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More than Meets the Eye

a boy crying tears for his loss

TW: Mentions of Sexual Assault and Rape

I met a girl last week, whom I’ll refer to as “Frankie.” She’s an old friend of my boyfriend. They grew up with the other kids on the block, but for some reason I’d never heard of her before. One day, it was me, my boyfriend, and our shared friends. Next, it was me, my boyfriend, our friends, and Frankie. She simply appeared. 

I really wanted to like Frankie. I talked with her and tried to share a joke or two, but our personalities just didn’t click. I didn’t find her funny. I thought she was trying too hard, constantly butting in and repeating sentences until someone laughed. She was also loud and screamed for absolutely no reason. Whenever Frankie spoke, my jaw clenched, but overall, the fact that I disliked her didn’t bother me. I’d met dozens of people like her in the past. Sometimes people don’t get along with one another. It’s natural.

That night, when my boyfriend and I arrived home, I shared my opinion on Frankie. I’ll admit, I probably shouldn’t have opened my mouth, and even then I could’ve been less harsh. My frustrations had gotten the better of me; hours and hours of saying nothing as Frankie ground my nerves to dust. My boyfriend stared at me as I finished my rant, clearly angry, but what he said after came as a surprise. “You really shouldn’t say that about her. She’s had a terrible life. Her last boyfriend abused her. I think she was even raped.”

I know he wasn’t trying to convince me to pity-like her. He needed me to understand that there might be a reason for her behavior, and perhaps there is, but that isn’t the lesson I learned. Frankie’s past horrified me. My distaste immediately turned to sympathy. Oh, this poor girl, I thought. How could I ever dislike her? I fell asleep determined to connect with her the next day. However, when I woke up, my goal had changed. Instead of deliberately liking Frankie, I wanted to remain unbiased. It was wrong for me to intrude into her personal life. I hardly knew Frankie—I certainly wasn’t close with her—so what gave me the right to know her torment? More importantly, what gave me the right to judge her on it? 

Despite disliking Frankie, I should have enough respect to not let her past define her. There was also the possibility that what I’d heard wasn’t even true. Unless the words came from her mouth, the information could’ve been nothing more than a rumor.

Of course, there are victims of abuse who long to be recognized. Those people who tell their story or hope that it reaches others’ ears. Yet not everyone is that way. People have different ways of dealing with trauma, and we cannot assume that all abuse victims fall under one category or another. If I were Frankie, I wouldn’t want anyone that I wasn’t comfortable with knowing my story, let alone someone who didn’t enjoy my company. I also would hate for others to seek my friendship because of a tragedy I’d experienced.

Human beings should never be viewed as just “victims.” We are more than our experiences. We are more than hurt puppies licking our wounds. People like Frankie don’t deserve to have tragedy as their defining trait. Her friends might like her spirit or be drawn to her because she’s kind to animals. There are a million pieces in her puzzle of personality, and it would be unfair to judge her on just one.

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