About Sonny/Santino

I have spent the past week and a half trying to compile some sort of response to everything that has come out recently with Sonny/Santino Hassell. Trying to understand what to say or how to say it has consumed me and still, nothing seems right. I’m exhausted.

I know people have a lot of questions but unfortunately, I don’t know that I have the answers anyone needs. I was blindsided by all of this. I met Sonny when I was 19 years old and in college, and at this point we’ve both known each other almost half our lives. I truly believed he existed, because I had no reason to believe otherwise. Having to rewrite that history in my own mind has been, to say the least, a feat.

I have a much longer post which talks more at length about various aspects, but I know a lot of people don’t want to read anything that’s too long or involved. So if you only wonder about what I think regarding the three main questions:

Unfortunately yes, Sonny/Santino does not seem to exist, although who exactly was talking/writing all those years I have no idea. I don’t know if it was one or both of them. I suspect only they know. They (or someone) did write the series with me, though, and we did spend a ton of hours on it. That, at least, I can verify is not a lie.

As for whether anyone actually has liver cancer or other health concerns, I honestly have no idea. All the information I was given was under the auspices of believing Sonny existed, and was always framed as Sonny’s story. At this point, I can’t say what I’ve been told was true or not, or maybe even somewhere in between.

Regarding bullying/abusive behavior, the only thing I’ve read myself is the confessions posted on the #SHConfessions thread on Twitter (https://twitter.com/sweetsakuradoll). If you scroll down, the screenshots are of the confessions themselves. I didn’t know about any of this happening, and to know it was occurring horrifies me. But if you ask me if I think you should believe those confessions, yes, I do. I’m very sorry to have to say that, because that means so much pain has been happening for so long, but despite not having had any knowledge of those situations occurring, I have many reasons to believe what they’re saying is true. The biggest reason is because when I ran across it, I was startled to see that parts of their stories were like reading something I had written myself.

If you want more information on any of this, you can read my much longer post. You can find it to read online or download in pdf at http://aisylum.com/statement_2018_Ais.pdf. Some friends recommended I pdf it instead of putting it as a blog post for ease of reading.

Part of the reason I couldn’t seem to get anything coherent out faster than a week and a half is I have nearly 16 years of knowledge I’ve had to undo in the course of a few days. It’s been surreal and so confusing and it brought up all sorts of things from the past I hadn’t thought about in years. Frankly, things I didn’t really want to have to think about again. I found old journal entries that reminded me of how unstable I was at different times, how unhappy I was, how often I doubted myself in big and small ways. There were so many things I never planned to talk about publicly, simply because I didn’t want to hurt anyone, and I thought that if I talked about all those difficult times, that was exactly what I would be doing.

Additionally, it’s extremely stressful to me to talk about anything I hadn’t planned to share publicly. Writing this, and especially posting it, is difficult. The way I cope is through humor and avoidance. Avoidance won out for years, and right now it’s fighting a hard battle once again. If I disappear for a bit or suddenly start talking excitedly about things I love, I’m not trying to be rude and it isn’t because none of this affects me or I don’t care. It’s quite the opposite. It’s simply me maintaining my internal balance through the coping mechanisms I’ve developed over the years.

Please know the reason I’m saying any of this isn’t to make any of this about me, it’s simply that I feel like I need to apologize for being unable to get something out sooner, and the only way I know how to do that fairly is to explain why it took so long.

I want to sincerely thank everyone who supported me both publicly and privately since this all came out. I greatly appreciate it; you are the reason I could get anything out even this soon, because you told me it was okay to take my time. Thank you so much for your understanding. I can’t tell you enough how much it meant and continues to means to me.

I’m so sorry to anyone who has been hurt in any of this. I wish I had known, I wish I could have helped, I wish I had been capable of somehow stopping anything. I talk more about it in the longer post but I’ve felt guilty since all of this broke, feeling like somehow this has to be my responsibility because I knew Sonny for longest online. Somehow, I need to take on this responsibility, find a way to help, find a way to make up for it to others. But I have to be fair to myself in a way that’s always been incredibly difficult for me. I have to acknowledge that I’m not responsible for the actions of others, especially when I didn’t know about it and never would have condoned it. I tried helping so many times over the years, and I was usually so unsuccessful. I thought I was trying to help a friend who was a victim of bullying and harassment, who was caught in endless self-destructive cycles he couldn’t seem to escape. It turns out a lot of what I was told was at the very least misrepresentative, and in some cases possibly outright lies.

