My Truth Of Ashraf Ismail
I’ve debated whether or not it would be best to share my story, it is deeply personal to me and to understand the depth of it reveals a lot of who I am.
That being said, after knowing the other women have been receiving death threats, have been called clout-chasers, gold-diggers, and all other sorts of vile names I cannot stay silent. This is for them, this is to help reveal another piece of the puzzle of the truth of how this person operated.
Let me preface this and say I do not hate Ashraf Ismail, I love him as a person, in spite of all the terrible things he did. I hope, desperately hope he wants his freedom* from this behavior enough to truly get help*. I hope his family can somehow stay in tact. I am also deeply sorry if any of this causes hurt for them, just know I truly fought for you all, many, many times. He knows I did.
My situation is unique - he and I did not have a sexual relationship- despite that being his hidden goal- our interaction, I believed was based on friendship.
It started on Twitter when he reached out to me over a comment I made in support of him, saying how much it meant to him with the hard week he had. As the conversation continued and he offered to be friends, I literally asked my husband’s permission if it was okay. I love my husband, dearly, and we were both huge fans of the game and Ashraf himself. I knew Ash was married, I knew about his family, I had every indication our friendship was permissible and innocent. We even talked about hanging out as couples in Canada- going hiking and kayaking. At first it was just so cool, my husband and I being friends with one of our heroes.
For the majority of the time it was about sharing art / life (I’m an artist, and have a literary / graphic design background.) We talked a lot* about the games and more recently about Valhalla. Over time he began to share more deeply personal things- as someone who went to school for counseling - I did my best to really help guide him through whatever it was he was dealing with. Many times offering some marriage advice, or asking my husband for what we could say to him.
The thing that hurts me almost the most, was when he opened up about his baby son passing away. We discussed it at length and I cried for him, for the pain he felt, for how his wife felt over it, he expressed how he couldn’t really talk to anyone about it because it caused his wife too much pain, and he just really needed someone to understand. Little did I know that was the main mode and event he used to repeatedly control and manipulate women, including myself.
Because he so often over-shared deeply personal events, and because over time we were like brother and sister- he would call us twins- we really did have much in common, sometimes scarily so- at least I thought we did. He began to offer to be there for me, he knew I had suffered so much abuse in my life, and he repeatedly told me he wanted to be a safe haven for me, a friend I could count on- he was his truest self with me, I could trust him to always be there for me, how he would never take the place of my husband but would be another protector for me in this world. I wasn’t alone and he wanted to lift the burden off of me.
For someone who has lived a life of abuse since they were 3 years old- full of abuse of every kind- from family, friends, people in positions of power, people who planned and manipulated me much in the same way Ash did- for months, etc- to hear someone wants to protect you means everything. It feels like oxygen. You desperately want to believe in the goodness of other people, and Ash was my hero in so many ways, and because of his powerful position, it made his offer of protection that much more significant and meaningful to me. There were times I cried over how good it felt to feel safer than ever before. I had my husband, and now a big brother. I do not have a relationship with my Father due to abuse, so to have a mentor figure there for me, to help build me up as a person, was truly nourishing to my soul.
Little did I know, from the BEGINNING, it was his plan to infiltrate my life, learn about me, find his niche, figure out what mattered most to me in this world to get closer and closer to me. Biding his time, looking for any loophole to eventually try to steal me away from my husband. I was a challenge to him, I was the quintessential “good girl” - I never had sexual relations with my husband until I was married, did not even live with him. Ash knew how conservative I was. Even when he wanted to show me his back tattoo of his tiger, I turned him down because sending that felt inappropriate to me. I was always open with my husband about all our communications and 95% of it was purely innocent.
Ash painted himself as the most innocent, caring, good hearted man, devoted husband and father, and revered as one of the best in the gaming industry. Because he was so widely praised I had no reason to doubt him.
