Hello, world. My name's Stephen LaConte, and this is Hey Stephen — a cozy little corner of the internet where BuzzFeed readers like you can DM me for advice.
Today, we've got this woman, who received some very creepy messages from her friend's dad a few years ago. Should she tell her friend about them? Here's what she wrote to me, via Instagram:
I'm so sorry this happened to you. For a father to make repeated sexual advances toward his daughter's friend like that — and request revealing photos of her, to boot — is disturbing and predatory behavior. Even if you were a legal adult when this transpired, that certainly does not make his behavior OK. I hope this guy gets exposed as the creep that he is, for the benefit of his wife and the safety of any other women around him. But whether or not you should be the one to expose him is a different calculation entirely.
Note: I'm assuming you were over the age of 18 when this incident happened, since you describe your childhood in the past tense and mention having a tattoo. But if you were a minor then — or still are now — please disregard the advice I'm about to give, tell a trusted adult what occurred, and report this man to the proper authorities. If this happened when you were underage, his behavior might rise to the level of being a crime.
OK. So. You've asked whether you should tell your friend about her father's creepy messages. Let me turn this around and ask you a question: Do you want to tell her? Your DM doesn't mention how you feel about that prospect, but as the clear victim in this situation, your wants and needs matter most here. What path would be the most healing for you?
If telling your friend about this experience would bring you some sense of peace, or clarity, or justice, by all means, do it. You have every right to tell her what happened to you, and there's certainly an upside in calling her father out: Creeps like him will rely on his behavior staying a secret in order to keep on doing it. And while his family would obviously not enjoy hearing about this incident, they might be better off knowing the truth. This guy has shown you how he treats women, and he has at least two of them in his own family. I wonder if they're being victimized by him, too — maybe in ways they're not even aware of right now.
So, if you think you could handle the daunting task of telling your friend about this — and more importantly, if you think telling her would actually be productive and healing for you in some way — then tell her. And be ready for the possibility that your story, while certainly upsetting, might not be all that surprising to her. Your dad could pick up on this man's creepy vibes from all the way across the street — imagine what people living inside his house may have witnessed over the years. For better or worse, this bombshell you're about to drop might not be that much of a bombshell at all. Unfortunately, it might be the kind of behavior she's come to expect from her dad.
I also think you should go into any conversation you may have about this with a clear idea of what (if anything) you're asking of your friend. Are there any specific actions you're hoping she'll take, like telling her father to stop DMing her friends, or keeping him away from you at future social events? I should note here that your friend can't be responsible for stopping her father's behavior altogether — that's just not a fair or realistic burden to put on her — but she is responsible for protecting her people from him as best she can. So if there are concrete and reasonable measures she can take in that department, you should discuss them.
But I'll say it again: A conversation should only happen if YOU want it to happen. And if telling your friend about this would just cause you more anxiety and stress, if it would resurface old traumas in harmful, destructive ways, or put your physical or emotional well-being at risk, then I think it's perfectly fair to decide not to do it — at least right now. This man's behavior has already harmed you once. You don't have to do anything that would harm you again.
And I think it's important to note here that coming forward about this is not some moral obligation or duty on your part. It's just an option — one that would bring some people strength, and others more hurt. Both are valid ways to feel. Only you can determine what's right for your healing.
At the end of the day, the only "correct" way to respond to this is the way that best protects you. Your well-being, your safety, and your peace matter a lot. As long as you put those things at the forefront of whatever choice you make, I think it will be a wise one. And if you find that the decision is simply too difficult to make on your own, you might consider enlisting a therapist to help you process this further, and maybe even prepare you for a possible conversation with your friend. Good luck. I'm rooting for you.
Last week, we heard from this woman, who just found out her online boyfriend of three years has been catfishing her with fake photos the whole time. Should she dump him or try to make it work? Here's what she wrote to me, via Instagram:
You should leave him. I don't think there's any healthy way for you to move forward in this relationship after such a prolonged and consequential deceit. But I know that ending a three-year relationship with someone you love is easier said than done. So I'll give you five reasons to do it — just in case you need that extra push.
Reason #1: You can't trust this guy anymore. He's shown you that he's capable of some really significant, long-term lies. How can you believe anything he says moving forward? If you stayed together, I think you'd frequently find yourself wondering whether what he's telling you is true or just another lie designed to keep you close. You don't need that drama.
Reason #2: You really don't know who your boyfriend is. You say that you love this guy, but I think now's the time for you to challenge that notion. Do you really love him, or do you love the fictitious persona he's been hiding behind? What do you actually know about the guy on the other end of the phone?
And I'm sorry to say this, but I doubt that his lies over the past few years were limited to the photos. Are there other ways he might have specifically tailored his digital persona to attract you? I think you need to put everything he's told you about himself under a microscope now — his interests, his life story, his values and beliefs, all of it. What was real? What was fake? And while he was stealing selfies from this random dude's Twitter account, did he lift some biographical details, too?
Reason #3: It sounds, quite frankly, like you're not that into this guy after seeing his real photos. In your DM, you don't explicitly state how you feel about his appearance, but you note that it's in "stark contrast" to what he's presented to you all these years...and then you added a sweaty emoji to boot 😅.
So, let me read between the lines here: It seems like you do not find this man attractive. And that's OK! In fact, it's a perfectly good and valid reason not to be with someone. For most dating people, physical attraction matters. And while it might sting for this guy to get dumped partially based on his looks, that's a rejection he set himself up for the moment he decided to catfish you. Ironically, by choosing to lie out of insecurity over his looks, he's only going to make those insecurities worse. I hope he learns a lesson there, though I'm not sure he will.
That brings me to reason #4 you should leave this guy: I have trouble believing he's actually that remorseful about catfishing you. You don't mention how you came to learn the truth — whether you caught him somehow, or he confessed it on his own. But it doesn't really matter. Either way, he's had three years to come clean about this before now. And every day for the past three years, he woke up and decided to keep the lie going instead. He let an entire romantic relationship build upon it. You have to wonder how much his deceit could have possibly weighed on him, if he was able to do it for so long. And why is he sorry now, if he wasn't sorry then?
And last, but certainly not least...
Reason #5 to end it: You need to put yourself first. It's clear from your DM that you're a kind, empathetic person who wants to see whatever good may exist in this guy. And I think one reason you're hesitating to dump him is because you don't want to hurt him, or worsen any insecurities he may have about himself. So, let me just say this: It's not your job to protect this person from the consequences of his own wrongdoings. It is your job to look out for yourself, and prioritize your own comfort, happiness, and safety. Please don't be an advocate for the person who hurt you. Be an advocate for yourself. You deserve that much, and a whole lot more.
I'll end this with a PSA for anyone in an online relationship: I have no doubt that these connections can be meaningful, fulfilling, and real. Heck, for some people, they might even be the ideal arrangement! But if you start getting serious with a person on the internet, find a way to verify their identity beyond any doubt. If they won't even hop on a FaceTime call with you, something's fishy. Listen to your gut, pay attention to red flags, and ask for whatever proof you need to feel safe. A person who has your best interests at heart should give it to you.
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