1. Who made this site?
The site was created by a collective of over 60 women and nonbinary people from across the world who were targeted by Warren Ellis, a comics and television writer from the UK. We all have personal experiences with Warren that vary in degree and duration. When collected, our stories demonstrate a pattern of behavior that includes, but is not limited to, serial emotional manipulation, grooming, coercion, and calculated gaslighting.
2. Why did you make the site?
We made the site because we don’t want anyone else to be added to this collective. Whisper networks only do so much good and often don’t reach all the people they need to. Open secrets do not protect anyone. Most of us thought we were alone. We also want other people to become aware of this type of behavior, and to offer them resources to help stop it. Making a public site is the best way to achieve these goals.
3. What are you trying to accomplish?
We have three goals:
- No new members added to this collective if we can help it.
- To provide a place for others targeted by Warren to come forward for support, healing, and understanding.
- For this type of behavior to be recognizable, and the systems allowing it to flourish to be dismantled. To read more about this, check out our statement.
4. What are the systems you want to see dismantled?
Specific systems we would like to see dismantled include:
- The “protected” status of celebrities, even minor ones
We must do away with the acceptance of open secrets and the leeway and protection given to celebrities by the press, publishers, associates, colleagues, and by us – society at large.
- Limited public understanding of abuse
We must work to include “targeting” and “manipulation” into our understanding of abuse. Warren Ellis seeks out vulnerable people, suggesting he’s specifically after those whom he can control. To date, we are aware of nearly one hundred such cases. Over an extended period of time, Warren Ellis developed a continually expanding pattern of grooming, manipulation, and deceit, in order to maneuver his targets toward dependence and submission. Though these types of abuse may be less visible, more nuanced, and less commonly understood than other forms, it makes them no less grave.
- Scope of consent
Consent is not dependent upon age alone, or on ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Consent must be free and informed. The subjects of Warren’s attention could not, even when they believed otherwise, fully consent because there can be no informed consent without symmetric information. None of us were given clear terms of engagement, no one was informed of other partners, or participants, or that we would be subject to calculated manipulation.
- The Irony Shield
"Irony Shield" is a performative cloak which an abrasive or abusive individual can use to render their offensive behavior socially acceptable. It works by convincing the observers the offender’s actual abhorrent beliefs and statements are merely jokes and role-playing. It’s difficult to distinguish an individual using an irony shield to hide their true beliefs from a comedian who doesn't hold them, which makes it all the more effective. Warren Ellis hid behind a tongue-in-cheek internet persona of “dirty old man”, which, combined with appearing disarmingly kind in person, permitted him to publicly live out his lascivious proclivities. Spectators perceived his online behavior as a bit of internet comedy with all participants "in on the joke."
- Enforced Toxic Hierarchy
One system used by Warren Ellis to gain control over his targets was a rigid social hierarchy within his built communities. Such a system elevates the central figure, in this case Warren, to a role of absolute authority wherein they can act as protector, mentor, and influencer, or disciplinarian and tyrant depending on where in the hierarchy one falls. Directly below are those who reinforce and encourage the leader’s behavior; these are the publicly accepted members who fit a particular role and who receive the help, attention, and care of the central figure. At the bottom are regular members, who are subject to being ignored, isolated, and who often lose the option to control their own narrative within the group when they fall out of line.
This system has built-in inequalities in its relationships by design, thus allowing the central figure to maintain control. When successful, this type of hierarchy becomes self-reinforcing, meaning the person at the top rarely needs to get directly involved to rebuke or ostracize members of the community who are no longer fulfilling their needs.
5. Did you try talking to Warren before making this website?
Some of us have confronted Warren about his behavior over the years and asking him to stop has shown to be fruitless. Instead, he has continued this pattern of behavior on a vast scale for two decades. It must end.
6. What does Warren have to say about all this?
Here is a link to his original June 2020 statement.
7. Has he directly apologized for his behaviour, as he claims?
We know Warren reached out to about five people who were involved in making this website. The similar language and phrasing of his emails did not acknowledge his conduct or demonstrate remorse, in the opinion of the recipients.
8. How would you compare this effort with "cancel culture"?
We are speaking out to dismantle the systems that permit abuse by people in power, and to change the culture of complicity. The consequences of Warren Ellis’ actions are on him, not on us for revealing those actions.
His influence in the comics industry gave him the opportunity to engage inappropriately with enough people that this site was created. Correcting his reputation will help keep others safe.
Our aim is to communicate how deeply wrong this type of behavior is. We want to help others identify it and prevent it from happening again. To that end, many of us wish to see transformative justice rather than "cancellation."
If you want to stop supporting Warren's work, please remember that the talented artists, colorists, flatters, letterers, editors, and other collaborators who have contributed to making his work successful should not be punished for Warren's misdeeds.
