Monday, January 9, 2012

Branded, Part 2

There’s two sides to every story. One of my least-liked phrases. It’s a nice sentiment in theory, I suppose. When it reminds people to look beyond the obvious, to dig a little deeper, it might even be valuable. But it seems to me that people drag out there’s two sides to every story only when they relish the thought of remaining loftily above it all—when they’re cherishing a glamorized view of themselves not as a neutral party, but as the ultimate judge of a situation, to whom everyone must defer. The phrase isn’t usually employed to open up conversation, but to shut it down. In other words, I tend to hear it whenever someone’s already made up his mind and doesn’t give a damn about listening any more.

And of course, sometimes there aren’t two sides to a story. Sometimes there’s what happened, and then there’s a damned lie.

Which is what I heard happening the night before Edvig moved out of our dorm room in the arts house, my sophomore year. Sleep was a pretty precious commodity, my first two years of college. As a freshman, I had the misfortune to be the one geeky kid on a floor of hardcore partiers. The only way I got to sleep at night was staying out studying until two in the morning, most nights, and then using earplugs when I returned to the dorm. Sophomore year wasn’t too much better. I had more friends in the dorm itself, but come on. It was a house for budding artists. They’d practically signed a contract to live their lives at peak drama for all of nineteen eighty-two and three. Not only were there the usual dorm noises keeping me awake past midnight and into the morning’s small hours—the laughter and card games and stereos played too loudly—but we had the impromptu cello performances, the theatrical declamations, the hey gang let’s put on a show in the showers! at three in the morning, the dramatic public breakups between girlfriend and boyfriend, and later in the year, the inevitable suicide attempt.

So there I was in bed, the night before Edvig was scheduled to move out forever, not really able to fall asleep all the way, but drifting between dozing and tossing restlessly. Two doors down, in my friend Scott’s room, a bunch of the arts house kids were having some kind of late-night rap session. I could recognize seven or eight distinct voices. I couldn’t always hear what they were saying, because some of them were softer than others. But I did hear Scott, very distinctly, crying out “He did what?” at one point, accompanied by cries of shock by several of the others there.

It was loud enough to rouse me fully. What really shocked me awake is that I heard Edvig’s moo-cow lowing responding to Scott’s question. He wasn’t speaking loudly or distinctly enough for me to hear from two rooms down, with the door to my room firmly closed. It was pretty clear, though, that he was the center of the conversation’s attention. He actually did that?” Scott replied. He was a bass in the college chorus, and later had a starring role in the college’s production of Sweeney Todd. He projected well. “He actually did that?!

I remember sitting bolt upright in bed. I knew they were talking about me. I knew that Edvig was in there spreading some kind of poison about me. But I had no clue of what to do. I must have considered putting on some clothing and walking down the hall to confront them all. I didn’t have the courage for it then, though. (I’m not sure I would now, either.) There was so much conversation going on that I couldn’t really distinguish anything from the babble of noise. At some point, I rose from my bed, crept over to the door, and opened it in the hope of hearing more clearly. I don’t know whether or not they heard me stealthily turn the knob and release the latch, but mere seconds after I cracked my own door, Scott’s door clicked shut.

What followed I recall as a miserable night. Whether or not I got any sleep, I don’t remember. I was taking computer science to fulfill a requirement that year, though, and it was a dull enough class on its own. Deprived of sleep, and fretting myself to death, made it even more of a slog. I managed somehow to make it through that and the rest of the morning, though. When I went back to the dorm, I didn’t get at all to enjoy the novelty of a newly half-empty room. All I did was wait for Scott to come back to the dorm. When he did, toward dinner, I pounced on him.

I told him that I heard Edvig talking the night before, and that I know he was talking about me. I demanded to know what he’d said I’d done. “I’m not going to tell you that,” Scott said, outraged that I’d even asked.

“But he was talking about me,” I protested. “I have a right to know.”

