Girl Talk: Finding Forgiveness For A Friend’s Assault
My best friend in the world was attacked. Her ex, upset and drunk one night, followed her home and up the stairs to her apartment door. Before she could close it, he’d muscled it open. She tried to force the weight of her body against it, to hold it shut. And couldn’t. He came through. He chased her through the apartment, bellowing about what she “owed him,” and knocked her down. He held her on the floor, but she got away, running down the street missing a shoe.
I was never so angry as when she flew back home from halfway across the country to tell me that this man tried to rape her. I wanted to kill him. I saw her bruised legs, and I wanted to fly back, buy a shotgun, and shoot this man. I’d met him before, the last time I visited, and he hadn’t seemed like a rapist. He bought me drinks and played a Nancy Sinatra song on the guitar while we sang along. Now he’d hurt my friend, and as I held her, I wanted to whisper that no one would ever find his body. That everything would be OK.
Instead, we cried together. We stayed close, under blankets, watching whole seasons of “The West Wing” on DVD. And that was it. That was all I could do until she went home to face the courts about defending the restraining order she wanted against him. I don’t know why exactly she didn’t press criminal charges, but that’s not what she chose. He should have been grateful. Instead, he showed up at court with a cadre of friends to explain how she’d wronged him, and this was all being blown far out of proportion. Didn’t she understand how this restraining order would hurt him?
Thousands of miles away, I raged. My blood felt hot with hate. When she called, I pressed my nails into the palms of my hands until it hurt and my skin nearly broke. She was my friend, and the world was a disgusting place. No one should ever hurt the girl I searched for fairies with, even though we were far too old to believe in them. We’d clogged the phone lines together, stayed out past our curfews, believed in ghosts together. And now some bastard hurt her, and there wasn’t anything I could do but show my support for her and hate him.
This was years ago. She’s doing well and not suffering any of the statistically likely horrors that too frequently visit victims of sexual assault. We hadn’t discussed this incident in a long time, instead talking about wine, art, and whether Sandra Bullock romantic comedies are watchable or not. Then, I saw that she and he had become Facebook friends. I felt sick. What the heck happened? This man was violent and cruel. I still wanted him dead. When we spoke next, I rounded the conversation around to what I’d seen online. “I didn’t know how to tell you,” she said, “but he’s sorry.” He was so sorry, and remorseful and full of grief for what he’d done. They’d talked. She forgave him.
But I haven’t. I know I still want to hurl fists at his face and thrust my knee into his groin, over and over. But my friend’s forgiven him for what he did to her. She believes that he completely regrets it and has changed, and she doesn’t want to carry the heavy burden of hate or shame. Being friends, of a sort, with him has released her. I suppose I understand, because I want her to be happy and well, and forgiveness suits her. She’s kind. I don’t think I have to be. I want to hate him because he mauled her and it is my right as her friend. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Do I need to give my hate away because she has? Should I forgive my enemy? I really don’t know.