Not too long after I graduated from high school in 1987, I moved to California. Soon after, an old girlfriend decided to join me. We broke up after a bit, she moved back East and eventually I came back East, too. Our relationship was never the same after that, but it wasn’t exactly a clean break either, and I became closely acquainted with a new friend she had made. She was a few years younger than me and probably had attended a different high school, so I had never met her before. After I’d known her a while, she confided in me that a former classmate of mine had raped her. This individual was at least one year older than me and had been the quarterback of our varsity football team for at least one season—maybe two. I was alarmed and disgusted to learn this, but there really wasn’t anything for me to do about it except quietly warn some people that someone we used to know had a dangerous side.
She evidently had not reported the rape to the police, although I don’t remember if she gave me any explanation for that. I probably didn’t require one. I think she gave me some of the details such as where it happened, but I don’t remember anything like that, thinking back on it today. All I know is that I believed her not because I had any reason to have previously suspected this person of being a potential rapist, but because everything about what she said to me struck me as heartfelt and honest.
One of the benefits of moving back East was that I got to be near one of my older brothers. One way for me to spend time with him, since he was raising a growing family at the time, was to play flag football with him on the weekends. It’s something he did until he turned forty, and I did with him from that point on until I turned thirty. Neither of us lived in our hometown anymore, but that’s where the league was, so it shouldn’t have shocked me to discover that the alleged rapist was now the quarterback on an opposing team. But it did shock me. It deeply unsettled me. It did not sit right with me that he was living a free and careless life while my friend was suffering constantly from the consequences of his actions.
Part of the point of flag football is that you don’t have to wear pads because there is no tackling, but the lack of pads makes the blocking and hitting more painful, and so I took as much advantage of that as I could, mainly frustrated that when he was playing quarterback I couldn’t hit him. I got in as many shots as I could, many of them probably cheap, because that’s the only thing I felt I could do.
I think back on this now and try to imagine how I’d feel, and how my old friend would feel, if this person were nominated to serve on the Supreme Court. The truth is, I don’t know what year this happened, or where it happened, or if anyone had been drinking, or any other details that would make me a useful witness. I believe it happened, and it still bothers me.
I don’t know what has happened to this man in the intervening years. He was handsome, athletic, seemingly charming, and I imagine there’s a good chance that he’s accomplished some impressive things in his life. He may even be a good father, for all I know. Maybe he’s a volunteer coach.
I no longer have the desire to hit this man, but I also can’t let the past go and entertain the possibility that he’s somehow redeemed himself. To redeem himself, he’d have to first take personal responsibility for what he did. And I am certain he has not done that.