By Lela Nesheim, Staff Writer
Musician Timothy Heller wrote “I have kept this secret for years, convincing myself that it wasn’t a big deal and I wasn’t hurt by it. The thought of accepting that my best friend had raped me seems insane,” on Twitter last Monday. She went on to describe in painful detail her struggles with mental illness, her codependent and manipulative relationship with ex-best friend Melanie Martinez and how Martinez had sexually assaulted her one night at a sleepover.
Heller’s Tweet went viral, garnering over 180,000 likes and 99,000 retweets. Less than 24 hours later, Martinez issued a (relatively short) statement over Twitter addressing the allegation: “I am horrified and saddened by the statement and stories told tonight by Timothy Heller.” Martinez went on to explain in a few sentences how she and Heller were friends who really cared for each other. Martinez ends the statement, “She never said no to what she chose to do together. And although we parted ways, I am sending her love and light always.”
Martinez’s evident admission to Heller’s claims sent social media into an uproar. Twitter users, including several of Martinez’s fan accounts, voiced their solidarity with Heller using the hashtag “#MelanieMartinezIsOverParty.” Martinez’s Wikipedia page even described her as an “American singer, songwriter and rapist” before it was re-edited. A friend of Heller’s, Joshua Goodson, also tweeted a long and touching statement in support of Heller in which he described how he witnessed her struggle from the beginning.
Heller was surprised by the positive response to her tweet, telling “Newsweek,” “Her fans see her as this angel who understands them. So I assumed no one was going to take me seriously if I explained what she did. I’ve been reading all the #metoo stories, and though I’m obviously in support of the people coming forward, I wasn’t sure if my story of being assaulted fit.”
Prepared for pushback, Heller wrote in her original tweet, “I’m terrified of the response I’m going to get. The only reason I do this now is because I’m hoping because of recent events, people will believe me. If you begin to doubt the abuse taking place in this story, I beg you to imagine her role in this being a man. Girls can rape girls. Best friends can rape best friends. Friendship does not equal consent. Silence doesn’t equal consent. I wish it wasn’t so hard for me to convince myself of these things.”
“People don’t really talk about this,” Heller told “Newsweek,” “but I know now that assault happens this way all the time. I loved her even after it happened, and I had this sick need to protect her, which I’ve learned is very common for victims of assault, especially those hurt by their family or friends.”
Heller’s story is an important reminder that non-traditional rape narratives deserve just as much attention and respect as more traditional rape narratives. In her article for the magazine “Everyday Feminism” titled “5 Reasons Why Non-Traditional Rape Narratives Are Important,” Sian Ferguson writes, “Up until a few years ago … I thought that rape only included vaginal penetration with a penis. I thought it was always physically violent. I thought that if the victim or survivor didn’t say ‘no,’ it wasn’t really rape. In short, I had a lot of harmful misconceptions about rape. Society has a tendency to represent only certain narratives around sexual assault. This misrepresentation only adds to the harmful misconceptions we often buy into.”
Though Heller’s account is non-traditional, involving two female best friends and no physical violence besides violation as well as conflicting accounts of consent, it is still valid, serious and important.
This article first appeared in the Friday, December 8, 2017, Edition of The Echo.