I am the victim of emotional and psychological abuse and sexual assault at the hands of my ex-husband. I have spoken about this publicly on social media, on my podcast Big Strong Yes, but I haven’t named him. It was easy for people who cared to discover who he was, but I didn’t name him.
I was called classy for this.
I wasn’t classy. I was afraid.
I have been avoiding speaking publicly about the specifics of his abuse and naming him because I just wanted it over. But as fans who disliked his behavior spoke up, his handful of defenders would go on social media, call me a liar, say I fabricated evidence, and attack my character. It has been reported to me that in private messages and DMs, they would try to intimidate and shame people who spoke out about what he was.
And all this time, I kept relatively quiet. Because I wanted it over, because every incident re-traumatized me, because I didn’t want my life to become about him. And because he’s threatened me with a defamation lawsuit if I speak.
All of these people who call him out are being brave. They’re not allowing his behavior to stand. And I’m hanging back, not getting involved beyond the occasional subtweet, trying to move on.
Well, I can’t move on, because this isn’t done. It won’t be done until I’ve spoken, until I’ve taken him to court to pay for the debt he abandoned me with, until I confront the supporters who call me a liar in the shadows but won’t face me in the daylight.
And I also realized something; defamation is only actionable if what I say isn’t true.
Well, everything I’m about to say is absolutely true, and I have documented evidence and witnesses.
So let’s dance.
Lies and Imaginary Friends
In 2010, Alastair Stephen Morris, aka Alastair Stephens, wooed me from Scotland. He told me he was living alone, and made up a group of friends that he told me elaborate stories about. He told me about their romantic entanglements, their personal dramas, how happy they were that he’d found someone to love.
I knitted a pair of socks for one of them when she broke up with her boyfriend.
Later, I would discover that those people did not exist.1
The Woman He Raised Kids With… That I Never Knew About
A year into our marriage, I received an email from a woman in Scotland, who said that she’d lived with Alastair for the previous ten years before he’d moved in with me. He’d raised her daughters with her. He’d also left her in debt; she’d cosigned his student loans. When he ran off to be with me, he’d left no forwarding information, so the bank had gone after her.
Eventually, she tracked him down. He’d changed his public-facing name from Morris to Stephens, but we were living publicly, and she found him. She asked him multiple times to take care of his debt, and when he didn’t, she got in touch with me.
He knew this was coming. He knew it was going to devastate me. He’d been dodging her for at least weeks, maybe months. He never said a word to warn me, just let the email slam me from out of nowhere.
He gambled she was going to go away and not pursue it; he lost.
I confronted him. I was so hurt and so angry. One thing I can’t have, because of the way I grew up, is lies. He knew that.
I learned that he had no friends, not a one, and he had been living with a woman whose daughters he had raised as his own for ten years, before running off without a word of goodbye. He had even sent me a picture of him with one of those daughters, claiming her as one of the imaginary friends.
But I’d brought him over from Scotland. I’d made him stepfather to my children. I loved him. He said he hadn’t been a good man, but he had changed. Loving me had changed him. He begged me.
I forgave him.
And every time in the future, when I mentioned that his lies bothered me, he shamed me, told me I wasn’t able to forgive. That I was a grudge holder.
That there was something wrong with me.
We made monthly payments on the debt he’d tried to dump on the woman in Scotland. When she’d gotten in touch and told me her story, I apologized to her, and made sure it was taken care of.2
Abuse and Instilling Doubt
Throughout our marriage of six years, he questioned every decision I made. I couldn’t go shopping by myself, couldn’t drive myself to work. If I chose a lightbulb, he’d question my selection. I gave him complete control of everything, including my finances. I’d lost all confidence in myself.
Over the years, he favored one of my daughters, and was cruel to the other. My youngest couldn’t speak a word, but he’d slam her verbally. I started to challenge him on that. We’d fight, and by the end of the fight, he’d have me convinced I was the bad parent.
My older daughter, the one he favored, he’d force to sit on his lap, all the time. When she got older – 15, 16, then 17 – I thought it was weird and inappropriate, but I’d been primed to believe that something was wrong with me when I doubted him.
It made her uncomfortable, as did other things he did that I didn’t know about until recently, but she felt the same way; that something must be wrong with her to even think such a thing. The things he did were creepy and inappropriate, but not legally actionable; not too far over the line. That’s why she never said anything, not until she’d processed enough of the trauma to realize these weren’t normal things.
