I don't know. But I can believe that he was the victim. I can relate and I empathize.
I have avoided the topic here for many reason. The woman I was involved with in an online relationship knows about this site and got quite upset when I wrote about it in the past. Plus, I felt ashamed and foolish.
It was really only after our conversations ended that I began to understand something of the extent to which I had been deceived. I still don't know what all the lies were. At this point, it no longer matters. I was too trusting. Too willing to believe. I don't know if there was any intent to harm on her part. I don't really care.
But there are parts of what Te'o said in his statement that ring true based on my experience. It's hard to explain an online only relationship to family and friends. I left out details. I patched over inconvenient parts because if there was a chance that we would have been able to bring the relationship into the real world I wanted family and friends to not judge.
I should have judged more myself, though.
Every time we were close to meeting, something always came up. There was a last-minute crisis. An emergency or an illness prevented the rendezvous.
She didn't want to talk on webcam. I never saw her face, in spite of years of off and on contact. Eventually that became a big problem for me but I have to admit that there was a freedom in it too. I was more confident to say what I was really thinking about things. I just blurted or typed them out and didn't get sidetracked by visual cues that might have led me to bite my tongue.
For the longest time, there were no photos shared. Then, after lots of pushing and prodding and nagging on my part, there were finally a few photos shared. I later learned that the photos were actually of someone else. No, that couldn't be, she insisted. Well, maybe a few pictures of someone else got mixed in with ones she sent. That lie was exposed too.
I don't know if she was just trying to hide something or if she was pathological. I wanted to know why for a long time. I wanted to solve the mysteries. Now, I count myself fortunate that the experience didn't cost me more in some way. I didn't suffer the same public embarrassment and criticism Te'o is currently facing from sports columnists and bloggers and Twitter critics. I just had my own private torment. And the loss of an online companion and confidante who I used to talk to nearly every day. She helped me get through a bad breakup. She helped me start to envision and even crave a committed relationship again.
I can believe that Te'o grieved the death of his online girlfriend. I grieved the loss of the relationship I had too, no matter how dysfunctional and deceptive it was.
I can't say Te'o story is true that he was the one deceived. But I, for one, believe that it is possible. It rings true from my experience.
But all too possibly true.