I remember being told to never leave your drink unattended, for the worry someone may slip something into your drink. I remember hearing the statistics that 1 out of 5 women would be sexually assaulted in their lifetime (It is 1 out of 4 at the University I attended). However, I never thought I would be one of them, and I don't think anyone ever thinks they would be.
In June of 2013, my senior year in college, I went out on a Friday night for a few drinks with friends. I set my drink down to take a quick picture with my friend, when my drink was drugged by a classmate and acquaintance. My intentions that night were to grab a drink or two, go to bed early to catch an early bus home the next day to celebrate my birthday with my family. I had a drink and a half that night, the half the beer I drank is the drink that was drugged, allowing me to remember bits and pieces of the night, and most importantly, remembering I said no.
Although the parts I remember from that night are awful, it's the aftermath that has been the biggest challenge for me. It took me three years to finally share exactly what happened that night with close friends and family, mostly because of fear. Fear of being judged, of being viewed as dirty, damaged, or broken. Mainly because that is how I felt. I felt gross, I felt broken, I had changed, and my perception of the world changed. The world became a much scarier place.
The best way to explain the last three years is that I have been in a daze, or survival mode as my therapist called it. I'd have random flashbacks of that night and of the doctor visit three days after the assault. I'd have flashbacks on my drive to work, in meetings, when hanging out with friends, when alone, in my dreams, etc. I couldn't escape it. I'd try to tell my brain to think of something else, but it couldn't. The hardest thing for me to cope with was that it didn't happen once, it happened repeatedly five times. Knowing I was powerless from being drugged and couldn't fight back, knowing I couldn't have prevented it, really tore me apart. It made me feel small, weak, and worthless.
It wasn't until I went to see a therapist that it all made sense, and she explained I have PTSD and basically my brain couldn't process all that happened, so it was "stuck". I went through EMDR therapy to let my brain process what happened and to learn ways to cope. I'll admit I was very skeptical anything could make what happened better, it didn't seem possible, so if you are reading this and feel this way, I urge you to see a therapist and just give it a try. Afterall, nothing can make what happened worse. Although I still deal with anxiety and flashbacks from time to time, I've learned ways to move past these thoughts, so I can live in the present again. I let myself grieve if I need to grieve, I am slowly getting energy back to do the things that once brought me joy, and I'm not pretending I'm okay anymore if I'm not. I lost a lot these past three years while I was in survival mode. I avoided social situations, and when I was in social situations I wouldn't feel truly present. I'd often get asked when I did go out with friends or coworkers, why aren't you drinking? Whenever I'd get asked this question, I'd immediately think about my assault and go into my daze again. I'd feel like I had to be on guard, that I couldn't trust anyone, and I'd have flashbacks and fear it would happen again. I also had stomach problems off and on, and I still do occasionally, causing me to lose weight. I initially thought it was from being lactose intolerant, but learned a symptom of PTSD is stomach issues from the central nervous system being out of whack.
My flashbacks, anxiety and stomach issues impacted me so much, that it became easier to avoid social situations all together, then to face how I was feeling. While it may have been easier in some ways, it also became extremely lonely.
When I finally shared what happened with close family and friends, some made comments that they were taught to never set their drink down, or that they didn't have to worry about that because they didn't drink much if at all. While they probably didn't intend to offend me, some comments did. I too was taught never to set my drink down, I too did not drink much. The reality is I could have ordered a soda that night, and it still would have happened. The reality is I set my drink down not around strangers, but by people I knew, and thought I could trust. Rape can happen to anyone, to someone you are friends with, to a family member, to a significant other, etc. Most rapes and sexual assaults occur by someone the victim knows, so they let their guard down, they wouldn't ever suspect someone they knew could be capable of such a thing. I never thought anyone I knew would be capable of such a thing, I have good judgement, but even someone with the best of judgement, can still be deceived.
I want to share my story because hearing other survivor stories helped me as I was grieving. It helped knowing I wasn't alone in what I was feeling. I hope my story might give someone hope that it will get better. I just want other survivors to know they can still have joy in their lives, their story isn't over. I may have felt small, weak, and worthless right after my assault, but I have found some peace, and now feel strong and look forward to what the future has in store for me.
Some resources that helped me along the way were two documentaries on Netflix, The Hunting Ground, and Audrey & Daisy. Also, looking up information about PTSD, EMDR, rape, sexual assault, and the statistics. Most importantly though, was seeing a therapist and leaning on my faith by putting my trust in God.