Sociological Analysis of Three Veaux Survivor Narratives

For several months now I have been a member of Franklin Veaux’s accountability pod, designated to help Franklin through the process of dealing with the allegations of abuse. As part of my service to the pod, I analyzed the three narratives written by some of Franklin’s ex-partners and posted online. That analysis appears below.

It is important to note that I am not placing this analysis in restorative justice framework, with which I am not very familiar. Rather, my decades of training in sociology, sexuality education, and investigative interviewing as a Court Appointed Special Advocate are the framework I used for this analysis.

Veaux Survivor Narrative Analysis

This is a sociological analysis of the three survivor stories listed online at https://polyamory-metoo.com/, and it includes a summary of my primary conclusions, the themes I found in the interviews, my recommendations for Franklin, an academic critique of the investigative methods, and summaries of my credentials and association with Eve Rickert and Franklin Veaux. I am presenting this analysis as a member of Franklin Veaux’s pod, sociologist, and ethnographer. My analytical approach is primarily academic, but also shaped by my experience in legal settings (as an expert witness and Court Appointed Special Advocate), which emphasize primary-source reporting.  

Because I am reading interviews conducted by someone else, my discipline would refer to this as “secondary data analysis.” The interviews were conducted quite differently than I would have conducted them, in part because of the disciplinary differences with Louisa coming from a journalistic background and I came from sociology. Also, Louisa is completing this research for a masters in a European university and I am trained in US academic expectations. Even considering these disciplinary and international differences, it appears to me that Louisa made some strange choices that seem to muddle the data and influence the responses. Regardless of flawed methodology, the narratives contain some strong and consistent themes that warrant serious consideration.

Primary Conclusions

Some of Franklin’s ex’s have experienced significant harm in relationship with him. Franklin’s source of power over these women appears to be his ability to use personal charisma to get them to fall in love with him so that they feel like they cannot be without him, and then he uses that against them to make them do what he wants. Franklin’s primary tools of control are manipulative communication and moodiness or with-holding of affection/approval. Franklin should acknowledge his part in creating emotional pain for his partners, apologize, and identify specific ways in which he will treat people, and especially the women with whom he partners, differently in the future.

Summary of Major Themes

Amber, Celeste, and Elaine accuse Franklin Veaux of:

  • Using his emotions manipulatively, especially through manipulative communication, playing the victim, and refusing to respond to confrontation/direct questions
  • Using his charisma/force of his personality to make women want him and feel compelled to do what he wants them to do
  • Poor communication, failing to inform partners of agreements with other partners
  • Obfuscation incongruent with public persona, will not engage with direct confrontation or tell truth in conversation
  • Stealing ideas from women and passing them off as his own
  • Relying on women to support him financially, practically, and emotionally without making enough effort to earn money or manage daily life demands
  • Dictating terms of relationships and emotional interactions rather than developing them in concert with partners
  • Spreading himself too thin/too many partners to really attend sufficiently to any of their needs, while at the same time making sure that he gets his needs met through them

Explanatory Quotes

These quotes are copied directly from the online interviews, with no editorial changes or manipulation on my part. Each quote is prefaced by the initial of the person from whose interview it was excerpted. Please note that I used the standard investigative focus on the women’s first-person accounts of their direct experiences with Franklin, and I did not include their suppositions about what happened with him and other people or their assumptions about how other people felt.

E = Elaine

C = Celeste

A= Amber

Oblivious to emotional power and responsibilities to others

E came in hurt already, implication that F should have been more gentle with her because she was already wounded. Also, because it was her first poly relationship she was not aware of potential road blocks and felt like F just let her stumble into them and did not warn her this could be an issue.

E: Our relationship was different than he thought it was

C:  I was like, “You know, what are you doing? You know she’s in the bedroom next door to us” and he’s over there until she tells him to go away. And then I’m by myself, and I’m like you know, “What is this? I don’t want this kind of a life. This isn’t what I want.”

