Processing What I Wish I’d Known at the Time

I don’t know if there’s a “trigger warning” on this post or not…but I’m going to talk about rape in it.  And I will also be using some very strong language–because this sort of thing is the time and place for it.  So know that going in…

Brief pause so you can consider if you want to keep reading or not…

Okay.

This weekend a very brave, close friend of mine went public with her story of being raped by a former “boyfriend” in college.  (Part one is herePart two is here.)  And even though I’m posting those links, I’m going to be using pronouns instead of names in this post.  I’m not sure how much is appropriate to say in my own post, so I’m going to at least not use names…  And I’m not going to soften it by calling it “sexual assault” or whatever.  Rape is rape and we need to keep calling it that.

I had no inkling that my friend had been through this, although I knew her well at the time that it happened and had even made small talk on a couple of occasions with the “boyfriend” in question. In fact, I can see his face in my mind right now as I’m writing this…  This entire weekend I’ve been thinking about what I missed, when I missed it, and when I should have known better.  The entire weekend, I’ve been thinking about the fact that if I’d even suspected that after he shot the breeze with me in the Library, he went off and raped my friend, I’d be in prison right now for what I’d have done to him.  I don’t know what happened to him after she (thank Christ) got him out of her life.  I’m not sure I’ve even thought about him since then, and it’s been about a decade.  But right now I hope the motherfucker is dead and no one cared enough to look for him.  If I could say one thing to the cocksucker, I’d want it to be the last thing he ever heard: “Jesus does not love you and God never knew your name.  No one will ever miss you.”

But I digress.

My friend was very brave in sharing her story.  But it took her 10 years.  Ten years ago, I was hoping my church elders didn’t figure out that I drank and cussed in my private life, otherwise I’d have a really awkward conversation…  At that same time, my friend wasn’t sure she could tell the people close to her that she’d been raped.  I know that you can only know what you know…but I’ve felt a deep mix of shame and embarrassment over the past couple of days.  Not only did I miss that someone I care about was going through what is probably the worst thing that’s ever going to happen to her…but when I heard they “broke up” I think I even said, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”  I feel sick thinking about those words.

I’ve e-mailed back and forth a little with my friend since reading her blog post. One of the things I’m grateful for is that her story doesn’t end 10 years ago.  She found a great guy to marry and they’ve got kids and everything now.  I’ve expressed a lot of what’s above in my e-mails to her, plus some other stuff that I’m not going to be printing here.  I’m proud of her for sharing.  I’d be proud of her if this hadn’t ever happened and all she’d done was graduate college and lived a nice life with her husband, too.  But knowing that courage grew from fear…she might be the strongest person I know.

I’d have been sad and angry about what happened regardless of when it transpired.  But I’m struggling hard with the fact that it was during a time where I saw my friend at least weekly; usually more often than that.  I don’t know if I could have stopped anything.  But I wish like hell I’d had my eyes open enough to at least suspect something and say, “Are you okay?” rather than, “I’m sorry to hear that.”

I’m learning a lot this weekend.  I’ve decided that this is an opportunity for me to learn and grow and open my eyes more often.  I don’t want to miss an opportunity to help again.  And I want to make some promises to my female friends and family members.  I want them to know that I am among the MAJORITY of men who find rape disgusting.  That I’m furious at the men who do it, the men who cover it up, and the men who pretend that the victim probably brought it on herself.  I want them to know that inasmuch as it depends on me, I will fight for their safety.  That if they’ve been attacked, I will do what I can to defend them, and if they share their story with me they will be BELIEVED and not blamed.  I want them to know that I take personal responsibility for my actions and if I’ve ever been wrong or treated them inappropriately I am not only sorry–but I MEAN that I’m sorry and I will do everything I can to change…

I want to promise to do better, to be better, and to fight against what’s worse.  I hope others will help me do that.  I don’t know what that means just yet.

I do know that I’ve donated to RAINN this weekend.  If you’d like to do likewise, please visit https://donate.rainn.org/.  People who’ve been hurt need to know that there’s a story after the story, and organizations like RAINN help people find it.  Check them out.  But be forewarned…donating to a charity doesn’t take away the pain of knowing what you missed.  It’s just something you can do.

Thanks for your time in reading this post.  I have a lot of internal processing to do.  Probably a lot of people do…I just happen to think out loud.

 

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