“No, you don’t,” said Scott. I noticed he didn’t deny the topic, though.

“I know he said something awful about me,” I emphasized. “I could tell by the way you reacted. I think I deserve to know what kinds of lies he was telling.”

“Well,” said Scott, turning away. “There are two sides to every story.”

Meaning: he had no intention of asking me about mine. He’d heard someone spin a tale, and it was enough for him. He didn’t care to hear a rebuttal. And this is what I don’t like about that phrase, when it’s usually applied as a non-negotiable aphorism: sometimes it tell s me the speaker doesn’t believe in truth. He only sees points of view, all equally valid. The phrase doesn’t allow for lies, for fabrication, for the self-delusions in which some wrap themselves like thick blankets. There’s just this view, and that view, and the truth is lost somewhere between.

I couldn’t wrangle out of anyone whose voice I’d heard that night what Edvig had told them. They all refused to tell me. I just knew that someone had said something that I couldn’t refute, because no one would tell me what the fuck it was. If such a thing happened to me now, I would’ve confronted Edvig. Or I might’ve gone to the hippie-dippy RAs. But I wasn’t then the person I am now. I was too wrapped up in fear to do anything other than pretend nothing was happening around me.

It was impossible not to notice that people had changed their attitudes toward me. Not my handful of close personal friends outside the dorm. They were the same, though I didn’t share my worries with them. But everyone on my hall clammed up when I’d walk into a room. There were awkward times when I’d be pretending everything was the same and attempt to invite people to dinner or to a campus activity, only to be met with a polite, but cold rebuff. The RAs posted vague notices on the bulletin board about being available for personal conversations, shortly after, which in a paranoid manner I took as referring to conversations about me.

I managed to stagger on for three weeks in this manner, keeping my head up and a smile plastered on my face while inwardly I felt miserable and scared and alone. Then late one night, one of the guys in the dorm knocked on my door and asked to talk. I didn’t know him well. He played clarinet in the college band, though, and had always been pleasant enough. He told me that someone would be arriving within the next week to take Edvig’s place, and that he wondered if I’d mind having him as a roommate instead of the new guy. The clarinet player wasn’t getting along with his roommate (who was a dick, I had to agree), and he viewed the vacancy in my room as a way of escaping a bad situation. I accepted; I’d rather have him than some stranger.

“Oh,” he said, before he left. “I have to ask. I hope you understand. Did you really rape Edvig?”

I felt a flush of rage that was quickly followed by the iciest sensation I’ve ever had in my life. I remember choking out something to the effect that no, I did not rape Edvig, and why would he even ask that question?

“Because that’s the reason he told people he had for moving out,” said the clarinet player. “Okay, bye!” And then with his curiosity sated, he was up and out of there to begin packing.

I have to give that guy credit. Because in all four years of college, out of all the people who heard that rumor, he was only person ever to ask me if it were true. He was the only person ever to ask me about it at all.

If Edvig had actually formally accused me of rape—if he’d been serious, or thought in his demented head that I’d actually raped him—my life in college would’ve been much different. He would have been required to report it to the campus police. There would’ve been an examination, a police report. There would have been evidence presented at a trial, or at least an honor court hearing. He would have had to present concrete evidence against me—and since there couldn’t have been evidence, I would’ve been vindicated.

What he did instead, though, was to plant insidious seeds of doubt in people’s minds. He made the rape unspeakable, save only in whispers. Those whispers spread like wildfire, throughout my college career. Everyone in the arts house knew them. They dogged me through all my theater classes. I knew girls in that department who would wrinkle their lips in disgust when they were forced to acknowledge me; there was one who was so vocal about her detestation about having to remain in the presence of a rapist that she refused to play in a group scene with me in an acting class. She and the teacher exchanged words about it in the hallway, and then the professor returned to the class and, without much comment, removed me from her group.

