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A while ago, I was at a popular, busy local nightclub (this is in the Unites States) and ran into a friend of a friend. Let's call her Anne. After a bit of conversation with Anne, and mutual name-dropping of our overlapping social networks, a bouncer approached me and said that he was asked to escort me off the premises. I had no idea why, and the bouncer said he did not know either, only that I had to leave immediately. I know enough not to argue when the door staff have made up their mind, so I agreed to leave without complaint.

I assumed it was because maybe I looked a little intoxicated-- I wasn't really, I had 2.5 drinks over 2 hours-- and thought nothing more of it.

A week later, a different friend contacted me and informed me that, after I had been escorted out, the staff had told Anna that I had been 86'd (banned) from the club because I am a "known sex offender." Anne, by the way, volunteers as a rape counselor and is a strong and feminist advocate for social justice. Over the following week she defriended me on social networks and starting contacting our mutual friends to inform them of this "fact" out of concern. Because I am defriended I cannot see what she is saying about me nor can I respond. I only heard about this from a friend of a friend of a friend.

This is a clear case of mistaken identity. I hadn't been in that club in more than five years, so there was no way I was a person that would have been known to them. I have done a search of the local sex offenders registry and I am not in it. I have never been arrested, let alone indicted of a crime.

I am obviously devastated by this and very depressed. I am not sure what to do about it. My friend suggested I go back to the club and confront the manager, but my feeling is that in a situation like that the manager has to side with their employees.

I considered reaching out directly to Anne, but my gut tells me, given the situation, that she would interpret this as a form of intimidation and it would simply make things worse.

How can I quash the rumors and cleanse my reputation in my social circle?

Note: I am a longtime user with 1000+ reputation but I created this account to ask this specific question due to embarrassment.

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    Hello network visitors! Please note that IPS is fairly strict about using comments as intended. Comments are only for clarifying and improving the question. Partial answers or general thoughts about the situation may be deleted without notice. If you'd like to write an answer, make sure to check out our posts on How do I write a good answer? and citation expectations first. Thanks! – Rainbacon Oct 29 '19 at 12:32
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    Just to be clear, are u fine with breaking ties with Anne? If so have u considered pressing charges against her? – QEDemonstrandum Oct 29 '19 at 13:36
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    Hoping to help shine a legal light on this situation for you: law.stackexchange.com/questions/45952/… – MonkeyZeus Oct 29 '19 at 15:21
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    Do you have any more information about what "known sex offender" refers to more specifically in this case? You (and some of the answers) seem to assume that it refers to a sexual offense that has been reported to the police. But it may also be an unreported sexual offense that a friend of the bouncer/owner told them about in private. A sex offenders register or your criminal record may not help to clear you from such accusations. You need to know more about the nature of the accusations. – jkej Oct 29 '19 at 17:19
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    Please refrain from giving legal advice here. MonkeyZeus asked about this on Law.SE, linked above if you (or the OP) want to discuss potential legal actions. This site is for interpersonal skills, please keep your answers (and comments) on topic. – Em C Oct 29 '19 at 21:21
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It could be of course of great help if you could get the bouncer to acknowledge the mistake, or at the very least to disclose where the information come from, but I wouldn't count too much on it.

Thankfully, even in absence of this, your social circle can search the local sex offenders registry and note that you are absent of it. As advised for example on wikihow, the best course of action is not to stay silent. Even if it may be embarrassing, spread the news loudly around your social network that a nasty rumor is around (without specifying where it comes from), but that they can check it's only a rumor.

Once this is done I'd suggest you contact a friend you have in common, explain to that friend the situation, and if you manage to convince this friend the rumors are based on false premises, you both contact Anne so she stops spreading rumors about you.

This would help mitigate the damage, although it's possible that some people will turn away from you.