I’m very sorry to everyone who is disappointed by this news, who believed in Sonny like I did and now has to question so much. I can’t speak for him (or, I guess, them); I don’t know what was going on all this time, or why. I don’t hate him/them, because it’s just too much energy for me, because at this point I just feel more tired than anything, because I would rather continue to try to put positive into the world to counteract any negative, but I understand that others will feel differently, and I understand that they may feel so with varying intensity.

I feel incredible sympathy for anyone who has been negatively affected by any of this. I truly hope you have been able to reach out to your support systems, and I hope you have gotten the support you need from them.

As for In the Company of Shadows, if you were someone who loved it and now can’t stand to think of it, as exceedingly sad as it will make me to know that all of this has affected something you loved, I want you to know that I understand. I don’t want anyone to be hurt further than has already happened. Thank you for the time and energy you put into your love of it in the past, and I hope you can find something to balance this heartbreak so you can feel empowered moving forward. If you are someone who can still love the series despite all this in the background, then please know, for whatever it’s worth, I myself continue to love ICoS, I continue to love the world, the characters, the story. Thank you for your kindness and patience, and thank you for continuing to believe in the story despite everything else that has happened. If you continue to have questions about the series, what the characters might think/do, feel free to ask me any time. I’m still happy to discuss the series if anyone needs it, I just might not be able to answer some questions related to characters which are not mine.

I’m very sorry, regardless, that any of this had to be a discussion point at all.

I wish Sonny (whoever it was) had told me the truth from the start, or told me at any point along the way, because maybe some of this could have been avoided. Instead, I truly believed in him right up into Friday March 9, and had to learn the truth when he posted it online. I can’t say I’m sorry I believed in a friend of 15 years, because I don’t think that’s inherently a bad thing. But I am sorry I didn’t know, because maybe, somehow, I could have helped everyone.

If you never read anything else from me, because you’re too raw from all of this, I understand. Please, then, let these be my last words to you: please take care of yourself, and please don’t let the actions of others cause you to stop believing in other people. Or yourself.

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Never regret you

I received this anonymous post on tumblr, and since I wrote a long answer I thought I may want to reference it later. To make it easier to find, or in case it helps anyone else to see this who would miss it on tumblr, I’m posting it here.


 

lovedieanon

I feel that way a lot too, anon. I can understand that feeling well. Since I’ve always felt like some sort of weird outlier to life at large, I’ve struggled a lot of my life with refusing to be anyone other than myself, while constantly having to recognize how being “myself” meant that a lot of who I am will not be understood. It’s been getting better over time but that feeling still remains, even though I’m lucky with having some great friends and family.

Actually I wrote an article along these lines for Queer Romance Month if it helps at all: The Equality of Differences.

Anyway, because of all that, and compounding the issue with me being asexual and a lesbian, I have always felt like no one I could ever come to love will ever love me, and I’ll end up dying alone. I still feel that way now. I’ve kind of resigned myself to that inevitability, in all honesty. I just don’t feel like there’s a reason anyone should bother with me, and even if they did then the trouble is with me being an asexual lesbian I have a VERY small subsection of people who I may even be attracted to in the first place who also would be okay with who I am, without one or both of us having to seriously compromise on what is important for us just so we can be together.

But the thing is, I’ve spent many years watching other people cycle through all these relationship hurdles and roller coasters and becoming co-dependent or being too afraid to exist on their own and always jumping into relationships because they can’t love themselves individually. I’ve watched people in relationships spanning years, decades, split up later because they grew apart or maybe they never should have actually been together in the first place but they thought they had to be because that was what they thought love was. (I wrote about this in January 2015 on my blog as well which maybe you would find interesting if you want to see that thought process in more detail: An Asexual’s View of Love)

The conclusion I’ve reached over time is that it isn’t bad to be alone. Honestly, it isn’t. There is a lot of freedom in being alone; you can dictate your time much more efficiently, you can explore ideas or hobbies or adventures at your leisure, and you can take all the time you need to recognize, really realize, how important you are as yourself. I’ve always been really big on people being themselves, whether or not that happens to fit mainstream.

