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Mental Health

The Night That Changed The Way I Understood Sexual Violence

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

On August 30th, my best friend and I were roofied at a bar in San Francisco. My memories from the night are slim and few between. However, what remains concretely ingrained in my mind is the face of the perpetrator. I am haunted by the image of his steadfast gaze and the eerie grin plastered across his face. 

The night quickly plummeted. I continued to dance with my friends and tried to shake off the encounter, but I could not escape him. He unwaveringly followed me. I recall looking up and seeing his gaze locked onto me. He smiled and tried to get closer to me. I tried to escape his unwarranted presence multiple times. But within just a few seconds, I found him smiling and staring at me again. This pattern persisted for quite some time. I then requested that one of my guy friends demand this man to leave me alone. He refused the request and persisted in stalking me. This is my last coherent memory of the evening. 

The next memory I have is waking up on the floor of the bathroom stall with my best friend, to two huge security guards pulling us up. We were told that we were a liability and that we had to evacuate the premises immediately. They pulled us up off the floor and dragged us out through the back door of the bar. Luckily, we were also accompanied by a compassionate female manager who refused to leave our sides. We were then taken outside and stuffed into our uber like nothing had happened. 

I want to note that I am grateful for the staff at this bar. They sat with us outside, brought us water and sprite, and avidly tried to make sure we were ok. However, their biggest failure was their inability to recognize the gravity of the situation and to put their own reputations aside for our safety. The staff members put two unconscious young women into an uber. We needed to go to the hospital. The police needed to be contacted. There was a predator inside of the bar and he still walks freely today. 

I do not know how to come to terms with this night. I am consumed by rage, sadness and panic. How could someone do this to me? How could I have allowed myself to take a drink from a random stranger? How could I have been so careless and dumb? Why did I offer it to my best friend? Why did the staff send us home in an uber? Why was I targeted? What were his plans? 

I feel a visceral fear for the security of my body and my life. 

I am an extremely trusting person. I always try to believe the best in others and lead with empathy and compassion. I always say that I find it hard to believe that someone could be trying to undermine me or hurt me, and that many fights in life are merely caused by miscommunication and misunderstanding. With this complex in mind, I never would have believed that someone would want to inflict serious bodily harm on me. I cannot wrap my head around the fact that someone really wanted to really hurt me. That someone was waiting for my limp body to collapse so that they could take me home and attack me. I cannot understand how people like that exist in this world, and that women have to be mindful of our bodies in a public space because of the potential for grave harm. 

I do not know how to forgive myself. I am so mad at myself for accepting the drink. I am so mad that I was so naive and innocent that I could not detect the signs. I am so mad that my own carelessness put my best friend at risk. However, beating myself up is fruitless. This is not my fault. Roofies or any form of sexual violence are never the fault of the victim. I know that being safe while drinking is a life skill that everyone, regardless of their gender identity, has to practice. I hold the onus to count how many drinks I have had and to ensure that I am in control of my body. However, does this mean that I am in charge of ensuring that someone does not roofie me? That is not my onus to hold. Placing the blame on myself is no different than telling a woman that she should not have her stomach showing if she does not want to be raped. The issue is that perpetrators feel entitled to the harm they intend to enact. Misappropriating the blame not only obscures the gravity of the situation, but it validates the all-too prevalent pattern of stalking and sexual violence that plague women.

Ontop of my fears of sexual violence, I am afraid that I could have died. I have Type 1 Diabetes. I purposely do not ‘black’ out unconsciously when I drink because I know that I have to monitor my blood sugars. If my blood sugars fall too low, I can have a seizure and die. I wear a pump and a constant glucose monitor on my arm, so it is fairly evident that I have diabetes. One of the only memories I have is telling the security guards that I had diabetes and then being brought a sprite to boost my blood sugars. I am afraid that my body could have shut down and I would have never woken up. This builds support for why we needed to be taken to the hospital. We needed professional guidance and care to ensure our well-being. To reiterate, I am very grateful that the staff members accompanied us and took us out of the bar. However, I can’t endorse the fact that they let two young girls get into an uber alone. 

My brain toggles from utter silence to internally screaming. I am traumatized by my Friday night. I am trying to forgive myself and simultaneously come to terms with what occurred. I feel so unsafe in my body. I fear for my safety and security, and for that of my best friend. I am petrified that someone wants to seriously hurt me and that I have no control over my body.

I hope that my story can provide other women with the strength and courage to validate their own experiences. The most important first step, for myself at least, has been validation and acceptance. Let it all out. Cry. Scream. Be silent. Do whatever you need to embrace the pain. From there, it is to surround yourself with a supportive network of friends and family. Having a safe space to talk about the trauma has made me feel more safe and secure, and most importantly, it has helped me to start to forgive myself. 

Sexual violence is a cancer. No woman should ever have to worry about the security of her body or her life. I may never be able to catch my perpetrator. But I can keep the conversation going. 

Natalie Henriquez is a fourth-year History and Philosophy double major from the Bay Area. Natalie is an Editor for the SCU Chapter. Outside of cooking with her friends and family, Natalie loves to go on walks, do yoga, and read! Natalie is interested in a career in social justice and hopes to one day attend law school to work in public interest law.
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