Walking the Gauntlet, Vol 2

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to speak with a lawyer regarding the “defamation” case against me. I have also distributed the digital archive of 100+ documents, police reports, screenshots, video, and other evidence I collected to multiple trusted third-parties, in the event that something happens to me.

If you were involved with the JIN WICKED VERITAS page and you provide me with any additional evidence and/or testimony that I do not already have linking Stephanie Cofell, Cory Strode, or Joe Rider to either the Facebook page or the WordPress blog, I will refrain from identifying you or taking any future action(s) against you. Proceeding to a trial may mean you are exposed regardless.

Click for larger image. My “Priority Mail” copy never arrived.

On Wednesday I saw an OB/GYN. Barring any disruptions due to COVID-19, I have a hysterectomy scheduled for January to address the chronic pain and other issues I have been experiencing. It is my hope that once I have recovered fully from that surgery, I will be able to pursue having my breasts removed.

I have lost 3-4lbs in the last two weeks. I find it difficult to even enjoy food at this time, and I am forcing myself to eat the minimum amount of calories I know I need to remain healthy. I am alive almost solely to prove motherfuckers wrong. For the remainder of this year, I will be taking a step back from my social media, except Patreon, to focus on completing the remaining illustrations for my upcoming art book. I am also working on a wearable-art project.

Thank you to my customers, readers, and Patreon subscribers, as always.


Walking the Gauntlet

On Monday I received a “demand letter” from a lawyer representing Stephanie Cofell, threatening a civil defamation lawsuit and potential criminal investigation if I do not remove this blog post, and remove mentions of her, Cory Strode, and Joe Rider from my social media. She is alleging that the messages I posted from her are “fake,” including a private message she sent me directly herself, and screenshots from her phone that included her name in the EXIF data.

I KNOW what is real. I KNOW what she sent me. I STILL have it.

Nothing says, “I am definitely not an unhinged narcissistic person,” like hiring a lawyer to threaten financial losses to a desperately poor individual that you have been attacking and trash-talking for years, during the darkest part of a worldwide pandemic and the worst civil unrest since the 1960s. These are clearly the actions of a sane, rational person, and not the crazed woman with a personal vendetta against me that I described in the posts that she is demanding I remove.

The blog post in question is based on my first-hand experiences, details and information that I felt were trustworthy from third parties, and both direct and circumstantial evidence that I accumulated myself. I would not have published what I did if I were not confident in the conclusions that I reached.

The idea that I would knowingly fabricate something just to “defame” someone when, overall, publishing that post has brought me more drama and grief than any kind of “reward,” is ridiculous. I spoke out because I am tired of people hurting me, then trying to gaslight me and label me as crazy afterward.

I profoundly regret not filing criminal trespass (?) charges when Cory Strode chose to let himself in my home and touch my intimate items. At the time I only wanted to be left alone, but that decision to “let it go” has done nothing but indirectly cause me additional trauma over and over again.

The truth is not defamation. I am perfectly happy to take a polygraph test. I am happy to submit all my documents for computer forensic analysis. Let’s subpoena the Facebook and Messenger records for her account. I spoke out because I have been regularly talking to a therapist, in part, because I need someone to help me with the confusion, distress, and trauma these people have caused me.

I have endured people assigning malice and motives to me that I never had.

I have endured “armchair psychologists” attempting to diagnose/treat me.

I endured an almost two-year-long “anonymous” defamation campaign, and yet somehow I am the one being threatened with a defamation lawsuit for publishing the evidence I have of those involved, and speaking out about it. Unreal.

Haven’t I suffered enough?! I have nothing.

I live barely at, or below, the poverty line. I have nothing to sue for.

For the past several weeks, if not months by now, I have been openly wrestling with bouts of borderline-suicidal depression. I am highly suspicious of what appears to be an attempt to kick me while I am already down.

I have also had enough of being bullied, intimidated, and threatened. I am currently seeking legal resources for people in poverty, as well as inquiring what I may be covered for under my existing insurance policies. If any lawyer reading this wishes to donate time to assist me in this matter, please contact me.

I would also appreciate any journalist leads that might cover this story.

I am willing to attach my name to my statements, unlike those, including Stephanie, who spent almost two years trying to defame me and destroy my professional reputation under a thin veneer of “anonymity.”

I am an autobiographer and my life — warts and all — is an open book. When someone makes a conscious decision to interact with me, they do so with the knowledge that I draw and write in extreme detail about my experiences.