For me, in any group of people I’m in, there’s almost always some pretty big part of me that is pretty fucking weird to the people in that group. So there’s a part of me that always feels like it doesn’t belong, like I stand out, and that has created dual reactions over time for me.

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Let’s Talk About It: the complexity of feminism

This is something I’m labeling as a “Let’s Talk About It” here because I ended up talking at length about this topic, but it originated from an ask on tumblr. Below is the ask, as well as my answer. I’m posting here because it’s a long answer and others may find it to be of interest, or I may want to find this post again in the future.

Copied tumblr post below:


feministetalquestion

I answered the ICoS questions in a different post so here I’m answering just the feminist question. I split them because whether I consider myself to be a feminist is a complicated/long answer on its own.

You may be wondering why this part took me so much longer to answer. It’s because no matter how many times I started this post, it always devolved into way too many topics way too quickly and somehow it involved a rant. Although you said it was fine to rant, I felt like I wasn’t explaining my thought process well and I kept getting way too sidetracked. To me, everything is interconnected so there are several really big topics that can get pulled in from the simple question of “feminism: yes/no?”.

This is probably try #6 on this post and hopefully this will be the last attempt. All of this is, of course, merely my personal opinion– other people could think completely differently than I do, and it doesn’t make them less valid than me. It simply makes them a human being with a different opinion, which is not something to judge but rather something to accept and even love.

The short answer is that I don’t consider myself to be anything in particular. Without going way too much on a tangent, the way I personally feel about things (others could feel otherwise and be totally valid) is that labels are limiting, both externally by what people make assumptions about based on the label, and internally by what people will allow themselves to think/feel based on trying to fit in with whatever label they’ve self-assigned.

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Neurobiology of Rape and Sexual Assault: Let’s Talk About It

In honor of US National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and for my 100th blog post, I wanted to cover a topic that is really important to me. This will be the first in my Let’s Talk About It series, looking at complicated or serious topics and exploring it in pieces a post at a time.

Today I want to talk about the neurobiology of trauma, specifically in regards to rape or sexual assault. This is a complicated topic that many others cover better than me so I’m going to do as much of an overview as I can, and because there’s a lot to cover I will only touch on pieces.

TRIGGER WARNING FOR ANYONE WHO HAS SURVIVED RAPE OR SEXUAL ASSAULT: I will be talking about what happens in the body and brain during trauma, so it’s possible some wording might be triggering. This focuses on hormonal reactions and the chemistry of the brain. Please do not read further if you think this will be detrimental for you.

Regarding this post:

First, you might notice me switch between victim, survivor, and victim/survivor. There is no specific reason for where I use each. The term ‘survivor’ is what I’ve seen preferred by those who have survived assaults and they are part of my target audience; however, another large part of my target audience is people who have never experienced an assault and who do not understand why things happen the way they do, and oftentimes that demographic uses the term ‘victim.’

Second, you should know that there are a lot of misconceptions about rape and sexual assault, and this feeds into rape culture. Two main myths of rape/sexual assault can be explained by neurobiology and very human responses to trauma so those are the two I will cover in this post. There are a lot of other myths and misconceptions so if you are interested in me talking more about this topic, let me know.

  1. MYTH NUMBER ONE: It isn’t rape if the person didn’t say no/fight back.

  2. MYTH NUMBER TWO: If someone says they were raped but their story doesn’t make sense, it means they’re lying or covering something up.

Other myths that could be covered in more detail if anyone wants:

  • If a person is raped when they are drugged or drunk it’s their fault and/or it isn’t actually rape (untrue; in many places you can’t legally consent if you’re under the influence of anything)
  • People lie about being raped all the time (actually, only about 2-8% do, compared to 66% who don’t report to authorities for fear that they won’t be believed)
  • You have to worry most about being raped by a stranger (not accurate; over 2/3 of rape or sexual assault is committed by someone the person knows)
  • Men can’t be raped, especially by a woman, because men always want sex (this is a huge topic so in short, this myth is completely untrue and pisses me off every time I see it said or implied)
  • Everyone is just as likely to be raped as anyone else (another huge topic, but: no. While some forms of sexual assault may have similar percentages for different demographics, there are some statistics and likelihood of vulnerability based on sexual orientation, gender identity, race, age, and more)

