I lie here with a throbbing ache that carries through my wounded body; unable to move let alone lay still without the aching pain, without the paralyzing reminder. It starts at my bruised nail beds, trickling down to my predominant thumb, one that is used daily. The palms of my hands took the brut of the fall, extending against the pavement with the full force of my body weight, scraping deeply the first layers of my skin as a means to soften the blow. Next it is my knees, blackened by bruising, swollen days after a combination from the initial fall and the continued use of trying to use my legs in everyday feats. Though its not so much the layers of skin that’s seemingly missing from both kneecaps, it’s the nonstop pulsating ache and dull throb that is a constant reminder that extends far beyond the kneecap. Movement alone feels crippling, but even laying here still as I am, just icing and resting my kneecaps, feels torturous in and of itself. I cannot move my body without being jolted by some form of pain. I cannot lie still and not feel the aching of pain. The cuts and scraps that extend down to my feet are mere reminders as I walk. I am seemingly trapped in my own hell, a hell in which I was victimized to be here.
Ah, the sting of that word alone is enough to cut right through me. Victimize. That is not a word I associate myself with, I don’t play the part of the victim. But what else do you call it when another person thinks they have the right to take over your body, your motor skills, your cognitive state, and your ability to judge and access? When you lose control of every sense of self and in that moment have no true understanding why the losses have came or what is in fact happening. Well that is in fact the definition: singling someone out for a cruel or unjust treatment. So not only was my body bruised, but it is carried along with a bruised sense of self.
The day after was just as bad as the day of. Trying to piece together the gaps of memory that have vanished from your effortless control. Attempting to understand what it is that actually happened, where your fault lies, where your loss of control begins. Slowly but surely you come to the realization that you have been drugged. Scrambling for any and all attempts to rule out the looming explanation, but all of the caveats point to a date rape drug. Retracing the night searching for snippets of memory, but most of which have completely vanished from your memory bank, the very purpose of the drug itself: anterograde amnesia. The side effects start to fit in place: impaired coordination, confusion, disorientation, impaired judgment, nausea, dizziness, unconsciousness and unsteadiness.
Denial is at the very forefront of your mind. Its almost easier to believe that you had one too many drinks that is the source of your paradox. But deep down you know this is not the effect of any night that followed with a few drinks. Desperate for validation, I call upon my friend as we left together. She confirms that my state of mind was nowhere near that state of drunken stupor or impairment I begin to relay. Nothing in the way of alcohol made sense, it couldn’t have, for I had been “fine” mere minutes before we both departed.
There I laid in bed, with a broken phone, disoriented from truth and security, I tried to piece together the next series of events that happened as I walked away from my friend to what I believed was the ending to the night. What had happened? Where did it all go wrong? I remember on my walk to my car I saw a couple fighting, utter strangers to me. I remember feeling uneasy from the male’s tone and body language toward the female. Though it was none of my business, I couldn’t help but to wonder if she needed help. Would I want help if the tables were turned? So I stepped up, I asked her if she wanted me to walk her to her car, she said her home was mere blocks away, so I agreed to walk with her.
We arrived at her home, where her male roommate greeted me. Initially I had planned on leaving, but it had been cold, so when she offered me inside, I remember justifying just a few minutes to warm up before walking back. The two of them continued to drink and minor chatter began about the incident I witnessed on the street. I turned down the alcohol and instead asked for water. I remember leaving to use the restroom. I came back to a third person, another male, seemingly a friend of the male roommate. In that moment, I do not understand why I did not just leave, why hadn’t I just left then? Maybe it could have all been avoided, maybe the night would have had a different ending, but that’s the destructive beauty of hindsight.
This is the part where my memory truly begins to elude me. Conversations that seemed harmless was all but harmless. Somehow, someway, the topic of my boyfriend came to play. I can’t remember how or why, other than there had been association in the men knowing his name. And when I think back to it all, I can’t help but to believe that the potential dangers of their identities being known by my boyfriend were at the foundation of what ultimately saved me from being forced beyond my will in leaving. I am not sure how or when I noticed the girl was suddenly gone from the room, gone from the home. She had left, I don’t know why, I don’t know when, but it was then that a voice deep within urged me to go. Call it intuitive, call it your gut, whatever it was, it was the voice of reasoning; it was the voice that mobilized my feet to get up and go though my feet had never felt heavier. Why would she leave me with these two men? It didn’t make sense, looking back I can’t help but to wonder if it had all been a ploy.
Memory becomes even more difficult to formulate from that point forward, its as though I have pops of moments that come to mind, random ten second displays of my night from there on out. I remember the pushback I received as I left. I remember the fear that took over me from my inability to rationalize normally. I remember the fall to the pavement as I quickly left the house. I remember the confusion in trying to make my way home. The sense of embarrassment and shame take over as flashes of my boyfriend’s aid to care for me come to mind. The moments of nausea next to the toilet, the glimpse of the shower water washing over the bleeding skin but from there on, there was little more than a black hole in my memory.
It wasn’t until the next day that I understood withdrawals from the Rohypnol produce severe headaches, dizziness, confusion, visual disturbances, extreme anxiety, restlessness, muscle pain, light sensitivity causing what experts call an extreme hangover. In fact, many users report that the after effects of rohypnol are worse than any hangovers from any other drugs or alcohol. Imagine for a moment the worst hangover you have had, now amplify that by ten and imagine it lasting up to 48 hours. Unable to do much other than wallow in my physical and emotional pain rendered me useless for the day.
I was one of the lucky ones; I was one that was able to get away before sexual abuse came into play. And as I process that, I can’t help but to think I am diminishing the acts of violation I did fall victim to. It is my body and no one has any right to violate my control over it. My mind obsesses over the shame I feel from knowing better than to have put myself in such a precarious situation and even as I recognize that the fault is not mine to own, I can’t help but to feel shame for not protecting myself more. For being so naïve, for being so careless, for being so trusting. I think to some degree most women believe that given the circumstance, they would know how to protect themselves, they would know how to deter such acts of violation, they could avoid it all together. But that’s the purpose of this story, it just takes one moment, one glance in the wrong direction, one misguided trust to lead to a series of events that can ultimately change your life. Be careful in the real world, wolves are often disguised as sheep and amidst your best effort you too could find yourself in a daunting situation where you too could be ravaged by rohypnol. And should this story be all too familiar to you on your own accord, please do your best to remember the shame is not yours. Be safe out there.