Flash back many decades. I was sexual assaulted by a childhood friend whom I considered a special friend. I quickly put the scary incident behind me by practically blanking it out. As it turned out, this sweet, smart, funny boy, whom I thought I knew, had momentarily become someone I did not know at all. After a casual date he came back to my apartment and forced himself on me. Fueled by alcohol he became a stranger.
A year ago, for some unresolved reason, I mentioned the incident to a mutual good friend. The “boy” had gone out of my life completely, but we are both still friends with this woman.
Had I confided in her because I was trying to understand something about myself? For many decades, the “boy” has been a recovering alcoholic and lives by the four principles of Buddha.
Recently, he phoned me out of the blue to tell me that she had told him about the attack and that he was calling to apologize and make amends.
Flash forward to today. This mutual woman friend is getting married and I know that he will be at the wedding. It will be an intimate gathering on a tiny island off the coast of Georgia. There will be no way of ducking him because we will be housed in the same building, sharing meals and attending the ceremony, which he is officiating.
Do I have an obligation to thank him for his apology? At the time of the phone call, I did not thank him for his apology and he did not ask for one.
My guess is that we will greet one another at our mutual friend’s wedding as old childhood friends, as though nothing unpleasant had ever happened. That’s fine with me, but do I need to thank him for apologizing?
–CM, Atlanta, GA
You say you never asked him directly for an apology. Although, perhaps you did inadvertently by telling your mutual friend about the attack.
In apologizing to you on the phone, he set the stage — albeit decades too late — for you to trust him and let the healing begin. It showed he was concerned about your well-being. But, I suspect only because he was prompted by your mutual friend.
Nevertheless, no matter how heartfelt the apology, an apology does not always elicit forgiveness.
It sounds as though he was intelligent enough to know not to ask you to give it. That must mean he is not looking for you to thank him for apologizing.
Sexual assault is an unforgivable offense.
There is another simple answer: don’t go to the wedding.
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Accepting A Compliment