That really hurt. I wasn’t bold enough to confront the professor after class and ask why I’d been singled out that way, either. I merely joined another group, acted as if I didn’t care, and worked with them instead. It’s tough to erase from my memory the sight of that one girl’s face when she realized she’d have to speak lines with me, though. She had such anger, and moral outrage at even having to be near me.

In the dressing rooms for the plays in which I acted, some guys refused to change costumes in my presence. When I took art classes, students who thought they knew something about me would often during critiques claim that they could see bloodlust in the most serene of my still lives of bananas and a teapot, or a thirst for violence in an abstract. The roommate I had my junior and senior years, removed as he was from the arts, had heard the rumors about me, though he told me in the same breath that he’d dismissed them because I didn’t look the type. There were student servers in the cafeteria who refused to dish up food for me, and kids who’d change their paths to avoid having to pass me.

Whispers are soft, but they can carry so far. I won’t go so far as to say that the scarlet brand I seemed to bear on my forehead absolutely ruined my time in college, because I don’t like thinking of any of the years of my life as ruined beyond repair. I made some good friendships in college—and having them tested by this particular trial ensured that they were really good friendships, too. But throughout the rest of those three years, I felt very much on the periphery. I was falsely accused without ever being granted an opportunity to offer my own defense. It made me pretty miserable, much of the time.

What dismayed me most, in a lot of ways, is how easily people were swayed into believing I was a rapist. I was a tall, painfully skinny kid. I weighed between ninety-eight and a hundred and five pounds, in those days. The stick figure in a kid’s game of hangman weighed more than I. If I’d tried to rape a grown adult then, or a college-aged student, all they would’ve had to do was to blow hard to dislodge me. Plus, before the accusations started corroding everyone’s ears, I was a bright, funny, sunny kid. I was well-liked.

I had a very hard time understanding why anyone could believe those allegations against me. They should’ve been obviously ridiculous.

And yet, apparently they weren’t. People believed the whispers started by Edvig instead. Perhaps they were too juicy not to believe. Perhaps people didn’t think anyone would admit to anything as heinous as being raped, if it weren’t true. Perhaps it’s just that whoever plays the victim card first, and protests the loudest, wins.

Perhaps my problem is that I didn’t protest at all.

As I said, I didn’t have the skills to know what to do in this situation. I’m not sure I’d know what to do now, either. I think I’d do a lot more of it, though. And a lot sooner, before things got so out of hand. When I look back on the situation these days, I still have unresolved anger. I never got to say my piece. I never protested the accusations, never got to say The hell I did. I traveled under a cloud for the better part of three years while people I didn’t even know thought of me as something I wasn’t.

And Edvig. What a fucked-up kid he had to have been, then. I imagine the internal wars he must have had between his impulses and his religion, and think about how far pushed to the edge he must have been to come up with a lie that large, that damaging. Either he was so sheltered and naive that he had no idea how badly a little lie could fuck up someone’s life, or else he was callous and self-protective enough that he didn’t give a damn. Either way, these days, the rush of emotion I feel for him is more sympathy and pity than rage.

So yes, there’s some anger lingering, but you know what? I mostly feel at peace about what happened my sophomore year.

I survived. I learned about endurance from those three years. I learned about how it’s possible to hold one’s head high and keep persevering, even when there doesn’t seem anything for which it’s worth holding out. I learned that it’s possible to make one’s way through any situation while pretending not to give a shit what anyone else thinks. Do that enough times, and eventually one no longer has to pretend. It becomes part of one’s very nature—and being able to recognize when it is and isn’t important to fret about how one appears to others is one of the best and most freeing lessons there is.

Whenever I hear someone use that phrase these days, it always makes me sit up and notice. Two sides to every story, they say.

But how many of us really listen to more than one?


  1. This is one of the most powerful things I've read in a very long time. Thanks so much for sharing it, Rob. My first thought was that the incident would have played out quite differently in this day and time, but given that this was a college in the South, maybe not so much. Anyway, thanks again. I'm going to mulling over this one for quite a while.

