Dear Ms. Peirano,
it may feel like a small thing and I know much worse things happen to other women. But I still can't let go of what happened two weeks ago.
I, 24, have what I thought was a good friend (Luka), there was always a certain attraction between us. He owns a club that I go to often. But I'm in a committed relationship and I don't think cheating is okay, and neither does my boyfriend. My boyfriend has always trusted me, but he doesn't like going out at night. There were still friends of mine in the club.
Two weeks ago, Luka pulled me into a quiet corner in the club and kissed me pretty hard (with tongue) and told me: "Don't think about your boyfriend, just think about us and the moment." I was pretty confused and went along with it at first, probably because I wasn't completely sober anymore. I thought about what if Luka gets mad at me and I don't come to the club anymore. When Luka tried to reach into my blouse, I pushed him away and drove home.
I was pretty distraught. Firstly, I feel guilty towards my boyfriend. He has complete trust in me and gives me a lot of freedom, and then something like this happens! But I also feel kind of used by Luka. We often talked about my boyfriend and he always said that even though he had more feelings for me, he respected that. And then he comes along in such a cheap way and forces kisses on me.
First of all, I cried for hours. Luckily my boyfriend wasn't at home, so I was able to calm down. I wrote to Luka that same night and said that I found what he did disrespectful and that I didn't want it. He wrote back very stupidly and said that he was drunk and that nothing had happened. When I wrote back again and said that I was hurt and angry, he wrote: "How many times should I apologize?"
He didn't apologize at all!
We've since bumped into each other once while partying in a bar and I've kept my distance. He always sneaked around me and told me not to be mad at him. I don't know if I should tell my boyfriend about it. He might be hurt and feel bad if I go out without him in the future. And what do I do with Luka?
What do you advise me?
Kind regards, Carla S.
I work as a behavioral therapist and love coach in private practice in Hamburg-Blankenese and St. Pauli. During my doctorate, I researched the connection between relationship personality and happiness in love and then wrote two books about love.
Information about my therapeutic work can be found at www.julia-peirano.info.
Do you have questions, problems or heartache? Please write to me (maximum one A4 page). I would like to point out that inquiries and answers can be published anonymously on stern.de.
Dear Carla S.,
I can understand that you are confused, because what Luka did to you is not a small faux pas or as Luka says: "nothing happened". Under criminal law, a forced kiss could also be considered sexual assault. Compare your experience with the prominent situation in Spanish women's football. The president of the Spanish Football Association, Luis Rubiales, kissed player Jennifer Hermoso on the mouth last summer, causing a huge scandal. Ultimately, Rubiales had to resign from his position.
Many women imagine that sexual assault or rape happens out of the blue and by strangers, for example when a woman is followed and attacked by a stranger on the way home. The statistics show a completely different picture: sexual harassment, coercion and even rape occur in the vast majority of cases in social environments. The perpetrators are partners, ex-partners, dating partners, superiors, colleagues, teachers, etc.
Precisely because you had trust in Luka and didn't see him crossing the boundaries you had set, you were initially confused and shocked and couldn't defend yourself appropriately. This happens very often, and that is why today, when assessing a rape, it is no longer important whether the victim defended herself, but rather whether she/he gave explicit consent to the sexual act.
Of course, the same applies to sexual assault as in your case. You didn't give Luka explicit consent to kiss you and put his hands under your blouse. On the contrary: you clearly told Luka that you wanted to be faithful to your boyfriend and he accepted it, at least verbally. And then he did the exact opposite and overstepped your boundaries.
After a short while, you pulled yourself together and fled the situation. And you felt bad and harassed afterwards. Both of these indicate that the situation was not a consensual “gaffe” but could probably be viewed as coercion.
I don't want to blame you for what happened. Luka wears it. But I would still like to ask you a question: Imagine you were older and had a 24-year-old daughter. What advice would you give her if she was in a loyal relationship and was drinking a lot of alcohol with an acquaintance she was in a club with? Think carefully about the answer to this question, and if you say that you would advise your daughter not to go out with her "boyfriend" or at least not to drink, that would be a good precautionary measure for the future. The important thing is that you are safe and take good care of yourself.
You ask how you should behave towards Luka. As you can see, Luka didn't just cause a so-called first injury by kissing you. Rather, he escalated the injury into a second injury by not apologizing when you ran away and wrote to him saying you found his behavior disrespectful.
Initial injuries can usually be forgiven. Second injuries are extremely problematic, a so-called red flag. Because so far Luka has done nothing to make things right with you. He trivialized your feelings by saying "nothing happened" and reversed the perpetrator-victim relationship by asking you how many times he still had to apologize. As if he were the victim of your ongoing accusation. No friend, with the best will in the world, behaves like that, and that's why I would recommend that you cut off contact with him completely.
The next question is whether you should tell your friend about it now.
If you feel like you need to confess a "cheat" to him, I can relieve you. You didn't want the kiss and you fled the situation. It is clearly a sexual assault, possibly also sexual coercion and not a consensual “smooching”. What would you gain from telling your friend about this? How would he react? Would he blame himself for missing the red flag? Would he blame you? Would he continue to feel relaxed if you went out without him?
Would it be enough if you didn't tell him, but learned from it to take better care of yourself? Just try out the possibilities.
Herzlich GrüßeJulia Peirano