Eventually cracks began to show, things gave me concern about his behavior- he would ask for things from me which gave me pause, things I turned down, and any time I questioned him he would say, “I told you about my dead son, how could you even doubt me, that hurts me so much, etc etc” and then I would feel paralyzed because if I questioned it further it would be as if I was taking away the significance of his dead child, which as a woman, felt like sacrilege. So I would let thing after thing sort of slide.
There were times we wouldn’t talk for a week, I felt we were getting too close even as friends, talking too often, and even though he was like my hero and I felt special being friends with him, as a wife myself and knowing he was married -I pushed him away.
He would end up coming back though and saying he missed our friendship and he promised me it would be and is only platonic, and he “knew that from my past experience with men I needed his assurance and I had it. He would never dishonor me, I was a special person in his life, and I never had to be afraid of him or doubt him, and he was only ever completely transparent and honest with me.” Promise after promise, time and time and time again how safe I was and how I had nothing to fear. That we were too similar to stop being friends, and he needed me in his life.
He would talk about meeting up when he came to Chicago for business, and going for coffee as friends and to see museums etc. He would call me “lioness” because I was a survivor of abuse, and he was my brother “Tiger”. Terms I came to learn later he used with many of the other women. He referred to his future as a “foggy forest” whenever I would try to get him to see reason over a lot of issues, or when I tried to help him work out problems he had. Again, another thing he told all the women for various reasons.
Then eventually out of the blue he admitted he had accidentally deeply fallen in love with me. Because we were twins, “soulmates” and he then opened up a rather unsympathetic description of his marriage and wife. He tried to highlight how it was innocent feelings and completely natural he fell for me considering how deep our friendship and connection was. I had no idea how to handle any of that. I cared about him deeply, but panicked in many ways because I blamed myself. I thought I had caused that in him, I probably praised him too much, spent too much time with him. He assured me he had never cheated, never even had feelings for anyone else while he had been in relationships before. He had only ever told 3 women in his life he loved them, which I came to find out was a bull faced lie. (He even STILL told me that when this all came out, told me he confessed to his wife I was the only woman in all this he said he loved. So he was STILL LYING. And as if that even made it okay??)
I ended up telling my husband, which Ash knew, I went to my friends for advice etc. I felt pressure within myself to walk away completely but I also felt like I could or should try to convince him it was infatuation, that he needed to work things out with his wife, and that he just wasn’t thinking clearly. I felt that because of the pain of losing his son, and the pain his wife was in, it was just a tense moment in their marriage. I knew I wouldn’t ever cheat, so I convinced myself he would be safer talking to me in the moment while I convinced him to fix things - and I would have my husband’s involvement as well. That way he wouldn’t seek out another woman for an affair and lose his marriage. I believed he really did love his wife.
For a time he agreed, “saw the light” and would be brother and sister with me again. That only lasted for so long and he came back saying he couldn’t see me that way, didn’t feel about me that way, etc. And couldn’t get rid of his love for me, though he was trying. So in the end I knew I needed to push him away.
Ironically that very next day is when everything with Dani broke on twitter, and I couldn’t believe what I saw. I had long questioned Ash about a deeper, darker side to him I didn’t think he was telling me, and again, on his son’s life he promised me he was fully honest with me.
I remember reaching out to him that day, him saying he had destroyed his family, career and lost everything. I remember truly feeling sorry for him, while also reeling from the fact he had been lying to me. Little did I know how MUCH he lied to me. About his dead son’s age, about his own age, about so many many many things.
This was a man I had cried with over deep issues, this was someone I considered like family, a friend for life, one of the most honest, innocent heroes of mine. To learn later that he was intentionally manipulating me to one day have sex with me, as if I was some great challenge- to get the good girl to turn from her morals and husband and go into the arms of her “protector” was something that devastated me to the core.
I hated I had trusted him so much, I hated I revealed my soul to him, who I was, what I had experienced things I hardly told anyone in my entire life- all because he wanted to “lift the burden off me, and I wasn’t alone in this world”. It was all a setup.
