Don’t ask me for a specific date. Or even a location. Actually, don’t ask me any questions at all. What I’m telling you here is what I can remember. Some of that has to do with having been drugged. In the early 80s, I had never heard of the ‘date rape’ drug. I didn’t club or party, so I was a part of the scene that had such a vocabulary.
What are Date-Rape Drugs?
Date-rape drugs are substances that make it easier for someone to rape or sexually assault another person. They include alcohol and some medications. The person who’s attacked might become confused, have trouble defending themselves, or not be able to remember what happened later.
“Date rape” doesn’t always happen on a date. An attacker could be someone you just met or someone you’ve known for a while. An attacker can use several kinds of drugs or medications to overpower someone else or cause them to forget an incident. You can’t smell or taste it.
I was working at a warehouse at the time. We worked closely and worked long hard and gritty work. We worked as a team. If one was under the weather the rest of us worked harder to get the work done.
While working there one of my coworkers introduced me to her brother, Mason. He worked in a different part of the warehouse. I had been to her house for many dinners that included her husband and their children. Sometimes Mason would drop by. There was nothing going on between us. He was just another family member and coworker to me. I had also been introduced to her father. I felt like I was a part of the family. I had never really had that, so I loved spending time with all of them around the dinner table.
One day Mason said that there was going to be a huge house party in D.C. and asked me if I wanted to get out of the house for a while and go hang out. I was in a dead marriage, one where my husband never came home. So, I’d sit looking at the four walls wonder where he was and why he wasn’t returning my calls. Naturally, I went to the party.
It was a huge Victorian house on the D.C./Maryland state line. The place was packed. The music was loud. I felt myself relax but only a little. Like I said party scenes weren’t my thing, but I was there with someone I knew and trusted so I tried to chill a little bit.
Mason handed me a drink and that’s pretty much the last thing I remembered. After that, the night or at least what memories I had of that night, flipped through my head like movie clips. If you ever had one of those little pocket-sized books where if you flipped the pages real fast it was like watching a movie? Yeah. Sort of like that.
I came to and saw a guy who I didn’t know on top of me having sex. Then I blacked out again. This happened over and over again. I don’t know for how long. I don’t know how many. It could have been hours. It could have been hundreds. I’ll never know. Hell, at one point I came to and saw a female performing oral sex on me. That one really pissed me off and still does. SHE should have known better. That’s silly, isn’t it? That I should be more upset with one perpetrator over another because of gender.
I woke up at one point and tried shoving the guy off of me. Mason was on my right and told the guy to get up. I tried mumbling some questions, “What’s going on?” or something to that effect. I just remember him asking me if I was thirsty and me shaking my head yes. He held my head up with one hand and put a glass to my lips with the other. I drank.
The world went black again.
The only other thing that I remember was being helped to bed and falling asleep in Mason’s arms. Before or after? Nothing. I don’t remember getting dressed, going home, getting in the apartment, making it to bed, the next day — nothing. I don’t remember bruises or scratches, but I do remember being sore. I vaguely remember being tested for STDs and AIDS. I don’t remember anyone asking me about the changes in my behavior. It doesn’t mean that someone didn’t. I just don’t recall it happening. When I began to have flashbacks, I finally said something to Mason about it. Brace yourself. Ready for this shit?
“You didn’t think you were going to the party for free, did you?”
That’s the one thing that I do remember. Loud and clear. That was his one and only response when I asked him about the memories I was having. It was more than thirty years before I even thought about speaking about the event out loud. I think I’ve told MAYBE three people bits of it over the years.
And now I’ve told you.
The question becomes, now that you know, what are you going to do about it?
When someone tells you something has happened to them, BELIEVE THEM. When someone doesn’t say anything to you, BELIEVE WHAT THE CHANGES IN THEIR BEHAVIOR TELLS YOU. Not everyone will remember or if they do, they won’t want to talk about it. For me, it was too horrific for me to wrap my mind around so if I couldn’t make sense of it how could I explain it to someone and make them understand?
Even back then, yes, forty years ago, there were the naysayers who didn’t believe women and even worse, blamed women for what happened to them. Nothing like a little victim-blaming:
“What were you wearing?” (Because if it could be deemed inappropriate it was your fault)
“What part of town were you in?” (see above)
“What time was it?” (See above, again)
“Why were you alone?” (See where this is going now?)
“Why didn’t you come forward sooner?”
“Why did you take a shower afterward?”
“Why did you throw away your clothes?”
Seriously. Who would purposely revictimize themselves all over again? I sure as hell didn’t. So, I’ll say it again.
When someone tells you something has happened to them, BELIEVE THEM.
When someone doesn’t tell you something, BELIEVE WHAT THE CHANGES IN THEIR BEHAVIOR TELLS YOU.
You paying attention, you being there, you assisting can be the difference between getting the immediate care that they need and never getting it at all.
What Should I Do If I Think I’ve Been Drugged and Raped?
If you suspect that someone drugged and assaulted you, call 911 or have someone you trust to take you to the emergency room. The authorities will collect any evidence they can, so try not to pee, douche, bathe, wash your hands, or change clothes before you go to the hospital.
Tell your medical team what happened. Ask for a urine test as soon as possible so they can look for drugs before your body flushes them out.
No matter how much you drank or what drugs you took, sexual assault is never your fault. It’s common to go through a range of emotions afterward. Talk to someone you trust or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1–800–656-HOPE (4673) at any time, day, or night.
Originally published in Illumination