I’ve been wanting to write this for over two years but I’ve never had the courage or support system behind me to do it. I never felt like I would have the opportunity to share my story, I thought I was always going to have to live with my secrets as a burden, that I’d never be able to have an audience willing to listen to the truth. But everything has changed now, in the most unfortunate and heartbreaking of ways.
I’ve been putting this post off for the past couple days because I don’t want this to be about condemning someone for their actions. I’m not doing it out of hate or shame or regret or pain or anger. I wanted to think about it and talk about it before posting anything.
It’s very important to note and to stress that this is still an ONGOING conversation with the people involved. This is not a story of legality or confusion or throwing someone under the bus. It’s about realizing a problem and trying to fix it.
I believe in hope and forgiveness and change, and even though this is still a story of manipulation and abuse, I am also fighting for EVERYONE involved. Abusers are still humans. Victims can make mistakes. And trust me, I made a lot, a LOT of mistakes.
I want change, I want positive change, I want positive growth in our community, and most of all I don’t want this to happen ever EVER again.
I was given this advice yesterday, which gave me the final push to do this:
"You should tell your story. Because it’s your chance to take control of the situation, and you haven’t ever been in control of it before and I can see how if you don’t tell it yourself, your way, you still won’t be in control of it. Even if he tells the truth.
By not telling it you’re letting him have control and I think that’s damaging to you.
Because you care enough that you won’t let it go. So you have to grab it and go with it.”
So here’s my story (most of it, anyways).
I was in a damaging and manipulative relationship with my previous boss and best friend, Corey Vidal. We were in an extremely complicated relationship during almost my entire time at ApprenticeA, January 2011 to January 2012. We never really labelled it, we were never ‘dating’, but we were involved emotionally and physically. It was kept a secret from everyone, from everyone online, from viewers, from friends, from family, from the company. Before this I had very little experience with boys and relationships and I wasn’t sure how to act or react when a boy showed interest. So I pretended that I was ok. I clung on to every word he said and every move he made because I trusted him with everything I had. I figured he knew what he was doing. I figured it would work itself out with time. I was very immature and easily swayed.
We became very close VERY fast. We met in the morning on a late January day, I came back in the evening of that day to start my first day of work. When he drove me home that night he said “it’s too bad you’re an employee now. Now we can never make out.” I laughed.
We talked AT LENGTH about what to do with our feelings when we figured out we both had feelings about a month later. I was extremely confused and naive and silly. We decided to try a friends with benefits situation and to keep it a secret. Corey wanted to keep it a secret mainly because of Jimmy, I agreed to keep it a secret for the sake of the company and because it was the only way I could be with him. I know that right from the start I never wanted it to be secret. I was very uncomfortable with it. It was not fun to hide. It was not fun to pretend. It was not fun to lie.
I’m not going to tell extensive details about what went on behind closed doors because it’s not necessary. The relationship was extremely manipulative on his part, extremely unhealthy for the both of us, and I carry around the anxiety I developed over that year to this day. It ruined my relationship with others in the company and the community and it also held back the company in a lot of ways.
Hank Green said these things in his recent video on abuse:
"sexual abuse is when one party is being coerced into doing something sexual that they do not want to do"
"if one person does not want to be doing what they are doing…then that is abuse"
Very often, I had to be convinced to interact with him intimately. Every time we were alone and he would approach me, I would have to give myself a pep talk in my head saying that it was ok and that I should want it. I convinced myself that my discomfort level was so high because I was so inexperienced, that I was self conscious and that I just needed to get more in the groove and get used to it. I realize now, I was being abused. I was being coerced and convinced into doing things that I was uncomfortable doing. I was being manipulated into thinking it was normal and ok.
During that year I found myself in a different relationship with another YouTuber, Jory Caron. We started talking over Skype and after a normal progression of feelings, we decided to try dating long distance. He was amazing. He was kind and fun and wonderful. We were publicly ‘together’ for only two months, in which I remained completely faithful to him. We went to VidCon that year together. He would hold my hand and show me off and it would have been an incredibly positive experience if I wasn’t feeling guilty the entire time. I felt like Corey was upset that I had left him for Jory and I was upset that Corey was upset. I didn’t allow PDA with Jory because it made me uncomfortable. I was physically ill every morning of that trip from anxiety. I had a panic attack at Disneyland.
I broke up with him out of guilt. It was unfair of me to not be able to explain where the anxiety was coming from, and I didn’t want to explain it. He’s never known the truth to this day. Maybe now he will, maybe now he can forgive me.
