Sunday, October 4, 2015

You Told Me You Were Raped; I Failed As Your Friend

Dear S.A.,

I don't know if you remember me or not.

We worked together a long time ago. We were both attending the same small junior college and working together in the kitchen of a medical institution.

I'm the one you confided in the week after it happened.

We were working the evening shift, and our supervisor and the other staff had gone home for the evening. It was just you and me standing on opposite sides of a stack of dirty dishes.

You were removing the cellophane from an uneaten container of Watergate salad when you turned to me and said, "Can I tell you something?"

I should've known by the look in your eyes. I should've known by the soft tone in your normally cheerful voice. I should've known by the heaviness of your mood that some sort of trouble was weighing you down.

Looking back, I wish now I'd have known how to respond when you told me.

So this guy who plays basketball for the college came to my room for a study date. One thing led to another, and we started kissing. He put his hand under my shirt, and I told him that was enough. 

Just this, he said to me. But it wasn't just this. The next thing I knew he was holding me down. He put it in me. All I could do was lay there. I didn't know what to do. I was scared. 

I didn't realize at the time you were confiding in me about your date rape. It seems silly for me to say that now. How could I not have known? Your words couldn't have been any clearer.

But more than twenty years ago, date rape wasn't something we were warned about. It wasn't addressed during freshman orientation the same way the dangers of alcohol abuse and breaking interviz were.

And rape? That wasn't something that happened in the dorm of a junior college as small as the one we attended. That wasn't something that happened in a town the size of the one in which we lived.

I'm sorry I was so naive. I should've understood what you were telling me. I shouldn't have been so blind. Had I realized what you were saying, maybe I could've pointed you to someone who knew how to help you find justice, find peace.

But please don't think I forgot about you.

Your words -- and what you tried to tell me that day -- have haunted me for a long time. I guess deep down I knew I should've done more. The reality of what you must've gone through hit me hard this last week when I saw Lady Gaga's "Til It Happens To You" video.

I broke down and cried for you.

I'm sorry I didn't help you. I'm sorry I stood mute instead of telling you that yes, you were violated.

Yes, you were raped.

Yes, I believe you.

No, you did not ask for it.

No, he had no right to do what he did.

No, it is not your fault.

Yes, you are still loved.

Yes, you are still worthy.

Yes, you do matter.

Nothing I do today can change what happened yesterday. But I hope writing this helps in some small way. I hope maybe someone else who has endured a similar experience will read this, recognize the situation for what it is and realize they are not alone. Real help is out there.


A Friend Who Has Always Believed You

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE
Kathryn Harris is a journalist, a weekend blogger, a wife, a mother of two and the author of "The Long Road to Heaven," a novel about finding faith and forgiveness in the aftermath of addiction.

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