That’s how trauma works; it takes time to admit and understand what really happened, because when it’s happening, you have to deny it to get through the day.
All this time, he sold me on our fated love story. Soulmates. Aristophanes, baby. I thought it was love, because abuse feels like love. He made me question myself, then when I was feeling like hell, played love. Fed me the poison, sold me the cure. Over and over.
That’s how abusers make abuse feel like love.
Whenever I questioned him on things he was doing in our business, he’d tell me we’d had the conversation and I had agreed. I didn’t remember these conversations. I worried I had early-onset dementia.
He let me worry.
My mother has Alzheimer’s.
Think about that for a minute.
He used my fear of ending up like my mother to make me doubt myself.
It didn’t occur to me that we’d never had those conversations until, after the breakup, I spoke to his ex in Scotland, who told me he’d routinely done the same thing to her. It wasn’t until then that I realized something very important.
I didn’t forget conversations with anyone else.
The Other Woman
Then, as I was starting to challenge him on the verbal abuse he regularly doled out to my youngest daughter, another vulnerable woman in the middle of a divorce with a young daughter arrived on the scene.
He went from soulmates and Aristophanes to telling me he was worried we might get a divorce, overnight. He told me he’d asked me to go to counseling months earlier and I’d refused, so our breakup would be my fault.
I do have a vague memory of discussing counseling when we’d started to fight, but our insurance didn’t cover it, and we didn’t have the money to pay out of pocket, and we were so in love and so good together that we figured we’d get through it. I had never outright refused, but I’d been primed for years to doubt myself, doubt my recall of my own experience. I couldn’t believe he would lie about something like that, so I trusted his account, accepting it as truth, which I now know, it was not.
Now, he refused to go to counseling as I wept and begged him, claiming it was “too late.”
One night during this time, as I was weeping in the fetal position in my office, he told me he resented that I’d gotten a tubal ligation without consulting him–not true, we discussed it before I had the procedure done; he was fine with it and supportive–and that I had stolen his chance to have children of his own.
This was just days after I voiced my suspicions about him and this woman, and I mentioned that she could still have babies.
Like everything I’ve ever said revealing a vulnerability to him, he twisted it to use against me.4
Lather, rinse, repeat with the gaslighting, as he planned his trip to go visit her and other friends in Oklahoma without me, while telling me that my doubts and lack of trust were the reason why our marriage was failing. It was during this period that he sexually assaulted me, twice. I was so shocked; during our entire life together, he’d never been non-consensually aggressive in bed. It was like he had suddenly turned into someone else, and it took my mind some time to process what had happened.
During the first weeks after Alastair left, I told a number of people about the sexual violence. Many of them then tried to talk to me about it later; I refused. My therapist knew; I refused to talk about it when she brought it up. Trauma splits you into two people; the one who knows, and the one who denies. The one who knows is right, but the one who denies is afraid, and fear is stronger.
For a while, anyway.
It took me a year to fully accept that this happened to me, at which point I filed a police report.5
He asked for a divorce on New Year’s Day, shocking me and my daughters. Remember, the first mention of divorce after years of Soulmates and Aristophanes had been about six weeks earlier.
I asked him not to go to Oklahoma, to work through the separation with our girls, who had loved him as a father for six years. The girls and I had to be more important than a vacation?
He left two days later, and was openly with his girlfriend while there. Witnesses reported to me that she sat on his lap and made out with him at parties in front of people. He used our joint account to buy her gifts, including according to witnesses, a promise ring. Witnesses also told me they were talking about a Christmas wedding.
All this less than a week after he’d abandoned the last woman he’d married, and the children he’d raised for six years.
My daughters, after he left for Oklahoma, turned to me and said, “You know what’s weird? I feel better.” They realized right away what an oppressive presence he’d been. Took them a few days to get his number down completely, despite their pain and trauma.
It would take me months longer to realize the same thing.
He claims I turned them against him. It’s not true. They spent months trying to get me to wake up.
He returned home to collect his things. He told me he’d be rooming with a mutual friend in Oklahoma City, a man I knew and liked, and he again insisted that he and this woman did not have a romantic relationship.
A month later, when someone else who knew confirmed for me that they were together, he finally admitted to the affair, and told me that I’d forced him into her bed by yelling at him on the phone during his vacation.
He told me it was my fault he slept with her.
The roommate, a mutual friend who saw Alastair for what he was from the moment he arrived in Oklahoma City, told me later that Alastair had spent maybe three nights in the room he’d rented that first month. A number of her friends from that circle also felt something was seriously wrong with him, and with their relationship.
