I must’ve been one of the most naïve 20-year-olds on Earth that summer. I’m pretty sure I’d heard of acquaintance rape, but I definitely hadn’t heard much about roofies. And I had no idea attempted rape was even a crime. That was me, weirdly innocently kicking it in a beachy resort town before moving south to attend the college I was transferring to after a false start at the first.
That was when I got roofied.
My friends and I used to talk about what we’d do if a guy tried to rape us. I swore I’d fight back so hard they’d walk away with a limp and a speech impediment. At a quasi-athletic 5’8”, I thought I could fight off a lot of guys. Maybe not NBA power forwards, but normal-sized guys? Sure. Of all the misconceptions in my brain, that might’ve been the biggest.
That summer, I was working at a tourist-oriented business. My boss was a flirt 20 years my senior with a sketchy reputation. Not what juices me up these days, but back then I found it interesting. To make matters worse, I used to hear stories about after-hours parties at his place that sounded legendary. Those stories made me seethe with party envy. How does someone get invited? I wondered. I wanted in.
One night, my shift ended and I hit my favorite bar (read: the one that would let me in to drink underage). I drank two or three Miller Lites, not much for that bacchanal of a summer. Most of my friends weren’t around and before long my boss walked in. At some point (around 11:00? 12:00?) he invited me back to his place, saying other people would be coming over. Yay! I thought. I’m finally in at one of the parties.
This is where things get a little fragmentary. I remember getting to his place and being impressed by his astonishingly well-stocked bar. I remember him telling me to feel free to make us both drinks. I remember gleefully assembling some vile young-girl concoction that was probably Marshmallow Fluff/vodka/Kahlua/hot fudge sundae/dumpster of M&Ms. Then I remember asking where the bathroom was.
The next thing I remember is coming to, slowly in some other room on some other floor of the (same?) house. I feel weird and it’s maybe 4:00 a.m.
I fade out. Come back. New room. Again, no idea where I am or how I got there.
Worse, Bossman is on top of me, pinning my arms and legs. I slowly realize very bad things are about to happen. I struggle and say no. Doesn’t help. I fight back harder, as hard as I can. Nothing. Now I’m scared. My Badass Girl Fighting Guys Off fantasy has come to a quick and ignoble end. I keep saying no, loudly as I can, and ferociously trying to free myself -– with absolutely no effect. I can’t believe this is happening.
All of a sudden, I start gagging. The boss stops and backs off a little.
“I’m going to throw up,” I say.
“No, you’re not,” he says.
My innards heave more dramatically and he jumps off. Somehow that I still don’t fully understand, I manage to get up and bolt from the bed. Looking frantically for the nearest door, I find one, scramble out and down the stairs, and run as fast as I’ve ever run into the chilly sea air.
Here’s what I’d like to say now. I’d like to say I went to the police, bonded with Olivia Benson, stood tall and filed charges. I’d like to say I never set foot in his business again. I’d like to say I told that predatory sleazebag to roast in hell and left town immediately. None of that happened.
What did happen was that he asked to meet a few days later and I actually showed up (public place). He apologized for “something bad” that “happened” and I guess I accepted it, along with what amounted to a severance package for my job.
That doesn’t sound so good, I know. But here I was, mere weeks away from moving to a new region of the country for a restart of my college career and, really, my life. I was afraid people would say I got what I deserved for leaving the bar with the guy, or that I was hammered (false) and that’s why I was hallucinating and throwing up, or that I was dressed provocatively (false) and flirted with the guy and should’ve known better. My parents would’ve been told. I’d have had to hire a lawyer. I couldn’t have handled any of that.
Would I make the same choice, knowing what I know now? That’s a tough one. Probably, even though I now know what date rape drugs are, and that attempted rape is a crime all by itself. The only regret I have is that some other young woman (or women) might have gone through the same thing or worse and I did nothing to prevent it. I’m really sorry for that.
The other part of the aftermath is that getting drugged, overpowered and pinned down by someone who’s not armed or even significantly bigger than you changes the way you look at the world. It multiplies the threats you see everywhere, and makes you look harder at everyone you know. You’d be surprised how often I think of it, sitting across from a guy in a private place. Even nice guys who I’m sure would never hurt anyone. This and watching my drinks like a rabid hawk are the only lingering effects. Could be much, much worse.
While I wasn’t tested at a hospital, I’m very sure from what I’ve read and been told that what I was slipped was one of two date rape drugs, either GHB or Rohypnol. Same family as Valium but much more powerful. Easily mixed with liquid. Both can cause side effects including nausea/vomiting (HELLO and thank god).
FYI: Rohypnol’s manufacturer has changed the drug to leave blue flecks that are visible to the eye, so check for those every time you leave a drink and come back to it. Better yet, don’t ever leave a drink and come back to it. Take care of yourselves.