  2. John, thanks. How do you think it would've played out in this day and age?

  3. There are always other sides to any story, but with a lie there is only one. I am sorry this happened to you. I lost a job in January 2010 based on a lie for which I had no opportunity to counter.

    Two years on, I have not found work in my field because the lie follows me, yet, no one asks about it much less whether or not it is even true. I have depleted all my resources and will soon lose my home and probably my family because my wife has begun to blame me for ruining our lives.

    My sense of self-worth is gone and my self-confidence is shattered. I use to think all I had to do to succeed was to work hard and learn from experience. Now, I have begun to feel that nothing I do really matters. It is an awful feeling.

    1. Rob -- I regret that there's probably nothing I can do to help, but I just wanted to let you know that I sympathize with your situation and hope that you can come out of it somehow. I have been there -- the object of a lie by an employee that very nearly destroyed me financially. Fortunately I was able to endure and found positive things to pour myself into, while the liar continued to wallow in his greed and calumny. Now, years later, I have survived and still have my home and family, if not the bank account that I once had. The liar eventually died penniless.

      Bad things happen to good people some of the time, but not always. Your luck is bound to turn sooner or later if you can find some "sweet uses" of adversity. (See As You Like It, Act I, Scene 1.) Keep your head up and try to remember that you as a person are much more important than your job.

    2. Scrumrob -- I should have addressed my comment with your full handle, in order to avoid confusion with the "other Rob." Sorry if I wasn't clear.

  4. What a bunch of idiots you went to school with. They must be the same people who today believe everything said on reality shows that Ryan Seacrest talks about on his radio show.

    If there were two sides to every story, seems no one wanted to hear the other side.

  5. There is no defense for what Edvig did to you, but deeply closeted people often like to play the "He made me" card to relieve themselves of any personal responsibility. Edvig cracked the closet door and made a play for you that was rebuffed. Leaving him hurt and afraid you will tell, so he casts you as the aggressor instead. Defensive, vindictive behavior. Sorry you had to put up with it.

  6. Rob, I guess I think that people in general are more "unfiltered" these days in their willingness to speak their minds, which very often is not a good thing, but in this case, I think it's likely someone else would have broached the subject with you and maybe, just maybe, given you a better opportunity to head this off at the pass.

    What I find hardest to comprehend is why your peers would have taken the word of a guy who seems to have been widely perceived as a weirdo over someone who had previously been seen as a nice, likable guy. Is it human nature to want the truth always to be simply the juiciest thing on offer? Very sad, and I am so sorry you had to go through that, my friend.

  7. Scrumrob,

    That is a terrible story. Your wounds are too deep for any one thing to heal, but I hope that hearing it's possible to move on past some things gives you the inspiration to keep keeping on for another day.

  8. Rex,

    You're right, the story he conceived completely absolved him for any personal responsibility—but it was also a scorched-earth strategy that ensured anything I possibly could've said about him would pale in comparison to what he accused me of.

  9. John,

    You put your finger on the crux of what bothered me the most, in some ways. Nobody liked the guy. Everybody thought he was weird. I might not have been the prettiest in the dorm, or the most popular, or the most liked, but I was fairly innocuous. And yet so many people were willing to take his word at face value without even asking me my side, just because it was so shocking an allegation that it had to have been true. Or something.

  10. I spent a couple days on pins and needles to read the rest of this story and I'm not the slightest bit shocked that this is how it played out. It never ceases to amaze me how the most salacious of lies are easily believed by people because they don't want to question the truth and won't get any impartial authorities involved since they don't want to shatter the outrageous story they were told.

    The fact that you waded your way through it, finished school and then moved on shows much greater strength of character since some people would have been leaping for any exit they could find from the situation. One can't blame you for having some unresolved anger about it even this long after.