After I broke up with him, Corey and I immediately fell back into being physically intimate. A very important conversation happened between us when we were deciding what to do. I will never ever forget that conversation because everything could have ended right then and there. I was prepared to end things, I knew I wasn’t going to be happy keeping everything secret for much longer. We were discussing what we were going to do and I said “in my head, it feels like we’re in a relationship and that we’re dating. And I need you to know that because that’s how I feel and how I want it to feel.”
And if he had said no, or that it wasn’t anything like that, I had the confidence in that moment to end it.
But he said “I think this time I’m ok with that. And I’m more open to the idea. And maybe one day soon we can start talking to Jimmy and everyone else about it.”
And I got SO INCREDIBLY HAPPY. It was not a yes, it was not what I wanted, it was not what I was comfortable with, but it was a glimmer of hope that maybe someday I would be in the relationship I wanted to be in. He could not commit.
When Corey went to South America later on in the year, things really took a turn for the worse. I was lost without him. I didn’t know how to act without him there, I didn’t know how to work, I didn’t know how to interact with anyone without him beside me, influencing me. And people definitely noticed. I would have panic attacks every day, I would burst into tears for no reason, people would ask me what was wrong and I would find myself at a loss for words. The only thing important to me was protecting the secret. The only thing important to me was Corey.
There was one night where I needed to go to the ApprenticeA house to drop off a key and expected to only see Jimmy. I walked into a full house with friends from in and out of town all hanging out and having a good time. I was not invited. I awkwardly left and went home. In that moment I knew everything was wrong, but I didn’t know how to get out.
People would ask me all the time what was wrong, how they could help. I would lie. Say I wasn’t feeling well, that things at home were bad, that I wasn’t sleeping well. Anything but the truth. It was wrong and I hated it, but it felt like my only option.
Then a new girl started at the company. Corey would flirt with her. They would go into rooms and close the door. They would go out privately. I was extremely jealous and hurt. I told him I loved him. He told me nothing was going to change. He held me as I cried and told me everything was fine. It was fine. Nothing was going to change.
He got an idea. He wanted to get a hotel room. Just him and I for a night. Do things we’d never done before. Do things I hadn’t agreed to before, but had been asked so many times that I was worn down. Do things that he would enjoy. I agreed.
Before we had time to book the hotel, he took her on a date. A real date. Everyone knew. Everyone except me. I laid in the basement and couldn’t move. I was done. Brian found me. Drove me home. Sat in the car with me in silence for I don’t know how long. I told him everything. I felt the weight literally lift off my shoulders. I was free.
He still to this day does not believe that he abused me. He thinks it was consensual. He thinks that because I was not 16 at the time that I was an adult and that he was not at fault because I acted like I was ok most of the time. He doesn’t realize how much power he had over me, why I stayed quiet for so long, why I was so unhappy.
No, I was not underage. Yes, I lied a lot. That does not make it ok.
My advice to young girls or anyone who finds themselves in any abusive situation:
- you should never, EVER feel uncomfortable in a sexual situation. If you do, something is wrong and you are 100% allowed to say no and stop it at any point.
- never EVER agree to be in a secret relationship. What are you trying to hide? Be proud, show it off, have fun, be REAL
- no matter how long it takes, fight for what you believe is right. People are going to try and bring you down, friends will turn on you, things will seem impossible, but don’t give up.
I’m so glad to be a part of this community and I hope I can continue to be a part of it. To the other girls speaking out: thank you.
Sidenote: I had previously agreed to let Corey read this post before I put it up. We wanted open communication and I wanted to make sure that he was fully aware and engaged in the conversation so that he could be an instrument in fighting for change and be an example of someone trying to grow and learn from all this. He says that he has changed dramatically over the past few months, that he is totally different, that he has an entirely new outlook. I really want to believe him.
Over the past few hours, our discussion turned sour when he started bringing up what this would do to his company, to his contracts, to the other people he worked with. He tried to blame a lot of his actions on Jimmy. He reinforced that he has proof (old DMs) of me agreeing to every part of our relationship and that I had nothing to prove he was an abuser. He turned a good friend against me. He had another mutual contact talk bad about me so that he could screencap it and send it to me. He said that he was going out for St. Patrick’s day and was running low on battery so might not have time to read this before tonight when I wanted to post it. I’m done with this. I’m done with him controlling what I do and when I do it. I’m on my own now. And I’m terrified.
This must have been so hard to write… you are very brave for posting. Hugs! xo