I will stand up for myself, even if it means defending myself in court.

In “health” news, in reference to my previous post, the therapist I have been working with since early 2019 is on board with an autism-spectrum diagnosis for me. It is an idea I had brought up a few times in the past, and she told me she has had similar thoughts about me over time. (She reads much of my writing in addition to our talks.) I will be going into her office later this month for further evaluations. I have been having increasing trouble again with behaviours like compulsively, repeatedly locking, checking, and re-locking doors, etc.

Autism and ADHD Overlap

An autism diagnosis does not change my current course of treatment (ADHD medication and therapy), however it does release me from the self-imposed idea that “normal” (neurotypical) is an attainable goal for me. Another way of putting it might be: giving myself permission to own my awkwardness and weirdness. I can learn to interact with others and the world more effectively, but I will never “bootstraps” my way to a Not Autistic Anymore trophy. Which is what I have, unknowingly, been trying to do for most of my self-aware life.

It also gives me a better framework for understanding my meltdowns and shutdowns, and an effective vocabulary for expressing my needs to others. I am exhausted almost all of the time. Maintaining an “average” American life requires a tremendous amount of focus and effort from me, and I am frequently confused, over-stimulated, and overwhelmed. For good and for ill, I possess many childlike traits: I tend to take statements very literally, trust people’s word, and assume “adults” have my best interest at heart. We learn not to take candy from the stranger in a van, but I cannot recognize subtle social signs of danger.

ADHD and Autism Overlap

Though I understand, it is difficult to not feel a little failed by my parents and teachers while I was growing up. In the early 1980s there was simply less awareness — and to an extent there still is, in girls.

Parents: You cannot beat/berate/scream/punish these behaviours away.

Like I also mentioned in October, I have been in a great deal of physical pain recently. After multiple visits to the doctor, I was diagnosed with simple ovarian cyst(s) and a decent-sized uterine fibroid. The pain is low-to-high; some days it has felt like a knife being wriggled around in my abdomen. A few times it has been so severe I thought I had a burst appendix. I see a specialist soon.

Today I had a small benign cyst removed from my scalp. I have another scheduled in January. They cause a lot of pain and tenderness, and headaches localized to that area. I was impressed with the dermatologist; she was very fast and used a tiny incision. I had a slightly larger cyst removed years ago that left my bed pillow looking like a murder scene the next day, and a noticeable scar.

Lastly, I get my first mammogram in December. I have not noticed anything suspicious, but I do experience breast pain frequently. While I tested negative for BRCA1 and BRCA2, I am hoping that I may still be eligible for prophylactic double mastectomy. I have a strong family history of breast cancer, and my own mother developed and died of it before 60. I do not have any emotional attachment to my breasts as a display of “femininity,” and would be quite happy to be rid of them entirely before they try to kill me. I would be happy to be rid of them, generally. If I have to live in the Apocalypse, might as well look the part.


Writer Wrong

While I was in the process of writing my recent #MeToo story, I was tagged, along with 39 other women, in a Facebook post made by Dirk Manning. He is a writer and colleague with whom I have had a superficial-level, professional friendship (mainly via Facebook) for about three years now. I have drawn a few pieces of artwork featuring him, we met very briefly in person for the first time at San Diego Comic-Con 2019, and we live-streamed one karaoke song together at Grand Rapids Comic-Con last November. In this Facebook post, Dirk detailed what had learned about the unique struggles that women face in the comics industry, how he was working on himself to be a more proactive ally going forward, and urging men in general to “do better.”

I was the first person to respond to that post, hoping to have an ally in Dirk, due to my own feelings of being diminished and bullied out of the industry by my ex-boyfriend and his cohorts. Publicly, Dirk responded in a very supportive way to my comments. In private, however, he persistently blew off repeated attempts to talk to him about what I was going through, at both conventions named above, and in our limited private conversations on Facebook.

I saw Dirk for a matter of minutes at San Diego Comic-Con. I thought it might be fun to live-blog together; he wanted me to introduce him and Twiztid, if I remember correctly, on Facebook Live. I knew very little about the group, and the request made me feel like a prop, so I declined. He gave me a giant hug, and told me how great it was to finally meet me. We took a couple of selfies, he pushed a goodie bag filled with promotional items in my hands, and I tried to grab his attention for a few minutes to explain why I cared so much about being there. I was unsuccessful. He invited me to a concert before I left his booth, but I declined that as well, uninterested and a bit baffled.

