Dear Amy: About 15 years ago (in high school), a close friend of mine was sexually assaulted at my house during a party I hosted while my parents were away.
It happened overnight in the guest room by a then-trusted boy (a platonic friend) from another school.
I remember her calmly waking me up that night asking if she could sleep in my room. The next day the boy was gone, and she told me what had happened. Our assessment at that time was: “Ugh, what a creep!” She told me she’d gone home after the party and had to take several showers. A few weeks later he dropped by our school and she ran to the bathroom and vomited into the toilet.
Despite all of this, I never asked her about it, and I now feel terrible.
We’ve remained close over the years. We were bridesmaids in each other’s weddings and had our children in the same year. Although we visit each other several times a year, our communication between visits tends to be limited to brief texts to plan the next visit.
About a year ago, my family and I were at her home when I noticed that she had a book on overcoming trauma.
I immediately thought of that night in high school. Now I think about it all the time. I’m wracked with guilt that it happened in my house, that I didn’t do more, and that I never asked her about it.
Should I ask her about it, and if so, how? I don’t want to bring up painful memories for her in order to alleviate my own guilt. — Bad Friend
Dear Bad Friend: Your plaintive question is yet another example of how the impact of sexual assault ripples outward. Sexual assault has been much in the news lately, not because it is happening more often, but because we are finally talking about it!
Yes, you should talk to your friend. When you don’t know how to say something, you can start with: “I’m not really sure how to say this...” You do not want to offload all of your feelings of guilt. You DO want to create a safe space for her to say whatever she wants to say, including, possibly, “I really don’t want to talk about this.”
Because you two do not maintain regular verbal contact, send a text: “Hey, I have something I want to talk to you about. Can you set aside some time so we can have a private call?”
Tolerate some silence. Tell your friend, “I love you; you are important to me. I hate the fact that you were hurt.” If she says, “Oh, I never think about it,” then you can respond, “Well, I’ve felt bad about this for a long time, and I hope you’re OK.”
Dear Amy: I am a 57-year-old woman. I want to encourage those interested in meeting a potential partner online not to give up.
Four years ago, after a breakup, I posted profiles on a couple of free dating sites. I met different gentlemen for coffee two or three times a week for a year. This was not a date. It was a meeting in a public place to discover whether we had any interest in scheduling a date.
I never felt unsafe or threatened. During that year, I met 103 different men. Eleven of those encounters ended with us making plans. (Ninety percent of the time I realized that I was not interested.)
Ten of the men and I went on to have a range of experiences — from one dinner, to dating for several weeks or months.
Fortunately, regardless of what else I was doing, I continued my coffee meetings. Number 103 turned out to be the love of my life, and we have been happily married for three years now.
My philosophy was, “It’s a half-hour of my life, a cup of coffee ... what do I have to lose?”
By the way, I had 103 meetings, but my husband only had one: me!
I am so grateful that I didn’t give up. — Happy With #103
Dear Happy: This is impressive. Thank you for the useful primer. Here’s to #103!
Dear Amy: I appreciated your advice for “Clueless,” the hopelessly shy guy who wanted to meet potential friends and perhaps a romantic partner.
He might also have success if he volunteers for a cause he believes in. — Been There
Dear Been There: Absolutely. Conversation is easier when you are working alongside other people.