Inconvenient Truths

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Last edited: 19th January 2020

This post links with If You Know, You Know; Dear Dubai Ex: Closure; Cyberstalking: A ProtestIn Control: Warning Signs of a Controlling Partner; How To Date An ArseholeIt’s Not Me, It’s YouGet Lit (Not Gaslighted…)Invisible Scars and Gaslighting Survival Guide.

Watching the movie ‘Bombshell’ the other night, it got me thinking about the way women are often vilified when we have the audacity to say the things out loud that others don’t want to hear and the strength that it takes to stand up for yourself against vehement opposition. I can relate, though my situation was not as straightforward as the workplace sexual harassment presented in ‘Bombshell’ and unlike in the movie, there has been no ‘victory’ at the end of this story.

In October 2015, I agreed to a consensual relationship with my married boss. Yes, you read that correctly. Consensual and he was married. I told you it was complicated. I did not know that he was married when I met him but I did know he was married when we began the relationship a short while later. He was the initiator, beginning with flirtatious work emails, progressing with sliding into my FB DMs and later, asking for my phone number to chat on WhatsApp as FB was apparently not as discreet for him. After being called to his office for a work chat, he told me he had been happily married for 16 years and he was not leaving, but he had feelings for me he wanted to explore. At the time I was touched by his honesty. I know now it was manipulative bullshit, designed to get what he wanted without appearing to be an arsehole. That is the moment I entered into a relationship that took me a long time to get out of and nearly destroyed me. We agreed we would take things slow and thereafter messaged constantly. I struggled with the morality of the situation, disappointed with myself at being involved with a married man. For that reason I refused to sleep with him but we did kiss in his office. In a hot and heavy moment, he asked me to take things further but I declined. I was stupid to get involved with him but not stupid enough to do that – not with my married boss in Dubai, where adultery is illegal. We were off and on for years. One of us would get an attack of guilt, usually me, and end it. There would be periods of not speaking which probably would have led to the end of the relationship had we not worked together, but when you are seeing each other almost daily, within a few weeks, one of us would begin messaging again. It was an emotional affair. I was pestered for more intimate moments, with him messaging to ask if I was still at work as he wanted to see me but I never allowed myself to be in a room alone with him again without other people around to make sure we didn’t cross the line. I was loyal and faithful to him, and always understanding of his personal situation. I respected the times he couldn’t chat as he was with his family. I didn’t call him. We WhatsApped when in work then switched to work email out of work hours to ensure we weren’t caught. There was no intent to cause harm to his family or his marriage. It is a situation that should have fizzled out eventually with no consequences.

