Inside the decade-long fight to expose Morgan Marquis-Boire
Warning: this piece contains extremely graphic descriptions of sexual assault and/or violence
For the last several years, Morgan Marquis-Boire was widely considered a rock star of the cybersecurity world. He was known as one of the “good guys,” an activist committed to progressive causes and the protection of digital privacy and human rights. Within the goth scene in Auckland, New Zealand, he DJed at goth events, where his bombastic personality and good looks earned him popularity and notoriety within a small and insular subculture.
But for me, and for many people in that scene, he also had a very different reputation: as a man who liked to sexually assault young women.
This past October, after receiving a report of a sexual assault by Marquis-Boire, the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab announced that it was cutting ties with him; progressive organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), First Look Media, and the Freedom of the Press Foundation did the same. Further reporting by The Verge corroborated multiple accounts of sexual violence and coercion committed by Marquis-Boire, spanning from the United States to New Zealand. The mounting allegations sent digital shock waves through cybersecurity communities, where he had been elevated to star status.
I know of Marquis-Boire’s conduct through painful personal experience. When I was a teenager, two women I was close with told me that Marquis-Boire had raped them. Later, he physically assaulted me when I tried to stand up to him. In recent years, numerous women have reached out to me with more accounts of his assaults. I cannot express what it has been like to watch his star rise, to see him paraded around by tech and hacktivist communities as a defender of human rights and watch as people took his word as gospel, while at the same time knowing he was hurting women.
One day, before Citizen Lab publicly announced they had severed their relationship, I posted a message on Twitter saying that he’d raped people I knew, and “broke [so] many lives.” I had no idea the news was about to break in America, but I’d heard someone was about to speak out about him.
The next day, I woke to a barrage of journalists wanting to talk to me about Marquis-Boire. I guess no one cares until they do. I refused all interviews; I’ve waited at least 10 years to tell this story, and I wanted to tell it myself. I have no interest in centering myself in this narrative. I just want justice. I want to amplify the voices and stories of women he hurt so badly.
There are numerous women I know about who have suffered enormously at the hands of Marquis-Boire, and my hope is that over time many of their stories will be told and remembered. Here are the stories of three women who gave permission to have their stories told. They have waited many years to finally be heard.
As early as 2000, when I was 15, I heard rumors about Marquis-Boire drugging and sexually assaulting young women, and warnings to “stay away from him.” He was about six years older than I was, but we ran in similar social circles. People admired Marquis-Boire and wanted to be around him; he was charming and intelligent, and spoke generously about his passion for human rights and feminism. Though some people were enamored of him, others were also afraid of him, and how he could alter their status within the scene. Whatever their reason, too many people came away with the impression that those who accused him of assault were crazy, liars, or out to destroy the career and life of a promising young man.
Despite the awful rumors, the cult of personality around Marquis-Boire persisted because he would dismiss accusations of rape or assault by saying that the women making these claims were unbalanced or crazy. Many people within our subculture believed him over the women who spoke out. The women who tried to hold him to account were routinely called liars by him, and the wider community. It is much easier to believe a woman is crazy than confront the truth that someone you know and like is capable of such unfathomable violence. Many of his friends and the wider subculture were willing to ignore his supposed “bad behavior,” to avoid making waves or risk losing his friendship.
Personally, I took the rumors about him as testimony and stayed well away from him. But in 2002, I began dating Marquis-Boire’s then-best friend, Carl Purvis. At the time, Marquis-Boire was dating a 20-year-old woman, whom I’ll call Emma. (She wished to remain anonymous for this piece.) Emma would become a lifelong friend, and over the years we continued to talk to each other about Marquis-Boire, and what he had done to us and other women. The Verge attempted to reach Carl Purvis, but he did not reply to a request for comment.
After the Marquis-Boire news broke in October, I asked Emma if she was ready to tell her story publicly. We sometimes talked about what it might feel like if everything finally came out about the abuse she’d suffered during their two-year relationship, which began in 2001. She told me that her relationship with him was “always sexually coercive.” I was present for one instance of physical assault: during a goth gig at Auckland’s Galatos events center in 2003, he beat her with a cane.
“After he’d whacked me several times with a short cane, he chased me into the women’s toilets,” Emma wrote me in an email. “I had to lock myself in a cubicle while people outside calmed him down, which wasn’t an entirely unfamiliar scene to people in our social circles.”