C: I had to separate my week. I had to—she had to have her time then I had to have my time, and it didn’t matter what was going on in my life, if it was my birthday or not, if it was his night to be with her then that’s what she wanted. You know it was like, well what have I spent the last 16 years of my life doing, you know, when now I have to take a backseat. 

C: he would call me when it was convenient for him, and not for me.

A: “[Franklin] is 12 years my senior. I started dating him when I was 24-ish, in a period of incredible instability…so the type of bond I formed with him, was very child like and worship-y, and this was reinforced by the intermittent nature of our relationship while he was with Celeste

A: I don’t feel like I had the tools to properly consent [to BDSM]. I don’t think the age difference was appropriate. I don’t think my lack of experience was appropriate. I won’t have anything to do with BDSM now. For me what happened with him laid the groundwork for things that were much worse for me later on, but it’s all part of the same—just awful continuum of awful stuff. I am becoming aware here…that Franklin really got a free pass from me because I was so adept at turning on myself.

A: When Franklin is inconsistent, unclear, and isn’t taking responsibility so you can’t count on him, but you need him and love him deeply, it FUCKS YOU UP over time. When you are additionally, trying to ‘own your feelings,’ not be controlling and have a neutral impact on his other relationships, you are likely to be more hesitant to ask for what you need, call out things that feel wrong, or assert boundaries.

Self-involved and oblivious to impact on others

A: (Franklin’s story had a hero’s journey tone to it when he told it, but) …. I feel like he has put a lot of effort into reinforcing that story. But it’s not *my* story. For me, it was a shitty, disrespectful and neglectful relationship with a lot of trauma that I have never really processed, and [have] mostly been trying to outrun for years. Like, if you really center me in my relationship with Franklin, it was just… a shitty relationship that set my growth as a person back.

A: I believe that the way that Franklin is able to tolerate his partner’s pain over long periods of time is that he never, fundamentally believes it is coming from him. No matter how bad it is, actually, especially when it is so bad that you, as his partner become hysterical, ‘irrational’ or otherwise crazy, he will continue to see it as essentially something that is coming from you. And, this being the case, he will be a kind and calm and loving friend, helping you through this thing that you alone are experiencing.

E: F’s compartmentalization in relationships leaves E feeling like she didn’t really matter to F at all “Something is not right, either what he’s reporting about our relationship is not true of him, or what he told me at the time was a lie, or that he can so well compartmentalize, that he can feel things and then completely abandon those beliefs. Because his actions don’t prove up his words. And that’s always been my complaint with him, is he’ll say something, and then it’s like, well where’s the proof?”

Spreads himself too thin to meet partners needs

A:  you become aware that how and whether you get your needs met will be directly affected by how you manage your relationship with his other partners, because he is a passive participant, and there is real resource starvation that happens with him, due to him never wanting to let go of relationships, continually wanting to start them, and being highly distracted by whatever is shiniest. …. you might initially try to express your needs, but then you will notice that in this way, he isn’t really a passive participant, and how your needs are interpreted (controlling, unreasonable, reasonable) is directly informed by how convenient meeting those needs are for him.

E: “Franklin had a way of not spending enough time with any of his partners.”

Steals Women’s Ideas

E: “you say something brilliant to him, and two seconds later you’re hearing him tell your story to somebody else as if he had thought of it. And you’re like “Wow, is that all I am for you? Is like, fodder for your brilliance?”

C: Franklin chooses smart women “They’re, you know, amazing in their own right. And he likes to ride those coattails.”

Relies on women to take care of him practically and financially

C: Like, I did everything for Franklin. I bought his socks and underwear. He never had to worry about clothes, food I, I did all the shopping, I did all the cooking, I did all the cleaning. Until we got a house, and then, you know, we got this this 2,100 square foot house. It was beautiful. But he never wanted to clean it. And I’m like, well then you know, I need some help. So I had a housekeeper come in once a month. That was his contribution to cleaning the house. 

