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Facebook Friending Ghosts of the Past

18 Jan 2011

written by Carolyn

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A few weeks ago, I received a Facebook friend request from a man I’d known in college.

Someone I’d avoided for most of my college years.

It wasn’t always that way. [Name Redacted, or NR for short] was smart, funny and charming. And attractive. He was built like a linebacker, big and tall. We girls wondered if NR was big and tall all over.

I decided to find out.

After weeks of flirtation, one night NR invited me to his room. There was alcohol. There was an attempt – a fumbled, bungled and ultimately unsuccessful attempt. Equipment failure played a major factor.

There was the late night walk of shame back to my side of the dorm.

And the next day and the weeks that followed, there were the rumors of how wild I was, what a freak I was, how NR had been all up in that.

The big, baggy shirts I liked to wear at night provided unexpected grist for the rumor mill. I had taken a few of my father’s old shirts to college. At night, I would don one of Daddy’s shirts over a pair of shorts or sweatpants.

I was wearing shorts under one of Daddy’s shirts the night I went to NR’s room. Of course, the rumor mill said I went to NR’s room wearing just the shirt, with no pants or panties underneath.

I never knew if NR initiated the rumors or just went along with everyone else’s assumptions. I could have ruined his reputation by disclosing the equipment failure issue. But I just wanted to forget the whole thing. 

The rumor mill wasn’t about to let that happen. Thanks to the rumors, I started getting all sorts of unwanted attention from NR’s boys.

One of NR’s boys, however, appeared sympathetic. He claimed not to believe what everyone was saying about me. He invited me to his room to talk, and I tearfully confessed what really happened, and didn’t happen, with NR — all the embarrassing details.

Sympathy Guy claimed to be upset and angry about NR’s lies. He pretended to be a friend, a big brother.

And then Sympathy Guy raped me. He forced me to perform oral sex on him that night. I will never forget the gagging, choking, spitting; the feeling like I’d never breathe again. I felt lucky he didn’t force intercourse as well. I begged him to let me leave, and he did.

Although I didn’t press charges, I didn’t keep quiet about what Sympathy Guy had done. The rumor mill got the word out. I guess not even a ho deserved that.

I steered clear of NR, Sympathy Guy — the whole lot of them — from then on. Thanks to them, I also learned to stay out of men’s dorm rooms at night.

Although I can’t hold NR responsible for what Sympathy Guy did, they are forever linked in my thoughts. Sympathy Guy’s flawed logic went like this:

a) According to his boy NR, I was a ho.

b) A ho could be had, without the need to question whether she wants it or not. Either she always wants it, because she’s a ho, or it doesn’t matter whether or not she wants it, because she’s a ho. Therefore, he was entitled to shove his penis down my throat.

When I got NR’s friend request, I thought about accepting it, as a symbol of forgiveness. NR had made a stupid, young adult mistake. His lies led to Sympathy Guy raping me, but I couldn’t say he was the cause of the rape. And anyway, it all happened such a long time ago.

Furthermore, what does being Facebook friends really mean, anyway? I have over 600 Facebook friends, and communicate with less than 100 of them. Accepting NR’s friend request wouldn’t mean we have to actually become friends.

On the other hand, forgiving NR doesn’t require me to feel differently about what he did. NR let people think we’d had some kind of wild, crazy sex rather than admitting we didn’t have sex at all. I have a right to still feel some kind of way about that.

Forgiving NR also doesn’t mean I have to allow him access to me and my contacts — or expose myself to his. For all I know, NR and Sympathy Guy might still be connected, and Sympathy Guy is someone I have no desire to hear from ever again.

No matter how insignificant Facebook can be, it’s still a level of access to my personal life that I have the right to control.

While I mulled it all over, the friend request disappeared.

If NR tries to friend me again, perhaps I’ll link him to this post. I’m not seeking an apology. I’m not even sure an apology would change how I feel. His friend request reminded me of an unpleasant and painful learning experience.

