Thursday, March 5, 2020

Death of a Friend

The past week has been a hell of a year. Perhaps you had read my guide as to what to do when you find out that one of your best friends is an “alleged” sexual predator. Perhaps at the time, I was feeling every emotion at the same time, and I cannot say I’m completely over those feelings.

Now let’s explore another hypothetical situation. Let’s say that throughout the week, others came forward, either to you or your other friends, telling you what he had said or sent them. Your eyes cannot unsee that, nor do you want them to. You need to know what happened, because you feel like you need to make amends for what he did, but you have no idea how to do that, since you did none of these acts. On the same token, you don’t want to see any more, because it keeps getting worse. You likely are paralyzed with the guilt of not knowing what to do.

What is your responsibility? I honestly do not know. I do know that all the women who came forward need and deserve all the support that they can get, whether you know them or not. The difficult part is that you don’t know them personally. Tracking them down and reaching out could re-traumatize them, also. All you can do, in most cases, is hope that they are being supported.

The next thing you think about is what needs to be done to make sure your friend never harasses or assaults women again. I like to believe in rehabilitation. There should be a long road before someone is completely beyond help. This is This is where the largest conundrum comes. Do you stick to your friend and make sure he gets whatever he needs to not do what he has done? Do you leave him and tell him he needs to find that help on his own? The fact is that he likely won’t get better without support. So will you be that support, or not? What kind of friend are you if you don’t give him that support?

But what kind of friend was he? Some of those women are also your friends. Associating with a known “alleged” sexual predator, THEIR predator, is not being a good friend to them, is it? How could you look them in the eye and still associate with their “alleged” assailant? But how could you call yourself a friend if you abandon your friend who so obviously needs some support to rehabilitate?

There is no perfect answer to questions like these. It is just a matter of the choice: stick with your friend and possibly be the support he needs to be better, or not. You will not feel good either way. The only things that are definite are that the people who came forward regarding his advances and worse need to feel safe again, whether you are part of that path or not. Also, one of your closest friends, who “allegedly” sexually harassed and possibly assaulted people, needs to never do it again, and though it is his responsibility, you feel compelled. You get multiple emails and calls from people telling you to not internalize all this, to know that you are not the one who hurt these women, and it was his choice to do that. You understand that, and you try your best to not take in all of that responsibility that is not really yours, and you are trying to not, but it is admittedly difficult.

Then, perhaps, this friend came out publicly with a statement through a local media outlet, and implicated a person who had nothing to do with the exposure of his actions in casting the bad light on him. Maybe there was no admission of guilt, and no owning of all the actions that came to light, just throwing someone under the bus who had nothing to do with the situation. At that point, maybe your decision was made for you. There’s a good chance you are finished with him. There is no way you can talk to him until he owns his actions and apologizes to the multiple people he tried to blame for exposing his own actions and makes right with them, in whatever form that takes. You are done, and he is finished in your mind. Problem solved. But why do you still feel like hell? Why does your gut have the same feeling you had when one of your friends died of leukemia?

Because your friend, who you trusted, who you defended against detractors, isn’t dead. He never existed. You defended a fa├žade of a person all this time. And you will forever feel indebted to the people he hurt, no matter how much people tell you otherwise.

I can’t tell you how to move on from this, but I’ll let you know if I figure that out.

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