"To tell you the truth, I don't remember anything," he says as we sit together at my table, "I was too drunk."
"Well, what did she say?" I ask as I try to wrap my brain around what he's confessing to me.
"She said that we went further than she was comfortable with and now she's ashamed. She said that I kept urging her to keep going and that she was scared to push me away." He looks down at the floor in obvious remorse. "I swear I didn't mean to hurt her, but the night just got away from me."
He didn't know this girl, at least not well. He admits that if there was no alcohol involved, it never would have happened. But how can this happen? How can a substance make you these kind of things? Does it make you do things you would have never imagined? Or does it bring confidence to do what you had imagined, but knew wasn't right?
I heard all these stories about rapists such as Larry Nassar, and I used to think that the crime was committed by only the worst of the human species. But across this table from me is a man I consider my friend; is he truly in the same category? Does the presence of alcohol limit the crime, or is it even a crime at all? He is a good man, at least from what I can see. Does this woman see him differently?
I can brush this off as a one time mistake, but I have to face the fact that all mistakes have a path leading up to them. There are certain beliefs and convictions which lead one down this road and allow them to arrive at this destination. This is not a stand-alone incident, nor should it be treated as such.
He has no idea what to do. He already feels bad and has sent a text apologizing for what happened, but is that enough? If he calls her, will she be more upset? If he ignores her, will that confirm to her that he is a man of no character? I see that he is frustrated and disappointed in himself, but is it too late for him?
Yet, my biggest question is what should I do? How do I respond to him and these events? Do I convict him of this? Do I call him out? Do I let him be and hope that this doesn't happen again? What should I tell him to do? Where should I point him? How do I help him, and still make sure that he doesn't end up in the same position as before?
What do you do when your friends are rapists?
"There was blood everywhere," he shakes his head as he remembers the party from the night before, "I can't believe that happened."
"Are you sure it was him?" I ask in shock. "I'm pretty sure that's rape."
"They were flirting all night and I guess that he took it further than she wanted to go. She is freaking out right now: she might be pregnant."
My cold hands try to wipe the horror out of my eyes, but it remains as I stare straight into nothingness. My first reaction is sadness, which quickly turns to anger and malice; I'm beyond furious.
Why was no one there to stop him? Why did everyone stay out of their way? Did it appear to them that she wanted to go that far? Did they just feel uncomfortable trying to step in the middle of it? Were they all too drunk to notice?
"He's going to be in huge trouble if he can't settle this down." My friend comments as we both assess the gravity of the situation. "His life could be ruined."
His life? What about her life? What if she is actually pregnant? How deep are the emotional scars? That event could be etched in her brain for a lifetime. Will she ever find healing?
My friend and I know this, but in this moment, all we can think about is this man we call our friend. He could face a lawsuit if she decides to take legal action against him. He could be disciplined by his school: he may even be expelled. All of his goals may be lost forever because he decided to take advantage of this woman who only sought his affection.
I mean, they were both drunk right? Maybe it's not his fault? Maybe they can share the bla...
He must be accountable for his actions. He is the perpetrator and she is the victim. They both took part, but he is the one who got his way in the end and he is the one who left that room with the least amount of shame. She may have just been another notch in his belt, but he was her first. How could something like this happen?
I look over at my friend, "How are we supposed to face him? What are we supposed to do? Do we tell someone? Do we yell at him?"
Is this even our battle to fight?
If we step into this situation, does it take away her power? Does it push the victim to the side? It's her choice whether she speaks up or not, right? We don't know this girl very well, so we can't go up to her and ask if we can help. I hope she speaks up, I hope she has courage to step forward, but we can't get in her way. We cannot speak for her: it is her voice which needs to be heard. It is best if we stay out of the way. Right?
What do you do when your friends are rapists?
"He did what??" I nearly shout within the closed confines of my room.
"His girlfriend claims he raped her." My friend says as he shakes his head.
"I knew I hated that kid for a reason," I say as I roll my eyes, "I was wondering why I hadn't seen him around here. Good riddance."
This moment comes back to me as I sit across the table from him. He laughs and smiles like nothing has happened. He just seems to have moved on and left the past in the past. This colors him even more negatively in my mind's eye: he is a callous, heartless monster. Rapist.
I don't know the girl: I don't even know him. All I know is what everyone says about him. All I know are the claims and the rumors, but I don't know what the truth is. I don't know any details of when, where, why, or how: all I know is that he has returned after being put on trial. Is that evidence that maybe the claims aren't as true as I thought they were?
As the years pass, doubt seeps into my mind. I get to know him and realize that he's not bad guy at all. In fact, he genuinely seems to care about other people. We speak from time to time and I learn that he is funny and honest. He has strong convictions and sets out to make the world a better place. These are hardly the characteristics of someone who can commit this sort of crime. I mean, he isn't that big or strong: could he really have forced himself onto another person?
I hear him talk to others and I learn that he supports women's rights. He condemns hyper-masculinity while claiming to be non-violent and anti-war. He tweets about empowering women and has a few women in his life who support his actions.
Before long, I forget the accusations. Whenever someone brings it up, I push it aside and say, "That's not him anymore. He has clearly become a different person." I don't hate him: in fact, I call him my friend. I assume that all issues have been resolved and that the woman who levied the charge against him has also moved him. I assume that she has forgiven him for his actions, if they even did occur, and I take their lack of war as a sign of peace and forgiveness. I was wrong about him. I was wrong about everything.
I scroll through social media and see a #MeToo article... One that he has shared.
Wait a second... If this incident occurred right now, wouldn't he be on the other end of that hashtag? How would this woman feel if she saw that he posted this?
It happened many years ago, and I don't know the validity of any of it, but is there actually peace between them? Has he sought forgiveness and received it? Has he tried, but been turned away? I know that right now, he is living a good life. He is pursuing dreams and doing what he wants to do.
Where is she? Is she still hurt? Has she needed counseling and healing? Is she living the life she wanted, or is she still broken over what happened? Has she forgiven him or does the mere mention of his name taunt her existence? Was she truly the victim of his selfish advances? If so... What do I do about it?
Do I sit aimlessly by and continue to ignore it? Do I assume the best and pretend that the worse isn't possible? Do I confront him? Do I ask him? Why do these things haunt me now? I have not spoken up before, so why should I do so now? It's not my place. It can't be my place. I don't know what it's like to be in that position. I don't know what the truth is. I don't know if it's in the past or if it continues to destroy a life in the present.
What if I believe her? Does it change how I act towards him? When I see him, do I pretend that it's just like old times? Must he always be a "rapist" to the rest of society?
What do I do when my friends are rapists?