What follows is amplification of the story from an amazing person about the abuses she suffered at the hands of Zack Johnson, creator and the driving creative force behind Kingdom of Loathing, and the follow-up game West of Loathing. These words are hers, provided here unedited from the last version of her testimony I had access to. Thank you for taking the time to read it. Don’t like seeing this here? Feel free to eat shit!
“Randy Mack (Armak) raped me.
Zack “Jick” Johnson knew about and dismissed it. He continued to abuse me in our relationship, including choking me 10 feet from Kevin “Hotstuff” Simmons. When I asked why Kevin didn’t do anything to stop it, he said “I intentionally look away.”
This encapsulates a whole system of abusers and enablers that I was trapped in, having been groomed since I was 17 playing a game called Kingdom of Loathing.
This past week has been awful. I’m angry and sad and most of all exhausted. I have a history of suicidal ideation, and an attempt within the last 5 years. I have fought not to go to that place again. I’m sorry if this isn’t the right time to speak up, but it never is, and I can’t hold this anymore. I hope that folks will work to hold people accountable, and give victims the support we need to become survivors.
I think accountability can take many forms depending on the unique circumstances, but it always involves admitting the harm you’ve caused, and making amends. No amount of charity, activism, therapy or yoga can be called accountability if it hasn’t addressed the needs of the specific person(s) you’ve hurt.
My story is about abuse, but it’s also about those who were enablers, those who stood by and let it happen.
The things that I went through happened 10+ years ago. The statute of limitations has run out in one case (I attempted suicide a few months later). I’m coming forward now because I want people who consider themselves allies or even bystanders to know the cost of their silence and inaction. I want former abusers to understand the damage they prolong and perpetuate by simply “moving on” and never making amends.
I have compassion for everyone who wants to do better. Some other day and some other time I might be able to say some kumbaya stuff about restorative justice and healing. I support all that, but right now, I just need to stop carrying the burden of these memories. I need to talk about this stuff so I can continue to thrive in my industry without fear, without having anxiety attacks about who might show up to what party, about folks coming up to me to say how great my abuser is because he bought everyone a beer, or how “nice” so and so is when he stood in the same room and literally turned away while I was physically assaulted.
So here we go.
In 2005 I was raped by an independent filmmaker. He will deny this claim, as he did when I confronted him as recently as 2015, before the statute of limitations had run out. Due to mutual friends, I saw a Facebook post where he’d done some kind of film/doc about sexual assault in the city of New Orleans. I commented about the irony of him making the film. He feigned ignorance, and I asked him if he was going to deny raping me. His response was to say something to the effect of “By Gods! You’re as crazy as they say!” then blocked me.
Yeah, this asshole raped me. This story isn’t even really about him, but it’s necessary to explain an entire system of abuse I suffered, and how at every step I was conditioned to accept even more abuse. Randy and I knew each other because we both played the online game Kingdom of Loathing.
I had been playing KoL since it first began, when I was 17. It was my daily escape from an abusive home out in the boonies, where I was completely isolated and not even allowed to go to school. KoL was my first online family and blah blah blah cliche story about the misunderstood teen who finds friends on the internet. I even went to the very first KolCon in 2004, which was basically a BBQ with <20 people at Jick’s house.
I was 18 at the time of the BBQ, it was my first time away from home. Mr. Skullhead gave me and another underage KoLer a bunch of vodka (clarification: Josh bought the vodka. Jezerfly has weighed in and her account is consistent with my own memory), I vaguely remember someone saying there’d be a penalty for whichever of us finished it last (I took this as a rite of passage, not a threat.) I downed it quickly and that’s basically all I remember. No wait, I remember being moved around and vomiting. I also remember waking up not in a ditch, with no vomit in my hair and thinking — these folks are good people!
This is important, because I completely trusted this little community. They’d had a chance to hurt me but they didn’t. Compared to my own home where I was hurt daily? These “dangerous people from the internet” were awesome, normal, and SAFE.
Looking at this picture again for the first time, it actually looks pretty fucked up. It was shared on Facebook on March 28 2014, the first time I ever saw it. I’m in the red shirt on the floor.
I met Randy the Rapist in late September of 2005, at KoLcon II. He was in the inner circle with Jick and all the other cool people I’d met and built relationships with. In my mind he was vouched for and a safe person. I can’t recall the exact date but within 2 months (some time september 26 and november 21 2005) he would rape me.