Multiple witnesses in Oklahoma City— her friends—saw it all clearly with no input from me, and left the friend group because of him. He proceeded to trash talk those people to me, and presumably, to anyone else who would listen.
Alastair was living with this woman from jump, even while still telling me I was paranoid thinking they were together, and why didn’t I trust him? If I was unable to trust him, how could we have ever worked?
Again. My. Fault.6
Traumatized and Heartbroken
I didn’t understand any of it. I was crying all day, every day, shocked and horrified and scared to death. I got in touch with his ex. She told me her experience, eventually writing up a legal affidavit for me.
This woman has live-chatted her experience with about 25 people present on a private chat server, while I was also present.
Again, witnesses. His defenders like to claim my documentation is fabricated.
It is not.
During this time, his sister, with whom he was estranged, contacted me and told me that his stories of an abusive childhood were not true. She told me he was the abuser, physically assaulting her and their mother, until finally getting thrown out of the house by their mother’s boyfriend after assaulting his mother. His brother, also estranged, confirmed her account for me. Neither of them want anything to do with him.
To provide for my kids, I started a media company and got a full-time job.
He did not get a job. Instead, he also started a media company and named it for my nickname for him, which was North.
I wept and begged him to name it something else, anything else. He harangued me until I gave in. He designed the logo with a compass, which was our symbol when we were together.7
Under His Control Again
That summer, I told him everything I’d learned from his ex, her daughters and his sister and brother. I’d been unable to find one person, not one, from the first 32 years of his life (the age he was when we met) who wanted anything to do with him. Everyone hated him, and everyone had deeply disturbing stories.
During this time, I started to call him and his girlfriend out on social media.
SUDDENLY, he loved me again. He was leaving her. He just needed time to get a job, figure out where he was going to live, find a way to make it up to me and my girls. He wanted to change! He just needed a chance!
But there was no chance if I kept talking publicly about what he’d done.
He told me that with public pressure on him and his girlfriend, he had no choice but to stay with her. When I spoke publicly about what he’d done, I was forcing him to stay with her.
Again. My fault, right?
Fans who had watched all this happen, who had suspected him long before I did based on how he’d spoken to me in our podcasts and how he’d shamelessly been flirting with this woman on Twitter while we were still together, were publicly expressing their displeasure with him and his girlfriend.
I asked them to stop.
Meanwhile, I desperately didn’t want any of this to be true. I needed it not to be true. I loved him.
During the day, I’d convince myself everyone else was wrong about him. My daughters would cry and yell at me, telling me that he was lying and manipulating me. I promised that I would never let him near them again, but I loved him, and if he could change and be better, I deserved the chance to have my husband back.
After all, I hadn’t done anything wrong. He had. I didn’t deserve this.
At night, I’d wake up with clarity, furious, and send him scathing text messages. I have all of these texts, both his and mine. Those angry, inconsistent messages probably made me look unstable and crazy.
I was neither. I was abused and traumatized.
He cried poor. I gave him permission to use my credit card for a total of about $70 in business expenses, despite him leaving me with $20+k in debt, sole responsibility for our back and current taxes, a mortgage, two kids, and a failing business.
He maxed out the credit card buying comic books, Audible subscriptions, and Google Play apps. He put $300+ directly into her PayPal account, which was listed on the statement with her username.8
I Wake Up
The credit card statement, with yet another betrayal in front of me in black and white, finally woke me up. I accepted what he was. I sent my documentation to her and her friends, including the texts he’d been sending me all day, every day, all summer, which included pictures of him in her house.
I shared my story of his abuse and the sexual assault.
They called me a liar.
I can produce a dozen people who have known me for decades who will testify to my character, one of whom is my first husband, with whom I’m still good friends. Everyone who has known Alastair for longer than a few years hates him. There are no exes, no old friends, nobody who will testify as to his character.
Well, they will. They have. And it’s not good. I have it all, in my documentation.11
Fans who witnessed his behavior resumed calling him out publicly. I have never asked them to, but neither have I since asked them to stop. They were deceived and betrayed, too. They have a right to their anger, as do I.
I have, multiple times, privately and publicly, asked the fans to leave the girlfriend alone on social media. While her complete lack of consideration for me was willfully cruel, I remember what it’s like to be in his grasp. How convincing he is. How he makes you doubt yourself. I was ready to defend him when I had been his victim.
