I Defended My Friend’s Rapist

As a note, this writing contains trigger and content warnings. Also, I sought permission from my friend before publishing this piece.

When I was 19, I had a party. I invited friends from my childhood, from high school, from college. Two of my friends hit it off and left the party together.

Over a year later, across the island in my mother’s kitchen, my friend would tell me that he did not listen when she changed her mind, that he did not care when she said “no” (multiple times). Her previous behavior was all the consent he thought he needed and he sexually assaulted her.

When she told me, I believed her.

But I defended him.

What I did was inexcusable and textbook. I offered up weak “maybe he didn’t mean to”s and choice words like “misunderstanding” and “miscommunication.” She should have slapped me. Instead, she responded to me with incredulity and frustration.

But I was struggling, really struggling: how do you reconcile that someone you’ve known for over a decade has raped someone?

In a culture of victim blaming, of erring on false ambiguities, we are conditioned to view victims with doubt. For only one thing does intention seems to matter so much more than what violent crime results. For some reason, society largely feels that “intention” dismisses rape.

It took me years to realize that there was nothing to reconcile. That no person I would ever want to be associated with would violate someone’s consent and autonomy like that.

My initial reaction should have been disgust, disgust with him. Because the moment she told me, my relationship with him was over. I had thought I knew him but I clearly didn’t. It’s not a battle of sides. It’s not trying to eek out the story to find moral gray-area or middle ground. Someone broke and violated an oath of respect and humanity, they decided that what they wanted mattered more than anything else.

His intention does not matter to me. It will never matter to me because what he did was unacceptable, inexcusable and his consequences are palpable. And it does not matter that he once had belonged in my life, he will never be welcomed back.

It took me over four years to apologize to my friend — I did not realize the error in my actions for a long time and once I had, I was deeply ashamed of what I had done. I did not know how to broach the ocean I had created between us.

My friend has never wanted to be anonymous. She encouraged me to talk about all of this (as a side note: she is truly an incredible human being with an amazing spirit and there is no one that embraces the goodness in life more than she does). So for her, I did one last thing, too. With her permission and encouragement, I told all our friends about what he did. Naming his crime felt like unleashing a veracious disease, I watched it climb up the tree, killing off the branches. I hope that, eventually, he will be left alone, disgusting and withered—a mere stub.