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    Hi Arthur, thanks for adding in a source earlier! I didn't see anything on the wiki page about talking to a mutual friend specifically - maybe I missed it, or is this something you've had success with? (When you say "once this is done" is the "this" referring to just posting general statements on social media, not talking to individual people?) It'd be helpful to add details on how to talk to that friend too, especially considering Anne may have talked to them first. – Em C Oct 29 '19 at 20:17
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    Noting your absence on the sex offenders registry isn't that useful. If a sexual assault occurs at a club (Say, a roofie or someone getting grabby with someone unwilling) and the victim doesn't want to deal with the police, it's likely to end with the club ejecting the person and telling them never to come back, which doesn't leave a written record anywhere. – user3757614 Oct 30 '19 at 3:46
  • Why should you be concerned that some people will turn away from you? If they are liars, gossipers or parrots, wouldn't it be great that they avoid you? – user21820 Oct 30 '19 at 12:57
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    @user21820 unfortunately if the gossip is allowed to continue it will only continue to damage OPs reputation. As I take it, the goal isn't necessarily to get on good group with the gossiper but rather to prove to them and those they may talk to that the allegations are untrue. – Reimus Klinsman Nov 1 '19 at 0:07
  • @KeiNagase: You are supporting my point. Read the last sentence of the answer; I am saying that I don't see why we should care that doing what is prescribed would cause some to turn away from you. – user21820 Nov 1 '19 at 9:19
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I've been in a similar situation and by my experience the #1 thing you need right now are a few allies. You won't be able to resolve this all by yourself. I had a good friend on the scene who is also a great IPS person and he came with me and we managed to resolve the situation before the event was over.

After the fact, things are more tough. The situation is essentially the same, but the story has already spread, people had time to set their mind and people like Anne, who have told the story several times, have convinced themselves that it must be true (repetition is a known effector in psychology). Due to this, Anne may not believe you, even in face of evidence. But you must reach out to her. Contact her through a mutual friend whom you know for sure believes you - your ally. Ask for a meeting or a call or some other way to explain.

Do the same with the bouncer, or the owner of the club.

Only if you've given everyone a chance to correct their mistakes should you consider more drastic (i.e. legal) steps to shut them up. But that horse is already out of the barn, so all you'd do is damage control.

The most important thing is to clear your name. Absolutely everyone who has heard this rumour must hear the correction. That is going to keep you busy for a while, unfortunately. Again, allies can help a lot. The best way would be to have a counter-story. Be open - make a story about how you were mixed up with a sex offender. Make it a comedy, exaggerate a bit - make it an interesting story that people will tell, and if someone comes across the rumour, they will go "ah yeah, I heard that story about how he was falsely accused".

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    Hi Tom, can you clarify which suggestions are based on the experience you related? Right now it sounds like your experience was with a situation that was resolved in short order, so it's not clear to me what your backup is for the "after the fact" suggestions. Could you edit to explain or add that? – Em C Oct 29 '19 at 13:57
  • Yes, my situation was resolved the next day. It took me one more day to clear things up. My backup is that the steps are essentially the same, it is just much more difficult because the story has already spread. – Tom Oct 29 '19 at 20:53
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    One strategic hint: I'd start with talking to the club manager. If you can convince the club owner that makes it easier to convince others - in particular, you can point out that you clarified the misunderstanding with the club and they can verify there. – Frank Hopkins Nov 1 '19 at 0:05
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The answer here lies in building your own narrative. Right now, the prevailing narrative is that Anne met up with you at a bar and you were kicked to the curb for being a sex offender. Anne, shocked at learning this, is then spreading the news out of concern for other unaware people who know you.

Not only is the information Anne's spreading blatantly false, but this narrative does you no favors. So counter the rumors with truth.

Talk to your closer mutual friends and tell them what happened. Confide in them that you're scared of what Anne is saying because it's false. Show them proof if you can. Tell them your story and win them to your side.

In fact, I may even post a big update on social media with basically everything you've put in this question: the actual situation, what you heard when your friend contacted you about being 86'd, and your fears about what Anne is saying. Heck, you've built such a great narrative here that many users (in now deleted answers/comments) are expressing open dislike for Anne.

At that point, like this Forbes article mentions, it becomes "network versus network." Your closer friends, or those you've won over, will spread your side of the story and work to clear your name for you.

And that's really all you can do. Even if you do take legal action like others here suggest, at the end of the day you're building a narrative for yourself and making it known by your friends. No matter what you do not everyone will hear you. But this way, at least those important to you will know the truth.


I'd like to add that as this is a more passive route than "Sue her!" you may not win all of your friends back. But again the Forbes article makes a great point: if people don't know you well enough that they get swept away by Anne's story and don't listen to you, then are you really trying to win back friends? Or are you "chasing a negative first impression?"

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