My friend who I will call N (another KoLer I met through the game), were driving from Santa Barbara California to Arizona. The details of why are a little fuzzy, we were both either visiting boys/friends or we were both moving down there. (Update: I think I mis-rememberd the direction, after talking to N I think we were actually on our way *back* from Kolcon II/Arizona – we’d stayed a while after. This makes sense with the timeline because the next time I drove to Arizona I was moving there, which meant Zack and I were official, not in the nebulous/early non-monogamous zone. Though at this point I feel like our monogamy was still implied/hoped for and expected.) Regardless, we stopped at Armak/Randy’s house in West Hollywood for the night. I’m going to switch to his game name for now, because there was a kind of celebrity to it in my mind and the weight of that is important to my experience.
Armak wasn’t attractive, and he was older than us by at least a decade. I remember thinking of him as old in the way teenagers do, but I guess he was only in his 30s. I remember thinking Armak was cool though, because he’d made this random indie film and was kind of a snob about movies which I didn’t know anything about. We met up with him and he took us to some diner in the neighborhood. I remember someone ordered an Arnold Palmer (or someone ordered it for me) because I didn’t know what it was and assumed it was alcoholic. Armak was the first person to tell me what to call a drink that’s half lemonade, half iced tea. I really didn’t know shit back then.
After the diner Armak said we could go to his house and he’d make us some drinks. I’m 19, so is N. This seems like a GREAT idea. I don’t remember much else except his apartment being very dark, not at all the glamorous Hollywood place I expected. I remember it had a kind of courtyard with plants. I remember the orientation of his front door, living room, bedroom, bathroom. At least, I remember the path he took once I had become so drunk I couldn’t move. I remember him picking me up from the couch (and me thinking self-consciously if I was heavy because I was super insecure about my weight). I remember him heading to a back room and legit thinking “oh! How sweet, he’s going to put me in his bed and take the couch.”
TW: VERY RAPEY DETAILS – skip this part if you need
I remember him laying me on a twin mattress, then starting to undress me. I still remember (and can feel in my body as I type this) the chilling feeling of shame when my breasts were exposed. I remember wanting to instinctively cover up but my limbs feeling too heavy and my mind too slow to react. I remember the embarrassment because I was just lying there however he’d left me; no seductive pose, no propping myself in the most flattering angle for my boobs…just me lying there exposed and devoid of agency. I can’t even finish these details.
I remember when it was just my shirt off. I remember still, still thinking…”oh okay I guess he’s going to put some pajamas on me??”
I remember, like the fucking titanic crashing into ice, how once I figured it out it was still happening too slowly. No, that’s wrong. I was too slow, my mind and body were out of sync. He was on top of me, I remember thinking “no” but to be honest, can’t tell if I said it.
It was all over so fast. I remember him seeming like a rodent, like a fucking – this movie hadn’t even come out yet – but he looked like Peter Pettigrew on top of me. I remember that by the time I got back my motor functions it was too late. He had finished, immediately climbed off of me and headed straight to the shower. There was no conversation. No talk. No back and forth. No…nothing. If he knew that I was conscious, he certainly didn’t act like it. Unless his MO was always to fuck people as quickly as possible in total silence. He didn’t bother to clean me up. I don’t think he realized I was…present.
The most awful thing that has stuck with me for all these years? I remember wishing it had lasted longer so that I could have pushed him off of me. If only he hadn’t been so sexually incompetent this could have ended with me bravely shouting “NO!” and making him stop. Instead I just lied there, trapped in my own body.
Very fucking uselessly, once I could move again I felt very sober. I don’t even know if it’s physically possible, can a fight or flight response sober you up? No clue. But I was lucid, and crying. I went out into the living room to try and wake up N, who had passed out just 2 feet from where Armak had lifted my limp body. She was as drunk as I had been. I was crying and telling her what happened. I wanted to call the police. He had raped me.
[END TW FOR GRAPHIC DETAILS]
Armak came out and saw the scene in his living room. He said he thought it was okay. Through tears I told him how I was seeing someone and would never have had sex with him. He said he didn’t know. He said it was a misunderstanding. He got on his knees and grabbed my hand and begged me to believe him.
