Last summer I took a trip to LA. The second to last night I was there I went out to a bar and someone I was talking to roofied my drink.
I was lucky. What he didn’t realize was that I was with my best friend. I could tell something was wrong. I went back to our place with her and I passed out cold for nearly 12 hours.
I woke up the next day feeling physically worse than I ever have in my life. I was a disoriented, non-functional, hungover mess. I had one drink that night. It was painful, but I eventually recovered and went on with my trip.
It never struck me how completely messed up that experience was until recently. It was more like, “yeah, it’s bound to happen sometime” rather than “what just happened to me”. I realize that’s primarily because I got out of it without serious damage done to me, but I never fully took in the other side of things.
I was in a foreign country, and this man knew that. He seemed like a decent guy. He was nice to talk to, I’d even go as far as saying we we’re hitting it off. Clearly, there was enough trust established between us that made me forget the “never look away from your drink” rule.
So, why did he roofie me?
Is it a fetish? Is it a power thing? How can someone prey on an unconscious human being?
Talking about sexual assault makes people uncomfortable. What about it, exactly? The fact that someone would be willing to rape someone while they’re practically dead, and why they want to do that. The fact that someone would perceive sex as something that can be taken without consent, and why they grow up believing that.
That’s why I brushed it off, because thinking about why he would do that any further made me uncomfortable.
What bothers me now is how okay I was with it in my thought process. I didn’t tell many people, because nothing happened. I didn’t let it define my trip, because nothing happened.
But what if it did?
This is a normal occurrence. It’s an “it happens” kind of thing. I felt like it was my own fault. Why? Because we currently believe it’s more important for a woman to watch her drink like a hawk than to teach men not to rape.
We question the victim rather than the attacker.
Admitting a sexual assault happened, that it happens frequently, and that it happens as if it’s normal is hard on society. This is because it would ultimately be admitting that there’s a severe underlying problem within us. We have trouble doing that, you see.
It makes people groan when 1,2,3, or 50 women come forward and accuse someone of rape because they think that they’re seeking attention. It’s 2016 and a sexual assault lawsuit is considered an attention grab.
And if that’s not enough, somehow the subject of sexual deviance is taboo. Not sex, because sex is where the money is. Sex, when you plaster it on a billboard to sell beer, is A-okay. But talking about unwanted sex, and what we should to stop it, is just too much. Discussing the actual problem, rather than the aftermath, seems too far fetched for some reason.
Don’t get me wrong, sexual assault cases make it to mainstream media. That’s once they’ve already become cases. You can discuss the person abused, you can rip them apart and pinpoint all the things they did wrong to make a sexual assault happen to them, but you rarely hear about the actual abuser and why they do what they do. No, that’s not something we ever want to talk about. We focus instead, on the victim, we don’t ask questions about the person that created one.
Admitting that objectification and power is the root cause, especially in recent years, would require society to take blame for an issue that we would rather remain a “personal problem”. But the truth is, sexual assault is not a personal problem. Yes, there are broken individuals who take advantage of others, and they should be held accountable on an individual level, but when will the rest of us own up to creating this narrative for women and men who are sexually assaulted? This “it happens” and “it must have been your fault”, followed by little to no repercussions for the assaulter, is the landscape we’ve created.
I realize now that being casual about being roofied was a problem. Teaching girls to prevent getting harassed rather than teaching boys to not do it in the first place is a problem. Selling women as objects in the media is a problem. Brushing off women and men who come forward as attention seekers is a problem. These are the things we can’t seem to admit to.
People don’t want to be made uncomfortable, they don’t want to think for a second that they are feeding into an issue, so we brush them under the carpet. But guess what? The carpet can’t cover it all anymore.
Acceptance, admission, and accountability. It’s a process.
When we stop avoiding the issue because it’s a touchy subject, victim blaming, and letting sexual assault be treated like a slap on the wrist, we can actually move forward. I’ve heard people say this is something we can never prevent “because evil people will always do as they will” but I don’t believe that. I believe by educating young men and women equally on what sexual assault is and what it does to us as individuals and as a society, we can begin to not only hold people accountable to it, but prevent it from happening so frequently.
Next time you roll your eyes at a woman in the media discussing her rape, next time you brush off a girl who says she was taken advantage of at a party as her being too drunk, next time you allow yourself for a second to forget that this all happens because of the current narrative in our society, just step back. Consider what these victims go through.
Consider how drastically someone’s life changes when this happens to them. Consider how you can change your own dialogue, and perception of sexual assault. Consider what you shrug off as nothing; the words you use, the experiences you go through. Do something to shift this current mindset and landscape of sexual assault, because it is possible. We’ve just let it become so unfairly one-sided that people can blur lines without any consequences. It’s time to start seeing clearly.
WORDS BY | Shadi Bozorg | www.shadibozorg.com