Yesterday, Mandy Morbid, former partner of the RPG writer Zak Smith, a.k.a. Zak Sabbath or Zak S. posted the following on Facebook. It is a testimony of domestic abuse from three different people and a harrowing read. Content warnings apply. I see no reason not to believe this post. While the conversation around Zak has in the past been muddled by misinformation, misdirection and his opponents’ methods including death and rape threats to Mandy, this rings clear and true.
Zak is the author of the award-winning OSR works Maze of the Blue Medusa and A Red and Pleasant Land, the writer of the blog Playing D&D With Porn Star which I removed from my list of blog links prior to writing this post, credited as a consultant on Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, and a co-writer of the White Wolf mobile game We Eat Blood and All Our Friends Are Dead. He’s also an abuser who needs to be cut out of the industry and the community for the safety of everyone.
I am quoting Mandy’s post in full.
Please feel free to share this widely, on
any platform you have.
Dear Zak Smith, aka Zak Sabbath
I know posting anything about you or this publicly will get me labeled “angry”, “crazy” or a “liar”. Despite that, I still need to speak. As a warning, there will be potentially triggering descriptions of abuse, violence and sexual assault to follow.
What I want to convey is my grief. And my shame. There is so much of it. I think when women come forward to talk about their abusers people strip them of their grief. And I am not okay. And I should be angry but I can’t be because the shame is too great. Because the abuse had me taking responsibility for everything and it’s very difficult to stop that after all these years. Everything was always my fault, the problem was me–but it wasn’t.
Eleven years is a long time. I was twenty one when we met in person the first time, and a month later, 22 when I moved in with you. It’s difficult to organize my thoughts about everything that happened, everything that went wrong over a decade.The abuse came in cycles where there were times you seemed to idolize me (in hindsight there was a twisted, sexist, infantilizing angle to the “idolizing” because it was always about my body and not me as a person). There were other times when you tore me down, made lectures that went in circles of manipulation, or fits of rage where you’d scream that I was useless and worthless and slam doors or throw things at the walls. You tore me down to manipulate me, and to get your way.
As time went on you learned you could threaten me in various ways. Killing me if I ever got pregnant and didn’t have an abortion started as a joke but you repeated it so frequently it was clearly a warning. Kick me out if I didn’t want to have as much sex, or lesser reasons.
When we would go out, you would rate the women you were watching, making sure I could hear it. You would see a woman and comment that she was attractive, until you saw she had “small” breasts. Then you would say to me “why do they even make them like that? What’s the point?” As though I automatically would agree with you about a woman’s worth being dictated by the size of her breasts. And how was that supposed to make me feel about myself? You would know that I would not want to start an argument on a nice evening out–finally I was feeling well enough to be out with you and I would ruin it? No. Even in the face of rude or disgusting comments about other women I would stay silent.
I am ashamed. I was often silent because I wanted to keep the peace. To keep you happy. You see, I did know how to make you happy. I am ashamed I did it because I rationalized that was love. You pressured me to find and groom other women sexually. As I grew sicker, and my physical limitations grew, you were more concerned with your own needs than my illness. Eventually, even, you took my doing this for you, and me, for granted.
I saw you mistreat women we were with together, and again I was silent. I choose you over them and I am deeply ashamed. And when it was me who was being mistreated I often didn’t even register it as such because the first time it happened was so traumatic. You told me I wasn’t allowed to stop or say no to sex or fooling around if we’d already initiated it.
I was young and this was during the first few weeks we lived together and no one had ever taught me about consent. You were extraordinarily angry I had stopped, your hands were clenched into fists and they were shaking. I was programmed to accept it, and you always just kept telling me you loved me even if your behaviour never really proved it.