I remember thinking that I couldn’t put this soft, dumpy, crying white nerd in prison with hardened criminals. Everyone knew what they did to sex criminals in there. I remember thinking that the KoL community would hate me, that my new boyfriend would hate me for doing this to his friend. Even worse, I’d be bringing drama to the game and community he built. At the time, I was dating Zack “Jick” Johnson, creator of Kingdom of Loathing.
I initially met Jick the way everyone did, through KoL chat and forums. I started playing at 17, and quickly became a regular. I met Jick in person at KoLcon I, where (in a kind of mean way) he asked me to stop calling him Jick because it was awkward. I recovered from my embarrassment, and then, as now, I will start calling him Zack.
Zack and I met IRL for the 2nd time, in July or August of 2005. Another road trip, but this time from Oklahoma to California. I dropped into to Phoenix to say hi to the KoL fam. At this point it was Zack, J, Riff, and Kevin, aka “Hotstuff”. I don’t think Kevin was actually in Phoenix at the time. I know he was on the dev team but pretty sure he was still living mostly in Boston. (Later he would move in with us and basically accompany us everywhere. We were like the Three Musketeers, or at least that’s how I thought of it.)
Zack and I seemed to hit it off this time. He wasn’t snarky like the first time I’d met him. When he invited me to watch a movie at his house (instead of the house they used as the office, where folks usually crashed) I was excited. He took me back to his place and we watched Love, Actually – his favorite movie at the time.
I remember the film because at some point Alan Rickman was on screen and Zack asked me what I thought of him, romantically. I made some comment about how he was way too old and not attractive (okay just gotta say i now go HARD for professor snape), but how I might like, lie in a bed with him and talk. At this point, Zack and I were lying in his bed, talking; him 29, I was 19. The implication of my comment went totally over my head until Zack pointed it out the next morning. We had been intimate and I remember being so excited that this impressive actually grown up man was interested in ME (me!). It was at this point that Zack told me he was seeing someone; a girl he’d met through KoL, a fellow player, who was also 19. I asked him why he didn’t tell me *before* we had sex, to which he responded with a chuckle “Because I’m not stupid.”
He said she was cool but didn’t like giving blowjobs, some other shitty comments about how she used to be hot (as in, traditionally feminine) but started cutting her hair and learning to play guitar – don’t ask me what this is supposed to mean. At the time I just rolled with it as if it were valid. I took it at face value that she had done something that justified this. Zack had a way of presenting his opinions as though they were objective facts about the world.
Bonnie/Kitsune_tsuki aka Zack’s girlfriend at the time chimes in via Twitter.
Thread starts here https://twitter.com/BonMatts/status/1169384365450780672?s=20
I left Arizona and finished my move to CA. I started school and kept in contact with Zack. At some point, my dad died, and Zack was a friend to talk to. I went back for KoLcon II (where I met Randy) and Zack and I got closer. After Kon II we kept talking and our relationship escalated quickly. By Thanksgiving I had moved to Arizona to be with him and we would be married within 6 months.
When I told Zack what happened with Armak I did not call it rape. I told him that something had happened. That Randy had had sex with me and it was not consensual. For years I would refer to it euphemistically as “nonconsensual sex”. Rape was when strangers jumped out of the bushes to assault you, not when it’s just a regular person in your circle of friends.
I told Zack the entire story. I told him how I thought I was safe because I was with N. I told him I didn’t know what was going on. I told him how I cried and I hoped he didn’t think I was a slut. I told him every single detail just as I’ve told you, probably more since it had happened just days before. I was terrified that I’d ruined this new romance. Thankfully he a) said it was ‘kinda sleazy’, b) forgave me, and c) said “at least it’s Randy”.
At least it’s Randy.
For the next 4 years I would have to continue to interact with Randy, both online and in person. He was part of the exclusive lounge and dev channels. He attended every KoLcon (which meant coming to my house). He would come out to visit, we would visit him if in the area. Of course I *never* initiated or asked to hang out with him. It’s just something I felt I had to do.
Randy would make casual comments about how I was the second person he’d had sex with right before they married someone else. Every time he said it I would cringe, and give some cursory response. After all, he’d cried and said it was a misunderstanding. He didn’t mean to rape me so what could I do?