C:  I did everything that I could to keep us in a happy, you know, as much as I could do with working my eight hours, 36-hour work weeks, and then taking care of him in the evenings. And, you know, when he would just want to come home and eat dinner and then go up into his computer room and do whatever it was he wanted. You know. And that’s all he wanted to do.

C: After that, he was convinced that although I wasn’t living in the house, I needed to pay the bills for three months because Amber had paid for them. And he just assumed that I would pay her everything that he owed her.

C: You know, it’s like everything that I wanted, he wanted to make sure that I was gonna get less. That I wasn’t going to get any money from the house, I wasn’t going to do this, and don’t think that you have this, or you know whatever this happened to be. You know, he definitely did everything that he could to try and have me walk away with nothing. He really wanted me to walk away with nothing.

C: F could have made a lot more money as a computer programmer but would not take the job “So, you know, he made our lives harder because he wouldn’t go that extra mile and do that. For us.”

A: Franklin will not take responsibility for himself, his life and his relationships. The thing that caused me pain when he was with Celeste was not actually the rules he had with Celeste…… The first time I was ‘with’ Franklin in any capacity, I remember asking him ‘is Celeste OK with this?’ and he said ‘I don’t know,’ and I remember this just inner screaming, but I didn’t have good context at the time to know how incredibly incredibly shitty a thing that was to do to me, like it was the beginning of me internalizing responsibility for shit that wasn’t my responsibility. And then it just became par for the course.

A: we were living on my credit cards because he would.not.get.a.job. I was working full time and trying with all my heart to go to school and every morning I looked on Craigslist for jobs for him, and I sent them to him, and he did.not.apply. And he would deflect when I asked him about it. His business was faltering, and the company he was associated with was waiting for investment money, and we waited for months, and he would not take action to make our situation better.

A: I lost a lot of money with Franklin when I was supporting us with credit cards and student loans, and paying all of the transportation costs when I visited him, and I’m still paying off debt from that time. We never really figured it out because he was just perpetually broke after that, so I just decided to forget about it. He didn’t specifically say that it was my responsibility, but he also never fully took responsibility for helping me to deal with that money I’d spent.

Ongoing negative impacts

A: it was an absolutely horribly miserable time in my life. When I look at my relationship with Oliver or K or J it’s fine—there’s good and bad—but it’s not *traumatic*. When I think back, as a real witness, to the relationship with Franklin…it’s just a black hole of awfulness.”

A: It is only in the last year [2017] that I have realized that Franklin really mistreated me in my relationship with him. Like, Celeste didn’t mistreat me, and the ‘relationship’ didn’t mistreat me, and the ‘structure’ didn’t mistreat me, it was actually Franklin. Like, I was in a relationship with Franklin. Just Franklin. And in that relationship I was filled with shame and guilt and self loathing, and Franklin was a part of that, and pretty OK with it for a long time. It was with Franklin that I really solidified my tendency to take all of my needs and my hurt and turn them back on myself, either through self harm, or through dissociation…

Boundary Violations

F did not clearly communicate to E that he had agreed with C to refrain from unprotected sex, and C got angry when F had unprotected sex with E. E interpreted F as “all smiles” and she felt used because she did not know about the agreement to no unprotected sex, C was her friend, and E was upset by F’s lack of clear communication and seemingly cavalier attitude towards his agreements with C and their impact on E.

E interpreted F as pushing her to be a second primary, in direct violation of his agreement with C that she would be his only primary and in fact had veto power over his lovers “…..he was trying to offer me that was in conflict with what they had.”

E: “if Franklin wanted something in the relationship, he would just sort of have that thing, and then, expect Celeste to be OK with it. And he started doing that to me as well” for example pushing E to have group sex when she was clearly not into it “he kept pushing with me, was to have it involve other people or to have me think about including other people. And that was not something I was comfortable with. It was not something I ever—I’m not bisexual, and it’s not something that I wanted, but it was something that pleased him.”

