Cary Tennis at Salon answers a letter from a woman who logged into Facebook to be confronted with the smiling face of her date rapist taunting her as a person she might know. Oh, God.
She realizes he popped on on her radar because one of her Facebook friends is friends with him virtually. She writes:
Should I attempt to contact him, or just let bygones be bygones? Honestly, I could take it or leave it. My only worry is that he will think date rape is OK. ...
All I want to know is that he knows what he did was wrong, and is sorry for it. But is it worth contacting him, if the answer may be "no" or "I don't know what you're talking about"?
I mean, if — and that's a big if — the man in question has acknowledged to himself that he raped her, admitting it to her and/or apologizing for it could result in his prosecution as it did for William Beebe. But even Beebe, who was motivated for his own reasons to apologize for raping Liz Seccuro, had difficulty saying the word "rape" when apologizing, seeking to minimize his own culpability and the violence he inflicted on his victim. To confront one's rapist via a social networking site seems unlikely to yield the desired result of an apology, if that's even the true desired result.
On some level, I think most victims want their rapists to have lived an unhappy life (as William Beebe reportedly did). You don't want him to have gotten up from that moment and walked away without consequence or thought or fear. You don't want his life not to have changed in that moment because in some way — or in many ways — yours did. And yet, Facebook can tell you it doesn't work that way. A close friend found her rapist there one drunken night, all smiling and normal looking, proudly proclaiming his good job and relationship status. My date rapist is on Facebook, too, and his arms-length self-portrait shows him with his arm around a woman who looks not dissimilar to me. You don't want to think that he's the seemingly normal one now — but too often, he probably seems as normal to everyone else as he did to you before he became your rapist.
Cary Tennis suggests that the woman speak to a therapist rather than to her rapist and to not go running around to any of their Facebook friends making charges until she understands what she's dealing with herself — probably because she says she doesn't care and that she needs an apology in the same sentence, which suggests some internal conflicts. But given the prevalence of acquaintance rape, sexual assault on college campuses and the increasing ubiquity of Facebook, Cary Tennis' reader isn't likely to be the last person that this happens to.
Related: The Letter [MSNBC]