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One in five women will be sexually assaulted during her college career. Laurie Stevens was one of those women. She now volunteers for the RAINN Speakers Bureau sharing her story about being drugged and raped during college. The incident occurred nearly 30 years ago when Laurie was attending a university in Los Angeles, California.
I was in a sorority in college and although words like Rohypnol and date rape had not yet made it into the everyday lingo of campus life, most everyone knew not to drink the punch at frat houses. For all my caution in regards to partying, it never occurred to me to watch out for danger in regards to studying. There was a guy in my major who was a senior at the time. I was a sophomore. We were in a class together and he invited me to his house to work on a project. He said he’d make us dinner. I didn’t know much about this guy and perhaps I felt there was something a little off about him. But most of my friends in high school had been male so having a study hour with dinner thrown in didn’t seem like a big deal to me. I also had a boyfriend at the time and this guy knew about him. I rationalized any odd feeling away and drove my car to his place, figuring if things got weird I could take off. I don’t remember how we got into his bedroom; I only know that we did. I do remember that I seemed to be operating in slow motion to his more rapid movements. I remember crying and asking myself why I was crying. I remember he had to ask me four or five times if I used birth control because for some odd reason my mind couldn’t process what he was saying. I remember having an out-of-body experience where I was watching the action from above. I still cannot explain that. I must have driven myself home. I don’t remember.
The entire incident freaked me out. For starters, I never had any intention of sleeping with this guy. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what happened. Not then and not for years afterwards. I never reported it because I didn’t consider what happened as rape. Rapes are violent. Then again, I hadn’t considered it to be violent because I don’t think I moved much. I know I was angry with him. I told him so when he cornered me on campus and asked what was wrong with me. It was a good question because I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Why did I sleep with him? He stalked me for a while, parking in front of the sorority house. I used to have the girls scream at him until he drove away and then I could venture outside. That’s how creeped out I felt around him. I didn’t want to see him, let alone talk to him. I purposely avoided any place I might run into him, including class. I never told anyone about it. I felt ashamed because I blamed myself for slipping somehow. I even tried to put his face and body type into my “fantasies” to try and see if I was secretly, subconsciously attracted to him. No such luck. Again, I couldn’t comprehend what happened that evening. I write a psychological suspense series where a male detective suffers from the effects from a childhood molestation. I would have never thought that what I wrote as fiction would in any way relate back to my own life. But I was researching the effects of Rohypnol for the third book and it suddenly occurred to me that I’d experienced very similar effects, especially the lack of willpower. A lack of willpower doesn’t mean that you can’t leave or fight back. It means that you don’t and you don’t know why. That was a revelation to me.
Around the same time I asked an old college friend at a reunion if he remembered the guy and his answer astounded me. “Oh, he got busted for drugging and date raping girls.” Everything fell into place then. My own mystery solved. Then I got angry. I think the thing that bothers me the most is the fact that someone put a chemical substance in my body without me being aware. What if I’d wrapped my car around a tree that night or hit somebody else? Who would have been blamed? Me. What if I’d had some sort of serious allergic reaction to the drug? No one would have known the cause. I believe the laws should reflect the seriousness of “slipping someone a mickey.” Depriving someone of her faculties without her knowledge by secret use of a drug is nearly akin to committing mayhem because the perpetrator is chemically altering another human being’s brain chemistry. How does anyone know the true effects of that? To the perpetrator, she’s simply a conquest for the night. It’s the laws that have to dictate what price should be paid for that kind of one-sided “fun.”
I have a daughter in high school and a college aged son. I’ve told both about this and their responses were totally different. My son reacted very strongly, very upset, but we talked it over. Mothers and fathers encourage college boys to “sow their wild oats.” Mothers especially should tell their sons the other side of the story. It may help a girl out someday. As to my daughter, she was matter-of-fact. She said, “Sometimes bad things happen that cannot be avoided. How could you possibly have avoided that?” I’ve thought about that question and the only advice I can come up with is to honor our instincts. I was the kind of girl that never liked to rock the boat so even though I felt the guy was a little creepy, I didn’t want to come off as naïve or unable to handle myself. I would tell another girl to not simply trust her instincts about people, but honor the instinct. I mean put it on a throne and honor it. You get a funny feeling, you run the other way. I’m surprised that I talk so openly now about such a private matter, but it helps. It validates it. And apparently I’ve been writing about it too, which for all I know, brought something I’d buried to the surface where I can better deal with it. And you’ve got to deal with it.
If you or a loved one are dealing with the aftermath of rape or violence, know that there is help available. Laurie found it therapeutic to talk with others; one helpful resource has been the RAINN Speakers Bureau.