Friends Don't Let Friends Stay Friends With Abusive Exes

Dear Dategirl, When I say my ex was crazy, I don't mean he was kooky or neurotic. Rather, he was cruel, violent, abusive, and psychotic. Our marriage was the most traumatic thing I've ever experienced. When I finally got the courage to leave, I left town, our friends, and my family. He stalked me for a while, but eventually found a new victim. The problem is, I had to move back to that town because my mother is dying. My father's long gone and my siblings are all married with families. It makes sense that I'd be the one to take care of her because I telecommute and am otherwise unencumbered. I love my mom and want to help her. My only problem is being in the same city as this psychopath. I've already run into him several times. I don't think he'd hurt me again (he knows I'll call the police), but he still terrifies me. Another issue is that he's remained close with all our mutual friends. Most, but not all, are unaware of what a violent SOB he is. Unfortunately, when I try to hang with them, there's always a chance he'll be invited too. I am humiliated that I let myself get into such a sick relationship, so I haven't told too many people. Before you suggest it, yes, I am in therapy and it helps. I don't want to bad-mouth him, but I'm furious that his life goes on just the same while mine is so tense. What can I do? —Bitter or Bitchy? Last year I was on the bus, on my way to work, when I broke out into a sweat for no apparent reason. My whole body was seized by a visceral panic. For a minute I wasn't sure what was happening. Then I looked up and saw a man staring across the aisle at me with a chilling intensity that seemed terrifyingly familiar. After a confused couple of seconds, I realized that my body had recognized him before my mind did—he was the violent, abusive ex-boyfriend I hadn't seen in a million years. I scrambled off the bus, shaking and hyperventilating. This kind of trauma doesn't just go away, especially if the asshole is running around in the same social circles. I get that you don't want to dredge up old drama, but wouldn't you want to know if the person you trusted to babysit your child regularly crippled kittens for sport? Or if your unassuming poker buddy was a rapist in his off-hours? I sure would. And you can bet that I would cut that person out of my life like a tumor. I think you're doing your friends a disservice by keeping his disgusting, ugly secret. I can understand not wanting to broadcast the information, but if you're going to stay friends with these people, they should know what he's done and what he's capable of doing. What if they're fixing him up with friends or relatives? Yeesh. You don't have to get into details, but there is no shame in asking if he's going to be included when you're making plans. If anyone inquires why you don't want to be around him, give them the CliffsNotes version. This isn't a guy who had a baby with the housekeeper (though that's bad enough), this is a dude who beat you up. Therefore it's completely understandable that you don't want to attend a pool party with him. I would also urge you to be careful about revealing this info, because he's already shown himself capable of violence. As for the "friends" who are aware of how he treated you but kept him around? Done. Gone. Buh-bye. Time for new friends—friends who'll have your back.

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