However, we worked together and over time, our personal relationship became toxic, which negatively impacted our professional relationship. He allowed his personal feelings for me to impact the way he treated me as a colleague and it is for that reason I reported him to our CEO and eventually went public. No one should tolerate working in a toxic environment. In the beginning when our relationship was good, he was very supportive of my teaching career aspirations. He was complimentary, encouraging, and spoke highly of me to others. I was on track for a promotion and he told me I was obviously next in line. But then there were times when he would bring his personal feelings into the workplace. For example, he would get upset with me if he thought I was being flirty with male colleagues and there would be some sort of punishment – a snarky WhatsApp or refusal to reply to messages. I had to speak to male colleagues for work but he would watch me when I was speaking to them, making me feel uncomfortable even though I was doing nothing wrong. Then there was the time we had a huge row as I had told him I wanted to end the relationship. A few days later, I needed professional support for a work matter but he completely refused to support me. Had that been any other colleague, he would have supported them. When I spoke to him about it, he admitted that he was upset with me due to our row, he thought I would know that, and he knew he had gone too far on the spectrum by not supporting me at all when he should have. Unfortunately this was not a one off. It became a pattern in the relationship. If he was upset with me, he would find a way to punish me at work and would undermine me to students, parents and colleagues. I felt I always had to keep him on side and please him to be able to work in a happy environment and progress in my career. In the final year I worked for him, there were work matters I needed his help with. He would give me advice, tell me he had my back, but then he didn’t. Contradictory statements were made which caused conflict between myself and my colleagues. He threw me under the bus with parents when there were issues. Nine years working in a school with excellent results for the subject I led gave me a certain amount of autonomy. In the final year it all changed. The quality of my work was questioned. I was told I had become difficult to manage and unsupportive of the kids – anyone who was not a yes person was perceived difficult to manage and I worked tirelessly to support my students. I had gone from being the golden girl on track for the top, to a problem that needed to be forced out. I was only a ‘problem’ because I knew my boss was not the good guy devoted husband and father he likes to portray to the public and I’m a strong woman unafraid to speak her mind. The constant rows and perpetual mind games I endured from my ex/boss took their toll and I had a breakdown, leaving Dubai for a week to get my head together. He had done something particularly cruel and when I asked him to leave me alone at work, he didn’t. I felt trapped. Like I was being smothered with no way out. The only way I could get some space was to leave for a week. He was full of apologies, knowing he had gone too far, but something had broken in me and I knew I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to go back to finish the year for the kids I taught and to get the money I was owed to be able to go travelling – my ticket out. I resigned, intending to leave at the end of the school year and make a new life for myself. I didn’t make it through the year. His behaviour didn’t change, no matter what I did privately to try to sort out the situation between us. I was desperate for it to stop. For three years I kept my mouth shut (only confiding in a few close friends) and put up with his manipulative and controlling behaviour at work. I considered reporting him when I still worked for him but he is a very popular man and I didn’t think I would be believed, though I had collected evidence (emails, Whatsapps, a voice recording) throughout the relationship in case I needed it; I knew by getting romantically involved with my boss I had put myself in a vulnerable position and one day I might need to defend myself. I was right.

I wrote blog post ‘How To Date An Arsehole’, to get him to realise what he had put me through, to hopefully get him to stop (the original version included more specific details about the relationship). As a result of writing that post, I lost my job and home. I had to leave Dubai immediately to avoid arrest (for using inappropriate language and contravening the moral values of the UAE). I told the company we worked for why I had written the post and that I wanted to make a formal complaint about my ex/boss. He needed to understand that his treatment of me had been unprofessional and it’s not OK for a boss to abuse his position of power by mistreating a colleague due to an inappropriate relationship. I was asked to write down some details, ‘though you might feel differently about making a complaint once you go travelling’. It was clear from the get go I was being manipulated and fobbed off. I sent a long email attaching some screenshots that proved the inappropriate nature of our relationship, giving specific dates, details of incidents, and names of people we worked with who knew about the relationship. I was told by HR to ‘trust us to deal with him’. Despite the fact I had had to leave my job immediately after being suspended, I was open to agreeing to a fair resolution for my complaint. An apology from my ex/boss and his resignation (not necessarily immediate – I would have agreed to him working an extra year to wrap up his affairs) would have suitably dealt with the situation. However, no one called me. No one followed up my complaint. I was expected to shut up and go away. I didn’t. I stopped protecting him, for the sake of his family, when I realised he had lied and scapegoated me to keep his job. 

Operation Cover Up went into action to try to stop me telling inconvenient truths and to let my ex/boss get away with all that he had done. Unknown to me at the time, there was a plan in place for his progression within the company and me opening my mouth was problematic. I was threatened with defamation (though I can prove what I’ve said), I was lied to (told they would deal with him) and I was forced to sign an NDA. To stand up for myself and protect other women, I blogged about my experience and publicly proved there had been an inappropriate relationship. He was excused and promoted; I was villainised just for telling the truth. It was all my fault apparently.

People hated me for going public and the online abuse has been horrific. They don’t seem to understand the ordeal that I have been through since I met this man. Getting involved with him was the biggest mistake of my life and all attempts to deal with him privately always failed. Even when I went public, he continued to find ways to contact me, and try to manipulate me until November 2019, when I changed my private email address. I didn’t even sleep with this man yet the relationship proved disastrous to me. I refused to suffer in silence and I will not apologise for that. It’s one thing to go through a bad relationship; it’s quite another experience for the person you loved to exploit his position of power and damage your career because you don’t want to be in a toxic relationship with them anymore. No one is above accountability. The relationship began consensually but it was not consensual by the end. I emailed him privately to ask for closure in July 2019 but I didn’t get it as I have written about in blog posts Dear Dubai Ex: Closure and Cyberstalking: A Protest.

