"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
Recently while I was on Facebook, the man who date-raped me in college showed up as “people you might know.” Apparently a mutual friend has him as a Friend, at least virtually. I never filed charges, never told people for years afterward, and didn’t even think of it as rape until five years ago. But now that I think about it, it infuriates me that he was able to victimize me without consequences. I don’t want to bring legal action, or shame him publicly, but I do want him to understand what he did was wrong. I’d like an apology. I think I could easily forgive him if an apology was offered. We were both young. Mistakes are made. That doesn’t make it OK.
Should I attempt to contact him, or just let bygones be bygones? Honestly, I could take it or leave it. My only worry is that he will think date rape is OK. (I was extremely drunk, and threw up for hours, and went in and out of consciousness while he had sex with me. He watched me throw up, and then still tried to have sex with me.) I’ve had a long path recovering from this incident and prior childhood abuse, and I’d hate to think he was still doing the same thing to other women.
All I want to know is that he knows what he did was wrong, and is sorry for it. But is it worth contacting him, if the answer may be “no” or “I don’t know what you’re talking about”? I worry the attempt of getting a response will be more trouble, emotionally speaking, than the satisfaction of closure from the right answer.
Want Him to Know
Dear Want Him to Know,
I am very interested in your problem, and there are things I would like to say about it, but I am just going to ask you this: Please talk to a rape counselor or psychotherapist before doing anything. You need to discuss this with someone before acting. Otherwise, you may walk into something that you are unprepared for.
Even in the safety and privacy of a counselor’s office, discussing this will probably bring up disquieting memories and issues. So the wise thing is to plan what you are going to do, with the support of someone who is committed to your safety and well-being, and who has the tools and knowledge to help you through it.
Please don’t even discuss this with your friends who post on Facebook without first contacting someone who is trained to help people handle the long-term issues that arise from rape. Likewise, after your letter is published here on Salon, do yourself a favor: Before you read the comments pages, the minute you have read my words here, look up a local rape crisis center or find a therapist familiar with these issues, and contact them. This is an explosive topic and it is sure to bring out the full range of human responses in the comments page, some of which may be helpful to you but others of which may be deeply wounding. So first things first.
Don’t try to recover from this in the pages of Facebook or Salon. This is something you need to work on face-to-face with someone trained to help you.
In fact, I feel so strongly about this that I will curtail my own tendency to pontificate and just stick with this: Find a rape crisis center or therapist, contact them, and begin your recovery there.
Signed first editions on sale now.
What? You want more advice?
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)