Trigger warning: sexual assault, suicide ideation
On Thursday night last week, I went out for a drink with an old girlfriend, who I’ll refer to as Z. I’d just come back to my hometown after spending 12 years in California, and we were sitting around drinking Dogfish Head IPAs and reminiscing over old friends and memories.
The subject turned a bit dark when we realized how some of our friends, several of them actually, have died over the years. Z and I are in our early thirties now, and most of our friends are around that age as well, or a few years older. There was a group of three close guy friends that my girlfriends and I used to drink and do drugs with in high school. Two of those guys are now dead, and the third I am still friends with on Facebook.
“Gosh, I think he’s gone a little crazy actually,” I told Z. “This summer he saw a poolside video I had posted on Facebook and sent me a message saying I have beautiful feet.” I gave her my best yikes face. “I replied with a laugh, but then he said he wasn’t joking.”
“I hate him,” Z said.
This puzzled me. I’d never known anything bad had happened between them. She looked distressed. I asked her why.
She explained that during that period in her life, while she was dealing with addiction and an abusive boyfriend, she often found herself doing hard drugs with a group of people that included the old guy friend who recently messaged me. Around this time, I was 16 or 17 and she was a year older.
“There were a couple of other girls I know he wanted too. He was basically trying to get me to lure you in, and get you drugged up… so he could rape you,” Z said. “Obviously, I wasn’t going to do it. I didn’t.”
She was really upset now, and had to excuse herself. She got up to walk away for a minute and take a breath.
When she came back, I wasn’t sure what to say, or what to think. What does this mean? All of this transpired over a decade ago.
Z summarized by telling me that I should unfriend him, and not talk to him anymore. He and I had barely spoken a word to each other over the years anyway, which made him suddenly sliding into my DMs all the more bizarre.
She said she was sorry, though it was hard to understand what exactly she was apologizing for. Was she sorry that we live in a world where people plot to drug and rape each other? Was she sorry that I was targeted specifically? Was she sorry for not telling me sooner to stay away from our mutual friend?
Unsure how to respond, I think I just scoffed. It was almost unbelievable, but knowing him, it really wasn’t. We ran with some sketchy people in those days, and if I’m being honest, I’m probably pretty lucky I was never raped. Obviously, it’s a thing that could have happened. It’s a thing someone wanted to do to me.
I know that period was an especially dark one for Z. Even though she never went along with his plan, I wish she had done more. I wish she had told us back then. Who knows what he has done since — to other girls, other addicts? Did he hatch a new plan, with a new set of victims? Did some other girl play along, and do her part? Men like him should be in jail, but on what grounds? Is conspiring to rape even a crime?
I’ve had a few days now to chew on this information, and to accept that this is in the past and is no longer a threat to me. Still, I find myself caught up in hypotheticals. What if just a few decisions had altered the course of my history? I’m not sure who I would be now if that had happened to me. It’s incredible how much impact an event like this, a crime like this, can have on an individual and their development.
Knowing myself, if I had lost my virginity to a rapist, I might have died by suicide. Honestly. That’s hard to write, but it’s true. And now I know how close I came. Her decision to not be an accomplice to this may have saved me not just from rape, but from all that would have come after.
Of course, I could be generous and wonder if maybe these rape plots were just the ramblings of a horny, coked-up gutter punk who never would have carried them out. But I knew him, and Z knew him, and I have no doubt that he got away with it at some point.
This is the world women live in. These are the men we call friends.
This article first appeared on Medium.