My own daughter is only 4 years younger than I was when I had my encounters with NR and Sympathy Guy. I will share this story with her, in hopes that she can learn from her mom’s mistakes.

And if NR and Sympathy Guy have daughters, I hope they teach them to avoid young men who are like the young men they each used to be.


22 Comments on Facebook Friending Ghosts of the Past

  1. Tarana

    Wow, CE. First off, I am so sorry that happened to you. And as for the FB friending thing, I take GREAT pleasure in using the decline/ignore button. I have friends who “feel bad” or accept out of sympathy. Not me. It’s one solid thing I have control over and I love to exercise it. I do the same thing with the delete button, it works virtually like I would love to in real life…like “oh, thought you were about something…you’re not…good day. I have strict FB rules too, I don’t friend co-workers, children of my friends or people who search for and friend request me right after a casual meeting!

    Anyway, I love this post. It really, really resonated.

  2. Alexis

    I am so sorry that this happened to you, and I am so proud of you for telling your story. I am also proud of you for all the things you’ve accomplished, and for putting your knowledge into action (this is wisdom). I am glad that you did not friend NR after all, and you’re absolutely right that you have the right to feel “some kind of way” about this. Many blessings to you!

  3. Linda

    Wow, I am so sorry that happened!! I can’t imagine something like that happening but I applaud the courage you exhibit in sharing your experience. Thank you.

  4. Dr. Goddess

    Thanks for sharing this, Carolyn. It upsets me that NR never tried to apologize to you, even privately. And just because he friend requested you doesn’t mean he couldn’t send you a message. The fact that his request disappeared says everything you need to know. Even after all of this years, he will not man up. He disappeared from responsibility the same way he did in the past. If (and that’s a big if), he is man enough, he should send you a message and apologize for what happened those many years ago. He may not be at fault. But he was complicit in creating the image of you that would say “she doesn’t deserve respect or protection.” Thanks again for sharing.

  5. Cher

    I am sorry that happened! You are a strong lady and have accomplished so much.

  6. Christine

    This was unfortunate and I am sorry that you had to endure this attack. This happened to me also and it really struck a nerve. I was raped all night by three guys. Sympathy guy pulled me out of the room to “save me” and wound up raping me all over again. It happened to me in high school and I still have post traumatic stress disorder. I sometimes wake up screaming to this day. I too thought about this when I accepted a friend request from someone who had friended my attackers. I often ponder if I should unfriend them or not bother. You see they too went around bragging about it like it was consensual.

  7. carolynedgar

    Unfriend! I am horrified by your story. No one connected with what happened deserves any part of you. I wish you health and healing.

  8. lola gets

    While I never had the experience of a forced sexual act in college, I know all too well the damage one egotistical, braggarts lies can do to ones psyche and reputation. I really wish that the mothers of young men would teach them thet lying about conquests is not necessery nor the right thing to do!

    L

  9. Jomaire

    Carolyn,

    This piece speaks, and can speak, to so many women still battling the emotional scarring that comes with undergoing traumatic sexual experiences. And while the advent of social media and social networking has reconnected estranged friends and renewed old relationships, it has also been used by some as a cheap try at reconciliation. You were wise to decline the request, and all the wiser for not harboring any lingering hatred or enmity, as those bitter emotions do more harm to the harborer than the source.

    Giving someone a reprieve by granting them access back into your life — albeit through something as casual as Facebook — without a more genuine showing of remorse than that communicated by simply wanting to be Facebook friends, would undo all of the hurt and heartsickness you describe above. I’m glad you stood firm and chose to put yourself first by refusing to ever to protect NR or his feelings again.

  10. MizzDW

    To hear this story is so powerful. I was sexually assaulted in college and thought i was “over it” until I saw the person on facebook. Its funny how seeing someone so far removed from your present day existence yet connected to a very painful moment in your past can really affect you. He has not requested my “friendship” but just knowing he still is apart of a normal life is so weird for me to even fathom. I’ve always wanted to know how others felt about how social networking can bring you back to something in your past.

