Dear Carolyn: A longtime friend of mine is getting married. We have been friends since we were children, but we are not as close now as we were back then.
We went to different colleges, but one year went on vacation together. She invited some of her college friends. One night, one of her friends sexually assaulted me after everyone had gone to sleep. I, too, was asleep at first, but when I woke up I pushed him away and went to a different room. I should have reported it, but I was very young, had been drinking underage, and was scared my boyfriend at the time would find out.
The morning after, however, I did tell my friend. She didn’t believe me. She said we had been drinking so it must have been a dream, that he would never do such a thing. I didn’t say another word to her about it. I was upset she wouldn’t believe me, her friend since childhood, versus a college drinking buddy.
It has been nearly a decade since that happened, and we remained friends, but not as close.
Despite the fact that I have been to many events with her in the last decade, her wedding brings up every memory I have of that night and her betrayal. Do I want to travel and give a gift to this girl who brushed me off when I asked for help? I have seen a therapist, and thought I had chalked it up to immaturity (hers, his, mine) and moved past it. But I have also had the awful thought that HE might be invited to her wedding too.
I think ignoring her wedding would be a friendship-ending move, and I’m not sure if I should. Should I be supportive and just go?
A: If she has any decency, if she has achieved any kind of maturity in the past decade, and therefore if your immaturity diagnosis was correct, then she will want to hear that you remain injured by her hand. She will want to make amends. If.
It will feel odd to bring it up, but consider freeing yourself of this. “Some old feelings have resurfaced lately: Remember when your friend sexually assaulted me on that vacation back in college? I came to you for help? You brushed me off, said he couldn’t have done it, and I still feel betrayed by that. I’d like to know if 10 years have changed your response.”
I included nothing about the wedding because it’s not about the wedding. It’s about finding out whether you want her friendship. The years of spending time with-her-but-not-really have just been stalling, no doubt hoping she’d come forward.
Maybe you’re not ready either to finish off or to revive the old friendship; it’s OK to postpone the conversation until you are. In that case, you go to the wedding if you’re leaning toward friendship, and skip it if you’re leaning away.