A man asks Eli and Josie for help with an assault that happened in a poly-quad relationship he’s in.
Author’s note: For this question, we called in sex-positive advocate and educator Julie Gillis to step in for an expert opinion.
Dear Sexes: My wife was raped by the girlfriend of the guy I was sleeping/cuddling on the couch with after being too drunk for them to drive. We were forming a poly-quad structure, and now I’m as anxious as the girl about the conversation we’re having soon about boundaries and consent: I want to let her have it with both barrels, but I know that would destroy any chance of better times for us as friends. I presently hate her. I worry she also might be abusive to him, her male partner. How do I face this rationally and constructively?
Julie Said: First of all, let me start by saying how sad and angry I am that you and your wife are having to undergo such a traumatic situation, both from the assault but also from the loss of friends and trust in a particularly complex relational situation.
On the surface, this question seems complicated as well-it’s a mixed gender, poly quad situation (newly dating/forming) involving sexual assault. Though yes, there are complex moving parts, the answer seems as simple to me as if it was a singular act by a new friend with no other connections: your wife was sexually assaulted and the relationships that you were forming are now a no-go.
Your partner was raped and while I appreciate your desire for rationality, I can’t see maintaining a friendship with someone who hurt your wife so deeply and perhaps is hurting her own partner. You are posing this as a poly question, and I understand all too well how hopeful a couple can be when they meet “the ones” they wish to form a longer term romantic/sexual commitment with.
Poly is complicated and all the factors that lead to finding chemistry, friendship, ease, and commonalities are hard to put together in one amazing group relationship. When you think you find it, it’s an amazing emotional experience and one hard to let go of. But in this case, I don’t think of this as a poly problem. It’s a sexual assault problem.
This woman’s actions are a huge red flag. Actually, red flags, a neon on-fire “get out of this situation” flag is what is going on. There are boundary issues, there are sexual assault issues. There may be abuse issues between the couple. There will now be trust issues between your dyad and theirs, and you and your partner if the relationship continues with the other pair. This is not good.
In my frank opinion, you shouldn’t be worrying about putting hard times on them, but they should be appalled and ashamed and overwhelmed that they caused harm to your wife.
In the short term, get away from this couple and break it off. In the longer term, find a therapist or counselor in your area who is kink and poly friendly and will help you process both the weight of the sexual assault but also how it manifested, in a hopeful and loving group context that you’d placed a lot of stake in.
I wish you good luck in healing the pain that this assault has caused, and I hope you are able to move forward with each other in your search for trustworthy, ethical people to be connected to.
He Said: I truly admire your willingness and commitment to be understanding and considerate of other people’s feelings. I mean that with all sincerity. However, it sounds to me like you’re being far too considerate of others. Why do you care about maintaining a relationship (now, or in the future) with someone who raped your wife (or who rapes anyone)? Rape is a seriously debilitating, harmful, and hateful act (for everyone involved). I cannot overstate this. It is also a crime.
All your love, energy, attention, and understanding need to be on focused on your wife—her needs, her state of mind, and her road to recovery. Even if (by chance) your wife says she wants to maintain a relationship with this couple—the other half of this poly quad structure—you need to be the voice of reason, and explore relationships with people who have a greater understanding of boundaries and consent (your wife could be suffering a sort of post-traumatic stress disorder and not thinking perfectly clearly).
If you are concerned about the guy being abused, then you should reach out to him, and show him avenues of support he has available (friendship-wise and/or professionally). But your focus should be on recovery for your wife, and the two of you as a unit. When you are both emotionally ready to add others to your relationship, only consider those who will treat your wife and you with the utmost respect, love, and satisfaction. Rape should not have to be part of that conversation (with the right people/partners involved).