Aftermath Diary

A first person account of the aftermath of a drug-facilitated sexual assault.

Rape-versary.

I didn’t realize that I kind of left everything hanging. Sorry!

To those who wondered about my HIV PEP. It went swimmingly. (That’s not a vertigo joke either.) I’m still HIV negative. So- yay, go, team!

Clean clean. Vroom vroom. I’m positive I’m negative.

I’m still pretty OK mentally and emotionally overall regarding the whole drugging-and-raping thing.

I didn’t even finish my eight free counseling sessions. I went through seven of them before deciding that I was probably taking the place of someone who really needed therapy much, much more than I did. My counselor even said at the last session that she noticed that I was never really emotionally disturbed by what had happened to me. I don’t know if it is because I have no real memory of it (hard to be upset over something you can’t remember), or if it was because I was so pragmatic and proactive in my after-assault approach to everything that there was never any room for the emotions to come in.

Maybe it’s because of what I’ve said since the beginning- I’ve done this before and I’ve already dealt with it.

It’s not a pretty worldview, actually, it’s rather fucked up, but I’ve concluded that rape is just a fact of life for some women (and men). Some of us must just throw off victim pheromones that rapists just lock into as if they have RADAR (Rape-AR), because why else would some people continue to be victimized? It’s like the bad guys can just smell it. I know it totally sounds like a jaded person talking out her ass right now, but statistically this holds up. People who are molested or raped are more likely to be molested or raped. I guess I’m a card carrying member of this club. The least they could do is give us a discount somewhere. (Congratulations! You’re a member of the Rape Club. Please use this card to get 5% off on all your purchases!)

I’m not trying to make light of this phenomenon. My eyes have been opened wide to our rape culture. It is a fact of life. It’s wrong, but it’s true. Though, that’s not the purpose of this post. More than enough has been written about it so I won’t waste my words trying to rewrite what so many have already written (much better than I could ever) already.

Back to updating.

I did finally get my Victims’ Compensation: my ER visit, meds, and inoculations were covered…nearly eight months after the incident, just in time for Christmas! There was even some confusion as they first denied me because the SFPD claimed I didn’t report it until a month after my ER visit. Idiots. My formal report was a month later, but the incident was called in the day after. Still, they came through after the bureaucratic crap was straightened out.  I’m even covered for any “future” counseling I would need, should I ever need it. Just in case.

I gave up on ever trying to get the SFPD to do anything. I also gave up on having my supposed advocate in S.F. ever do anything on my behalf. Why? Because I reached a point last summer where I realized the only thread holding me back from moving forward was the anger and frustration, the indignation of injustice- of trying to get the SFPD to return my calls or review the security camera footage. Mentally, I was fine- I was never traumatized, I was never a huddled mass of tears, but I had a sense of “THE POLICE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING, EVEN IF JUST COLLECT EVIDENCE!” And I had to let it go.

So I did.

I realized- I DID EVERYTHING I WAS SUPPOSED TO DO. I reported the incident, I went to the E.R., I did HIV-PEP, I got hep B injections for six months after the fact, I got counseling as soon as it was available, I followed up with the bar and the police, I tried to get an advocate, I told other people… I did more than my part. I did more than I had to. I put all that effort into doing what a good little rape victim* is supposed to do after the fact, and if the police weren’t going to do their job, and the sexual assault advocate wasn’t going to do her job, then there was nothing more I could do to make them do their jobs for me. It was no longer worth the extra stress and mental strain holding onto that last piece. I made a deliberate choice to make one last phone call and leave one last message. So I did. Never got a call back. *does dusting off hands gesture* And that was it- I was done. Moving along now, nothing to see here.

