A text from an ex accusing a friend of rape has left me completely confused. The issues seem clear-cut but they’re not. Have I done all I can?
I’ve been struggling with something for the last few days, some information sent to me on a Saturday morning while I was sleeping free of a very mild hangover (I rarely drink anymore so a few beers does the trick) that has quite literally haunted my consciousness. When I struggle with something, I write, and usually I do so with zero anonymity because I’m confident in my opinions, my talents and sharing my experiences to help others deal with theirs in whatever way I can. I’d even go so far as to say I usually covet the attention writing under my own name brings. The fact that I’m asking that this be published anonymously just barely hints at how much trouble I’m having with what I’m about to discuss. The topic is rape, and the story I’m going to share is one that’s left me reeling in confusion. I believe firmly that issues aren’t complicated—they’re complex. People complicate things to make them more difficult to navigate. Complex issues aren’t necessarily any easier to resolve, but they automatically feel simpler to find solutions to because they’re not complicated.
Rape was never a complicated issue for me. It’s an awful act, no one deserves to be disrespected and injured in that way by anyone else, and nothing can justify it. That being said, I’ve always been careful not to judge anyone too quickly. I’m inclined to want to understand the reasons why someone would feel like rape is the ultimate solution to what they’re feeling. I’d never side with the rapist, but I still feel it’s important that we understand them, even if only to better and more appropriately treat them. And I do mean treat them. There has to be something we can address in their psyche that’s motivated them to take this course of action.
But then, the complexities of rape had never landed on my own front porch.
I wasn’t raped. I haven’t raped anyone. But this weekend someone I know sent me a text message to inform me that they had been raped. Not only that, but the person that raped them was someone else I knew. According to what the young woman who sent the text said, she didn’t want me to take action or say anything, but she felt she should tell me. I understand that need to get information off one’s chest, to express how you’re feeling and to try and process it through dialogue. That, for me, isn’t complex at all. After thinking it through, I responded by telling her I was very sorry about what had happened to her and that she should go to the authorities immediately to report the incident. She thanked me for replying and said she was on her way to the police. Later she asked that I not tell anyone (I realize I’m violating that here, but I feel anonymity and the complexity of the issue means this is a safe space to discuss it), so I recommended she speak to a counsellor about what had happened. She agreed, saying she was thinking about it. She then expressed regret over ever having told me. I told her that if she ever needed to talk about it with me, she could.
Difficult, but not all that complex. Except for the finer details that’ve been the ones haunting me.
First things first: the young woman in question is an ex-girlfriend of mine, one I’ve had an on-and-off relationship with for a few years now. We’ve broken up, been friends, had sex, had massive arguments, dated without any sex, not dated but had sex, and we’ve fought a lot. Our relationship is complex and after the last time she ended things, I decided to take some real responsibility for how I’d leave our get-togethers feeling and leave her alone. I care about her a lot, and I even love her, but I also know our relationship is toxic for us both and so there’s no use going back and trying anymore.
On Friday night when I saw her at a party, I felt a brief pang of confusion over how to deal with the situation, but I quickly got over it. She was there with her friends and she looked like she was having a great time. I was there with mine and I was having the same. If I concerned myself with her too much, I’d just ruin my night. Besides that, months before I’d had a really nice release, a sense of finally being able to let go of her because I was finally turning the love I’d shared outwardly with her inward. I was finally feeling completely confident and in love with myself, and it was changing my entire world for the better. The only reason I avoided saying hello to her all night was to assure that we kept up the state we were already in: revelry, enjoying the bands we watched and the company of our friends, without any painful reminders of the past.
When 1AM came around, I dragged my tired self to my car and drove straight to bed. The text from her was waiting for me in the morning. Someone I know and speak to relatively often had raped her while she was blacked out.
This guy that she says raped her is someone I consider a friend. He’s someone I have deep respect for, care about and get along well with. I can’t think of an occasion where I’ve seen him treat a woman with disrespect, or anything but charm, intelligence, and good humour. What I’m saying is that I find it difficult to believe he’s capable of raping someone. But then, I guess every single one of Ted Bundy’s victims thought he was a charming young man too.
Who knows what a rapist looks like? Or an abusive spouse? Isn’t the most emotionally harrowing thing about them that they look just like everyone else? “Normal”.
So already that part is emotionally confusing for me, because the accused rapist is a friend who my instincts scream at me is incapable of such a thing. And the source of the information is someone who’s been manipulative with me in the past, although not quite on this scale. But I’m also not willing to jump to conclusions about what she’s saying just because of our difficult history. The boy who cried wolf may’ve lied a lot, but he was still telling the truth the last time anyone heard from him. I’ve given the young woman the most solid advice I can, but I’ve done so from afar, with zero emotional engagement. That’s because I’m trying hard to protect myself from getting pulled into her orbit again. And the guy is someone I’m not even sure how to approach, or if I even should. I want to be there for the woman. I want to ask the guy what happened. But I haven’t been able to do either.
If I go see her, I’m worried I’ll become entrapped in the life of a person I have no interest in speaking to at the moment. And if I go see him and he did rape her, I’m worried I’ll tip her hand and weaken any case she has against him by giving him the chance to make up an alibi.
I have no idea how to proceed. I need your help and advice. Have I done all I can to help?