Except periodically a chat mod (Fusilliban) would ping Zack to say that Armak was in chat bragging about how he’d slept with Jick’s wife. It made me sick to know he was bragging about raping me. I realized then that he wasn’t sorry (something my friend N had never believed but didn’t want to force), and he was actually proud.
Fusilliban confirms Randy bragging and fills in other details I didn’t have knowledge of.
His full thread about Randy’s behavior after the rape starts here: https://twitter.com/fusilliban/status/1170163287532740609?s=20
Zack never defended me. Zack never called him out or cut him out of the community. For the entirely of our marriage, the man who raped me and bragged about it was welcome in my life. Once Randy had come to visit, and while a gang of us were out to dinner, he started berating me. He had some idea for KoL (he wasn’t an official employee but he was in the dev channels like me) and I gave some contrary input. He started berating me, telling me that I’m in /dev and don’t even have the guts to say anything, that I don’t share my ideas. What he’d said wasn’t even true – I shared my ideas all the time, usually by just pinging the creator of the game – y’know, my husband. In the moment, though, I was stunned and small. I couldn’t believe the gall he had to be mean to me, he’d already raped me for god’s sake, and faced zero consequences. He hadn’t even faced the consequences of getting thrown out of my social space, and here he is making me feel like I’m not good enough.
I feel sick just thinking about it. Zack did send him a message later saying something to the effect of “I think it’d be best if you left”. It was a milquetoast response to the man who berated your wife and bragged about raping her.
If you think Zack is some shy, quiet person who avoids confrontation – you’ve never met him. He did at one point tell me a story that explains his reaction. Zack did this a lot, tell me instructive stories that mapped out his worldview, but presented them as universal.
One day we were having some morbid conversation about what Zack would do if someone ever hurt me. I used to ask these kinds of annoying questions a lot. He said if someone ever hurt me he’d fucking kill them. (I wasn’t exactly reassured since Randy is breathing to this day). Zack then proceeded to tell me the plot to Braveheart – if these details are wrong it’s ‘cause it’s a Zack Johnson synopsis. I’ve never watched it.
Zack tells me that in Braveheart, Mel Gibson’s wife is taken, raped (and killed?). Zack explains that when a man rapes another man’s woman, it’s not about her. It’s not actually a crime against the woman. Men use rape as an insult to other men. So if a man raped me or hurt me, it would actually be to disrespect Zack. I finally understood why Randy would never face consequences, and what “at least it’s Randy” meant.
Randy didn’t know I was dating Zack at the time, he didn’t know I was Zack’s property. He had only *accidentally* disrespected Zack, which was forgivable. The fact that it was “a friend” that got to sleep with me, as opposed to some other, younger man of my choosing, well that made it acceptable. During the 4 years we were together – there were LOTS of conversations like these.
(I verified that Armak was still part of the regular discourse as late as 2015, that he still attended con in 2011. As far as I’m aware Zack has *never* called him out for what he did.) Switched a sentence so the parenthetical didn’t awkwardly break up the paragraph.
Not only was Zack complicit in supporting the man who raped me, he was also abusive himself. I’ve already written pages around a single incident, and to document everything would fill a book. Here are a fraction of the highlights from the 4 years I was dating or married to Zack.
- There’s the time he slashed my tires – which he said was fine because he could buy me new ones.
- One year, while we were in San Diego for Comic Con, he choked me and threw me because I forgot to wash his clothes. After yelling at me and physically hurting me, he said “I can see why your mother beat you.”
- He was financially controlling and insisted I was fully dependent on him (while simultaneously being annoyed by it). When we first started dating, Zack said that his last girlfriend was was super nice, but she used to vent about her job, which he found annoying. He said he didn’t want me to annoy him the same way, therefore I should not have a job.
Later, it would prove annoying to have a 20 year old unemployed wife home all day long, so he said I could get a job, but it should only be something cool – like working at a comic shop.
- I used to get berated for being weak and stupid when I cried about my mom and younger siblings being homeless. My mom was 100% abusive and would do shitty things like have my siblings leave voicemails saying they were hungry. This used to destroy me. Rather than be supportive, Zack would look down on me with disgust and criticize me for it.
