While you know me as “@shoq,” many close friends have always known me as Matt Edelstein. For reasons I’ve published elsewhere, I’ve never confirmed or denied that name, nor anything else said about me. I am an entrepreneur who has invested many years in developing a novel Internet technology that plans to launch later this year. I currently live in Ft Lauderdale, Florida. I do not, contrary to popular belief, work for George Soros, nor live in my mother’s basement. She is elderly, and I moved here simply so one of her children would be closer to her. I am starting off with this information to demonstrate my sincerity and candor about something very important that I would like to discuss with you.
Many of you have known me for years, and have recently heard a nasty voice mail, and thought “How can shoq, whom I have known for so long, sound like a domestic abuser, as so many people are now asserting about him.” Many of my women-friends, often victims of abuse themselves, have told me how hurt they were to hear of this, and urged me to apologize, to get help, and to do something that might help everyone understand, heal, and learn from this ongoing saga.
Today, a brand new friend, herself a victim of severe domestic violence and verbal abuse, came forward and DMed me and said she had followed me for years, and could not reconcile the man behind the tweets with the person being portrayed by the voice messages, and all the vicious tweets and statements made about them. She wanted explanations. In talking to her candidly, I broke down and tearfully made a confession about something no one has yet heard. She stopped me in my tracks and said she was nauseous with disgust, and urged me—no, demanded of me—that I suck in my pride and go public with what I had just told her.
So I would like to do that now, and in so doing, offer several important facts, insights, and explanations. One of them may surprise—or even shock you. Please read all of them before judging me or coming to any conclusions.
First, I apologize to Jane, aka @vdaze, aka Jessica.
I have raged at someone I have known and loved via some telephone calls, which she decided to publish, to the horror of me, my family, my coworkers, my enemies, and many of you. Such rage is always wrong, no matter the cause, no matter the person, and no matter the motive. Period. It was my responsibility to not do it, and I failed in that responsibility. I shouldn’t have done several things:
- I shouldn’t have name called. That cannot be excused.
- I shouldn’t have used hateful words. They cannot be excused.
- I shouldn’t have tried to blamed her for my rage, even if I felt there were good reasons for it at the time. I could have taken a walk, or gotten a drink, or done something to find another way to express my anger. I did not. I chose to express a fury when I could have chosen otherwise. It was wrong. It cannot be excused.
- I shouldn’t have mentioned in my blog post below that we had discussed her getting therapy, because that is a classic excuse that abusers make all the time. Even if I might believe it. Even if she might believe it. It cannot be used to justify a rage. It cannot be excused.
- I shouldn’t have done any of these things. I have thought long and hard about them, and realized that verbal rage is just unacceptable for any reason, at any time, and in any form.
I’m human. I’ve made mistakes. I own them and I must live with them, and I must help myself, or find other help to discover ways that I can change my process and avoid such mistakes again. I should have said all of these things in my very first or my second post below, as some good women friends urged me to do immediately, but I did not. I was stunned, confused, hurt, and angry, and still trying to understand how someone who just weeks ago said that she had loved me was now painting me as this grotesque abuser, discussing intimate details of my life, health, and appearance, on her blog and on Twitter. This resulted in an eruption of angry Twitter streams by women standing up for a victim of abuse. It brought forth small armies of former enemies eager to pile on the abuser.
Many of these women, some of them abused in their lives, were compelled to make me admit, apologize, and atone for the abusive call to Jessica. And based on my behavior in the voicemail alone, as I say above, I deserved it! And by not immediately owning it and apologizing for it completely, I made Jessica’s narratives easier to catch fire. And catch they did. Many twitter accounts swelled with literally thousands of tweets about restraining orders, police, counseling, hotlines, sickness, hypocrisy, and all manner of empathy tweets that victims of abuse have heard, sent, or been supported by.
Overwhelmed by sadness and anger at this open discussion of my private life, I quickly penned a blog post to explain what was going on. It was one that forgave her and myself for this conflagration, and which I felt was owning the things I had done wrong, but which friends help me see could be perceived as trying to blame her for some of my unacceptable behavior. It’s just never ok to blame a victim, and that was certainly not my intent. So I then updated it with a bit more detail, trying to own more of my behavior, while also trying to not reveal details of our private lives, nor a really big secret: a huge and vital omission in her published story that would almost certainly change many perceptions of her narrative and accusations. But more on that a bit later.
