A Belief Broken
When we were fifteen, my best friend Sarah shared a secret with me and made me promise I wouldn’t tell a soul. But it wasn’t the kind of secret that should have been kept. I should have acted on my firm belief of standing up for others who couldn’t stand up for themselves. I didn’t do that though. I’d been sworn to silence.
Late one July night, Sarah ran down the hill from her grandmother’s house and burst through my backdoor. Over our eight year friendship she had done this a thousand times before, each burst followed closely by Barbie doll playing, sleepovers, and a lot of laughter. On that hot summer night the laughter was replaced with tears. I had her in my arms, hugging her, before she could get any words out. Then she whispered, “He raped me.”
Sarah went on to say the older guy she was dating had hit her several times in the weeks prior to that night. She’d kept it secret from me because she didn’t want me doing anything “rash.” I flew about my kitchen in a tizzy shouting about, “The next time I see him, he’ll get what he deserves!” I told Sarah to end the relationship. I told her to tell her mom what had happened. I told her to press charges. But she didn’t take any of my advice. She even convinced me that if I said anything to anyone, especially her rapist boyfriend, it could make things worse for her. So I kept my promise and kept silent, denying the belief that had previously been so easy for me to act on.
Sarah endured a few more nights like that one in the summer we were fifteen. Then she and the scumbag broke up. She later told me, “If someone did that to you, Haley, I wouldn’t have just sat back and let it happen again.” She was insinuating that I had failed her. Her comment infuriated me past any amount of anger I’d ever felt before. Did she not remember the way she begged me to keep silent? Did she not understand how hard it was for me to grant her what she asked for?
It didn’t take me long to stop being mad at Sarah for her contradicting words. The simple truth was I knew better than to, “sit back and let it happen again.” I knew that standing up for Sarah when she was too hurt and too scared to stand up for herself was the right thing to do. Yet, I’d let her talk me out of doing just that. I had failed her. I failed her with my silence. And nothing I do can repay the tremendous debt I feel to her for that. But at least if, God forbid there is a next time, I’ll know enough to stick to my belief.