- Zack tried to convince me that I was biologically incapable of having orgasms. Whenever I would talk about things he might do to improve my pleasure during sex, he would become enraged. He would constantly quote Loveline and say “Adam Corolla says, Loveline says” telling me that I was too young to have orgasms. I told him that I had had orgasms since I was 17 with my same-aged boyfriend. This made him furious and he would shout at me how rare orgasms were and that women needed to take responsibility for it.
- Unhappy with my level of wifing, Zack told me a story. He said “Have you ever seen Leave it to Beaver? No of course you haven’t, black people don’t watch Leave it to Beaver. (I had seen it). Okay, well here’s how it’s supposed to go. The Man comes home and the wife meets him with a cocktail. She doesn’t talk to him, or tell him about her problems. She makes him a drink and leaves him to hang out in his den for a few hours while she makes dinner. And before that there’s probably an off-screen blowjob. When dinner is ready and they’re all at the table, only then does she talk about her problems or things the man has to solve.
I don’t think this is actually the synopsis to Leave it to Beaver, but nevertheless, I started *running* to the door as soon as I heard the garage lifting. I’d have to run down two sets of stairs, make it to the bar fridge, open the beer, and get to Zack before he’d cross the threshold. He did not want to have to look for me, I should be greeting him so he feels appreciated. Sometimes grabbing the beer would make me a couple seconds late and I would feel like a failure.
- There’s the time that Zack forced me to get birth control that made me bleed for 3 months straight and feel like my body had been invaded by aliens. For most of my life I’ve had irregular periods. The entire time I was with Zack, my period would come maybe 3-4 times a year. It was always a surprise, but I was perfectly happy with this since periods fucking suck, and mine came with especially painful, debilitating cramps.
When Zack found out I had irregular periods, and was fine with them, he became enraged. He screamed at me that I needed to go to the doctor, that I needed to listen to the doctors about my period being abnormal, and that if I didn’t listen and I couldn’t bear him an heir/give him a legacy because I didn’t listen to doctors, he would never forgive me.
No doctor had ever told me I was at risk for infertility (I wasn’t), or that I was unhealthy (I wasn’t). They did say birth control could regulate my period. Zack insisted I “listen to doctors” and pressured me into getting a depo privera(sp?) shot. What really sucked is I got it right before we went overseas for 3 months and I bled the entire time. The bleeding didn’t stop until we came back and the doctor had to give me a bunch of other birth control just so my body would stop bleeding every day. I had become anemic.
- Zack brought my mother and her kids to Arizona after I expressly told him it wasn’t what I wanted. We had actually tried this before. Zack got my mom a place for her and her newborn to get out of a dangerous domestic situation. She basically stayed for a month or so, trashed the house, left in the night and took the TV with her. I was mortified, embarrassed, ashamed – and Zack never let me hear the end of it.
I had no intention of playing the fool twice. Plus I was getting older and starting to set healthy boundaries with my mother. She begged me to get her a place in Arizona again. When I said no, she tortured me with all kinds of manipulative tactics. Zack berated me for having any feelings at all. I said to him, in tears “Okay, well it’s my family so of course I love them even if it hurts me. It’s not easy for me to just emotionlessly say no. Since it’s easy for you can you please talk to her? It’s your money anyway.”
Zack took the phone from me and…ended up telling my mom she could come. He said this time would be different because he would help me and we’d be a team. He gave the okay when I told him not to. He put the phone down and I just looked at him horrified at what he’d signed me up for – and then he yelled at me for that.
This is a bigger issue about abuse. Because Zack had money and cared for me, plus my whole family, I could never really “complain” about how he treated me. I couldn’t talk about how he berated me (which he’d do in public), or ask for better treatment. From the outside it looked only like I should be grateful since I had nothing.
- During the divorce, Zack had cut me off financially. I was in school, had no job, and keep in mind he’d invited my whole damn family out to stay. At some point one of our cats got injured and I had to take them to the vet. With zero money, I cashed in a jar of quarters so I could pay the vet. Zack blew up and threatened me because of it.
- Zack introduced me to this song that I hate to this day. It has the lines “If her daddy’s rich, take her out for a meal, if her daddy’s poor, then just do what you feel.” I remember telling him when he played it for me that I don’t have a dad. He just laughed – and treated me accordingly.
- He would make fun of me for being insecure about my weight. Once he yelled at me because being insecure about my weight meant I was calling him a chubby chaser and he would never be with a fat girl. One of the reasons I was so insecure about it is Zack would constantly call women (especially KoL players) “fat bitches” and talk about how worthless fat women are.
