When somebody tells you about their #MeToo incident that happened many years ago, listen to them. Do not interrupt with quick fixes. Do not tell them that it could have been worse. Do not try to close that chapter quickly, don’t take them out for drinks before they finish. Just listen.
They have been planning this moment for a while now – debating about whether to tell you or not. This is probably the first time those emotions have found words. Know that they are talking over the voice in their head that goes, “Shhh…” So please, refrain from thinking about a response when they pause for breath. Today, just listen and stay.
It’s OK if you don’t know what to do with the information they have confided in you. They have been alone with their shame for so long. This is their way of taking back control, of bearing their soul. They don’t expect you to turn into a superhero and beat up the bad guy. Nor to anger you into wanting to thrash somebody to bits. They are just trying to explain the occasional coldness, their lack of trust or the boundaries that they guard with their lives, hoping that you will understand. So please, please do not make this about you. Please don’t be mad at them for not telling you earlier. They were just afraid of dimming your light with the darkness that they have grown to fear. They are still the same person that you knew till yesterday. Nothing has changed. They have just taken a leap of faith.
You may feel like you are walking on eggshells as you listen. But today, your friend is walking on a minefield, knowing full well that if this step is wrong, they will no longer be the person you have known till this moment, never being able to forgive themselves for being stupid enough to believe that somebody could understand what they were saying. They will never dare to speak of it again. So please listen. This is important.
You may ask questions about how they dealt with it. But please do not ask why they were out at that time or why they were alone in the room with somebody or why they froze when it happened. Trust me, they have most likely been beating themselves with the same questions every day. They don’t need to hear it from you.
You can tell them that you didn’t know that stuff like this could happen. You can tell them that what happened was wrong, that it was not OK, that you’re sorry that it even happened. You can tell them that you are OK if they want to set boundaries in your relationship. You can ask them what you can do to help.
You can thank them for trusting you enough to tell you this.
Even if you are the kind of person who instantly feels better with a hug, today, ask them if it is OK to hug them before giving them one and know that from now on, you are more trusted than the rest of the people in their life.