    People unfortunately aren't any better now than they were back then. Sure this kind of incident now in most places would prompt an administrative panic and an investigation as those in the hot seat of responsibility would move to cover their collective asses but the Edvig's of today have found different venues for their destructive methods. The real problem isn't entirely the Evig's of the world, it's the people who will entertain the story and swallow it whole believing it's the truth and blocking any attempt to question the validity. I find it sad that our world is filled with enough of them to allow things like this to go on.

    1. Spiky Dave,

      People aren't better these days, I agree. Some things have changed, though. Being gay isn't the unspeakable thing it was in my college days, when no one was out (literally no one), and even though it was just this week that the nation changed its crime reporting so that male-on-male rape is now considered a sex crime, the notion of a man raping another isn't as novel as it once was, either.

      I suspect the Edvigs of the world find different ways to misdirect attention all the time, but people believe what they're fed now as easily as they did then.

  11. You got my protective instincts going into full gear here. Scott sounds like a judgemental, imperious tool bag. As for Edvig- I wanted to beat his ass. Yes I know- not too mature however I absolutely can not stand liars. The total "wrongness" of it just makes me mad. People never seem to like looking at the big picture in a logical manner. They jump at whatever gossip they've heard and that's what always sticks.

    1. Matthew, they surely do. Thanks for being protective of me. It's a novelty. :-)

  12. I'm filled with a lot of rage about this for a few reasons. One is obvious rage at the students around you who were too ignorant and caught up in their own need for gossip to think about the life they were ruining. Two is the obvious rage at that prick for starting that rumor in the first place (I don't care how fucked up he was, he had no right). And the third is the obvious rage at the people who stupidly listened to him when they should have known you well enough to not believe. The last is the less obvious rage at someone who would lie about being raped. Sexual assault is not something you can just make up and walk away from. It is scarring and can ruin people for years, if not for life. The fact that he would use such a terrible circumstance as a LIE to make you loose face...I can't even explore the depths of my rage at him. I wish I had known you back then. I would have made you call him out on it. Would have told you to call the police and start prepping a law suit for defamation of character. What an ass. I'm seething.

    But at least it passed and you have stronger friendships now. Sorry you went through all of that.


    1. Oh my gosh, Blogger's new comment system is so nice. Welcome to threaded replies and 2002, Blogger!


      Yeah, there's a lot of people to be angry at here. Like I said, if this had happened nowadays, or if I were the person then that I am now, I think the whole thing would've played out very differently. But thirty years ago was a very different place and time, and though we spoke the same language then, it'd be a pretty alien world to you.

    2. It is rather nice that they updated, isn't it?

      And yeah, I can imagine that I'd be a bit out of place thirty years ago. And I'm sure that, like you, I would have been a different person to match the different times. Still, I'd like to believe I would have been one of the people to see through that guy's bullshit and remain your friend, instead of just believing it to be true.


  13. Wow, what an experience! I am glad that it didn't totally sour your college experience and that you can look back at Edvig now with more sympathy than rage. Have you ever heard how he turned out?

    One other question - what about Lavinia, or whatever her name was, who suggested you for roommates? Was she part of the crowd that was cold to you? (Please say no....)

    1. No, she wasn't, Paul. We never spoke of the incident—I don't even know if she knew of it, but I'm certain she did. She and I were friends throughout all of college, but I never have seen her since.

      It occurs to me now that I didn't lose any friends over the incident. The people who were my firm friends before, remained so. The people who were cold to me were the ones who either didn't know me or held no more than a passing acquaintance. That covers a whole lot of people, but I'm glad my friends recognized I was blameless.

  14. Did you see Edvig around still? Could he even look you in the face? It always floors me when someone tells a malicious lie and can still look at the person they are lying about and act like nothing happened. I'd still like to kick his ass.

    1. We did not hang around each other, no. If I knew he was going to be someplace, I'd avoid it. Probably being the first to leave didn't do me any favors, but I was an avoider back then.