Perhaps because of that rational, self-preservation decision, I never really came back to this blog. I continued to check in on the comments on the Truvada entry because I feel that I put this information out there and if people asked questions, then it was my responsibility to respond to them. It actually makes me happy (not happy that people have to take Truvada for any reason, but that’s not what I mean- but you know what I mean, right?) that people would search the internet looking for more information on HIV PEP or Truvada specifically and find my blog. Hell, I wanted to read something just like it the first week or so I was on the medication but there wasn’t anything out there from a first person perspective that also included the whys, hows, and whatnots. I tried my best. If other people have found it useful, then that makes me very satisfied that something positive did come out of my unfortunate experience.

I still intended to list the medications, tests, and shots I got in the ER and why I got them, and may do that at some point. Somewhere I still have that paperwork. All my “rape” documentation has since been shoved in a drawer. I could dig it out at some point, because I think that’s important information (again, something I wish I could have read the first week or so I was going through it myself), and I should write it. It needs to be written.

Most importantly, I still mean to get around to writing “What to do if you get raped.”

I will do it.

I just haven’t had the mindset. After I let go, I let everything go. Even the unwritten blog posts that may help someone else out there, somewhere, someday.

It is vital that someone write a “What to do if you get raped” instructional guide because frankly, it’s needed, and I hate to say it, but you can’t depend on rape crisis advocates, police, or medical professionals to give you accurate information. It doesn’t exist anywhere. Everyone has the best intentions. Believe me- no one ever intentionally lead me astray or told me something incorrect purposely- but that’s the frustration. At one point I was running in circles because I would go to one person who said I would have to talk to this agency, then I would talk to that agency only to be told, “Oh, no, we don’t do that here, you need to talk to Blah Blah Blah,” and of course I would go to Blah Blah Blah who in turn would tell me to go back to the organization of the first person. Madness. It’s a super fucked up reality when even the people who are in the goodhearted business of helping you out after a sexual assault can’t even give you decent information on where to turn next for your various issues. But it is what it is.

Anyway, so tonight, in about five and a half hours, it will be exactly one year after I got drugged.

At about 9:30 tomorrow morning, it will be exactly one year after I woke up naked, dazed, in an RV, with some guy I can’t identify fucking me from behind.

I still don’t know what happened in between. And I don’t care that I don’t know. I’m still really good with that.

So, this isn’t the last blog entry at all, but it might be the last blog entry for awhile. We’ll see. I’ll have to psyche myself up to write those last couple of necessary posts. Until then, keep your hands over your drinks, people, and keep your eyes on your friends!

 

 
*By the way, I loathe that term, “victim”. Though I don’t know what other word to use.

Interesting, might not mean anything, but…interesting.

I just called the bar manager at the bar I was at when I was drugged to see if she had reviewed the surveillance footage. She said about two weeks ago a police inspector came into the bar and took their digital files from that night. Strange…because my voice mails to the S.F.P.D. Sexual Assault Unit have not been returned and the one time I spoke to someone there, he said they would not be pursuing my case.

Interesting.

Like I said in the title, this might not mean anything, but at least the footage is in the hands of the police. I guess that’s something.

It’s a minor win.

The rape crisis center called and informed me that I have been reassigned to a new counselor. My remaining sessions will be with the same counselor who initially saw me at the triage assessment. My impression of her from that appointment was very favorable so I’m quite happy right now! I lucked out, but then again, I did pick up a shiny penny stuck between the grooves of the sidewalk this morning.

 

Exercises in Futility from the Land of Anger and Frustration

Bear with me: here comes another stream of consciousness post. It will likely be punctuated with profanity and copious levels of irritation.

I suppose I should congratulate myself on passing out of the “numb” phase and moving full speed ahead into “anger”. It means I’m somewhere new on the so-called “Victim to Survivor” continuum. According to the handout I got at my first (and so far only counseling) session on Wednesday, this means I have moved out of the “acute stage” and into the “outward adjustment stage”. I think for the most part that theory itself is psychobabble bullshit, but realistically I think the majority of my anger stems directly from getting bitch slapped left and right by reality, narrow minded bureaucracy, and people who don’t want to put forth the least amount of effort to do “right”. Sorry if that sounds unnecessarily harsh and anti-feminist in expression, but like I said, I’m fucking pissed off these days.

