Interviewing a man who admits to raping a woman is unpleasant, but important.

Here was someone willing to own up to doing the very thing we are all talking about; sexual assault.

We found him because he was prompted by the growing #MeToo movement to post #IHave on social media.

I didn't expect him to want to talk, but to my surprise he agreed.

He was even willing to do it with his face on camera.

We chose to make him anonymous to avoid compounding the chance that his victim is identified.

I ended up face to face in a conference room in a place we cannot name, talking about what he did more than three decades ago and why.

Here's a summary:

Two young people, casual acquaintances, alone in a room after a party.

A consensual encounter.

Withdrawal of consent.


The "why" bit was the most brutal – in essence, it was because he wanted sex.

In his own words, his victim did not matter.

Alcohol was a factor but not an excuse, he said.

Image:A march for survivors of sexual assault recently took place in Hollywood

It is also possible, he thought, that his behaviour was in part underpinned by a society-wide attitude that women's bodies were not their own, and their needs less important.

But at his core, he knew what he was doing was wrong, and did it anyway because he wanted to.

Simple as that.

Now, moved by this seismic moment of reckoning, he has come forward to express what I thought was genuine shame and regret, in the hopes of doing some good after causing so much harm.

As far as he knows, his victim did not report the rape, and he was never charged.

Of course, some of it is about making himself feel better, about recovery from addiction and in the end, personal redemption.

He also acknowledges that he will never be able to repair the damage he did to his victim.

Regret will never be enough.

But does that render his contribution irrelevant, however hard it is to listen to?

I do not think so.

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Video:Watch: Face to face with a rapist

I would argue that frank conversations like this one are central to enhancing our grasp of what we have now come to realise is a pervasive problem.

Outrage, anger, fear, vengefulness – all these things are understandable as we grapple with the scale and the injustice of sexual harassment, abuse and assault.

But this was a chance to understand more, not less, about what is going on.

Victims of sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual abuse and their supporters protest during a #MeToo march in Hollywood, California on November 12, 2017. Several hundred women gathered in front of the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood before marching to the CNN building to hold a rally. / AFP PHOTO / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Image:Sexual harassment victims and their supporters protest during a #MeToo march

I would also argue that those who transgress the boundaries of our society, however heinously, should be drawn in to open discussion about what needs to happen to stop those transgressions, not excluded from it.

What if his words prompt similar honesty from others and in turn helps advance our cultural conversation?

What if his words stop someone else assaulting a woman in the same way?

In the end, I think we ended up with a rare angle on a subject that seems to have left no part of society untouched.

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I think that is a good thing.

You can watch the interview and decide for yourself.

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