My experience with sexual assault (TW: rape)
I have thought about writing this more times than I can count, and you would think after six years I would have it figured out. But I really don’t. There’s no easy or right way to tell this story. Or any story involving manipulation and rape. I sincerely hoped that I would never have to tell it, in large part due to the fear of being called a liar, shunned and hated, but also because I’d hoped I could find closure without saying a word. I’ve realised that isn’t the case since I’ve heard so many stories of other women targeted by the same person. Every single one of them comes with a fresh wave of guilt - if I had spoken out sooner, could I have stopped it? The answer is no, because a victim is never responsible for their assaulter’s actions. But I still haven’t been able to make my peace with what happened to me, so maybe this is simply just my last shot at closure.
I don’t write this to incite a hate mob, or instigate any ‘cancelling’. I just know that I’ve been waiting for years for someone - anyone - to speak up about my rapist so that I could feel some sense of safety in telling my story. I know that I’m not alone in my experience, but I’ve realised that maybe it’s me who needs to be the first to speak up. The first to say “Hey, I’ve been through this too. I’ve suffered in silence, with the same fear and anger that you have. Andrien Gbinigie assaulted me too.”
I first met Andie when I was around 18, and I was very fresh to the gaming industry. He was one of the first ‘industry people’ I became close to, and our friendship turned flirtatious very quickly. At the time I was very immature in the sense that I hadn’t had any real relationships, I hadn’t had sex, and I wasn’t used to attention. I told myself I was flattered by his advances, though in hindsight I realise that I mostly felt very pressured to keep my new friend with many industry connections happy. He dangled a lot of opportunities and connections over my head, and when I didn’t respond to his sexual comments with the appropriate enthusiasm, he would become cold and frustrated with me. He would become short, uninterested, and bordering on aggressive until I backpedalled because I felt I'd done something horribly wrong. It was intimidating and left me mentally scrambling, and so I humoured him and flirted back to keep the peace.
This carried on for a few months, until the idea of meeting in person was brought up. At this point I was so far deep in it all that I didn’t know how to tell him that I didn’t want that, and continued to humour him. This was something that took me years to come to terms with - I often felt it was my fault for how he behaved because I never spoke up, but in reality he made me feel like I had no choice. I was scared of losing a friend, but also of angering someone so well connected in the industry when I had barely got even a toe in the door. He definitely knew that, and used it. It wasn’t until one day, when he sent me a link to one of the few hotels in my hometown suggesting that that was where he could stay, that I gently started to confess that I wasn’t fully on board.
Shortly after this, he got a job at Ubisoft. When he told me he’d be moving away, I cried. Partially because I’d miss my so-called friend, but also partially because I was relieved he wouldn’t push me to meet up anymore. He didn’t seem to care about any of that at all. That should have been a huge red flag. He moved from England to Canada, and blocked me on everything. I suppose as someone he could no longer physically see and potentially fuck, he no longer had need for me. I blamed myself for that for months, too. During that time I removed and deleted anything that had happened between us - something I now regret immensely, but I did what I had to to move on and protect myself.
Fast forward approximately a year and a half. Andie appeared on my radar again, and reached out apologising for his behaviour the year before. He seemed very sincere and genuinely sorry (they always do), so we agreed on a clean slate - which I consider to be my first legitimate mistake. I missed my friend but was also glad that there was no bad blood between myself and someone who not only was supposedly beloved in the industry, but also now worked at the company I one day hoped to work for. I wish I hadn’t let him back in.
The new friendship was fairly minimal and inoffensive for a while - it seemed to me that he had turned a new leaf. However, when he learned that we would both be at PAX East 2014, things took a turn for the worse again. He began making suggestive comments - less abrupt than before, admittedly - and I, once again, found myself trapped by a familiar fear. I still couldn't find the strength to completely shut down his advances. I tried my best to find a neutral ground that would send the right message without angering him again. Of course, that didn’t work - his advances became more frequent, until one day he suggested that I stay a night with him during PAX. This I straight up refused, and he seemed to get the hint. I breathed a sigh of relief and let my guard down - my second mistake.