So far it has gone like this:  someone says something unrealistically positive and I feel good for a few days. Then, the next person in the process dashes that hope and I get depressed. Just like waves on the ocean, it is…and I’m getting bloody seasick.

The first wave was the bartender I originally spoke to at the bar where I was drugged. He said they would pull the surveillance footage from that night and the owner would give me a call back. After repeated phone calls, the bar manager, but not the business owner, called me back and said that they would not allow me or anyone else to view the surveillance footage unless they had a badge or a subpoena. She claimed that she would watch the footage, but she was just blowing me off. Good to know that business cares so much about their patrons.

Then I made my in-person report at a precinct in San Francisco. The officer who took my report and did my interview was extremely supportive and positive. She rolled her eyes when she got to the part in my handwritten narrative that said the bar wouldn’t allow the footage to be viewed without a subpoena. I told her that the bar manager didn’t think I had been drugged at all since I wasn’t “falling down all over the place.” Her eyes narrowed and sarcastically she quipped, “What? Is she a doctor?” She said she’d been doing this job for twenty years and my symptoms sounded like a carbon copy of everyone else she had ever spoken to who got roofied. She said that the sexual assault unit of the SFPD would view the surveillance footage from the bar to see if they could see anyone spiking my drink. I asked, “Even though I didn’t get any DNA or a positive drug screen?” She said, yes, it’s their job.

Then, the following week, the sexual assault unit told me that without DNA or a positive drug screen they wouldn’t be pursuing my case because the DA only wants prosecutable cases.  They claimed because I didn’t go to the one hospital in San Francisco that does rape exams up to five days after assault (he said even though I showered that they would have still examined me for DNA) and tests for rape drugs (free of charge, no less…gee, isn’t that special?), that their hands were tied. (Yeah, because it’s my fucking fault I called my insurance company first and was told by the advice nurse to go directly to the Kaiser E.R. It’s also my fault that no one told me until two hours into my four hour E.R. visit that Kaiser doesn’t test for “rape drugs” despite being told otherwise on the phone- and that was only after they took my urine and had the results from my “basic” drug screen.)  I asked, “Well, what about the surveillance footage?” I included all details about the surveillance at the bar/restaurant in my report- it’s digital, it’s kept on a hard drive for a very long time, plus the names and numbers of the people at that business who would be responsible for it. The inspector blew me off and said, “I’m sure they’ve recorded over it by now.” He hadn’t read my report very carefully. I reminded him that hard drives can save a lot of material for a very long time, and the bar manager said it still exists. I said, “There’s someone running around San Francisco spiking women’s drinks. Wouldn’t it be worthwhile to view the footage to see if there is evidence of someone putting something in my drink in case it strengthens another case you’re working on?” He made some comment about, “Well, if they even allow us to see the footage…” and  said someone would call me back, but he too was just blowing me off. Glad the SFPD cares so much about catching the perpetrators of heinous crime in their city. I’m not sure if this is the biggest insult of all yet or if it was…

…my experience this week at the local rape crisis center. I had such a good initial experience when I went in for the triage counseling assessment. The triage counselor was superb and I trusted the organization immediately. They didn’t call back with an opening for the free counseling I was promised until nearly six weeks to the day after that triage session. They finally called on Tuesday. (I was waiting until Wednesday when it would be exactly six weeks to the day that I last went in before I was going to call them back and ask what the hell was going on.) They apologized profusely and explained that they had no available openings until this week. I can understand that, they’re a nonprofit with limited resources. No big deal. Plus, until about a week and a half ago I’d been maintaining. It wasn’t until after I talked to the lackadaisical, limp-conscienced inspector who halfheartedly reviewed my case and said they wouldn’t be doing a damn thing about it that my anger was finally unleashed in a great, barely-containable torrent. I thought it was a good thing that I would finally be seeing a counselor.

