(Repost) I Submit the Following to the Court of Public Opinion
I posted this on February 10, 2019. A few weeks ago, I had a fleeting moment of anxiety and took it down. Now that new allegations are surfacing, I think it’s important to have it back up to stand with the brave women who have had the courage to do what I couldn’t and put their real names on the record. So here it is.
This is admittedly not my preferred venue for this story. I was interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter just before the allegations about Max Landis first broke on Twitter in late 2017. It was meticulously researched; I handed over the raw file of my Facebook chat archive to be scrutinized for authenticity and had every aspect of my story vetted, and friends corroborated it. Max and “his people” were given ample time to craft a PR response. In truth, I appreciated that my account was so thoroughly battle-tested. The editor ultimately chose not to run the story because we were all unwilling to put our real names on the record for fear of harassment, and other accusers did not make it into the article for various reasons. Furthermore, I couldn’t take legal action even if I had wanted to (and I don’t); I was informed by a lawyer that the statute of limitations had expired.
After THR decided to shelve the story, I was frustrated, but I stepped back because it seemed that Max had been blacklisted and would no longer have the same level of power over vulnerable women. I was extremely disappointed to learn that his career has been revived, with two more films in the works.
Max and I were friends for seven years. A few years into our friendship, we went on a trip to Hicksville Trailer Palace in Joshua Tree, a place that Atlas Obscura has aptly described as an “eclectic trailer park retreat in the middle of the California desert.” Our relationship had always been platonic, and I was clear with him before the trip that I did not intend for it to be romantic in nature (not that it matters — I still would have had the right to say “no”). Ironically, during that conversation, he seemed slightly offended by the mere suggestion that I would assume that he was looking for something romantic. That night, I drank quite a lot more than I usually do. I had also eaten a small amount of mushrooms, which he had given me, though the effects had worn off hours before the incident. Suffice to say that I was pretty intoxicated, but my memory of what happened is extremely vivid.
I started feeling dizzy and decided to lie down. I accidentally caught sight of him changing out of his bathing suit, and he told me later that I had laughed flirtatiously. Taking that as an invitation, he ran over to me and grabbed me. I wormed out of his arms and ran away, thinking at first that he was just playing around. He grabbed me and pushed me down onto the bed, with his knees holding my thighs apart and his hands holding down my arms so that I couldn’t get away. I could feel his erection pressing into me through my clothes, and he was pulling up my shirt. He kept trying to kiss me as I was turning my head from side to side trying to dodge him. I kept saying no. Specifically, I stated the following: “This is a really bad idea. Stop. Please, no, this is a really bad idea. No, stop.” (Repeated a dozen or so times.)
I soon realized that I was fighting a losing battle, so I went limp and pretended to pass out. He got off of me and rolled over, and then he fell asleep spooning me. I laid there all night wide awake but trying not to move, holding my breath, trying to understand what had just happened, and trying to figure out what I was going to do when morning came and I had to sit next to him while he drove the 100 miles home. I felt terrified and nauseous from the adrenaline.
As far as I know, Max has never disputed that this occurred, but he has always maintained that it was an unfortunate drunken misunderstanding. He characterized it as “wrestling around.” He thought I was just playing hard to get, and that by “this is a bad idea,” I meant something like, “ooh, this is so naughty” — the classic “no means yes” defense. He told me he had never been turned down before, so he didn’t know what rejection sounded like, taking the opportunity to brag about the size of his penis. I eventually accepted his apology and explanation, because he seemed so sincerely regretful. I even began to feel bad, as if I had somehow victimized him and hurt his feelings. He did a masterful job of manipulating me into believing that I had simply overreacted and misinterpreted his intentions. I found every way to rationalize it and absolve him of responsibility. Years later, he would casually mention events that happened earlier that night in group settings, as if to indicate that he viewed that experience as inconsequential and ordinary. I felt sick to my stomach every time, emotionally recalling the night I laid next to him for hours hoping he wouldn’t wake up and try again. We remained friends for years.
I eventually came to accept that Max’s explanation was untenable. For one, he seemed completely sober and lucid. Besides, one should not initiate sexual activity with someone who is as intoxicated as I was. Moreover, if this had been an unfortunate misunderstanding, it was not the first, nor was it the last. The rumors began piling up, and I realized that what happened was not an isolated incident, but a pattern of behavior from a man who never liked to be told “no.” According to two mutual friends, Max used to brag to his group that he had been accused of sexual assault in high school (though I should note that The Hollywood Reporter was unable to verify it). If one gives him the most generous of benefits of the doubt, it seems that he misreads sexual cues with startling regularity.
I still question myself sometimes: What if it really was just a misunderstanding? What if I really did overreact? What if he really was confused? Maybe I just didn’t say “no” loudly enough. Maybe I wasn’t clear; surely he would have stopped if I had screamed. I’m being overly sensitive. I wasn’t even raped. I have to comb back through the memories and mentally list off the factors that made this encounter objectively non-consensual: that I had tried to run away, that he had pinned me down to the extent that it bruised my body, and most importantly, that I said no.
The fine details of the stories I’ve heard are eerily familiar. I am certain that the second-hand allegations that were shared publicly in late 2017 were not in reference to me. I was excommunicated from his friend group years ago. In a way, I am in a privileged position; it is easier for me to talk about something that he didn’t ultimately take “all the way,” so to speak, and I have messages that can support my allegation. One thing I realized by getting involved in a public #MeToo story is that the most horrifying accounts rarely surface because the extreme trauma makes it incredibly difficult to speak, amplified many times over when the perpetrator is famous. I can only imagine how many stories like ours have been shelved.
The Colour Society Reject
Ladies, gentlemen, and non-binary folks of the jury, I enter Exhibit A into the record. These are screenshots of Facebook messages, archived from my old account (hence the unusual formatting). Please note that certain elements have been redacted to protect the privacy of another individual.