  15. College, for me as for many, was a time of upheaval. Of coming to terms with who I am, and of coming out. It was when I learned how awful it felt whe thoughtless words on my part cut deep wounds. I've been cautious with my words ever since. I cannot imagine being a person who intentionally and maliciously set out to hurt another. I can't imagine the amount of resilience it takes to survive in that situation.

    1. Richard,

      It took a hell of a lot of resilience, strength, and even outright denial. It's strange for you and I to contemplate the kind of person who'd actually conjure up falsehoods in order to wreak havoc like that—but man. Can you imagine being the kind of person who didn't really give a crap?

  16. Bud,
    I'm a little surpised at these last to post, I would have thought you would be a little more thick skinned about what happen to you in college. The first rule of a successful lie is, the lie needs a element of truth. Bud you lived in the Arts dorm, which on every campus in America is the Gay dorm. You hang with Black girls, don't you watch GLEE,that's a very gay thing for a White guy to and you didn't have a White girl come to your defence. All of the above makes Edvig lie believeable. The truth be told most Black Gay guys could tell you same story about being throw under the bus by some DL Black Middle Class asshole. Bud you are not alone in that area of gayness. You know as well as anyone, people will believe a easy lie before the hard truth. Your college years would have been alot more enjoyable if you had been hanging with campus slut, the jock you would have met and place you would gone, the parties you missed and she would have glady told everyone about your dick and how you use it. I'm not mad at ya, I love my Sisters and my Alpha, but, sometime we broadcast true without hearing it ourself. I know you are over this issue, some would have given up on Black guys, I know this is not true of you.(from what you have blogged). Peace

    1. I'm kind of surprised you think I wasn't thick-skinned. I was very thick-skinned. Anyone who never let on that he was bugged by all the rumors and the lies for thirty fucking years to anyone, including his closest friends, is pretty fucking thick-skinned, sir.

      I'm not going to be macho and pretend being ostracized didn't hurt or upset me. It did. But no one would've been able to tell during all that time. I never let on.

  17. Rob,

    Edving did a terrible thing. And it's terrible that no one in the dorm, except clarinet guy, would discuss it with you.

    I agree with points made by Rex and John above.

    One thing I wanted to comment about. And I don't want to piss you off, or imply you've done anything wrong. You mentioned that due to your body weight being so skinny around 100lbs, you couldn't have raped a person. Very generally speaking, though rape can be a violent act, it can be more about wielding psychological force than physical force (even though it's a physical act).

    Anyhow, that generality aside....and back to your story.

    That sucks how a a fucked up asshole like that can throw a seriously dark cloud over what is for many people the best years of their lives. And it's an outrage that he lied. I absolutely believe ther is such a thing as TRUTH.


    1. Chris,

      I get what you're saying about the physical and psychological aspects of assault. But as a sexual assault survivor myself, and one with a pretty hefty scar on the side of my head and the top of my ear to show for it, I can attest that there definitely can be a physical side of it too.

      And frankly, I gave off anything but an aggressive rapist vibe, as a 98-pound (literally, at times) weakling. Edvig was not a small guy. People should've been able to see that if I'd really attempted to force him to do anything, he could've kicked my ass. The story going around wasn't that I was some kind of Les Liasons Dangereuse sexual mastermind. It was that I overpowered him, pinned him, and forced him into mansex.

      But yeah. He was a fucked-up asshole. You summed it up pretty well.

  18. Rob,

    Well written as always. As I read and now that I make this comment I can feel the pain you must have carried. You took the high road and kept your head up.

    Edvig's action was actually bullying through others by spreading such a horrible rumor.

    I hope the ones that you told believed you and know the Truth over the lie of Edvig.

    1. Thanks, VersRAW. I appreciate the support.

      I never told anyone about it, though. The only person I talked to about it during college were two of my roommates, and the conversation about it was mostly along the lines of "Did it happen?" "No." "Okay."