NEUROBIOLOGY AND TRAUMA

Myths #1 and #2 listed in red above can very easily be explained by the way the brain and body respond to trauma. Important facts to know right away that I will explain in detail beneath the cut:

  • It isn’t fight or flight– it’s fight, flight, or freeze
  • The hormones that are released at the time of trauma determine the response the victim/survivor will have, and the survivor has no control over this response
  • Memories are recorded completely differently in traumatic situations vs normal situations
  • A percentage of rape victims/survivors are literally paralyzed by their own body during the assault

Disclaimer: I gathered this information through research in multiple sources but especially from three nationally recognized subject matter experts. I listed their names, credentials, and links at the bottom of this post. I highly recommend you check them out if you find this topic interesting at all.

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Please read: addressing an ongoing issue of harassment

I know this is unusual for me, but I have to say something completely serious. I also need to say upfront that if, during the course of reading this, you realize you know who I’m talking about DO NOT NAME HER. DO NOT HARASS HER. This post is not about continuing the cycle of cyber-harassment. It’s about getting out the truth so that people can make informed decisions. I don’t want anyone else to be hurt over this, including her.

First, if you don’t know me well it’s important that you understand me as a person so you understand that this is not some sort of mean message trying to hurt someone because I’m evil or misled.

ThisiswhoIam. I am an INFP – T person who avoids/dislikes lies, manipulation, drama, any of that. I don’t present myself one way online and act completely differently elsewhere. The worst I ever do is get really upset about a topic and rant about it to a friend, but as I’ve said in a post the reason for that ranting is almost always going to be because I’m upset that other people are hurt and I can’t help them– or because I want to understand something so I can help, but I don’t understand it. That last linked post was actually not about this situation– that post was about something else entirely that was making me very angry and I am not angry at all in this post– but the basic idea that I will speak up if it gets to a certain point is true.

Santino and I have been cyber-harassed for the past two years by someone who once claimed to be our friend. If it were just someone targeting us privately, I wouldn’t say anything publicly about that because it doesn’t affect others.

But the problem is, she has been telling outright lies to the point of damaging reputations, and she has also drawn the ICoS fandom into it by targeting friends and readers. Santino and I interact genuinely with our readers and as a result over the years, some have become friends. This person has been targeting anyone who is perceived to be close to us and has told them sometimes manipulated truth and sometimes outright lies, for whatever reason she has.

This is not a misunderstanding where two people miscommunicated and there was a falling out, or where we are somehow being mean and targeting her because she said something negative about us/vented one time to one person. I would never speak out about something like that because everyone has the right to their opinion and I’m not going to get mad at someone if they express it. I support diverse opinions; it’s what makes the world interesting.

This is a situation where multiple people who are from different groups and never talk to each other have individually come up to us to warn us of the behavior because they were concerned or alarmed by the level of slander/libel being committed. This is someone who has very purposefully been trying to ruin friendships, turn people against each other, spread personal information given in confidence, and we also strongly believe has spammed friends with anon hate mail on tumblr and engaged in other inappropriate behavior to retaliate against people who didn’t believe her. There have also been some strong allegations she’s made about perceived bad behavior that didn’t exist the way she says it did.

It is also important to note that we have tried talking directly to this person in the past about the activity but she denied it all, and then later there was an attempt to give her a second chance– but the result was continued escalation and her doctoring emails to create her own “proof” of allegations. Including the very email that was sent trying to make peace with her. We have screenshots, emails, and other proof to show her lies compared to reality. It has gotten so bad that we had to seek legal advice about the libel, and were advised to no longer communicate privately with this individual for any purpose.

There is a lot that could be said on this topic but for now I am keeping this short simply to warn others that this is happening. I am speaking out now after nearly 2 years (this started in 2013) because it’s become obvious this person will not stop on her own, and because she is hurting other people in the process.

Because I’m an honest person who therefore is very consistent in the way I act, I imagine once she sees this post she will come up with reasons for how she is still unfairly being victimized, for reasons that don’t go against my personality and how I’m known to interact/act.