Then I had my session. It started off well enough, but I found that absolutely every time I spoke, the counselor would interrupt and start speaking over the top of me. She would ask a question, I would go to answer, and instead of letting me finish answering her question, she would run her mouth right over the top of what I was trying to say. It wasn’t that she interrupted once or twice- the entire session went like that. I got extremely frustrated. It was clear that she wasn’t listening to me because in addition to her constant interruptions she would ask a question that I already addressed or act like she made a revelation that I already stated clearly. After enduring this for 45 minutes, I basically broke down and told her, “You keep asking me questions. Every time I go to answer them, you talk right over the top of me. Either you can talk, or I can answer your questions, but we can’t do both at the same time. What would be helpful is if after you ask a question, you remain quiet for a second or two and allow me to answer.” Maybe that was rude, but my irritation had reached a fever pitch. Besides, she was the one who misconstrued her role as counselor from being “a person who helps largely by listening” to “a person who likes the sound of her own voice.” I’ve had enough counseling in my life with different practitioners to recognize that this is not how it is supposed to go. As soon as I left the session, I asked if I could be assigned a different counselor because frankly this was not going to work. They assured me that, yes, of course, sorry it didn’t work out, someone will call you in the next day or two…

The whole session wasn’t a complete waste though, because after I pointed out her prattling counterproductive manner, I think she wanted to prove that she could still provide a useful service. She encouraged me to contact the Victims’ Assistance Program to help with possibly placing a claim with the State of California’s Victims’ Compensation Fund to recoup my E.R. costs, any lost wages, and cover “real” long term counseling. The SFPD had given me their local number to call for Victims’ Assistance, but they had not provided me with any information about the Victims’ Compensation Fund or what they covered, so this was new information to me.

“Chatty Cathy” also asked if I had spoken to a lawyer, as if I could afford one. When I said that was rather cost-prohibitive, she said, “Oh, we have a free legal services advice clinic. It just started up again after not having the program for a few years.” She gave me the clinic’s handout on it. It was inconveniently open only on Thursday mornings. I quickly noted that neither on the short list of services they provide, nor on the longer list of services that they do not provide, was there anything listed that would apply to my situation by any stretch of definition. She waved it off, “Oh, that doesn’t matter. You’re just going in for a consult.”

So, I took off from work for an hour and a half on Thursday morning to go talk to the legal services clinic. As soon as I was seen, they informed me that they were very sorry, but they only do Family Law. They were very nice about it though, so I harbor no resentment against them. I expressed my acute dissatisfaction with the counselor who had referred me there. Not only was my hour long therapy decidedly anti-therapeutic and unhelpful, she had now wasted an hour and a half of my time and made me leave work for a fool’s errand. They gave me her supervisor’s phone number and I left a complaint because that woman seriously needs additional training. They also suggested that I contact CALCASA for help regarding the Great SFPD/Surveillance Roadblock of 2012. This goose chase is getting wilder.

CALCASA gives support to rape crisis centers and community support organizations. They’re not exactly hands-on for the individual. However, my oldest friend in the world just so happens to be on their Board of Directors. I texted her to ask her Bay Area colleagues if they recommend anything. She said she would let me know.

I haven’t heard anything yet.

Nor has the rape crisis center called me back within the “day or two” that they promised to let me know that I’ve been reassigned a new counselor.

Hurry up and wait. I’m sure glad I’m not holding my breath. I’d be dead by now.

I guess the next obvious course of action is to contact Victims’ Assistance to get help with Victims’ Compensation. I might as well try to recoup my costs so far. Besides, there’s nothing else I can do right now except want to kick things and be pissed off. At least calling Victims’ Assistance is something constructive. I just hope it won’t prove to be yet another positive sounding step that turns out to be an empty farce.