Then you started with the online gaming arguments nonsense, and that put a real crack in our bond. In the beginning I felt genuinely protective of you, my provider, and of course that was my very strong trauma bond. I didn’t know better, and I just thought I was caring for the person I loved. Callously, you exposed me to death and rape threats and you then never took the distress this caused me seriously, you were in no way sympathetic to the very real stress these disagreements caused. You enjoyed it. And you gloated over the harm you caused other people. (It was extremely unattractive.) You just used those threats we received as an excuse, used me and my marginalized identities as shields in your continuing misbehaviour online.
That Tumblr post defending you was posted in my name, but you were the one who wrote it. The long one you always referred people to. I feel more shame that I let you use my name, my identity in that way. I feel shame that when people noticed it probably wasn’t written by me, we called them sexist. After that Tumblr post I told you I was done being involved in any of your arguments online. You really didn’t like that. You forever afterwards accused me of “never saying anything” when you were dealing with the shit you’d stirred up.
I am so ashamed you let me get dragged into your awful trolling behaviour. One time you had a screaming/throwing fit at me (“useless,” “worthless,” “no one cares about me”) because I didn’t want to retweet something to a big gaming company you were mad at. This was all abuse. That you continue to behave so badly online disgusts me, and I am ashamed that I helped you to hurt or damage others online. I am sorry that I have contributed to the abuse, and I am ashamed that your abuse pushed me to think that it was okay to do.
This behavior is what created the cracks in the narcissistic façade that you built up for me. Seeing the behavior that you normally directed towards me being directed towards others started to open my eyes towards what you were doing to me.
It was then that I slowly began to reassess how you treated me. This process started very slowly as I was extremely ill. And needed to focus on my health and I couldn’t shake my life up too dramatically.
Over the next two or three years my faith and trust in you completely failed. You let me down over and over. And I came to terms with the fact that I had been a trophy wife all along, an object that was owned, not a respected or loved partner. Towards the end you weren’t even trying to keep that mask you wore in the beginning on you were just straight up cruel and cold and abusive and there were no reprieves of loving or sweet acts, it was all gaslighting and narcissism gone unchecked. And there was a lot of my grief and shame at that time. Because I tried so hard to make it work anyway.
I thought if I loved harder, if I loved more I could save us but it was futile because you were already done with someone who wasn’t spending all their energy on living to please you as I’d formerly done.
I’ve grown up. I want to live my life for me. My values and morales don’t align with yours–I’m ashamed I was complicit in your misogyny and supportive of your online abuse (whatever my reasons).
I only began to register the pain and damage done to me by this relationship in the last year we were together and in the year and half since I’ve left. I have PTSD. I am doing my best to focus on healing, and since leaving both my mental and physical health have improved. I’m not okay yet, but I am improved. People can see the difference in photos. Rebuilding a life after a decade of trauma takes time but I will get there.
After this I am including statements about Zak from Jennifer, a long time friend and lover of Zak’s and mine and Hannah who was also involved with us and lived with us briefly. Jennifer was spending time with Zak before Zak and I met, and Hannah was assaulted by Zak.
CW description of sexual assualt
Jennifer’s post was originally posted to her facebook and she’s given me permission to reshare it here:
Hey guys, this is a heads up for anyone who is friends with Zak Smith or likes his page. This is somewhat out of the blue but he’s been posting more in the past year or so and I keep seeing some of you interact with him or just liking his posts, and thinking: You wouldn’t be doing that if you knew him better.
To get to the point: While he comes across as a fun person who is super cool with everything and leads such a compelling and interesting life, and I considered him a good friend for a significant amount of time, he’s also someone who has habitually abused and assaulted women. He talks negatively about them when they’re not around, and also says really degrading things to their faces. He will aggressively pursue sex and rely on the fact that most women are hesitant to reject a man in a quasi-sexual situation due to safety concerns and social conditioning. Especially when he has presented himself as caring and trustworthy. But I’ve also seen him physically take women and start fucking them, ignoring their lack of enthusiasm or freeze of shock. He will navigate kink spaces and take someone’s presence there, of general involvement in bdsm as implied consent to assualt them. And he is fully aware of what he does, he has described a sexual encounter to me as, I quote, “raping a 12-year-old”. The person in question was not underage, but so massively uncomfortable that this was his most apt description. It didn’t make him stop.