EMOTIONAL MANIPULATION

(Includes italicized subsets)

E feels hostage to F’s moods, must obey to be in his good graces “ I think it’s a softer form of manipulation, but it still felt like a manipulation.”

C: And I actually pulled suitcases out of the closet. I was going to pack up and go home. And he broke down into tears because he didn’t want me to leave. And I said, “Well this is the part where you need to make a decision.”

C: (went to see a psychiatrist just before divorce) I just needed to hear her tell me that, you know, I was not crazy. That I still had both my feet on the ground. You know, the things that I had done weren’t signs of being crazy.

F’s Charisma as manipulative tool

C: He has his personality and he is dynamic enough. And he puts forth that you know that first initial contact, as he’s you know got a sense of humor, and he’s fun, and he’s intelligent, and he’s just a neat person. And that’s the part that you see and that’s what catches you. And it’s not until later either when he’s ready to move on or you… maybe he’s getting the feeling that you’re not willing to be there for him, like he wants you to be there for him. Then that’s when the tables turn a little bit. But I don’t think that he will let you go entirely until he’s sure he won’t need you anymore.

C: he didn’t tell me he was, he wanted to open up our relationship until we were two years in, I was already, you know, I already loved him……:  it was either break up with him, or we were gonna have to—neither one of us have the relationship that we wanted, so that’s when I wanted to create parameters. ……  I didn’t want him falling in love with them and I didn’t want him spending the night with them and I didn’t want any of that going on, because that was the part that I was giving up for him, not having a monogamous lifestyle that I wanted, but him getting to do what he wanted to do. And actually that worked… okay.

C: We sat next to another couple, that he of course didn’t remember, because he never really pays too much attention to a lot of people. 

A: “…you will always be steered towards believing that the pain is ultimately coming from you, when you know, you *know* that it wasn’t there until he did that thing, or didn’t do that thing, or did that series of things. But because he is now being the kind and loving friend that is helping you through this, it is very difficult to stand strong enough to call him on his actions.

A: for me, that child like wonder and glee that he has, well, it’s just not that beautiful thing that I thought it was. It’s a way of being that comes at the cost of the time and energy of the women in his life, time and energy that could be used for literally anything else. 

E: “… in a relationship with Franklin, you’re rewarded. You know, when you do things that are pleasing to him, you’re rewarded by his good behavior, good nature and good mood.”

Refuses to respond to direct confrontation

E: “And actually, we [Katrina and I] found something about the way he responds when you confront him. When she confronted him about what he said, he doesn’t answer you directly, but he’ll smile and just kind of let it slide by, or change the subject ever so, you know, just move it slightly away without—it’s like you wouldn’t address it. And so just by not addressing it, and by changing the subject, he could get away with not even responding. So it was like, you ask him direct questions, and he couldn’t even answer to it. But that was a little distressing because after saying something like that, that needed confrontation, we couldn’t even get him to speak to it. He admitted it, but he wouldn’t speak to it.”

Plays the Victim

E: “his narrative is from the innocent standpoint, and he’s a wide-eyed innocent child, and these partners kind of just wove their insecurities and their, their needs on him, and he was just simply reacting to that.” …… “ he was in the car with Amber playing the victim as he was letting me know that we couldn’t be in a relationship.”

