General Question

LeavesNoTrace's avatar

Is there any way to anonymously warn someone about an abuser?

Asked by LeavesNoTrace (5663points) November 19th, 2015

Unfortunately, I don’t have their email, only their FB page. I fear for this woman’s safety and wish someone had warned me but don’t want to draw the ire of the abusive ex or compromise my current relationship by “starting drama.”

I know a lot of people are going to tell me to move on and mind my own business, but I’ve been having bad dreams about this woman getting hurt. I’m not jealous but rather just very concerned about someone’s safety and can’t countenance standing by while he rapes and abuses another partner.

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29 Answers

OriginalCunningFox's avatar

Message her from facebook privately?

LeavesNoTrace's avatar


Any way to do that without revealing my identity? I mean, technically my ex may figure it out if she tells him but I don’t want it to be super apparent.

Jeruba's avatar

Let’s say you have a new boyfriend. You think he’s great. You know he’s had past serious relationships, but he says they’re over.

Now this message arrives, via Facebook or text or e-mail or even an honest-to-goodness paper letter, that says something like this: “You don’t know me, but I used to go out with Boyfriend. I just have to warn you that he’s an abuser and you are likely to get hurt. Believe me, I just care about you and don’t want it to happen to you like it happened to me. Please get away before something bad happens.” There’s no name or address on it.

What are you going to think?

OriginalCunningFox's avatar

@LeavesNoTrace Oh you’re right. Forgot all about that. All I can think of is to make a fake account and message her from there but that’s kinda creepy and not 100% certain to work…

canidmajor's avatar

@Jeruba has an excellent point. Unless there is a police report or hospital report, which would reveal your identity, you could sound like a vindictive ex. I know you’re legitimately concerned, and I hope you can effectively warn her, but I think requires a lot more thought.

Good luck to you.

chyna's avatar

If she’s all aglow in a new relationship, I don’t think she would believe you. She may look at you as a jealous ex. It is admirable that you want to protect her, but I can’t think of a way to do this where she will listen.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

She probably won’t believe you while she’s in the honeymoon phase, but if he starts to exhibit the same behaviour, your warning will come back to her. You could certainly make a second Facebook page and use that. You would need to word it carefully. If she says something to him, is it likely he’ll guess it was you? Will that put you in any danger?

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

There are so many ways this could go very bad for you. I would stay very far away from this situation. Very far.

I do not know any details, but I suggest therapy devoted to leaving your past relationship behind and moving on into a new future.

elbanditoroso's avatar

I think that the problem is – if you’re anonymous, why would she believe you?

rojo's avatar

I have wondered about this in the past. How can someone who has been in an abusive relationship and managed to get out stand by and let it happen to the next victim. I think it is commendable that you are wanting to try to reach out.

What about setting up a faux FB page and sending her a simple private message saying you are an ex of “Bob” and that there a few things that you think she should know about and that you understand that she probably doesn’t want to hear from you right now but if anything comes up in the future you would always be available and to contact you through that page. That way you give her the option of whether or not to listen while at least hinting at a potential problem.

dappled_leaves's avatar

I`m actually surprised most people are hinting that you should stay silent. I don`t think I could do that. There must be a way to get a message to her anonymously.

Presumably, the outcome would not be that she would leave him immediately. But at least if she has a nagging doubt about him, she will take it more seriously than she might otherwise. Abusers tend to prey on people who doubt themselves; your message could help her realize it`s not all in her head.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

I’m with @dappled_leaves on this one and twice as surprised.

Maybe if you added into your missive some of the subtle early symptoms this new lover may recognize that you didn’t until too late. Was he asking a lot of questions about past relationships? Did he begin to isolate you from your friends and especially family? Was it seemingly innocuous at first but did he soon become judgmental, then finally upset and further transgressions? Was he overly controlling, subtle at first, but blatant later on in the relationship?

If you can think of anything early in your relationship that later became inflamed which could give your warning credence and help her to recognize these early symptoms as a pattern develops, do so.

Here is a site that lists 23 early signs and symptoms of domestic abuse. I would run through them and make note of the ones that occurred early in your relationship and use them to enlighten his present girlfriend in your message to her.