After things came out, he swore on the phone that though he initially created the friendship with me for sinister intent, somewhere along the line the friendship was genuine and he kept telling himself he wasn’t gonna “do that to me, couldn’t do that to me of all people, but yet he couldn’t help himself because he has a problem.” Who knows if that’s even true because that very same phone call he lied to me again.
He begged me not to talk to Dani, not to go public with my story. At first I had intended to try to stay silent to protect his family, and perhaps give them time to heal.
I thought well at least it was never actually sexual with me. However the more I’ve seen people defending him, the more I knew what he has ACTUALLY done to these women, saying he would move there with them, have children with them, all the promises, the lies, preying on women 20+ years younger - lying about his age, lying about being married- lying about the circumstances revolving around his son’s death (which really did happen) also claiming it was a child he had out of wedlock with an ex, and that’s why his ex and he broke up because she was so traumatized by it. Seeing how he preyed on his subordinates at work, preyed on women specifically who were abuse victims- giving all of them that “safe hero” feeling to get them to come closer and give him what he ultimately wanted. Going after fans who adored him, using his position, repeatedly breaking NDA, calling from work for hours, and meeting fans at events for liaisons, there is SO much. Many many more damning and serious things that for anonymity purposes I cannot share- stories that aren’t mine to* share.
All of this is to say I cannot abide any longer to see these women take the fall for him, to have them blamed for him stepping down. He made this about his job, through his job, and pursued fans- not just women on tinder or at a bar.
People changing their lives around to pursue a fictitious future with him. People revealing their deepest pains so he could hook them. Using his son’s death as a means to control them.
I can’t stay silent anymore. I’m not even remotely the one who got the worst of this. I shudder to think what would have happened if my friendship continued - how many more lies, and I honestly don’t know why he went after me, he knew I wouldn’t cheat so why bother, why keep up the charade? Why do that to ME. Someone who always fought for his marriage and family, someone who cherished him as my own* family.
Ash, if you ever read this....just know I didn’t sleep for 48 hours when I found out about this. I’ve learned almost everything you did to these women, I’ve rethought about everything you ever said to me. I will never know who the real you is. You hurt me, you hurt them* ...you know what more you even did to them, which I cannot even say. I don’t hate you, but you cannot be allowed to do this ever again, or to anyone. And as I told you on the phone, in my own way, I forgive you.
To your wife I say, I’m so absolutely sorry, I didn’t know any of this was going on, and he knows how hard I fought for the two of you, how my husband and I both did. I’m so sorry this is out in the public, I’ve tried to find a way to contact you, but I can’t reach you- so I just needed you to know this was current, this wasn’t all in the past, and I wasn’t even remotely the only current one, and as a wife myself, I wanted you to know as painful and horrible as it is to hear- what he said about your son and how he used that trauma- as a spouse- it’s unforgivable - and I hope you have all the facts before you try to work this out. You deserve everything, you deserve so much better than this. I’ve prayed for you, cried for your family. I even cried to Ash the day I found out saying I felt I failed him and you all as a friend that I didn’t try harder to get him to be honest or come clean before this all had to be in the open. I’m so, so sorry.
This was long, and hard to write, and I truly hope I am doing the right thing. This isn’t for me- this is for the women he hurt- he was willing to risk his job, his family, everyone’s lives for his own needs.
He has done this himself, and if Dani hadn’t have come forward it would have happened over and over and over again. Risking the health of his wife and every woman he was with. He was our hero, he has an amazing talent and no one, NOT ONE OF US, wanted this situation. I’m broken, we all are.
I hope good comes out of this, I hope he can repair his life, I hope his family can be restored somehow.
All that being said- the victim shaming and harassment has to stop. These women have been mentally traumatized. I* will be okay, I have a great support system and even though I’ve bawled my eyes out over being so targeted and manipulated by someone who was my friend - someone secretly waiting to try to ruin my life, I’ll be alright in the end. The other women have it so, SO much worse than me.
Take care of them*
And to the women and men who have defended us all- you have our deepest gratitude. I hope we can all move forward into something much, much better.