Bad Communication

E: “he’s not congruent. He wasn’t doing or saying what he was thinking. If he’s thinking something, you didn’t always get the true story”

E: “But Katrina was also a part of that, where he had said it to her as well. Then when we brought it up to him it was like, he did the blinking-eyes-wide, I don’t know what you’re talking about thing. And it’s like but you’re the one that brought it up! It wouldn’t have crossed my mind to just straight up ask him to end a relationship with someone else. That’s not what I would have thought of. But if you’re offering it to me as a way to make me feel secure, then I figure you wouldn’t offer it if it wasn’t something that you wanted to do. You know what I mean? I wouldn’t ask him, but if you’re offering it? ….. I think that he was slipping away further and further from the relationship while trying to feign these comforts for me that he wasn’t genuine about. So all of this was just adding to my misery……”

Bad Breakup

C: when he was done, is when the shouting started. You know almost, like screaming at the top of his lungs kind of thing. When, when he got the divorce papers and he called me, he was screaming at me, because I did this, and how could I do this to him. How could I let them, you know, come into his office and hand him divorce papers. And how could I be, you know, treating him so terribly after all these years.

C: “…he looked at me and said, You don’t know what I’m capable of doing….But I felt he threatened me, which he adamantly denies that was a threat. And it was the way he looked to me in the eye and told me, You don’t know what I’m capable of doing, and then he walked up the stairs to Amber.”

C: When he was texting me in the evenings, he, I’m sure he didn’t know that I copy and pasted the entire conversation, you know, as-is into LiveJournal. Because I wanted to have a copy of it in there so that I could remember how he was talking to me and trying to bully me and, you know, get me to say things that weren’t true—to, you know, agree with him and all that other stuff. Which, I haven’t read in a long time. But they were there in case I ever needed a reminder as to just how he can be.

C: He had been paid with stocks from one of his clients—his primary client who, was he was kind of on the payroll and he, that, providing medical coverage for us. And in Florida, you know, all liabilities and all assets are shared equally upon divorce. So half of those stocks were mine. So when I had to have those stock certificates when I went to my attorney. He was, turned out to be very upset about those stock certificates—that I “stole” them. They were his. I had to tell him that fifty percent of everything was ours—good and bad. And those stocks were just as much ours because they were given to him as payment.

Recommendations for Franklin

  1. Take it seriously/Do the work: Franklin should carefully digest this document with a trauma-informed therapist who can help Franklin deal with his own post-abuse trauma so that he can recognize the validity of why these women could actually be traumatized by the way he treated them. Franklin, even if you have not trusted this process or have all sorts of objections come up in your mind as you read the material, you need to set that aside right now and listen deeply to what these women are saying so that you can take responsibility for your impact on their lives. They are making valid points and you need to attend to what they are saying instead of dismissing it like you might want to.
  2. Public Statement: After deep consideration, Franklin should eventually post a statement identifying what he sees as his part in this relationship pain and what he plans to do about it. Ideally, this statement would include an apology and some specific things he plans to change so the same thing does not happen again. Again ideally, this statement would not include any kind of counter-argument but instead focus wholly on Franklin’s responsibility.
  3. Disengage from Eve Rickert: BecauseFranklin feels that Eve has abused him and other partners, he does not feel safe in a process that includes her or people with whom she shares financial ties. While he interprets this process as driven by Eve or people with whom she holds influence, Franklin will not be able to refocus from being her victim to being their aggressor. In order for Franklin to lose this identified strategy of being the victim, the process must be disengaged from someone he feels has victimized him. One possible way to do this would be to pare down each pod and excuse anyone with financial ties with Eve (which would include me as I have published with Thorntree Press).

Academic Methodological Critique

In this section I offer an academic critique of the interviews for two reasons. First, the findings are presented as based in research and investigative journalism, which gives them an added air of certainty and legitimacy. Second, the phrasing of interview questions seemingly influenced the responses participants provided.

My critiques are threefold. First, Louisa sought only one track of evidence. The call for narratives specified only people who had negative experiences with Franklin should respond, and Louisa made no attempt to attain the kind of more balanced view that is characteristic of both academic research and investigative journalism. Second, Louisa asks leading questions (see examples below). Third, Louisa fails to ask critical follow-up questions in two areas: a) how respondents know the information they are reporting about other people’s experiences, and b) what the women’s motivations were making the choices they did.