9. Many of you only knew him online, how can you feel this way about an online relationship?
In the age of the internet and social media, virtual connections are just as important and tangible as face-to-face ones. It is a fact of modern life that deep emotional connections can be made and maintained across long distances. For some, it is the only way to fulfill their intrinsic need for love and support. This provides a convenient environment for those with predatory tendencies to gain devoted followers through dishonest means.
10. Did he coerce you to have sex with him?
At its core, coercion forces another into an act or choice, often using manipulation. While many of us did not have penetrative sex with him, when you include cybersex, erotic phone calls, video chats, photo exchanges, and sexts, the number of us who had some form of sexual interaction with him rises exponentially. He uses coercion constantly, not only for sex, but also for reinforcing demands for submission, compliance, or other patterns of behavior. Many of his targets engaged in conduct we would not normally have participated in willingly. It has become clear that he deliberately maneuvers his targets into a mental space where saying "no" to his requests would have felt like a betrayal of the connection he carefully fostered, or a direct risk to one's career or social standing.
11. Does initiating contact mean you consented?
No. We consented to friendship, companionship, and human connection, not to being manipulated, lied to, nor subjected to lasting psychological damage. Warren’s calculated dishonesty removes the possibility of free and informed consent. Only some of us initiated contact, while there are many whom he contacted first.
12. How did his actions affect your ability to consent?
Consent must be free and informed.
The women Warren interacted with did not give free and informed consent, because there can be no such consent without transparent communication. By withholding information or lying outright, Warren was dishonest and deceitful. We were not informed of other partners or participants, nor of the scope of what was happening with the numerous women who have contacted us so far.
The inherent power imbalances in our relationships with him, which were mostly, but not exclusively, imbalances of age and status, introduced elements of coercion which made full, free, and informed consent difficult.
13. Were your interactions transactional?
Not on our end.
Warren has a long history of using his fame, position, and reach as a tool to try and further control his targets with his attention centered as the prize.
The system of rewards that he manufactured--putting us in his newsletters or featuring us on his social channels--often came as a surprise to us. This system, by design, introduces a “prize” with the purpose of developing dependence.
14. Did he abuse you?
Yes. Emotional abuse is a real violation. Unlike with physical abuse, it's not always immediately recognized as abuse. People suffering from it may not even know it's happening at the time, only that they feel terrible and uneasy. With the perspective of things like time and autonomy abuse can be properly identified. The effects of emotional abuse can lead to lasting, often permanent trauma. To our knowledge, Warren was not physically violent.
15. Did he break any laws?
We don’t know.
16. Can you describe how you were manipulated, so I can understand it better?
We invite you to read our Testimonials and our Statement. As a very succinct and incomplete example, Warren's attention was doled out in ways devised to keep us malleable and fulfilling his needs. We cannot overstate the extraordinary amounts of energy he spent constructing his image as a true friend and confidant, and then segueing into sexual territory once our guard was lowered.
A genuine person offers companionship and help without conditions; the difference here is that the appearance of friendship was just another tool in his arsenal designed to keep his needs fulfilled.
17. Isn't this kind of toxic attention common in the sex work and alt-modeling industries?
All people, regardless of employment, are entitled to dignity, respect, justice, and equality.
18. There are so many of you, why didn’t you realize what was going on?
Due to a combination of grooming, gaslighting, and secrecy, we were unaware of the depth of the relationships he was having, nor of the multiple women he was having them with. Some of us were completely in the dark, some had a vague awareness of others, some knew about each other, and a few were even friends.
Warren worked to maintain the illusion that other women were hostile, unstable, or on "his side" and therefore unavailable to connect with us. He pushed boundaries to unacceptable limits and convinced us that our "special" bond shouldn't be shared with anyone else. All of this combined made it extremely difficult for anyone to fully comprehend what was happening. By design, this pattern is difficult to piece together on one’s own.
19. How can the claims on this website be credible when he has worked to highlight women in the industry?
We know that some people may be surprised to see Warren’s pattern of behavior as we’ve set out on this website. That Warren has championed women does not erase how he has also harmed them. The two don't cancel each other out.
20. Why did only some of you sign your names?
Safety, mainly. We want to protect ourselves and our families. In addition to telling our stories, our ultimate mission is to educate people on how to recognize and respond to similar behavior patterns in their communities. We don’t believe having everyone include their real name is necessary for that mission.
21. I may have been targeted by Warren, too. Do you have any advice for me?
You are not alone. We are here for you if you feel comfortable reaching out. This website has a contact form that leads to a secure email address used exclusively for speaking to us directly. If you're not ready to do that, here are some resources we've collected which helped us start to process our experiences.
22. I have a story about Warren Ellis. How do I submit it to your site, and can I do it anonymously? Will you edit or change it before publishing?
You can share your story through our website. If you submit your story and do not wish to be named, you will be published anonymously and we will protect your identity. Once your story is received, a member of our group will reach out to you to discuss it, along with verification questions and safety precautions. We are here for you.
23. I have a similar story about someone else. What can I do?
Although you may feel isolated, you are not alone. We've gathered some resources that may be helpful as you consider your next steps. If you need more support, let us know.