How I, Joe Biel, Have Been Accountable for People I’ve Hurt

Joe Biel
11 min readMay 16, 2017

I was married from 2002–2004. It was years before I was diagnosed with autism in 2009 and learned how to understand or respond appropriately t​o​ emotions and nonverbal communication. I came to understand that intentions were not what mattered as much as impact. If you’re unfamiliar, here’s a story on Invisibilia about an autistic doctor who had seven medical assistants quit in one year due to, as she puts it, “over and over again the world didn’t respond the way she expected.” Similarly, I hurt my ex and several others in serious ways which I feel responsible for and as a result I’d like to issue the following apology to anyone whom my actions have negatively affected:

“I’m so sorry for bulldozing your boundaries repeatedly throughout the six years of our relationship and for the following two years at work afterward. I’m sorry for almost never truly hearing the things that you said, over and over and for bludgeoning your feelings like they weren’t important. I repeatedly put my wants ahead of your needs and despite your repeated patience, I obliviously did not recognize or respond to your efforts to try and help me understand where you were coming from and what you needed. I can see in hindsight that this turned even the simplest conversations into protracted power struggles and that I did not give up power easily, if ever. I remember countless times where you were trying to impress something important upon me or tell me what you needed ​and instead of empathic listening, I tried to “fix” a​ problem​. I cannot imagine the pain that this must have relentlessly caused​ over eight years​. I take full responsibility for the constant feelings of self-doubt that you’ve discussed experiencing as a result of my behavior, as well as the continual agony having even basic communication with me about even the simplest subject​. It took me an embarrassingly long time to see, ​recognize,​ and understand these patterns — much longer than I would have liked. I’m deeply sorry for the disrespect and pain and ​what may have felt like an ​​overwriting of your experience.”

As far as specific steps that I have taken to being accountable, these were the requests that my ex sent me in 2007 (and again in 2010) to resolve the situation and how I have complied with them:

Joe Biel

self-made autistic publisher and filmmaker formed by punk rock,