anyone intruding, let’s have fun without anyone making assumptions about us, let’s treasure “us”.
“Us”, you think. Us. This woman really gets you, you can’t believe your luck – things have been shit for you, recently. It’s fine not to want everyone to know everything about your life, people can mind their own business.
So you keep it quiet, hugging your secret to yourself.
Then, something feels off. She’s quiet, not so many messages. You ask her what’s up, worried about her mental health.
Little do you know that there’s another You. In fact, there are loads of You’s. Many women, all having the same experience as you, all having messages and phone chats and long email conversations and meals cooked and sex and massages and baths when the sun goes down.
She didn’t tell you about the other You’s.
She didn’t tell you about the other secrets.
She didn’t tell you that text was from another woman, the one she’s meeting next week.
She told you that email was from her boss, not from the woman who stayed last week, who spent all night crying as this woman ignored her messages.
She didn’t tell you that she’d use the things you told her, against you.
She didn’t tell you that she’ll make a complaint to your boss if you try and expose her.
She didn’t tell you that she’ll take the piss out of your good nature, and then shit all over you without a second thought.
She did tell you that women wouldn’t believe you.
She told you that you’d be isolated from your friendship group.
She told you that we would make sure that you had no one and nothing.
She told you that specific women, us in fact, would turn against you. That we would always take her side, always believe her over you – and in some cases, we did.
So this blog is an apology.
If you told us about this woman and we didn’t believe you, we’re sorry.
We completely and utterly fucked up and we are very, very sorry.
To the women she’s currently preying on, we’re sorry that we haven’t warned you, but we know you’ll not be able to hear us anyway.
We hope your friends support you & help keep you safe.
Please take care of yourself, don’t keep secrets and whatever you do, don’t lend her money.
If you’d like to talk about this, please email me;
(planetcostello @ gmail.com), rather than using the comments.
*I said sex here, but you know you wouldn’t have consented if you’d known the whole story.
“I’m one of the women affected by this blog post. I can’t even begin to describe the damage that this woman has done to me. She targeted me from the start, making me feel special, different. I feel completely stupid now but I thought she was such a good woman, we all did.
She got me to trust her and tell her all the things I would normally keep to myself. She told me she understood what I was going through and that she had been through the same kind of heartbreak.
I’ve spoken to other women she abused now, women she had told me were predators themselves, and I’ve found out she told them the same about me.
We always say in feminist circles that ‘I believe her’ but she made it clear that no one would believe me. I was left alone to try and deal with the damage she caused me whilst she carried on doing her best to isolate me from the networks we shared, dripping poison about me to other women, cosying up with mutual friends and taunting me by making innocent seeming comments where I could see them.
It’s only now that I’ve spoken to women behind closed doors that I realize loads of us knew what she was like – we were just afraid of being disbelieved. We still are. It’s hard to believe that someone can be so cruel and vindictive whilst pretending to be your sister. It hurts more than any man’s abuse ever could.”