  11. MM

    Thank you for the post and for sharing your experience.

    A similar thing happened to me, although in high school, not college. At the time, I knew it was wrong – but didn’t know how wrong it was. I figured since it wasn’t ‘real’ sex, I had no grounds to complain – and that it was probably my fault. I feared being labeled a ‘ho’ and being blamed because I wouldn’t give it up.

    Now that I’m older, I realize he is the only one who acted wrongly in the situation — perhaps if I had read something like this 8 years ago, I wouldn’t have blamed myself so much. I will read and pass it on — to my friends, male and female. This happens far too often, especially on college campuses, and more voice needs to be given to it – so I thank you for giving it some!

    .. oh, and I wouldn’t friend him either!

  12. Kim

    I applaud your strength in telling your story. Even more for sharing it with your daughter. I hope none our daughters have to ever experience any unwanted sexual advances. Their have been incidents in my life that I knew were wrong but for whatever reason didn’t disclose at the time. I hope all parents explain to their sons or daughters about respecting the word no, as well as the person who is saying it.

  13. Carol

    OMG Carolyn. Do not accept the request, EVER. I’m so sorry this happened to you!! It’s funny how really a Facebook request can be nothing, however you yield complete power and control over who you let in your life, at any level.

    I use that power all the time when ignoring requests from family members or people I don’t want in my life. And I use my power to unfirend, unfollow, block others. If only we could do that with all the pain and negativity!

    My love to you. Thank you for sharing your story.

  14. Yvette

    Carolyn, thank you for sharing! I am so sorry for your experience. I have come to “know” you through FB and twitter as a strong, determined, successful African American sister and a wonderful Mom! Your sharing this, let’s those with similar experiences know that although the pain does not leave, it does not fully hinder either!

  15. Nicci

    Peace to you for having the heart to share this experience. I hope that this reaches the young women looking to find their way in this world, that may have shared in an encounter such as this, and those that may have not. Your courage to reveal these details and your later understanding of it all can be a poignant testimony for many. It indeed was for me. Thank you.

  16. Alicia

    Carolyn,

    I’m so sorry to hear this. Unfortunately, this is very common on college campuses. So many women live with the guilt and shame and often times become self destruction. I’m so glad that you didn’t. My niece is getting ready to go to college and I’m going to share this with her. I hope that you sharing your story isn’t in vain.

  17. Mom, Ph.D.

    I’m so sorry this happened to you. But thank you for posting this difficult episode in your life. Knowledge is power, and the more people who know that such things happen–and happen surprisingly often–the fewer Sympathy Guys will get away with rape.

  18. Jennifer

    May God bless you, Carolyn. Your strength and perseverance are testimonies of your warrior spirit.

    Hopefully, women who read this post will learn forgiveness like you have for you are an inspiration for us.

    Unfortunately I was sexually assaulted a few years ago that I try to block from my mind because it is still painful for me but I have forgiven that individual so that I can move on with my life.

    With facebook, I’ve tried to conceal my identity as much as I can so that I am never contacted by those who have emotionally hurt me. However, when they do try to friend me, BLOCK is my friend! ;-)

    God Bless you!

  19. ph2072

    How horrible. And how disgusting that these dirtbags have the NERVE to try to be friends. Ugh. & WTF. Wishing everyone who’s gone through this, solace & comfort & healing.

    @wizardofoz321

  20. VegasSeven

    I would befriend him and see if he has something significant to say or apologize. I would also be curious to see what he has made of his life– was that a one-time immature mistake he made or just the beginning or a series? And if he says nothing, then I would block him. Heck, I may even block him if he has something significant to say. With everything that happened, there is actually no reason to befriend him anyway. I have two facebook accounts– a personal one and a professional one. Anyone that I don’t care for can always go on my professional page.

    Anyway, enough on that. Congrats for moving on Carolyn and putting people like that out of your life– both of those people.

  21. carolynedgar

    Sorry, no. No desire to befriend this person on any level.


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