The fake FB account is a must unless the abuser or the abused is into computer security, then I would discuss a simple Tor app and such with @Luckyguy.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

However, she should only do this if he’s not likely to know it’s her. Even if she uses a fake FB page he might be able to guess it’s her. Her own safety should be her first concern. If she’s sure he won’t know it was her, then fine, use the fake FB page.

marinelife's avatar

I could not live with myself if I left her unwarned. She probably won’t listen at first, but later she will remember.

Cupcake's avatar

Call a domestic violence shelter and ask for advice. Surely they have dealt with this before.

You could would be putting yourself at risk, or putting her at risk. I know you don’t want that.

I would say that the likelihood of her telling him that someone contacted her to warn of his abuse is likely. Adding the info that you are an ex only gets him so much closer to knowing your identity.

LeavesNoTrace's avatar

Thanks for the great suggestions, all. I did contact a woman’s advocacy resource and the very judgy woman on the other end advised me against warning her.

Perhaps if I were single, I would consider biting the bullet and doing the right thing but sadly, I don’t think I’m brave enough to invite that discord into myself and my partner’s life. Maybe if it were just me, but I need to be fair to him too.

My partner is an attorney and if my ex were to try anything brash, he could have an order of protection for me within 18 hours. But I don’t want to bring that complication into our otherwise harmonious life, which I value very much after everything I’ve been through with men.

It’s a tough situation, but I think for now I need to let it go. I hope very much that he’s changed and isn’t hurting her (though I don’t think he’s capable of really changing) and if he is, I hope she’ll realize sooner than I did and leave the situation.

Still, hate to think of him causing someone the trauma he caused me. Those of you who have read my posts over the years may remember the issues we had in our relationship (though I hid some of the worst parts) and the PTSD I’ve suffered since. I wouldn’t wish it on any other person.

Cupcake's avatar

An order of protection is a piece of paper.

My neighbor was murdered by her ex (feet from my front door). Her order of protection against him could not save her life.

I really appreciate, value and respect your concern. But you’re right, you have to protect yourself and your family.

funkdaddy's avatar

I don’t think you can approach her directly without it appearing you want to cause drama, for all the reasons listed above.

How about someone who trusts you and is still in that circle?

Can you think of/find someone that could be aware and watch out if things get bad again? You could just ask them as a favor to you. Provide them with whatever details they need about your past situation, keep it factual, make it clear that it’s all in the past now, but you’re worried it could happen again and wish someone would have helped you.

End by saying you’d really appreciate it if they kept your conversation confidential, and you genuinely hope <ex> has changed and can be happy with someone, but just can’t ignore it. If you can, saying they can call you and you’ll find a way to help, or providing a resource for them, makes it seem less like you’re looking for a scene.

As has been said, stay safe, and you can read the situation better than we can, but if you want to help, that may be one avenue.

I recognize which of my friends, and friend’s friends, have trouble with aspects of their personality. I think most people do. If he’s all you describe, his friends suspect, but don’t know.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I can imagine how torn you feel at the moment. Wanting to try to help her (even if she doesn’t realise she needs the help), and needing to avoid being dragged into any future situation with this ex again, and really you didn’t mention it yourself, but putting yourself in harms way. As @Cupcake said, an order of protection is a piece of paper and if your ex is angry, not thinking and doesn’t respect the law, that won’t help you much if he decides to act on his feelings.

I don’t really know what else to suggest that doesn’t potentially put you at risk. I’m sad that the women’s advocacy resource people were ‘preachy’. I imagine they’re working with volunteers and under-resourced. We have to find better ways to manage domestic violence situations. If you thought he was a terrorist, I suspect you’d have people falling over themselves to find out more.

Judi's avatar

I think you should call an abuse hotline and get their opinion on this. I’m sure it’s not the first time this question has come up
They might even offer to make contact for you.
But really, would you have listened?

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Unless you see evidence that there might be something weird going on with them, I think you’ve made the right decision for the time being. People can change, though it’s rare and unlikely. He might not be a horrible monster anymore. However, if you ever do have reason to believe he’s hurting her, I don’t think there would be anything wrong with sending an anonymous message to her just to warn her. You don’t have to (and I honestly wouldn’t) say that you’re an ex of his – just that you were someone who used to be in his life and that you were aware of the fact that he was abusive.