So how did this story end? He kept his job and he is still married, living in Dubai, like he did nothing wrong. After a year of travelling, I am settled in London and have changed career from teaching to hospitality. No doubt his version of events is very different to mine. Evidence speaks for itself. Meeting with a police expert in cyberstalking/ coercively controlling relationships and a solicitor in the UK was a game-changer and confirmed for me what I always knew – that I was right to speak up and take a stand. I was brought up to have integrity; taught that when you do something wrong and cause harm to others, you have to take responsibility for that. I have made mistakes in my life and I own them, making apologies when necessary. Decent people don’t lie and talk their way out of situations they are responsible for or scapegoat other people. I am only responsible for my actions, not the actions of others. Everyone has the right to work in a safe workplace free from abusive behaviours and discrimination. If that is not your experience, speak up for yourself and for others. Even if you don’t get a ‘victory’, like we see at the end of the movie ‘Bombshell’, living your life free from abuse, knowing you told the truth, is the real victory.

The world needs to stop treating women like villains when they tell truths that are inconvenient. Stop expecting us to be good little girls who shut up and go away just because what we have to say does not suit your agenda. Don’t silence us with NDAs before listening to us; we will only shout louder to be heard. I rest my case.

If You Know, You Know

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Last edited: 13th January 2020

This post links with Inconvenient Truths; Cyberstalking: A Protest; In Control: Warning Signs of a Controlling Partner; Dear Dubai Ex: Closure; How To Date An ArseholeIt’s Not Me, It’s YouGet Lit (Not Gaslighted…)Invisible Scars and Gaslighting Survival Guide.

When you first meet someone and you feel that ‘Wow’, the butterflies in the stomach, the magnetic pull towards them, the ‘I want to know everything about you’ impulse, it’s a special thing. Love makes us feel alive but it also makes us blind. When you have strong feelings for someone, your judgement becomes flawed. Realising that the person you have invested time, energy and love into, has repeatedly lied to you, manipulated you, betrayed your trust, is clearly not who they present themselves to be, is absolutely devastating. You blame yourself for not seeing the signs sooner, for accepting their lies, for being gullible, but it’s not your fault. You can’t beat yourself up for not knowing what you didn’t know.

In other blog posts I have written about my emotionally abusive, narcissistic, controlling ex not because I want to portray myself as a victim, but because I am motivated by a desire to educate and help others. I do not want anyone else to go through what I did. In October 2015 I blindly fell into a romantic situation that in the four years that followed caused utter havoc in my life, extreme emotional and mental distress, and nearly destroyed me. All because I fell in love with someone who is not as nice as the image he likes to portray. So many people have told me over the years that he is such a good man and implied that I must be responsible for the toxicity and abuse within our relationship. They are welcome to believe whatever they want. I have a collection of emails, WhatsApp messages and a voice recording that prove otherwise; the evidence speaks for itself. I know what I have been through and the impact the relationship has had on me and my life.

Gaslighters are highly effective convincing manipulators. They are adept at discrediting those who speak up about them. I am aware of the lies that have been told about me but here are the facts which I can prove:

  • My ex/boss initiated the relationship
  • He kissed me in his office during school hours
  • I refused to sleep with him as he was married
  • He sexually harassed me in the workplace and asked for sex on his desk
  • He refused to support me professionally if upset with me personally
  • There was retaliation in the workplace when our personal relationship was not good
  • He damaged my career and my relationships with co-workers when I worked for him
  • I tried to leave the relationship multiple times but he would always talk me round
  • He lied to and manipulated me throughout the relationship.
  • He has cyber stalked me since I left him last year and has been reported to UK police