- Zack hated Mr. Skullhead/Josh’s wife and made no secret about it. On one hand he would chide Skully for having met her when she was 17, while simultaneously believing she (then just a few years older than me) was the source of all evil. One time Zack commented at length about how he now had enough money that he could probably have her killed since it probably wasn’t even that expensive. I…man, of course this shit was always said as a “joke” but this still gives me the creeps.
- At one point, the year we would get divorced, Zack violently choked me to the point that I could not scream, breathe, and I literally thought I was going to die. 10 feet from me, I could see Kevin Simmons while Zack was choking me. Afterward I went to Kevin, in tears and still in shock, and asked him why he didn’t do anything to stop it. Kevin said to me “I didn’t see him choke you.” I said “How could you not see? You were in the room!” To which Kevin replied “I intentionally look away.” May? 2009 in New York, Zack canceled the radio show that night.
I intentionally look away.
These words still haunt me. They still make me feel powerless and afraid. I can’t express to anyone how fucking hopeless and disposable it feels to know that you could be choked to death, in front of someone, and just…nothing. My life, my humanity, my dignity, none of it was worth anything to them.
I’m naming Kevin because he was complicit. He was an active enabler. He knew about the abuse. He lived in the house with us, took every trip with us. I’m pretty sure Kevin was on my honeymoon. It was often the three of us. Kevin was Zack’s best friend and employee, but he was also my confidante and mediator. Kevin was the “nice” one, the one I could trust – at least that’s how I felt, but in hindsight I realize he put me in more danger. Kevin acted as co-signer and justifier for Zack, and because Kevin *is* the nice, passive, agreeable friend, when I became wise to Zack’s bullshit, I still trusted Kevin to temper down Zack’s cruelty.
(During the divorce, Kevin also rammed my mom’s car while her and her then infant/toddler children were inside. She might be shitty to me, but in that moment she was a completely innocent/ignorant bystander who happened to be in my driveway.)
To this day, Kevin has never apologized to me. He has never said “Hey it’s fucked up that we treated you that way. You were a teenager and we were grown men, I’m sorry for my part in not looking out for you.”
I lived in the literal Kingdom of Loathing and Zack was the King. No one was there to support me. Most would have been risking their jobs. Forgot to express that almost every friend I made there at some point became Zack’s employee, or a girlfriend of an employee, so somehow under his influence. Let me take one moment to say that Riff – who had no reason to know the extent of what was going on, was always decent to me. During the divorce he treated me like a human, and Zack reamed him out for it. Riff has semi-publicly denied this and brought up the computer incident, so I will clarify this waaay at the bottom.th
This is not even half of the story, but I’m already so drained. Reliving this is an absolute nightmare. The only thing more painful than talking is keeping it all in for so long.
In 2017 my game was nominated for an award at IndieCade. I was excited, it was my first time submitting anything anywhere. I had been terrified to put myself or my work out there for fear of getting on Zack’s radar. And of course, the year I am up for an award is the year that one of his employees would accidentally introduce us at a party. This was my worst nightmare and I feel guilt and shame for how I responded.
I said “Hi”, asked if he wanted a hug. I was submissive and spent the whole night talking to and catching up with him. I felt like I was in a daze. I wanted him to like me, be my friend, treat me the way I was once treated in KoL, like I was welcome. I spent the night making sure he felt good about the exchange while also trying to convince him I wasn’t the fuck up he said I was. I became a girl in the worst sense of the word, the way misogynists use it; an accommodating but disposable object. I thanked him for the divorce settlement (that he fought me and threatened me for), that allowed me to go to school. I gave him credit and the satisfaction of knowing that I “ended up okay” even though that had fuck all to do with him. Even though, when we got divorced, he said any work or contributions I made to KoL were completely negated by me asking for money so I could afford luxuries like “health care” and “a college education”. I went through old emails and these were literal requests I made. We’d had a prenup – but it fell through because turns out the law isn’t that into 30 year old college educated men (psychology major for the curious) printing out sketchy forms and having their 20 year old, 9th grade educated girlfriend sign it only in the presence of their personal notary.