      Nope. I didn't dignify it by talking about it, but sadly, that approach never erased all the anger.

  19. "I didn’t have the skills to know what to do in this situation. I’m not sure I’d know what to do now, either." I think you would, Rob. And I agree that it would be a lot sooner. I think you'd dress and march down to Scott's room and present the truth right then and there. But that's projecting the man-you-are-now onto the boy-you-were-then.

    I'm so very sorry this happened to you. I can't imagine how you endured the remainder (the majority) of your time in Williamsburg. And in silence at that. (I'm replaying some of your college stories in my mind now informed by this revelation.)

    I'll never hear the expression "There are two sides to every story" the same way again. I'll damn sure never utter it.

    1. Throb, I think you're right in that I would know what to do. I don't think I could write down a plan of attack—it wouldn't be worth it, because it can't happen again in quite the same way, and we don't live in the same world now that we did then, as you well know. But I think I have better coping skills now than I did then.

      But you know, that's what that period of life is for, isn't it? Fucking up, learning, and carrying on. I might've been the only person I knew who got accused of butt-raping a roommate in college, but everyone had their secrets and burdens to shoulder.

      I miss you, buddy.

  20. You made me remember an (almost) buried incident from my own college days. The accuser targetted primarily a friend of mine, but our whole group got indicted in the process. It played out very differently because the accuser was compelled by circumstances to explain his claim to the college administration. They investigated, it was groundless, and it all went away. I mention this only because I remember how absolutely terrified I was at the time. Waves of shame and fear washed over me even though I KNEW that neither I nor my friends had done ANYTHING. The accuser had a lot of similarities to Edvig - and reading your ideas here, I think you have your finger quite accurately on the likeliest reasons why people make accusations like this.
    But what is my point? My point is that I felt FROZEN when this all happened. I wanted to retreat into a safe corner, disappear, make it all "not be so." And I only had to deal with the issue very briefly. As you explain here, you had to deal with the lie for literally years. And you went through it alone - you didn't have a support group behind you. I think the fact that you maintained your poise, didn't roll up in a ball and hide away, didn't let it destroy your self-confidence, is a tremendous testimonial to your strength. And most impressive to me is the fact that you didn't run away. It would have been easy to transfer to another college and start "fresh" somewhere else. And it's so great that you didn't run - because if you had, the shadow would have gained more power in your head and heart. Instead, you stood your ground, and in a way that ultimately WORKED for you - you faced the dragon.
    I hope you're as proud of that as you deserve to be.

    1. Jonking, you don't say when your incident happened, but if it was as far back as my own, I know the frozen feeling you felt well. It was a time when homosexuality just wasn't discussed openly. And using it as a weapon, as Edvig did, just wasn't done.

      It's curious you think it didn't kill my self-confidence. It fucked me up in a lot of ways, and made me assume much of the time that I couldn't trust people around me. Perhaps I still don't. I might have carried on in a self-confident way through the rest of college, but it was out of sheer stubbornness and an unwillingness to let that idiot mess it up for me . . . at least, I was determined to seem that way on my unflappable exterior, even though inside I was eating myself up.

  21. I'm not so sure it would be any easier today, for people of the same age. While our age and experience makes it easier to fight back, I think it would be just as hard if it were all over again at college.

    While the homosexuality aspect would be less of an issue today, the societal pendulum has swung to the right. People are so afraid, now, of allowing sexual bully's to get away with anything, that they overcompensate to the tune of ruining the accused's life before any facts come to light. A friend's marriage is essentially over, and he has had only a few hours of supervised time with his daughter in 2 years, because one of her friends made an accusation. Whether or not he is found guilty, even if the accuser recants, a large proportion of the community will continue to assume that it must be true. Because his career required being bonded, he lost his license to work the day he was arrested. Two years into the process, he has lost his house, is in deep debt to his lawyer, and is only just getting to trial. His life is ruined, regardless of the outcome.