Reddit is known for lots of things, mainly talking arguments about libertarian politics, Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes, and occasionally ruining people's lives. It’s also an extremely powerful communication tool for local affairs, with subreddits for every major city. I frequently check the Los Angeles subreddit to find out about what's going on in the town where I live. Last week, a woman under the username Tiredoftheabuse posted the plea for help you see above.
The story blew up, skyrocketing onto the site’s frontpage with 1,500 comments and hundreds of upvotes. Within two hours, a user named FireflyySerenity offered to pick her up.
FireflyySerenity was true to her word. After chatting with Tiredoftheabuse through private messages and texts, she hopped in her truck and drove down to the San Fernando Valley to get her. It’s been a week since it happened, and I sat down with both of them at FireflyySerenity’s house (not their real names, obv) to see how they were both doing.
VICE: How have you been holding up?
Tiredoftheabuse: Every day I feel a little bit better. Obviously it’s gonna take time. It’s gonna be a long time before I feel whole again. The good news is that I start my new job next week.
Why did you decide to turn to Reddit?
I left my boyfriend previously in April and ended up staying with a friend for a couple of weeks. She was literally the only friend I had in Los Angeles. The reason I couldn’t stay with her this time is because she has two people already living with her in her tiny apartment. She knows the situation, and she’s been very supportive. I had nowhere to go and had to take this avenue. I wouldn’t have had to take the drastic measures I did if I had a healthy and open relationship.
You ended up getting back together with him?
I felt like I was being a burden to my friend. I wasn’t able to find a job quickly. My boyfriend also promised he would stop drinking, we would go to therapy, and that everything would change. He lured me in with, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. I treated you terribly. Things will be different now,” and I completely bought it. [Laughs.] People stay in abusive relationships and come back to them when they escape because it’s what’s familiar. Being in an unfamiliar place didn’t help. I have a great support system now, and I’m going to move forward with my life and put the past behind me.
How long did you stay in therapy?
We went for about a month. Eventually, when I asked about it, he said, “If you want to go to a therapist you can fucking pay for it.” I’m not trying to make my ex look bad. He needs help. I just wanted to get out. I was open to going to a shelter, but I didn’t know who to talk to, or anything about getting around LA, or the resources I had available to me. FireflyySerenity came in with her roommates and luckily I didn’t have to go to a shelter.
FireflyySerenity, how did you come across Tiredoftheabuse’s post?
FireflyySerenity: I go on Reddit all the time. I have an app on my phone, and I work as a nanny, so when the kids are taking a nap, I’ll fuck around. I subscribe to r/losangeles, because it’s got good stuff. Concerts and stuff like “20 percent off if you mention Reddit”. I was browsing when I saw the SOS. It was a giant block of text, and I knew something was wrong. I read half of the post and instantly responded. Intuition kicked in, and I had to respond. After texting back and forth a bit, we started creating a plan to leave in secret. I told her not to hesitate to call the police. I was talking to my friends later that night when I got a text message that read “Help”.
Tiredoftheabuse: My ex had found the post. I locked myself in the bathroom while he was yelling through the door. He’s had to repair that door several times from breaking it. I knew I needed to get my stuff together quickly and get the fuck out.
FireflyySerenity: I brought my huge-ass roommate. I texted her and told her to grab her things and get out. When we showed up, we thought her ex was gonna swing on us, but he didn’t. We got in the car, and Tiredoftheabuse was shaking and crying with a dog and a bag of miscellaneous shit. We brought her over to the house. I was also getting a lot of threats on Reddit from people who accused me of being a liar after I offered to help.
So, back to the beginning, your ex flew you out to LA?
Tiredoftheabuse: I came here from Florida. I met my ex through Twitter after he found my blog and really liked it. He said, “You don’t have to work. I’ll take care of you while you pursue your creative passions,” and I asked him about my car payment, and he said, “I’ll pay for it.” He never did once, and now they’re looking to repossess it.
It seems almost too good to be true to hear that from someone you met online.
No one wants to think that they’re naïve and that people would take advantage of them in that way. Everything was fine at first, as it usually is in relationships. There were little red flags that started to show, and before I knew it he was completely in control and I didn’t have an out.
It didn’t feel safe to just drive off?
Right. And where was I gonna go?
Did you have any friends to talk to?
They were mostly his friends. He wouldn’t let me hang out with any of them without him. Hanging out with anyone of the opposite sex was completely forbidden. He would yell at me if he thought I was staring at someone for too long. He would accuse me of wanting to fuck them. He would tell me what to wear because he didn’t want other men wanting me.
What was the final straw?
The night before I left he brought me flowers, but within an hour he flew into a rage and broke the bathroom scale by stomping on it. So I just lay in bed and waited for him to pass out. I made the post, and I had no idea it was going to blow up the way it did.
Has there been backlash since you’ve left?
He’s been showing everyone the Reddit post and telling everyone that I’m crazy and lying about the abuse.
Does he seem aware that he’s been physically and emotionally violent with you?
He must be, because the way he acted around other people with me was nothing like he was behind closed doors. When he gets drunk, his anger comes out. Sometimes he’ll yell at people or be a dick to them, but when he’s sober he is very charming. He would complain to friends that I took advantage of him for his wallet. It got to the point that he wouldn’t apologise anymore for his behaviour. He would sober up and act like nothing happened, and sometimes he would still stay mad at me. I just didn’t want to get hurt anymore.
Have you heard from him since?
No. He knows to stay back. He’s just telling everyone how nuts I am.
How do you feel about everything now that it’s been a week?
FireflyySerenity: I would want someone like me and my family to get me if I was ever in a situation like that. That’s why I did it. If I could just help one person get out of an awful situation, then maybe it could inspire other people to help someone. Do something good for someone else. You don’t always have to do things to get something in return. I hate it when people say “What are you getting out of this?” I have a friend I’ll have forever. It’s a bond that many people won’t understand or believe, and that’s fine. Let them look at me. That’s fine.
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