The lack of follow-up questions is problematic because failing to ask where information comes from leaves third-hand allegations as seemingly factual information (not allowed in journalism or academia). Furthermore, without knowing the women’s specific motivations or what they saw as their active choices, it is hard to know the source of power Franklin used over them. Using inferences, I hope to have identified the source of Franklin’s power correctly –emotional manipulation and with-holding – but I am not sure because none of the women talked about why they made their choices or what they feared would happen if they did not obey what Franklin wanted. If my conclusion about that is wrong, I need to know so I can reformulate the primary conclusion.

Leading Questions

Louisa: He also has a history of letting other people do the dirty work so he can play the victim.

Louisa: I’ve been rereading The Game Changer. But I’m reading it with such different eyes, and within the layers there is a real story of a man who is desperately lonely, or a boy who was desperately lonely, and then found that he could be looked after by being helpless.

Louisa: It’s a horrible thing, when Eve first contacted me. What I said was, “I believe you.” 

  • Then that is not investigative journalism, that is deciding to believe the original source

Louisa: …as I’ve heard more and more stories, each of them corroborating a different aspect, but still the same truth, like yours.

  • Or Louisa creates this truth with her narrative and does not seek any other ideas

Louisa: Do you also recall him telling you about his dates at the prom?

  • Very strange prompt – how does Louisa this information to prompt C to explain about this?

Louisa: Sounds like he was belittling you.

  • Why not ask how she felt about it instead of telling her how she should feel or L interpreted it?

Louisa: Did you believe that you were crazy at any point?

  • Leading question, why not let C bring that up? Ask how did you feel? What went through your mind?

Lack of follow-up questions leaves interpretation as fact

C: And then we never saw them or heard from them ever again. It was like we sat there and he didn’t recognize anybody, because he didn’t really have an interest in anybody. You know, that’s not what he was really looking for, that he didn’t want to go around the room and talk … o, after Cindy, then when her and Tim broke up, she moved on and never to be seen again.”

  • This quote was used as evidence of F’s implied self-involvement, but no follow-up questions to ascertain if there was an alternative explanation: was Franklin feeling insecure or shy? not even considered. Did Celeste ask F why he did not want to go around the room and talk to people?  Or did she assume it is because he didn’t care enough to know those folks?

“Something is not right, either what he’s reporting about our relationship is not true of him, or what he told me at the time was a lie, or that he can so well compartmentalize, that he can feel things and then completely abandon those beliefs. Because his actions don’t prove up his words. And that’s always been my complaint with him, is he’ll say something, and then it’s like, well where’s the proof?”

  • Presented as only 2 choices in excerpt, when a third (at least, and maybe more) choice is that people have different interpretations of what happened

Critique Conclusion

I would like to reiterate that, even though the methods used to collect the interview data do not correspond to standard conventions of investigative journalism, sociology, or other forms of impartial investigation, that does not negate the strong and consistent themes of pain and manipulation these women report. Rather, I think it is important to either do good science and investigative reporting or call it something else. Doing it poorly and presenting it as empirical evidence is misrepresentative.

About Elisabeth Sheff

Credentials: My PhD is in Sociology (University of Colorado, Boulder, 2005) and I am certified as a sexuality educator (CSE) by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT). I have conducted ethnographic research with members of polyamorous and kink subcultures for the last 25 years. As a Court Appointed Special Advocate in Atlanta (2012 – 2017), I was trained in investigative techniques in order to interview education and health care providers, foster and biological parents, Child Protective Services officials, and others important to the welfare of the children in foster care for whom I advocated.

Relationship to Rickert and Veaux: Both Eve Rickert and Franklin Veaux are my friendly professional acquaintances, and we chat when we see each other at conferences. Thorntree Press, the publishing house Eve and Franklin started together, has published two of my books. Additionally, Eve and Franklin both stayed with me for a few days in Atlanta where I had helped to arrange a couple of appearances for their book tour. While I do not know any of Eve’s other partners, I know three of Franklin’s current partners.

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