Others witnessed Marquis-Boire attack Emma with the cane, and one observer was hit herself. “Morgan was walking around that night and had like a cane and he kept hitting people with it and it [the cane] was really fucking heavy and it really fucking hurt,” she said. “And I know this because he smacked me across the back of the bare legs with it.”
Emma recalls the response to the incident from her peers being divided between laughing at Marquis-Boire being a “terrible drunk,” and dismissing Emma for being “such a drama queen.”
Some months after the cane attack, Emma, Marquis-Boire, and I, were out at a pub when he began shoving and cornering Emma. The fight spilled out onto the street. I stepped in between them to protect Emma, and Marquis-Boire shoved me, then flung me across the pavement, where I smashed my head against the concrete.
Following this incident, I became an outspoken critic of Marquis-Boire’s behavior. I’d seen him up close and personal, and what I saw was a man who was abusing and hurting women, myself included. I could not stay silent anymore. A few months later, during a party, Marquis-Boire showed up. Right there and then, I publicly named him as an abuser. I recall saying in front of him and many people in the goth scene that he was an “abuser” and that he had hurt both me and Emma. The same evening, Marquis-Boire made a threat that he wanted to kill me, graphically describing how “I’ll stab her in the side and she will bleed right out.”
Shortly after the October news about Marquis-Boire began circulating in New Zealand, I was contacted by a woman from Auckland who met him through mutual friends in 2001 when she was a teenager. She preferred to stay anonymous for this article, so I will call her Tilda. We arranged a time to meet at her house, and a few days later, on a humid day, we sat down on her couch and she told me her story.
Initially, she said, Marquis-Boire flattered her with compliments and attention. Tilda agreed to sleep with Marquis-Boire, but during the act he tried to coerce her into having anal sex with him.
“I was really sexually naïve. I was a young teenager and he was trying to get me to do things I didn’t want to do, namely, anal,” Tilda told me.
After this encounter, Tilda decided she did not want to sleep with him again, but they remained friends and things seemed civil. One evening, they were watching movies at Marquis-Boire’s house and having drinks. The next thing she remembers, it was morning. She woke up in Marquis-Boire’s room. He was lying beside her.
“I think he thought, ‘Okay, if I can’t get it consensually from her, I am just going to take it,’” Tilda said.
Recounting the night to me, Tilda snapped her fingers, and said she had lost an entire evening. She couldn’t remember anything. She couldn’t even find her underwear.
“All of a sudden it was the morning and everything hurt, and I remember my groin and rectum hurt, and I didn’t know what had been going on, and my clothes felt weird and everything felt tight and twisted around,” she said.
She started to panic and asked him, “Where is my underwear? Where is my underwear?”
He responded, “You were much more relaxed last night.”
“Everything felt foggy and I couldn’t remember anything,” Tilda told me. “I couldn’t remember how I had got there, and then suddenly I realized what Morgan was saying that we had slept together.”
“I didn’t want to sleep with you,” she had told him.
She tried to tell people that Marquis-Boire had raped her, but says most of those she told insisted she must have led him on.
“No one believed me. No one ever said, ‘Hey man, that really sucks. You know, he is an awful person.’ Even though him being a rapist was an open fucking secret. I’d heard so many rumors about him raping girls in the toilets.” In a personal message, Emma wrote me that Marquis-Boire used to pull her into bar toilets and public toilets in parks. “I believe there was a large element of degradation to it which excited him.”
Soon after this incident, Tilda was forced to leave Auckland because some of Marquis-Boire’s closest friends started bullying her in response to her speaking out about the assault. Tilda explains, “I was absolutely terrified and I couldn’t deal with all these older people basically wanting to run me out of town. I was so scared I actually ended up moving to Wellington.”
After a few years in Wellington, she returned in 2006. She tried to avoid Marquis-Boire, but they still ran in the same social circles. One night, Tilda was invited to a party and he walked into the room. She was unaware he lived there. “[I felt] like a rat in a cage with a snake,” she said. Once again, she lost a chunk of time.
“The last thing I remember doing is pouring myself a drink in the kitchen, and the next thing I knew was I was in a bed and my face was being pushed into a pillow.”