Jeruba's avatar

This sounds like a time to consider the matter of reversibility. If you say something, you can’t unsay it; if you don’t say something now, you can say it later. (This works only up to a point. There is such a thing as too late.)

I understand the sentiments of those who feel that you have a moral duty to attempt to give warning. I happen to think that’s misplaced. No one is obligated to prevent a functional, self-determining adult from making a mistake. It might be good to do it, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad not to do it. Sometimes it’s frankly impossible.

If she sought you out and asked you whether she ought to be afraid of him, and you didn’t tell her the truth, that would be wrong. But I don’t see how it’s right for others to expect you to put her welfare ahead of your own. This situation is not yours to control.

Tell me something: did anybody warn you about him when you were first together? If so, did you listen? If not, would you have listened?

longgone's avatar

Does anyone other than you know about this person’s violent tendencies? The more people know, the safer you are.

You are very brave for even thinking about this. I, for one, would listen to any exes who warn me about violence. I wouldn’t leave my partner right away, sure – but I would definitely be more alert.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Jeruba “But I don’t see how it’s right for others to expect you to put her welfare ahead of your own.”

I don’t think one person on this thread has recommended that. While I think the current girlfriend should be warned if it is possible, I absolutely agree with you that the OP’s safety should be her highest priority, given the information that she has.

Jeruba's avatar

@dappled_leaves, ” I think the current girlfriend should be warned if it is possible”

Maybe our difference lies in what we think of as possible. Of course it’s possible. Whether it’s possible without troubling and even dangerous repercussions is the question.

Several people have stated what they would do in her place, implying that that’s the proper choice. I would ask: How much risk should she take on herself to prevent someone else from making the same mistake that she made? Is this even her business?

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Jeruba What I meant by “if it is possible” is “if it is possible to do it anonymously” (see my prior post). If you are asking what I would do in her place, my first thought is that I would probably use a public computer (say, at a library) to create a fake email account, tie a fake Facebook account to it, message her (if possible, because it isn’t always) saying that she could be at risk, then shut down both accounts. This is what I would likely try; it does not mean that I think the OP should do that.

I don’t know exactly what the OP’s experience was, I don’t know how much she feels at risk, I don’t know how many girlfriends the ex has had before or since (i.e., how much of a crowd is she lost in), I don’t know what she knows about the new girlfriend’s situation, and I don’t know how many mutual friends they have who might point a finger at her. In other words, what I would think to try is meaningless, because I can’t guess what would be her best option – this is why I did not offer a specific suggestion in my original post. I do not know if it is possible for the OP to do it anonymously.

You cannot ask us to specify “how much risk” she should take on, because only she can assess the risk to herself. Are you asking how much risk would we, ourselves, would take on in order to get a message across? That requires imagining the abuser, the abuse, the new girlfriend, and our degree of anonymity. It is ridiculous to speculate.

chyna's avatar

@dappled_leaves If I was the new girlfriend there is no way that I would believe an anonymous face book post. Especially if it was a new relationship.
I dated a guy that was controlling and had a temper. We didn’t date long. But about a year after we dated, a woman called me and said her sister was dating him and that he was abusive to the sister. I told her how he was to me, but that he wasn’t physically abusive to me. Sounded like he was getting worse as he got older. I would never have called the woman myself if I had known who he was dating. I live alone and wouldn’t want to put myself in danger.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I wish there was some sort of reporting mechanism where people who are convicted of violent crimes are listed. It would also be useful if people who successfully have apprehended violence orders taken out against them (or whatever you call them where you are) could be listed, but that could be fraught with danger because people might abuse it. I’d hate to see decent people on such a list because someone is being malicious.

However, it would be good if there was some way to check out potential partners before you get too involved. Two children have been hurt here this weekend. One was burned, another stabbed. And I read yet another story about a woman whose partner killed her because she tried to end the relationship. He had been violent to his previous partner.

I’m all for civil liberties, but you know, if you’re a violent person I think the safety of those you come into contact with trumps your right to privacy.

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