A victim of a sexual assault that allegedly took place in 2016 is accusing a former friend, a rising beauty YouTuber, of rewriting her experiences to protect his new online brand.
The complicated fallout has lasted more than two years. Fans of Rin Rodriguez, a beauty vlogger who goes by the pseudonym Gothfruits and who identifies as a nonbinary boy, are publicly calling him a bully and rape apologist.
Rodriguez, 20, told BuzzFeed News he is "genuinely sorry that [he] ever hurt" the victim by not believing she was raped at the time. He contended that he is now an adult, and does not want to be judged today based on the person he was as a teen.
"I don’t believe the 17-year-old me should represent who I am today," he said. "I’m learning about new things every day. I’m literally becoming an adult and I don’t think that anymore — and yes, I am sorry that I ever hurt those girls."
Gothfruits' young and progressive fans, however, are not satisfied by his response. Some are drawing a line and saying they can no longer support him, no matter how much time has passed.
At the center of the saga is the former childhood friend of Rodriguez's, a 21-year-old named Ander Ayala. Ayala told BuzzFeed News she was raped by an ex-boyfriend who later dated Rodriguez — despite her efforts to confide in him and warn him of the alleged assailant.
"It was 2016, my senior year, and I had just graduated. That summer I broke up with my boyfriend at the time because he sexually assaulted me," Ayala said.
She said she and Rodriguez were "absolute best friends," but she had a feeling "something was going on" between her ex and best friend.
"So I talked to Rin and I said, 'You can date any of my exes, I don’t care, but this one...' I was like, 'I’m worried about your safety,'" she said.
According to Ayala, what happened after quickly spiraled out of her control.
"I kind of realized everyone started talking about [the assault]," she said, even though she'd only told a few close friends and family at the time. "Everyone was telling me Rin was telling them I was lying about it, and that it didn’t really happen, and I was just jealous. And [the assailant] was such a great guy."
She said she felt broken down and that she needed to unplug. "I cut everybody out, I quit my job, I changed my phone number," she said. She then started therapy.
In 2017, she said she tried reaching out to Rodriguez to talk about what had happened between them. But instead of hearing back, she noticed she was being subtweeted via his Twitter account. "I'm tired of waking up to unknown numbers sending me paragraphs of apologies like whats the point lol I don't need it anymore," Rodriguez's old tweet read.
"I just kind of realized he didn't care," Ayala said.
The private matter then became public when, in February 2018, a mutual friend of Ayala and Rodriguez responded to one of @gothfruits' tweets.
The tweet read: "if you leave your female friend drunk in a place full of unknown strangers esp men ur a piece of fucking garbage."
The friend responded to the tweet with the accusation that Rodriguez had "broke[n]" a woman down — Ayala — "until she didn't believe it was really rape but go off for those rts," they wrote.
Now, during a recent and unrelated public spat between Rodriguez and another YouTuber named Kalvin Garrah, Garrah's fans uncovered this tweet. They posted it publicly, on blog forums and then eventually on Twitter.
The more people noticed what seemingly was a random tweet loaded with a serious accusation, the more people pressed Rodriguez about it online.
Rodriguez attempted to address it in a series of statements posted online, claiming he and Ayala had hashed it out, and she had given him her blessing to date the ex-boyfriend. Ayala told BuzzFeed News these statements were inaccurate. She said she never received an apology, in public or private, from him.
"I realized I was never going to get an apology out of this person, so I was going to move on best I can," she said.
The controversy only grew after Rodriguez apparently recorded, published, and then deleted a YouTube video trying to explain the situation away. This led his fans to grow more curious about what happened years prior.
Ayala watched the video before it was deleted, and said he "framed himself as one of the people hurt in this situation." She said he still has not apologized directly to her. (Rodriguez told BuzzFeed News he created the video to "explain [his] side.")
"The way he told the story was, 'This terrible guy did these things to these girls and I was so dumb and he manipulated me,' and how he apologized to us and everything was good now. This isn't true," she said. "He didn't apologize to me."
After viewing the video, which was then quickly pulled down, Rodriguez's fans took to Twitter to express their growing frustration with the makeup guru. They were upset he "exposed their victim's trauma to ... the whole internet," as one person tweeted.
"We don't need to know this story; it's none of our business and it was never your story to tell. You fucked up and should've talked to the victims in private," another wrote.
Rodriguez doubled down on the explanations he gave in the now-deleted video. He told BuzzFeed News he and Ayala "seemed fine" years ago. He said the situation was "tricky to handle."
"I did not want this to go this far. I did not want this to be exposed," said Rodriguez. "As a public figure, I know how it is when everyone knows all your business. I don't think something so personal should go on the internet. That's why I did the video, then deleted it."
Rodriguez wants to atone for his actions as a 17-year-old toward Ayala and other victims of sexual assault. He is adamant that he's "grown" from the incident and does not believe he should be retried in a public social media court today.
"I hope these people can move on — I wish them no ill," he said. "I want them to know that I am sorry for the hurt I caused them because I was just caught up with being [with] this cool older boy."
"I’m turning 21 this year, and I don’t want to be remembered for the things I did when I was 17."
On Friday, he posted one more public apology about the matter. "I wanted to come on here and post an apology to not only the victims, but also my followers," he wrote in another Notes app.
Fans were still upset with him. This time, they promptly responded to the newest apology by telling him that his fans were not the ones owed the apology.
They're unconvinced Rodriguez has truly "grown" or learned from his past mistakes.
Many said they no longer "feel comfortable" supporting him and his YouTube ambitions.
"As a victim, all these people i admire still supporting gothfruits after what he did REALLY hurts.......i guess i’ll just unfollow everyone who still follows him," someone wrote.
"@ all my mutuals who still follow gothfruits.........y’all serious?" said another tweet.
People are now calling on big makeup companies like Milk Makeup and Nyx Cosmetics, who have sponsored Gothfruits' monetized YouTube videos, or have sent him products, to commit to not working with him.
A spokesperson for Milk Makeup told BuzzFeed News it would be removing Gothfruits' content from its social channels and mailer list effective immediately.
"We are firmly against abuse, sexual assault and victim-blaming and take these matters very seriously," the spokesperson said in an email, adding that the company discussed its decision with Rodriguez's management team.
BuzzFeed News has reached out to Nyx Cosmetics.
Ayala, who's become entangled in the drama once again with her former childhood best friend, told BuzzFeed News that she wants to speak publicly about what happened to her because she feels it's her "responsibility" to this time around.
"It ruined my life," she said about being assaulted. "[But] it's my responsibility to speak up about it so people can see it's not OK. It's important in these situations survivors come forward. It's really important to believe that people will believe you. People will support you."
"The guy who assaulted me — that's bad. But my best friend of 12 years...that was harder for me. It made the initial situation worse. It was a really hard loss for me," she added.
Ayala also believes that her former friend now having a public and relatively large audience for her aspiring YouTube brand is more reason to try to reclaim the narrative.
"Influencers have a lot of young fans. There's an audience watching."