She recalls trying to say “stop what are you doing,” but it came out as a gurgled mess. Her arms and legs felt heavy, but she managed to resist for some time. She continued to struggle, but then she felt something hard against her tailbone and realized it was Marquis-Boire who was pushing her down.
“He shoved my legs open,” she told me. Tilda stopped recounting the story and began to sob. Up until this point I’d been trying hard to hold myself together, but I couldn’t anymore. I broke down with her and took her hand and held it as tightly as I possibly could. I asked her if she needed a break, if she wanted to stop the recording. She said “no” and picked up where she left off.
“He shoved my legs apart and he kept patting my head and saying ‘shhh,’ and he shoved his penis really hard inside of me and I felt my rectum tear.”
“I started screaming and tried to struggle, but he just started punching me in the head… like one, two, three… ” She made swinging motions with her arm and a closed fist, “like, three really quick, hard punches.”
After that, Tilda said she went limp. Once he had finished, she just lay there crying while he kissed her and patted her on the head. She recalls him saying, “Oh you have always been such a good girl.”
With those words, she blacked out. The next morning, she woke up on his couch and could feel dried blood between her legs. A blanket had been tossed over her. Marquis-Boire walked out and told her she had to leave because his girlfriend would be there soon, and that “she can’t know we hooked up.”
“I seriously considered throwing myself naked off the balcony,” she said. “After he left, I honestly opened the door to throw myself off the balcony and just end it. But then I remembered my mum and my sister and my Dad and didn’t want to do that to them.”
I had heard about Tilda’s story many years ago, before she told me the gut-wrenching specifics.
Tilda says he made it very clear to her that if he wanted to use his hacking skills against her, he would and could. “Morgan had shown me many times he could get into anyone’s computer and, ‘I can ruin anyone’s life that I want to with a click of the fingers,’” Tilda said.
I’ll never forget the day I read in an article that he was researching “spouseware,” domestic surveillance used mostly by men to control and monitor their partners, when he himself had used his tech skills as another tool for scaring women into silence.
Soon after Tilda came forward, Tove Partington updated her Facebook status alleging that Marquis-Boire had raped her. I contacted her over Facebook Messenger, and she expressed that she wanted to go on the record with her real name. She, like Tilda, had engaged in what was at first a casual and sexual relationship with Marquis-Boire in early 2003 when she was 16 years old. Partington told me that she was part of the punk scene in Auckland, but would sometimes attend goth gigs and ran in similar circles as Marquis-Boire. She explains that, at first, their sexual relationship was consensual, but over time this changed.
“The first time I woke up to him raping me I thought, ‘Well, maybe he has a high sex drive and he thinks I have a high sex drive. So, maybe, I gave mixed signals?’” Partington said. “It’s just that he kept pushing his behavior further and further. Every time I slept over at his place I kept waking up to him raping me.”
She found it incredibly confusing and upsetting. “I knew it was rape,” she said. Partington says it was hard for her to understand Marquis-Boire’s actions, because he had won her trust and she considered him not only an intimate partner, but a friend, and she continued to date him casually. She tried to bring up how his behavior was making her feel, but he would respond by telling her that he thought she was “into it,” and could tell she “loved it.” He would say he cared for Partington, while at the same time violating consent and pushing sexual boundaries.
“What people still forget is how fucking charming he is. You know it is easy to say, to call him a monster because he is a monster,” Tove explains. “But you know, he was also my friend. And that was what was so hard, to reconcile the two Morgans: the one who refused to listen to you when you begged him to stop, or the one who just wanted to drink and have fun.”
Marquis-Boire eventually went overseas and their relationship ended, but the two kept in touch. In 2009, he returned, and Tove ran into him at a gig at an Auckland bar called Whammy. The two were arguing about something in the hallway where the toilets were located when he grabbed her and pulled her into a toilet cubicle. Tove tells me she said “No, I’m not doing this,” but he began taking her tights and skirt down, ignoring what she had said. Parington’s voice began to shake as she described to me what happened next.
“[He] sodomized me and I begged him to stop because it was hurting me. I screamed because it was hurting me. But he wouldn’t stop,” she said.
She tells me that her screams were muffled as his hand was wrapped around her neck and she was struggling to breathe, but she managed to ask him to stop. He wouldn’t. After he was finished, they both left the bar and Marquis-Boire made “lighthearted jokes” about what had just occurred, much to Partington’s horror.
