Many years ago I was assaulted by a family friend after he escorted me home from a party. I asked him to leave and we never spoke of it again. I never forgot the incident and chalked it off to the fact that he had had too much to drink. It was our first and last date, although we had grown up together.
At his mother’s funeral reception years later we barely spoke. By then we were both married with children. His sister and I remain very good friends and a couple of months ago I confided in her that the reason I was not still friendly with her brother was because he had forced himself on me.
I told her I had totally forgiven him, and that I didn’t know why I was telling her about the incident now. By then he had been in recovery for many years and was apparently happy and healthy.
Shortly after I told his sister, he phoned to tell me that she had told him what he had done and was calling to apologize. Rendered speechless because I thought I could confide in his sister my good friend — and because I was truly, deeply touched by his regret, I accepted and appreciated his apology.
I understand why his sister told him as she is also in recovery and owning up to past painful acts committed is part of the process. However, I feel I was put on the spot once again.
I would like to know what to say to him next time we meet at a family event. “Thank you for apologizing for having assaulted me?”
I feel the wound has reopened and blame myself for scratching the scar. I don’t know why I brought the assault up to his sister after all those years. How do I thank him for apologizing and tell his sister that I forgive her for telling him?
–Anonymous, Chevy Chase, MD
In our time a woman’s odds of being assaulted by a fellow soldier are far greater than being harmed by the enemy. Also vastly under-reported is the number of rapes on college campuses that pride themselves for being intolerant of violence.
Sadly, the sex-violence connection is an inherent obstacle in the male-female dynamic. Men who assault women are more often than not following a social script — the pressure of group social norms. When the social script dictates that flirting is followed by foreplay that leads to intercourse, he naturally thinks he’s merely following the script.
Only fairly recently is it assumed that women are intellectual equals qualified for careers in science, banking, politics and the armed forces. We take for granted the changes in the laws and cultural consciousness and find it unbelievable that we still live in a world where a woman isn’t physically safe on her college campus, at her US Army post, or in the company of a childhood family friend in her own home.
Subconsciously you asked your good friend his sister for an explanation — in some kind of form of an apology — for the assault when you divulged the information that her brother had abused you.
She listened and told her brother. He called you and apologized. You acknowledged his apology. You can forgive him, but you won’t forget the assault. It doesn’t sanction their egregious action when you forgive someone; it simply empowers you from being their interminable victim.
You’ve said all that you need to say. Do you really want to thank him for apologizing for assaulting you? It is questionable as to whether he deserves any more respect than you gave him.
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Accepting A Compliment