On Being Friends With the Guy Who Sexually Assaulted Me

That guy we both know is in the news. He did something cool, and you think we should talk about him, since we’re both friends with him. And every time he’s mentioned again, you want to talk about him again. Again and again. You can’t stop talking about our friend.

I can’t think of him without thinking of the moment seven years ago when he sexually assaulted me. I remember the texture of the wood under my hands the first time he grabbed my ass as I organized props backstage at a show. I remember hoping — in vain — that he would never touch me again. But he did. Somehow I’ve managed to dull the memory of everything except the texture of the wood. Sometimes I dream about running my hands over a cheap 2x4, and I wake up fearing that I’ve picked up a splinter.

You don’t know any of this. I never told you. I never told anyone. I was too ashamed, too afraid of being reduced to my victimhood. I imagined friends and family would only ever see me as someone who’d been assaulted, that they would imagine him with me every single time they looked at me. I couldn’t bear it. My identity was in jeopardy to begin with — I was a caregiver for a dying parent, a college dropout, a failure as I saw it — and when I imagined losing another part of myself to him, I just couldn’t do it. I also couldn’t bear to lose the only place I had that was mine: that dark place backstage, where I volunteered, and where he was paid. I saw myself as less valuable than him, but the place was invaluable to me. So I said nothing. I kept my distance when and where I could, but as far as anybody knew, we were still friends. Everyone still thinks we are friends.

I haven’t touched him or let him touch me for seven years. I haven’t asked about his wife or his kids. I haven’t followed his career or his hobbies. I have no idea how he came to be in the news, how suddenly everybody knew his name. I wasn’t prepared for this. I thought in the age of social media, where a friend is someone you give a small amount of digital access to more often than a person with whom you choose to share intimate moments of your life, that it wouldn’t matter that he was one of hundreds of people on my friends list.

It’s not your fault that you think it matters. You have no idea. I never told you. I never told anyone.

What do I do now? I can post a “Me too” status update, but that doesn’t tell the story. The fact is, even if he hadn’t assaulted me, if I’d never met him, I could still say, “Me too.” He isn’t the first, and he wasn’t the last. But he’s the only person who did that to me whose face I still see from time to time. The rest are exes, strangers on public transportation, people I never saw before, people I never have to see again, and no one ever asks questions.

I almost told you today. You posted a “Me too” on Facebook, and I almost opened up a new message and told you everything. But I still can’t.

Because what if you don’t believe me?

Because what if you do?