That Time I Traded the Hell I Knew for the One I Didn’t

*Names have been changed

Intro:

I was eighteen years old when I experienced the date rape drug. There’s a lot that led up to my life circumstances at this point and reading this you may feel like you are missing some important details. What happened before this period in my life is harder to write about, and frankly I’m not ready to do that part of my story justice. 

During That Time Period:

At eighteen, I worked third shift at a gas station as a cashier. During the day, I attended college full time at Grand Rapids Community with a focus in writing. I had no social life and not a single friend. My mom and I could have been estranged for all we interacted and my father had recently moved to California. My siblings were high schoolers, still staying with my mother. I lived with a great Aunt and Uncle in Twin Lake, MI which was about an hour north of my job and college.

I was motivated. I took classes four days a week and worked five to six nights a week. Between the long drive and overly packed schedule, I never caught up on sleep. I had a three hour break in between my morning and afternoon classes at which time I religiously took a nap in my 2003 impala. It was uncomfortable, but I kept a blanket and pillow in my car. I was so sleep deprived that I could have slept on the ground peacefully. 

During this time in my life, I was also struggling to rid myself of an ex boyfriend. I had a restraining order against Justin and was truly afraid of him. He had attempted to kill me just months prior and I had spent the greater part of high school in an abusive relationship with him. He called me over a hundred times a day and left death threats at my door. Even doing time in jail hadn’t deterred him from obsessing over me. Needless to say, I was almost desperate for human connection from a peer. 

What Happened:

A coworker at the gas station invited me to his house to play poker with a group of his friends. I didn’t know how to play poker but still couldn’t find a reason to say no to his invitation. Honestly, it felt like a gift to have been invited out. 

Not knowing my coworker all that well, I made a deal with myself that I would only have one drink and then make up an excuse to leave. When I entered his apartment, I realized that I was one of only two girls who had been invited. The other girl was the girlfriend of a guy who attended the party. I was overcome with anxiety almost immediately, though I found that I couldn’t bring myself to leave out of fear that it would come across as impolite. I told the warning in my gut to quiet down and sat at the table for the card game. Almost immediately, my coworker offered me a mixed drink in a red plastic cup. I knew better than to accept open drinks and still I sipped out of the cup, making the drink last for two games. 

After the second game, one of the other guys in the home offered to make me what would have been my second drink. I politely refused and said that I had school work to do in the morning. I stated it was time for me to go. Several of the guys protested but I shook my head and thanked them for having me over. I stood up to leave, turned around and walked no more than three steps towards the door when I felt as if something hit me hard in the back of the head. One moment I was heading towards the front door and the next I was barely conscious on the floor.

It was difficult to open my eyes, but I did well enough to see three young men standing over me. It was strange. My thoughts were slow but still intelligent. I realized that I was unable to move or speak. I was only panicked for a moment before I heard the only other girl at the party ask what had happened to me. One of the guys who towered over me answered that I was drunk. “Impossible,” I thought, I only had had one drink. Then the room moved. I was being dragged away from the door, toward the back bedroom. 

As I felt the carpet drag against my clothing, I had the profound realization that I must have been drugged. In those long moments before I reached the bedroom I began switching to survival mode. These guys weren’t aware that at the tender age of 18 I had already fought for my life. That I was not going to be a victim if any part of my will power could help it. My panic was replaced with purposeful thought as I began anticipating what would happen next. Even with my sluggish thoughts, I knew that it was most important that I think about the next moment.

When we reached the bedroom one of the guys picked me up and unceremoniously plopped me down on the bed. I remember that my body laid askew. I understood that being unable to move likely meant that the date rape drug had been in my drink. I had walked right into their trap like a naive child and was likely going to be raped if God and my willpower did not stand in the young men’s way.

Before the first guy could finish loosening my belt, the girl looked into the room and asked what they were doing to me. The guy answered that he was just leaving me on the bed to sober up. She must not understand, I thought. Yet she was there and something had moved this girl to ask after me. I remember that the girl stood there, and waited for the guys to file out of the room before shutting the door almost entirely behind her. . 

As soon as the door closed, the room darkened other than a crack of light that shone from the kitchen. I was left alone to await the return of my would be rapists. I knew that I had to force myself to move, but how? I figured I had as much time as it took the girl to leave the party before the guys returned. I also knew that the drug’s effects should logically taper off with time. Therefore time was my enemy and also my saving grace. I laid there and kept sending signals to my arms, over and over again to move. I lost all concept of time but eventually I managed to force my body to fall heavily from the bed to the floor. I hadn’t gained enough motor functions to catch myself but luckily I had landed on my belly. 

I laid on the carpet, cheek pressed heavily against the floor for what seemed like a very long time. I understood that with each passing moment, I was losing my window of opportunity to escape. I fought with myself, forcing myself to move. Forcing the muscles in my body to respond. Internally screaming, “Get up Jamie! Get up!!!” Telling myself that I’m a warrior if nothing else.

With great effort I managed to half crawl, half shimmy myself to the barely propped open bedroom door. Pushing the door open with my left hand, it was not lost on me that had the door been shut all the way, I would most likely have failed. I wasn’t noticed until I reached the kitchen, which was just outside of the bedroom door. On my hands and knees, I remember a young man exclaim, “Shit!” Then the girl crouched in front of me and asked if I was okay. Slowly I formed the words, “Help. Want to leave.” The girl conversed with the guys back and forth regarding my request. I had a hard time focusing on everything they were saying because I returned to crawling towards the door. I would be damned if they decided for me. The girl finally asserted that I was allowed to leave of my own free will. She opened the front door, and took great effort to help me to my feet. Once I was on my feet and the room quit spinning, I said a parting thanks to her. As I stumbled out the door, I remember thinking that God had sent her for my protection. 

I made it as far as my car and fell to the grass by my front bumper. I wedged my phone from my front pocket and tried to call my mother. My fingers weren’t working correctly and thoughts were becoming hazy. I stared at my phone and at my hands, thinking –did I really make it this far for nothing? I repeatedly hit talk on my phone, trying to force my cell to do an emergency call to the police. Anybody for help. My cell phone called the most recent contact which happened to be a missed call from the ex boyfriend who stalked me. He answered and despite everything he had put me through, I begged for help. “Please come get me. I’m at the Orchard’s apartments.” Then I passed out on the grass. 

The rest of the night, I fell in and out of consciousness. I remember being woken as Justin picked me up from the grass. I remember his familiar cheap colon invading my nostrils as he placed the seatbelt over me. The feel of cold leather against my skin from the seats in his 2001 firebird. I remember thinking that he was hardly a refuge from what I would have faced if I hadn’t escaped. I don’t remember the ride to his home. I don’t remember getting into his house or into his bed. I don’t remember taking my clothes off. I do remember his fat belly suffocating me as I briefly regained consciousness. I remember his grunting and my lack of fight. And then I was out again, left to wake up in the morning in a panic. 

That morning, I was barely able to fake calm as I convinced him to return me to my car.  Hardly able to keep the lie from my eyes in fear that he would hurt me as I promised that we would now be together, if he would just let me leave.

After:

The following day I quit my job at the gas station and stopped going to school. I signed up for the Navy within a week and secured a job at a factory closer to my aunt’s home while I awaited bootcamp…..but that’s another story of failure and pain.

Until next time,

James

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