At the convention, hanging out together started out with very light but unnecessary touches while we walked the show floor. My arm, my waist - you know how it goes. I tried to put it out of my mind; I told myself I was overreacting. Then, while at a booth with some friends, he blatantly grabbed my ass. I froze up and let out a tiny awkward laugh - anything to make sure he didn’t get cold with me again. One of my friends witnessed it, but said nothing. I assume in a misguided attempt to prevent a difficult scene for me. I honestly wish they’d said something.
On the evening of my first PAX industry party, I was due to meet Andie and some of his industry friends and head to the party together. He asked me to meet them in his hotel lobby, which I foolishly believed was a smart thing to agree to because it was a fairly public meeting point. I didn’t want to miss out on the party or a chance to meet new people - after all, that’s why I was at the con in the first place. And at the end of the day, he was my friend. Maybe it was my fault because I hadn’t told him to stop, or hadn’t brushed his hands away from me - surely if he went too far, I would speak up and he would stop. What was the worst that could happen? Third mistake.
When I got to the hotel, Andie was waiting for me. He told me I looked lovely in my dress, and said that his friends were waiting upstairs in their room for us. I told myself the feeling of panic I got was stupid, this wasn’t a big deal. I followed him to a room, and when he opened the door I noticed there was no one else there.
I’m still not ready to relive the intimate details publicly, but that’s when he forced himself on me. It wasn’t the longest experience as, as he said at the time, his friends were expecting us - but it was enough for him to get out of me what he’d clearly wanted from the start, and to put me in my place. It’s taken a long time and a lot of therapy to stop listening to words that are burned into my brain - “you should be grateful” - to forgive myself for the fact that at a certain point I stopped fighting him, and to try to be okay as I can be with the fact that my first experience with sex at all was rape. It wasn’t the longest experience, but it was enough to still fuck me up to this day.
He rushed me upstairs to meet his friends so they didn’t get suspicious about anything. I had to act normal, he said. So I did my best to, because for some reason I was still scared about him turning cold with me. He had messed with my head so much that, despite what he had just done to me, my biggest concern was still not making him angry.
Because the experience was so short, he never finished. He promised we’d pick it up later. When I got to the party, I separated from him as fast as I could to find my friends. I told them the smoke machine in the venue was flaring up my asthma and asked if we could leave. Fortunately, we did. I didn’t tell them what really happened until months later.
After the con, I attempted to speak to him once or twice because I was so far gone that I felt like this was something I had to fix. I felt like I had to make this right somehow, so he wouldn’t be angry with me again. He blocked me on everything not long after the event. I saw him across the show floor at PAX the following year, but my friends managed to steer us away before he saw me. I spent the rest of the con terrified of seeing him again.
In the months after he blocked me, I became aware of rumours that I had slept with him to try get a job or a free trip to E3. People who were close to him seemed to hate me for no reason, and I have no doubt in my mind that he poisoned people against me to protect himself. I also heard rumours of a similar nature about other women he knew, and wondered if they'd been through the same as I had.
That’s as much of my story as I’m willing to share right now. I’m already terrified about this. Even as I type this out, I’m not sure if I’ll have the strength to share it. The incredible thing about being manipulated is that, even six years later, I still somehow blame myself. I should have been more forward, I should have stood up for myself, I should have done literally anything differently. Maybe I WAS asking for it. But it isn’t my fault. And to my fellow survivors (of Andie, or otherwise) - please hear me when I say that it isn’t your fault either. I am so sorry that we have had to bear this in silence and in shame. We didn’t deserve it, and we didn’t ask for it. My DMs are always open if you don’t feel comfortable speaking publicly. I’m here for you.
To friends of Andie - I am genuinely sorry that you have to read this about someone you care about and trust. I hope that, if he hasn’t already, he sees the error of his ways and is better for you.
To reiterate: I don’t want to incite a mob - I want to put this behind me for good. I want to make sure no one else has to suffer. I understand he has done a lot of good for other people and I do not intend for this to take away from any positive work he has done for others, but that doesn't absolve him of what he did to me or anyone else. I only hope that this brings his other victims - the ones I know and the ones I don’t - some peace, and some solid footing in knowing that you’re not to blame and you’re not alone. I hope we all get to heal.