I spent that night kissing up to him and honestly it felt so nice just to not be afraid, to be treated like I was human. But here’s the fucked up part, and the thing that’s been eating away at me for the last 2 years. The reason I *have* to say something.
At that indiecade party in 2017, I said to Zack “Randy raped me.” He immediately responded, “I know. You told me.”
At the time I was elated. He validated me. He believed me. He still followed this up “Man, it’s a shame. Randy is like 85% cool and like 15% really shitty.”
Yes, Randy is 85% will laugh at your fart jokes and 15% RAPED YOUR GIRLFRIEND. Even at his best, Zack couldn’t admit that a fucking rapist is 100% garbage.
There are two things that I feel have been taken from me, as a result of direct abuse, but also as a result of being complicit/failing to be held accountable.
- I lost the opportunity to bring charges against my rapist.
- I spent 10 years starting from scratch, always being on the periphery of the game industry for fear that I might get on Zack’s radar and he would find a way to ostracize and humiliate me.
Here’s the takeaway: If we don’t hold abusers accountable – NO ONE WILL. At some point between 2005 and 2017, Zack realized that I had been raped. Given that he apologized (with qualifiers) for much of his behavior while we were married, he also realized he had been abusive, maybe even regretted it.
At no point did before I was literally in his face did Zack reach out to me. I had even sent brief friendly emails/texts over the years, so he knew I was receptive. At no point did he send so much as an email or a text to say “Hey, whatever else may have happened – Randy raped you and it wasn’t okay. I didn’t respond well then, but I support you now.” If Zack had said this to me? I would have brought charges. I’m not saying I have any faith in the legal system when it comes to rape, but at least I could have had the dignity of confronting this man. The dignity of letting my rape inconvenience the man who raped me.
Zack – this is the only part of this I care that you read – you took that away from me. I can never, ever get it back. I will NEVER be able to charge him for this. Your complicitness, your failure to hold yourself accountable, had a terrible cost.
Secondly, but also significant. If you had reached out to me, just to let me know I would be safe in spaces with you, that you would treat me humanely and professionally, I would not have had to spend the last decade hiding in corners, afraid to shine, afraid to be seen.
Not only did you abuse me, but you let me suffer longer than I had to, possibly indefinitely. I’ll admit you were kind to me at IndieCade. You even introduced me to some people, but guess what? You did it when it no longer mattered. You waited until my tiny, tiny bit of clout collided ever so slightly with your world. You apologized once your own employee introduced me as someone worth knowing, someone who mattered just a little. You introduced me to Naomi Clark – but guess what? I would have met her anyway when I landed a residency at NYU just a few months later. That was all me. You did nothing to repair or even mitigate the harm you’d done. You could have, but you did nothing.
And that’s the fucking rub y’all. We throw everything on victims. Victims have to move on, have to deal with their own scars, have to rehabilitate themselves, have to find compassion for their abusers, have to play nice with abusers who might still cause them harm. We have to reorient our entire lives, professions, dreams to accommodate the people who hurt us, and the people who refuse to speak up. We have to do it all.
Well I can’t do it anymore. And I won’t. If you have hurt someone, make amends. Don’t wait until you have to, until it’s safe, easy, or convenient for you. If you have witnessed abuse, whether it hits you in the moment or years later – reach out to victims, let us know we are believed and supported. Let us know we weren’t the crazy ones.
Victims wouldn’t have to shout if anyone else spoke up first. I remember one time Kevin told me that Zack felt really bad for everything. I was like…well he hasn’t told me that. Kevin goes “Why would he tell *you*??”
The fuck? Why wouldn’t he tell me? Why wouldn’t you tell the person you feel so fucking bad about that you feel bad about what you did to them? Going to therapy and doing yoga so you can heal while your victims hide in shame, wondering if they’ll ever recover, wondering if you’ll ever allow it, is fucked up. That’s not accountability, that’s not rehabilitation; it’s fucking privilege.
It’s too late for apologies. I’ve already built up a whole new life and my rapist is still running around making shitty films. At this point all I can settle for from Zack (and to an extent, Kevin) is that y’all might admit your part and actually just let me live, let me take up space in these rooms you stole away from me. Maybe use your voice to hold my rapist accountable, since I’ll never get to in the way I wanted.
And as Nathalie so bravely said…I have tried to speak up in some way. This message from my account is still up, from 2009.“