We’re members of a shitty sorority, she and I, but she got him out of my life, and out of my daughters’ lives. I have no idea how long it might have taken me otherwise to see the truth about him. While she did it selfishly and with absolutely no consideration for me, my empathy for her remains, and for that, I continue to request that people leave her alone. The path before her is painful and heartbreaking, and I don’t envy her a bit.9
Our divorce was final in December. My daughters and I have been in therapy with the local domestic violence shelter for the past year. We are being treated for trauma stemming from years of emotional abuse.
He’s supposed to pay me $1500 a month per the divorce decree to cover the debt and taxes I’m paying. Right now, I get a little over $200 a month from the StoryWonk Patreon, for which I give him full credit, despite half of it being my work and the fact that I am paying all web and podcast hosting expenses for StoryWonk. That Patreon money reasonably dwindles every month, and will soon be gone altogether, leaving me saddled with the debt he left behind.
I heard from listeners that he commonly claimed other people’s ideas as his own. I never questioned him. I thought he was brilliant. And he is smart and insightful; some of his insights are truly his own.
Some. Apparently, not all.
I took down all of his solo work from StoryWonk. I am under no obligation to host his material. He has all the source files; he can put those up on his own dime any time he wants.
I’ve been accused of “destroying his life’s work.” In no way is that true. I’m just not hosting his intellectually specious material.
To the best of my knowledge, he still has not gotten an actual job. He podcasts with his girlfriend and a few friends. Not a dime of the $1800+ a month he makes off the Point North Patreon as of this writing goes to the wife and children he abandoned.
And until May of this year, he was still putting much of his monthly business expenses on my credit card. This is partially the credit card company’s fault; I’d removed him as an authorized user in October of last year. But he allowed those charges to continue to go on my credit card.
I reported the fraud to the police, and to the credit card company. They have his name and address, but the phone number I have appears to be defunct, as the officer had to call his girlfriend’s phone to tell him to stop charging fraudulently to my credit card account.
All this while his girlfriend posts #poshwild #poshlife and #gatsbylife to her social media, bragging about expensive dinners out and treating themselves.10
And, Finally, the Threats
Alastair has threatened me numerous times since he left. He once threatened to force me to lose my house, and have nowhere for the kids to live. Once, he said in a menacing tone that if his girlfriend kicked him out because I spoke up, he’d move back to the town I lived in. When I didn’t succumb to those threats, he manipulated me into believing that he was sorry, he loved me, and he was going to get better. When I woke up from that, he told me we’d never speak again. That one wasn’t so bad; I was okay with that one.
After I came out with my story of the sexual assault on Big Strong Yes, Alastair and his girlfriend threatened me with a defamation lawsuit through back channels. Alastair knows how stressed out I get with paperwork and lawyers; after all, he went through the horrible immigration process with me. He knows I hated every minute of it, and he’s banking on me being too intimidated by lawyers and paperwork to risk a lawsuit.
But you know what?
I’ve changed. I really have. I’ve grown as a person. After what I’ve been through, paperwork does not even come close to intimidating me. And I can afford a lawyer, because I got a job.
I have documentation and witnesses and people who will testify to my character.
And people who will testify to his.11
He has only what he’s always had; lies, charm and the ability to convince almost anybody of almost anything.
Except, I’m willing to bet, a judge.12
To Alastair’s supporters:
I am not lying about this. This is what he is. This is who you support.
Believe that he’s made mistakes. Believe that he can get better. Make him get a job. Make him go to therapy. Support him if he does. All of that is fine. I know what it is to be in his grasp, and I know what it is to love him.
But if you call me a liar, if you look at all of this and try to convince yourself that I made it up, if you think he’s not lying to you and letting you defend him while he knows that everything I’m saying is absolutely true… that’s a dark path and a dark future. Love him, support him, help him get better; fine.
But know this: You believe him, and dismiss me, to your peril. No one warned me, except his ex, who only told me in that first email that he was manipulative and controlling. She couldn’t have warned me more; she was still reeling from what he did to her, and she just wanted the debt collectors to stop harassing her. She wanted it over, and she wanted to move on. I don’t blame her at all.
But I’m giving you the chance I didn’t get. I’m telling you the truth. I have witnesses, documentation, and two daughters that he hurt greatly. If you think I can compel false testimony from that many people, you seriously overestimate my power. I know what he is, and I know what he’s doing, right now, to all of you.