When I left my job and Dubai, where we lived, to get away from him, I had thought that a difficult situation in my life was over. How wrong I was. How naive. I quite rightly reported my ex to the company we had worked for for his professional misconduct and expected him to be held accountable – after all, I had been told by them to ‘trust us to deal with him’. I didn’t trust them and I was right not to. After seeing a statement by the CEO proclaiming how proud she was of him, and his continued attempts to manipulate and control me did not stop, I began speaking out publicly about my experience. This is 2019 – NDAs can no longer be relied upon to stop women telling the truth. Had I been left alone to get on with my life, I probably would have shut up and gone away like so many trolls told me to but I’m afraid no man gets to damage my career and wellbeing, scapegoat and villainise me, and harass and cyberstalk me when I had to leave my job and my home in Dubai to get away from him. That’s not a situation that anyone should stay silent about and was certainly not one that I was willing to tolerate and accept. How a woman – who refused to sleep with her married boss – in this day and age can be punished for speaking the truth whilst the man concerned is protected and rewarded for his abuse of power is unbelievable. The refusal to be honest, to take responsibility, and lack of accountability, is on him and the company. Shame on all of them, those who continue to condone his behaviour, and those who tried to shame me and trolled me for speaking up when they do not know everything that happened in the relationship, or its aftermath, or how many times I tried to resolve the situation amicably. I didn’t deserve how I was treated by him personally and professionally when I worked for him and I do not deserve to continue to be abused when I am getting on with my life. It is not OK to villainise women who find the strength to walk away from, and speak up about, abusive situations just because you don’t like what they have to say. Pretending the truth does not exist does not make it go away. My ex/boss is the one who continued the situation and ignored requests to stop. Actions speak louder than words and his actions since I left him seem to indicate he feels he can still do whatever he wants and get away with it. However, no one is above accountability and what is done in the dark always comes to light.

I left Dubai over 18 months ago. Nearly two weeks ago I had to change my email address as yet another unwelcome email was received – containing porn and information only relevant to my ex and I – despite repeated requests to be left alone and warnings about legal action. Being cyberstalked is not simply annoying. It is not flattering. It’s not harmless. It is definitely not romantic. It is weird. It is frightening. It has been deeply upsetting and I cannot understand how someone I loved could put me through everything he has put me through over the last four years. I completely misjudged him and feel that I never really knew him. I fell in love with a facade. Had I known when I met him what he was really like and how fucked up our relationship would be, I obviously would never have gotten involved. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. To live my life in peace I had to change my phone number, change my private email address, disable blog comments, restrict followers on my blog and Instagram and make everything as private as I could. You don’t know how easy you are making it for someone to track you, to monitor you, to invade your life, until it becomes an issue. I urge others to rethink how much information they share publicly – you have no idea how vulnerable you are to cyberstalking and identity theft until you find yourself the target of someone who wants to abuse the power they have.

As a result of my blog and Instagram many people know what I have been through, and the identity of my Dubai ex. I won’t mention his name here. If you know, you know. I hope by speaking publicly about our relationship, I have prevented him from doing this again to another colleague, or to another woman. I also hope that he seeks help, and if he can’t be honest with others about the things he has done, that he has at least been honest with himself to learn from this. Everything we experience in life is an opportunity to grow and become a better person. I am not the same person I was: I am stronger, wiser, more resilient, more humble. Because I know what I want in life and all that I have been through, I will never allow myself to be in a similar situation again. I have reclaimed my privacy (though my Instagram is public again, my settings ensure only people I follow can interact with me) and I feel happier knowing my ex now has zero ways to contact me. I am sure karma will take care of him eventually. Even when you think you have gotten away with something, the Universe is always watching. What will be will be and he is thankfully not my problem any longer.

Only people who have been in toxic/emotionally abusive/coercively controlling relationships themselves know and really understand how damaging such relationships are, and will be able to empathise with my experience. Just because someone appears charming, kind and loving in public, it does not mean that they are not capable of abusive behaviour in private – appearances can be deceptive as I have painfully learned. He and I both know what happened between us; only one of us has told the truth. There have honestly been times when I have seriously wondered if there was much point in going on with my life but each time I felt that low, I found a reason to be hopeful and kept going. Now living a life radically changed to my old Dubai life, I’m so glad I did. It has been a battle getting here but I have genuine peace at last and I hope sharing my story helps others. 

Take care,

Lisa.