Forgiveness

On September 27, 2018, the day that Christine Blasey Ford testified on national television about her sexual assault, I was called to write about my own experience. The emotions I had bottled up came pouring out of me as I related to what she was doing so publicly and with such courage. My heart was aching for her while she was being interrogated about her memories of that event that happened to her so long ago. There was no question in my mind that what she remembered was true.

I so strongly identified with what was happening to her at that moment that I could not stop myself from writing. I had to for my own sake. It was not planned. It just happened. It was personal. It was about me. It was only my experience. My perspective. My truth. My focus was not on my friend, but about how the experience had affected me. It was cathartic. I had a physical response while I was writing.

I hope that my vulnerability somehow helped people who read it to think about the larger lesson about consent and what that means. It is something that I feel strongly about. I believe that it is a lesson that our society needs to learn immediately and completely. One of my high school friends beautifully put words to this in her comment on my facebook post that day. I don’t think I could write it any better.

Lisa, I want you to know I had no idea this happened, nor can I even imagine who you are talking about. (I don’t want to know!) Not everyone has this memory of you. I remember you as a brilliant tennis player and a soft-spoken, smart and beautiful person. I’m sure your friend who hurt you this way remembers you the same way, and he’s probably embarrassed too. I’m so very sorry this happened to you. Thank you for sharing. We will only make progress when everyone – including those who don’t see themselves as perpetrators – listens to these stories and talks to their sons and daughters about consent. Peace. 💙

What I hoped to express in my writing was that he was my friend and I felt betrayed by him. These things might not have affected another girl like they did me and they may not have lasted as long if I were a different person. We are all unique and I suppose that I am more sensitive than others in some ways. I wish that I had had the strength and sense of self at that time to confront my friend. I wish I would have been able to explain to him that what he had done to me was wrong and that he had hurt me. But I did not. I struggled with the shame of it and that is what continued to cause my pain, even though I now know that was not his intention.

We live in a society where girls are shamed for how they dress and how they behave. Our culture still subscribes to the belief that boys will be boys. We have to take responsibility for the space we hold here. This is the lesson I had hoped people would take away from my story. I like to think that some did and I know that others have not. Some of my friends who are men felt vulnerable and maybe they still do. Some were angry with me and some were angry with him. This was not a battle call, so I am sorry for that. It is never my intention to cause people to feel vulnerable or afraid. That’s not who I am.

Since writing about my experience, I have met with my friend and we have talked. He was shocked. He was upset about being portrayed as an assailant. He felt vulnerable. He was hurt. I listened as he shared with me his memories and his perspective of that night and of our relationship. He recalls things differently than I do. And I believe him. I believe that he did not mean to hurt me that night. I believe that he thought a sexual relationship between us was consensual because of how he felt about me and about our relationship. We both remembered that he stopped as soon as I asked him to.

I also believe that he did not mean to cause me shame that lasted for all these years. He explained that he had felt rejected and ashamed and that the bill he sent was sent for another reason altogether. It was a reaction to his pain after he found out that I had kissed another boy. We were two kids who had both been hurt and I very much believe that he was sorry for any pain he caused me. I know I am sorry I hurt him.

One of the greatest lessons that I have learned through this experience is about the power of forgiveness. My own teenager has also been critical in learning about forgiveness. She has experienced so much hurt and yet she understands that the people who have hurt her have not done so intentionally and that many still do not even understand when they cause her harm. It’s a hard lesson that we have both learned. Forgiveness has been important for us both to move forward. Forgiveness allows us to move through the anger, the resentment, and the blame. Forgiveness allows us to find peace in our pain.

My friend and I both hurt each other. Neither of us intended to, but it happened nonetheless. Forgiveness has allowed me to find peace and move past the pain. I hope that my friend can do the same.

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