A photo from SlutWalk STL.
Hey what did you do last Wednesday? Me? Oh, not much. I went to work, wrote a post that went “Kinky & Popular” on Fetlife (the Fetlife equivalent of going viral). I went to see “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” And, oh yeah, somewhere in there I confronted the man my friend accused of raping her.
Here’s what the two of them agree on. They were at a bar, drinking. They went back to his place and drank more. She asked if she could sleep it off there and slept in his bed.
Here’s where the stories differ. He says that she had been flirting with him all night, the sex was consensual and she was the aggressor. She says she passed out in his bed and woke up to him having sex with her (with no condom, just for good measure).
She told me the story shortly after it happened, back in July. I was very upset by it, but when I tried to get her to talk about it further, she balked and I didn’t press. A couple weeks later I attended SlutWalk STL. I spent the better part of twelve hours marching with and for sexual assault survivors and participating in workshops. Women I had only just met came to me with their stories of survival. One trend I noticed in these stories was a desire on the part of the survivors for their rapists (sometimes friends or family members, some of whom were sexual assault victims themselves) to acknowledge what had happened. Not to have them arrested, tried and sent to prison, but just to acknowledge that the incident occurred.
I started thinking about my friend. Now I’ve heard a lot of rape stories from a lot of women. One thing all the previous stories had in common was that I didn’t know their rapists. I could just be a supportive friend and take them at their word, since I had no personal frame of reference for the men who’d raped them.
This was different. The man my friend was accusing of rape was someone I knew. We had lots of friends in common. We’d worked together on several projects in the past would definitely run into each other in the future. I wasn’t sure what to do; as a man, as a friend or as someone who presented himself as a sex-positive, anti-violence activist. Immediately after SlutWalk, I called my friend and asked if we could talk.
We met at a bar and I asked her to tell me the whole story and she did. I held her hand and she cried. I said I didn’t know how I would handle it if I ran into him. She asked me not to say anything about the incident until she had a chance to talk him and I agreed. In the meantime, I just tried to avoid him.
A couple weeks later, a woman who had attended SlutWalk approached me at Shameless Grounds. She had wanted to discuss SlutWalk with me, but when she looked me up on Facebook, she had seen my friend’s alleged rapist on my friends list and that stopped her from contacting me. She’d had a (much less severe) negative experience with him and the fact that he and I were “friends” was enough to call me into question in her mind. I explained to her that he and I weren’t really friends and I wanted nothing to do with him.
That was July, 2011. I have successfully avoided this guy and have not brought up the incident again to my friend. But I have thought about it. Is it possible that my friend got drunk, initiated sex with this guy and didn’t remember it? Of course. But I know her pretty well and it doesn’t seem like her. She and I have had sex in the past. I’ve had sex with her when she was drunk and when she was sober. The one time we had sex when she was drunk out of her mind, she remember everything the next day with no regrets. There have been times when she was in a relationship and giving off strong monogamy vibes. She’d crash at my place, too drunk to drive herself home and we’d share a bed without so much as touching each other. So, I have a hard time with his version of the story.
Now to her alleged rapist. I am not unbiased. I have a long history with this man. While my friend is the first person to out and out say to me that he raped her, she’s not the first woman to come to me, unsolicited, with tales of his in appropriate sexual behavior. About fifteen year ago, my ex-girlfriend got drunk at a party and went to sleep on the living room couch of the host. The man in question tried to coax her into having sex with him and she refused, several times, but he wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. You may ask why she didn’t just get up and walk away. She couldn’t walk. Added to which, the man in question was in between her and her wheelchair. She was sleeping on the first floor because of her inability to climb stairs. The man in question’s unwanted sexual advances were so persistent; the host of the party had to physically get in between them and carry my ex to one of the upstairs bedrooms.
My ex asked me to speak with him about it. Now, I should stress that she was no shrinking violet and was accustom to fighting her own battles. When I’d offered to intervene on her behalf in the past, she’d always said “no,” but this was serious enough for her to ask me to have words with the man. I found him at a bar and called him out. I told him to stay away from her and he did. This was in 1997.
Fast forward to December, 2011.
I got an email from my friend saying that she’d confronted him in a bar. She’d looked him in the eyes and said, “You raped me.” To which (according to her) he replied, “Well, that’s one way of looking at it.”
I was hot! I went to a place where I knew he’d be and asked him to step outside. I told him to think long and hard about what had happened that night with my friend, and if there was any doubt in his mind that the sex had been consensual, that he should admit to her what he did, apologize and beg her forgiveness. And, I told him to have her tell me not to tell anyone about it, because if she didn’t, I would tell what he had done to anyone I saw fit. Just like the time, several years ago, when he’d heard that I’d had consensual sex with his ex-girlfriend, which he then repeated to many of our friends, regardless to the fact that it hadn’t happened. That fact that I would later have sex with his ex-girlfriend is beside the point.
All and all, it had been a surprisingly civil conversation. He seemed calm and reasonable for a man being accused of rape.
I got a text from him later that night. He said he’d apologized and tried to talk to her and she’d punched him in the face.
I also got a text from my friend with her perspective. She said that he had ambushed her at a bar with no warning (to be fair, that’s what I had done to him. But also, to be fair, I hadn’t raped him. And for the record, when I told him to talk to her, I was thinking maybe a phone call, first). According to her, he apologized for “upsetting her” and said that he was sorry about “what she thought had happened.” She said she asked him several times to get away from her, but he insisted that they talk then and there and wouldn’t take “no” for an answer (see a pattern?), so she hit him. I’m not happy with how things shook out, but I won’t shed too many tears for my role in a(n alleged) rape victim getting to punch her (alleged) rapist in the face.
After their altercation, I felt like I’d fucked up. I felt like I’d inserted myself out of ego and machismo and had made a bad situation worse. I felt better, however, when my friend sent me a text thanking me for having her back. Still not sure what the best course of action is in situations like this. What would you do?