Partington says that when she shared her experience with others, she was told she must have “led him on,” while his friends told her she was a liar. I asked her if she felt alone in speaking out.
“I don’t think I felt left alone with it all because everyone fucking knew,” she said. “It wasn’t that I was left alone with it. It was that no one cared. Everyone fucking knew about it.”
For over a decade, I’ve confirmed to anyone who might listen that the rumors about him were far more than just rumors. In response, I have been ostracized, called a liar, and of course, my personal favorite, “crazy.” Only now are people starting to listen.
In the weeks since the news about Marquis-Boire broke, people who were part of the Auckland goth scene all those years ago have sent me personal messages apologizing, saying they heard the rumors that he had hurt women back then and did nothing. The Verge attempted to reach Morgan Marquis-Boire, but he did not reply to a request for comment.
“It never felt like a secret that Morgan had a problem in his relations with women. And it didn’t matter if you believed he raped women, or you had just witnessed bad behavior,” a friend of his in the goth scene told me. “It never felt like a secret to me. It never felt like an open secret to me. I thought we all knew.”
Throughout this investigation into Morgan Marquis-Boire’s behavior and history, I have been asked the same question (with slight variations) over and over again: “How did so many people hear about what he was doing, and yet so few did anything to stop him?” The situation rarely makes sense to those looking in. People simply had a vested interest in ignoring his behavior. Marquis-Boire was good-looking and highly intelligent; he had a magnetic charisma that attracted people. Even as a young man, he held status and power and his social standing protected him from being accountable until now.
What compounded all of this was that many people within our scene were aware of what happened to those who did speak out; we were brutally harassed and ostracized for our courage. Very few people wanted to follow suit and stand up to Marquis-Boire. The consequences were too severe. People will often abandon their morals and principles once they become an inconvenience.
The complicity in the community enabled Marquis-Boire to hurt women with impunity. It allowed him to become the Marquis-Boire the larger public knew, the so-called human rights defender of the internet, while simultaneously earning a very different nickname from some women in Auckland: “Morgan the Rapist.” It let him be lauded as a hacktivist hero, some kind of crusader for digital freedom, even as he denied women their most basic freedoms from abuse and assault.
But now, finally, we are being heard, and justice is beginning to be served. I have been told by the woman who first spoke out to Toronto’s Citizen Lab that he will “never work in cybersecurity again.” It has taken nearly two decades for Marquis-Boire to face any consequences for the cataclysmic pain and hurt he has caused. Finally, he is losing the social status he should have lost long ago.
Even before the news broke about him in the American media, he began talking about changing his ways. I was told by a woman close to him he has been in therapy for his “issues” since as early as 2014 and claims he will continue to seek help. In a Facebook post from July of this year, he admitted he’d treated his partners badly and was now reflecting on his past behavior, which was both “painful” and “terrifying” and “necessary.” He was going to “meetings” for his drinking.
His claims of sobriety and promises to seek treatment just don’t ring true to me. They sound like a desperate man willing to say anything he thinks might get him off the hook. He had nearly two decades to correct his behavior, and he was called out countless times, including by me. In response, he threatened to kill me, bullied women such as Tilda into silence, and used his friends by proxy to further intimate and shut women down who spoke out.
Marquis-Boire is not the victim here, and I don’t believe he can get better. In the end, I don’t care about his “rehabilitation.” What I care about are the women Marquis-Boire has hurt. What needs to happen now is that we all need to get better as a society. We need to get better at standing with women who speak out, instead of gaslighting and assassinating the characters of those who dare raise their voices saying “me, too.”
We aren’t alone anymore. Since the news broke, I’ve talked to many women in America and New Zealand who he has raped, bashed, and hurt. Our numbers are growing and we are organizing. We are collectively coming for you, Morgan, armed with our stories, our courage, and each other.
In October 2008, I went to a goth bar in Auckland, and it would be the last time I would ever see Morgan Marquis-Boire face-to-face. In front of his then-girlfriend, he started shoving and pushing me, until Purvis, who by this stage was my ex-partner, intervened and took me aside and said something I will never, ever forget: “Morgan is shoving you because he is afraid of you. He knows you will never stay silent about what he has done.” Morgan was right to be afraid.
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