He’s really good at being so blasé about everthing that you doubt what happened or compartmentalize it, then move on. He’s also good at talking the talk and walking the walk of being the progressive liberal artist and author who is just so open about having done porn and living his sexuality uninhibited by social norms or whatever. He can be pretty manipulative and resorts to gaslighting.
This post might seem unnecessary at best, and like slander at worst. Especially considering I haven’t even personally seen him since god knows when. It’s based on my own experiences with him, some dating as far back as 2005, and the fact that almost every mutual female friend has similar experiences, up to this day. Ultimately I’ve seen him do so much fucked up shit that when I hear anything by another woman I immediately believe them without a shadow of a doubt. And yes, I’m ashamed I didn’t speak up sooner. Often things only start falling into place after time passes and you see things for what they are, and when they are confirmed by others who have had similar experiences. By the time I really fully grasped the magnitude, being vocal would have meant intruding on and hurting people who didn’t deserve it, with little discernable good to come out of it.
Basically if you know me and trust me, believe me and maybe reconsider your support of him and his art. Besides that I’m not asking you to do anything. And I don’t benefit from any sort of outcome in any way.
I’m posting this to a curated audience; if you see this I trust you to at least not create drama. If you don’t believe me, I guess just ignore this post? Although I’d prefer if you removed yourself from my list then too. I don’t want this to reach him because I don’t want to deal with the fallout. I want people to know this to make a better informed decision about who they associate with. The last I heard of him was a few months ago, after he saw that a friend had confided in me about him, and he slid into my inbox with some disingenious bullshit about how sad he was about that situation, trying to influence my opinion. I ignored it. If something like that happens again I will obviously know that someone on this list blabbed and will pretty much delete and block anyone it could have been. Please don’t make me deal with all that trouble. Thank you.
And here is Hannah’s account:
Back when I first knew them, I lauded Manda and Zak as a perfect couple. I would see them only once every few years, and when I was with them, they seemed happy. It wasn’t until I was with them for an extended period of time that I thought things seemed off. I used to take Zak’s general demeanor towards women as joking. Eg, “if I talk to my girlfriend and her friend about their feelings, will I get a threesome out of it?” But now I think that’s how Zak actually feels. At first when I kept hearing him say the phrase “chin up” to Manda, I thought he was just telling her to stay positive, but in actuality he didn’t like it when she had a tiny double chin when looking down. (Like all humans at that angle.) He also told her things like “You don’t need glasses, its more important for you to be pretty than it is to see” and “If you can’t even have sex, what good are you?” It was not a joke. For a long time I tried to see the good in him, and hoped that he would change his behaviours once Manda confronted him about them, but he didn’t seem to understand that he had done anything wrong. She told him she felt more like a doll than a human, outlined what things had upset her, and wanted to work towards a better relationship. He acted ignorant about things he had said or done, and then threatened people when anyone talked about him. (Which is why I was afraid to write this for a long time. I still am.) There was also a strange incident when we were first hanging out together during which he asked if I was into kinky stuff, to which I replied yes. He proceeded to slap me and choke me against a wall, in public. Now, in a bedroom setting, with clear boundaries and consent, it would have been fine, but out of the blue and in public, it was not okay at all. Years later, I mentioned this to a mutual friend as something that made my uncomfortable, and when Zak found out he made a half-hearted apology attempt. I don’t think he actually felt bad, I think he just didn’t want me to tell anyone else. I tried to stay friends with both of them for a little while, but after hearing more about what he said/did to Manda, I couldn’t keep him in my life anymore. She is one of my best friends and one of the sweetest people I know. I don’t understand people who say they “can’t take sides” on something like this.
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