This is your chance. I suggest you take it. He knows that everything I’m saying is true, and he’s letting you take the shots for him while he hides in your shelter. Make him face that. It’s the only chance you’ve got to come out of this without sustaining the kind of hurt and devastation he visited upon me, and everyone who has ever loved him.
The best predictor of the future is the past. Ignore me today, and someday, you will wish you hadn’t.
And finally. To Alastair.
I will absolutely not speak to you privately, so this is what you get.
I heard from R, your childhood friend. He told me things about you, even then, that were dark and disturbing. I know this darkness within you goes back to childhood. I don’t know if you were born this way or if you were made. If there’s hope for you or if there isn’t. I suspect what you are, but I don’t know for sure. You are not my husband; he was a fiction. But you are what is left of him, and for the sake of that imaginary man who I loved with all my heart, I will tell you this:
Hope has always been the one thing that got to you. Hope was always the thing you thought you didn’t have. You always knew what you were. You told me a number of times that you weren’t a good man, that you weren’t worthy of me, and God, how I wish I’d listened to you. If hope is the thing with feathers, you have truly been on the flight of the featherless.
But this, right now… this is your hope. This is your chance. Come clean, and let the people who love you help you. If they stood by you through the lies, they’ll stand by you through the truth. Honestly, if they don’t care about the things you did in their full view, I don’t think they’ll care about the rest of it, as long as you don’t do it to them. I hope with all my heart that you have not already done things to them that you cannot come back from.
What you’ve done to me, and my children, and everyone who has ever loved you, has been unconscionable. You may feel you’re too far gone, you can just continue on this path and let it go where it goes.
You can get a job, get some therapy, work your shit out, and stop lying to the people who love you. You can start over. Where there is life, there is hope. Start meeting your responsibilities to the family you abused and abandoned, and take this opportunity to truly be a better man for the family you have now. I don’t believe you can, but I hope you will. I hope this all ends here, and the pain you inflict on the people who love you stops now.
There it is again. Hope.
Despite all, I still believe in redemption. It’s not an easy road, but it’s the only one that has any hope of ending well for you and for the people you now claim to love, as you once claimed to love me.
But if you want to go the other way, if you want to continue to call me a liar and sue me for speaking the truth, then I’ve got the sheet music right here, darling.
And I’m ready to dance.
What I have to support my story, which I will share in court:
1: Supporting Evidence: Emails containing audio files from Alastair in which he tells stories of his “friends.”
2: Supporting Evidence: The original email communication from his ex, in which it is clear that I was taken by surprise by the whole thing, and he clearly lied to me.
3: Supporting Evidence: Emails from the ex; witness testimony from my two daughters.
4: Supporting Evidence: Witness testimony from friends and daughters.
5: Supporting Evidence: Police report. Witness testimony from people who I told about the event very soon after it happened. My story details have not wavered; only my ability to face them and deal with them, which I finally was able to do in December of 2017, when I filed the police report. Email from Ex saying she wasn’t surprised, he had behaved similarly with her. Witness testimony from live chat in which she discussed those experiences; live chat transcript.
6: Supporting Evidence: Multiple witnesses’ testimony.
7: Supporting Evidence: Email from sister; multiple witnesses’ testimony. Emails and audio files in which I call him “North.”
8: Supporting Evidence: Emails/texts between me and Alastair spanning July 2017 to September 2017; credit card statements.
9: Supporting Evidence: Email to girlfriend and friends detailing everything, and containing documentation including legal affidavit statement from the ex (with some details excluded here as they involve her daughter). Witness testimony regarding my asking people to stop calling him out on social media.
10: Supporting Evidence: Divorce decree. Credit card statements. Police report. Screenshots of girlfriend’s social media posts.
11: Supporting Evidence: Including but not limited to testimony from: 1) His ex; 2) Ex’s two daughters who lived with him and he raised; 3) His sister; 4) His brother; 5) Me; 6) My daughters; 7) His childhood best friend; 8) The woman he was having online sex with while he was wooing me and telling me I was his soulmate, his only one, forever and always, Aristophanes, baby. Out of everyone I found or who found me, not a single one would defend him or say anything nice about him.
12: Supporting Evidence: Due to the private nature of some of Alastair’s offenses against other people, I have not shared everything that he has been accused of here, only what I and my daughters experienced first-hand, what witnesses have reported to me, and details which have already been shared publicly. The rest of the story is theirs, but I do have emails and and affidavit from those people telling their stories, which I will supply to any judge who doesn’t dismiss this case out of hand, should Alastair ever pursue it.