Question: Hello! I’ve never written in to anyone for advice before but I’m feeling overwhelmed and scared and I figured I’ll give this a shot.
The basic situation is this, about a year and a half ago I found out from a former high school friend that an incredibly close friend of mine had raped her when we were in high school. I didn’t know how to deal with the situation (and I still don’t, thus writing in to you).
My initial response was to cut him out of my life. I didn’t tell him anything about why I was no longer contacting him and why I stopped responding to his texts and e-mails. I just cut him out cold turkey. I went from spending at least one night a week hanging out with this person to absolutely no contact. I didn’t think I could deal with anything else.
The high school friend who he had raped would have no qualms with my directly bringing the issue up to him. I know, because I discussed this with her at length at the time. Now it’s been a year and a half and I miss him. I miss the friendship I had with him.
I want to believe in redemption, so part of me thinks I should contact him. But I don’t really know if that’s a good idea. So I guess my questions are, should I contact him? If so how would I even begin a dialog? Is there any hope for that friendship or should I just count it as a done deal and try to forget him?
Conflicted and Confused
I am very sorry that your friend was raped. I am glad she told you, and I am glad you showed her support.
So, you talked to your friend, the survivor, who said she would be okay with you talking to him about what happened. I am wondering how she would feel if you were to rekindle your friendship with him-have you asked her that? I would let her decide, if you are still in touch with her, and I would check back in with her about talking to him directly about what happened. She may feel differently now. Because you are talking about her life, and something done to her that was very likely traumatic, she may be in a different place about having it shared. There are, of course, ways to discuss it with your old friend that don’t disclose what the survivor has shared with you.
Rekindling your friendship with this guy really does need to be predicated on some level of accountability. Most rapists rape more than once. Some advocates assert that all rapists are serial rapists, we just don’t know about it.
I bring this up because if you rekindle your friendship with him, and the issue is never raised-you never tell him why you stopped communicating, you never tell him that what he did was wrong, etc.-you are effectively giving him your permission to continue to behave in that way. Silence is tacit approval in the mind of a rapist, who is often seeking validation for his choices. And I am sure you do not want to be complicit in the rape of someone else.
It’s reasonable to be nostalgic for an old friend, but it’s important to ask yourself if you really think the old friendship could return, given what you know now. Are you going to trust him? What will happen when/if he sexually assaults or rapes someone else? Reconnecting with this guy would mean a new kind of friendship, and he may not want one where he is expected to be accountable, and doesn’t have your complicity anymore.
In the best of circumstances, he’s gotten some help and worked through what he needs to do to be accountable. In that case, he won’t mind letting you see what that means to him, and he won’t mind you demanding accountability from him. I hate to say this, but in my experience, this is just not likely (POSSIBLE, just not likely).
Of course, he could also try to convince you that the survivor is lying, he’s a good guy, he would never do such a thing, blah blah blah. If your intention is to be a good ally to survivors in general, and your friend specifically, remaining close to him when he rejects any and all accountability brings us right back to tacit approval. Could you really continue your friendship with someone who won’t admit to this level of wrongdoing?
Cardinal Rule: It’s likely that your friendship with this guy is lost, unless he’s demonstrating accountability and you have faith that it’s real. The friendship is going to be different, and perhaps really what you should seek is closure. Check back in with your survivor friend, and ask her what would feel supportive. Being her ally is what’s most important, as she’s the one who has been harmed.