At Grand Rapids Comic-Con, which was not especially busy, we tabled across the aisle from each other. Again he seemed perpetually distracted, and shut out the few efforts I made to speak to him seriously. He called me friend, told me he was proud of me, apologized for not being more available, and said the kind of things one would expect a friend to say. But his aura in person is that of a brick wall; “used car salesman” is the phrase I hear most often from others. Even at my most “Jin Wicked”est I like to think people can sense the humanity beneath; that it is only one facet of me, as a complex human being. Dirk feels like nothing. I cannot read this man. An empty suit of platitudes and hair gel. He has so thoroughly buried any authenticity, if he has it, that it may as well not exist. He did participate in karaoke with me, which I enjoyed, and after the convention I was curious to figure out what the his ‘deal’ was.

With his permission, I drew a picture of us inspired by the karaoke, which he encouraged me to share to his Facebook group to “get more much-deserved fans.” I eye-rolled a bit at that statement, but did not comment on it then.

Circling around to the now-infamous Facebook post from the beginning of this blog; unbeknownst to me, and apparently for many years now, Dirk has been dogged by allegations of various misdeeds. His post, in fact, may have been a preemptive effort to head several off as they gained steam. After I stopped paying attention to the comments on his post, having fallen off my Facebook radar, women began replying to hold him accountable for how he had treated several of them. The allegations were serious enough that, when it was clear he was going to simply ignore them and hope they go away, I copied one of their comments and shared it on my own Timeline. I also sent him a private message asking for an explanation, which he has never responded to, or as far as I know even looked at. I felt incredibly betrayed by someone, as said, I believed to be an ally. And who had repeatedly called me a friend.

The women who had been involved with him started organizing their effort to be heard, and eventually compiled a document with many of their stories. It was shared with me. While it is not my place to disclose what I have read, I can tell you that they were all remarkably similar, and not that different from my own experiences with my ex-boyfriend and others. I can also tell you that I spent several days quite sick, literally, because of it, and reliving some of my own traumatic experiences through them. I believe them.

Only one woman has come forward outside Facebook, that I know of.

Added 6/19/20: The story of another one of Dirk Manning’s targets/victims.

When Dirk simply failed to respond for several days, I unfriended him from all of my social media accounts out of disgust. He issued a very vague “apology” after things escalated, which failed to express real remorse, or acknowledge the scope of what he is accused of and his victim’s pain in any palpable way. He returned to business-as-usual, eventually blocking me, his accusers, and most of the people who have visibly spoken out against him on social media. His constant drum-beating of “promote the positive” and “ignore negativity” has taken on a very sinister perspective for me, given what I now know.

I am in the process of removing all photos, videos, and work related to Dirk, and anything that promotes him and/or his books, from my own social media and websites. I will not knowingly work with his associates, or any publishing companies that continue to give him work. My relative independence allows me to do this with very few repercussions, I admit. Others have severed their professional relationships with him at much greater cost to themselves.

Having spent much of the last few years feeling powerless, disbelieved, and unheard myself, after how I was treated by my ex-boyfriend in the industry, I have struggled to let this go. I was left wondering about the sincerity of each compliment; the boisterous hugs, the false concern, the smiles, and whether I was simply another potential conquest to him. My heart breaks for those he has allegedly used and discarded. And it is clear, from what I have read, that he does not regard his female co-creators as equals. I do not believe that he ever saw me as one, though I feel more patronized than denigrated.

Do not lift women up only to wear them like feathers in your cap.

I was not prepared for the levels of casual misogyny and simmering hostility toward women that I have encountered from some, as I attempted to move into the traditional comics industry from the more diverse and inclusive world of web comics. “Welcome to being a woman,” I have sadly been told. There is no sense of justice for me, or for other women used in this way. Your options are only to give up, suck it up, or fight to have a voice louder than those who would silence you. Fighting is the only option I can ultimately live with.

On my first Free Comic Book Day, as I sat at my table, drawing, I overheard a woman telling her daughter while pointing toward me, “Look, women can be comic artists, too!” That moment has stuck with me as the events of the last few years have unfolded. I understand that I have a responsibility not just to myself, but to those who come after me. That responsibility includes standing up for both myself and others. I do not always succeed, but I do my best.

Their stories, my stories, are written in ink. They will not be erased.