Second, I understand why women must speak out and push back against abuse
Who can blame these women who rushed to assist Jessica? After all, many know, or have friends who know what it is like to be in a relationship with an abusive person. They know what it is like be near someone that physically intimidates them, scolds them to their face, terrorizes them with acts or threats of violence, stalks them at their work, accosts them at parties, menaces or harms their friends or pets, damages their cars, defaces their property, posts threats on their doors, harasses their families, and relentlessly pursues and intimidates them via phones, the Internet and social networks. They know abuse and abusers and they know it’s a terrible and mendacious crime that most victims must go to great lengths to escape. They often change their phone numbers, homes, friends, schools, jobs, clothes, and even entire lives just to escape it. Many of my closest friends sent me emails and DMs, just disgusted that I might be, or be seen as just like “those men” that made the lives of such victims utterly and completely miserable. And indeed, I might have been, but for that big secret.
Third, the “big secret” was the big hole in Jessica’s story
While yes, I raged at her through an answering machine at times, and even exchanged some angry emails, I never did any one of those other things that victims of domestic/physical abuse experience. Victims who I, through my admitted mistakes, she was able to appear to be one of to so many of her supporters. I never did any of those things. Not even one. Not even once. Why can I tell you that with such confidence? For one very simple reason. A reason I said might shock you:
I have never laid eyes on Jessica. Not once. Not even by video. Jessica and I have never met. Please let that sink in for a few moments before continuing. I feel that it is absolutely vital and pivotal to understanding the nature and implications of everything that has transpired to date.
Yes, this entire massive abuse narrative, this campaign against me has been predicated on a relationship that was entirely virtual from its inception until this very day. We did not so much as have a video chat between us. Everything we know of each other was via Twitter, email, instant message, and telephone. That’s it. It was a cyber-relationship. Period.
So why have I not revealed such a crucial and mitigating detail before now? Because I was embarrassed. I had fallen in love with a woman on the Internet. I wanted us to be together, but she was married. After she separated, she told me it would be at least a year before she could “safely” become openly involved—or live—with someone else.
So I waited, and I waited. But it never came to pass. As we got closer to year’s end, she became less and less willing to discuss actually coming together, and issues and arguments grew more frequent. Our relationship grew chillier and chillier, and much of the joy had turned into endless discussions about almost anything except when we would finally be together. Finally, after so many months of this dysfunctional situation, I told her that I was done.
Fourth, many have been misled
Jessica has never mentioned what I just admitted to you, despite the embarrassment and ridicule it will generate for both of us. Why on earth would she do that? Why would she provide such dramatic tales of abuse, threats, and emotional stress to thousands of people over weeks of time, yet omit this one, massively crucial detail that anyone would need to fully understand this drama. She was never for one single moment in physical danger. I never showed up at her door, I never followed her, I never threatened to, nor appeared at her place of work, nor threatened her pets, person or identity in any way. I live 1000 miles away, and have since our “relationship” began.
So please now ask yourself this: why wouldn’t she have stated all of this from the beginning in her many blog posts, tweets, and status updates? For one simple reason: because she was counting on the fact that I would be too embarrassed to tell anyone what I just told you. Had she done so, her entire abuse narrative would have been debunked from the start, never garnered the support of so many well meaning sympathizers, and largely been reduced to nothing more than the old cliche of, “So Shoq, when did you stop beating your wife?”
If Jessica was living in fear, as she so proactively implied to so many, why didn’t she contact the police, why didn’t she block me on Twitter, or email, or skype, or change her phone number. Why did she take none of those common steps that any abuse victim is always counseled to take. As importantly, why instead did she choose to continually badger me and make references to our relationship on Twitter, often viciously and very publicly baiting me with insults and invective?. Victims of abuse are almost alway too scared to speak out against their abusers. They stay silent. This is how the cycle of abuse works, and why true abusers get away with their crimes over and over again. They do not seek out and promote confrontations with their abusers on Twitter. This was a cyber-relationship, first, last, and always. With a few clicks of her mouse, Jessica could have eliminated me from her life. She continually chose not to, which is entirely uncharacteristic of someone being “abused.”
I have always been a fierce advocate for women, their rights, their equality, and their safety. If you don’t believe that, check five years of my Twitter timeline. If you are a victim of domestic violence or abuse, I urge you to seek professional help. If you need further help from me, I will do what I am best known for on Twitter, and use my friends and contacts to help you.
I hope this clarifies this sad chapter in my life. I hope Jessica heals, and that those who know and like her forgive her for this hurtful deception. I also hope that I can get my reputation back from my thousands of friends and followers, and restore the trust I have worked hard to earn from friends, followers, associates, and especially those who have been skeptical of this story and stood by me from the start.
I am a man with some failings. I yearn for love like most of us. I am a dedicated progressive and a passionate American. I have made and admitted to some poor behavior that I will try to learn and grow from. I did a bad thing. I am not a bad person.
Thanks for listening.
- National Domestic Abuse Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE)
- About Internet Relationships