I imagine she will tell people that Santino made me post this because I am too nice to have done this on my own. He didn’t. I am someone who doesn’t want to hurt others, but I also do not condone bullying or hurtful behavior. Because of that, I wanted to say something about this publicly a long time ago because it upset me that people were being hurt by this, and he was the one who asked me not to because he thought if we gave her more chances she would stop. She might say that I was manipulated by people who want to make us mad at her, but the only manipulation that has occurred has been on her part. The facts speak for themselves, as do the screenshots and proof of actual conversations from multiple, independent sources.

She might also try to say something like how Santino and my friendship is fractured and somehow that is related to this–I don’t know how she might try to spin that tale, but I know she’s tried to tell people something similar in the past and that she allegedly was my advocate. That isn’t true now and none of that claim is true for the past.

She might come up with all sorts of other reasons for why I posted this. But there isn’t some dark, malicious, conspiracy theory reason for this post. It’s exactly for the reasons I’ve stated. This person has been harassing us, our friends, readers, and peers for two years. We’ve given her chances to stop and she hasn’t, so now I’m letting everyone else know it’s happening so they can directly ask us to get the full story, and develop their own opinions with all of the information instead of what is probably a very incomplete, and possibly completely fabricated, version.

I’m not telling people what to think or what to do. I just want you to know about this so your lack of awareness on the topic isn’t taken advantage of by someone who is using it to their own advantage.

My true hope for this post is that the person in question will finally stop what she is doing so everything can calm down and no one else has to be affected or pulled in. Because not only does it upset me that she’s hurting everyone else in this, I have to imagine that this behavior (constant rumination, obsessing, lying) is also not healthy for her.

In short: don’t take rumors at face value. ASK US. We want you to have the full story.

Thank you for reading this far into the post. I wish I didn’t have to post about this, but unfortunately this person has given me no choice. For anyone reading this, I hope you have a good day and I hope you have not been affected by this previously and won’t be in the future. Brightest of blessings to you and yours.

Let’s Talk About It: new blog series I’ll be doing

There are a number of serious/heavy topics that I want to talk about but they are such complex topics, and I am by no means an expert on them, that there’s no way I can cover it all in one post or two. I decided to start a new series of posts I’ll be doing, on complicated topics I’ve done research on that I’d like to delve into, either to open dialogue with others on the topic or simply to gather my thoughts in one place.

These topics have already been covered by other people probably better than I will do it, but I also feel like they’re topics where I understand both sides of the situation and so many times when I see conversations about these topics it seems skewed one way or the other. Which to me feels less balanced. So my posts probably will not be that important or ground-changing or anything, it’s just my thoughts on the topic based on whatever research or information I have gathered so far. I will only write a post in this series if it’s on a topic where I’ve developed an opinion or feel like I have researched enough to have something meaningful to say. There are a lot of topics out there that I haven’t developed an opinion on because I haven’t seen enough on one side or the other to feel that the information I have so far isn’t biased.

I’m going to call it the Let’s Talk About It series, and it won’t necessarily have anything to do with writing– at least, nothing specifically that I’ve written so far. It’s more about general topics for real life. Some of these topics may end up having multiple blog posts if needed to do it justice.

Topics I will likely cover are:

  • Neurobiology of trauma/sexual assault
  • Being a good bystander
  • Law enforcement/race relations in the US
  • eating disorders (possibly)

And more–although, I might change my mind on covering some of the above. I particularly have been wanting to talk about law enforcement/race relations for quite some time but it’s such a massive topic that if I feel like I can’t properly explain my point of view I might drop that one. I’d rather say nothing and not mislead than say a lot of the wrong thing. Particularly because my viewpoint on it isn’t necessarily the same as everyone else’s.

If there are other complicated topics you’re curious about seeing if I’ve done any research/have any opinions on, let me know and I’ll check if I feel comfortable doing a post.

I’m giving some forewarning on this new series in part because I’ve been meaning/wanting to do this for many weeks but every time I get home from work I’m so exhausted I just can’t do anything other than read/watch something all evening– and in part so that, if you are not at all interested in this type of blog post, you know to ignore anything labeled Let’s Talk About It.

I don’t know when I’ll do the first post in this series, but at least now you’ve been warned.