Not much of an update

Two days off of Truvada and I’m still experiencing dizziness. What a drag.Though now that I’m off Truvada, I feel okay about taking ibuprofen again for the headaches, so at least I’ve got some relief in that realm. (I didn’t want to overtax my poor liver while I was on Truvada, so I didn’t even take ibuprofen for the headaches.)

To add insult to injury, I’ve developed a yeast infection. My poor vagina just can’t catch a break these days. They gave me Diflucan (Fluconazole) in the emergency room but I guess I should have waited before taking it. Diflucan is an anti-yeast medication that they gave me as a “courtesy” (that I paid for, naturally) for all the antibiotics they gave me that evening. (Antibiotics can cause yeast infections because they offset the “delicate balance” of our body chemistry, particularly for women. *ahem*)

I don’t know why I’m developing a yeast infection now, but I suppose that “stress” is just as likely a culprit as antibiotics. Plus, I did indulge in a few cupcakes last week and I usually don’t eat or drink much in the way of sugar. Also, I’ve been consuming caffeine like it’s going out of style due to the “tiredness” caused by the Truvada. All of these are believed to potentially contribute to candidiasis. The yeast infection probably wasn’t the direct result of the Truvada course, as that was an antiviral and not an antibiotic, just something that happened coincidentally. Besides, I tried Googling “yeast infection” + “Truvada” and found no correlation.This is not to say that the excessive caffeine consumption, increased stress levels, and deciding that I deserved to treat myself with cupcakes weren’t entirely unrelated to the crazy side effects caused by Truvada, but I may have inadvertently created my own perfect storm. Ouch.

Mentioning Diflucan reminds me that I intend to write a blog post on what drugs and tests I was given in the emergency room versus the tests and drugs I should have been given. I will do that soon.

In other news, the second hep B shot went off without a hitch. I am now wondering if the E.R. nurse wasn’t just kidding about the “nice” needle versus the “big” needle because the shot she gave me- I felt that sucker. However, the professional “shot giver person” at Kaiser put her vaccine administering skills to shame. I’m sure he has some sort of professional title, but I don’t know what to call the person who only administers injections, “Inoculation Administration Specialist”, or something nondescript and institutional like “Medical Aide Class VIII”? I’m going to go with “shot giver person” because frankly, that’s all he does and I don’t know his actual title. Anyway, he is honestly the Michelangelo of shot giver people. I was nervous because I remembered the sting of the first hepatitis shot in the E.R., but this felt more akin to a mosquito bite and he slapped the band-aid on me before I even knew it was over and done. He deserves the Academy Award of Shots. That’s a good thing too, as I’ll be seeing him again in five months for the third and final hep B shot.

Vertigo

Today, we bypassed dizziness and went straight to vertigo. I might be the only person 100 miles inland today who felt like they were on a boat at sea. I’ve got to say that vertigo isn’t anything like I thought it would be- Kim Novak doesn’t show up nor does the world turn into some dated swirly animation. It is weird hanging onto furniture for stability though. Thanks, Truvada!

It was four weeks ago tonight.

This probably won’t be a very good entry because I’m really not in the mood to write.

I’m still not feeling very well thanks to the combination of Truvada side effects and allergies. Luckily, I just took my third to last dose of Truvada tonight. Nearly finished with the PEP course, thank goodness.

The dizziness has returned with a vengeance. It’s now my primary side effect and it is lasting for hours at a time. Not fun at all. I’m not taking allergy medication right now due to the Truvada side effects being all I can handle, so I’m experiencing a lot of middle ear irritation. I’m wondering if inner ear = balance, if having both Eustachian tubes inflamed from allergies isn’t contributing to my dizziness.

The bar finally got back to me about viewing the surveillance footage after a couple of messages left over the course of a week and a half. The answer is: without a subpoena, no. That was disappointing. The first person I talked to there said they would pull the footage that night and have the owner call me back, but I suppose he shouldn’t have promised that. When the bar manager finally returned my calls, that little bit of unrealistic hope was crushed. It actually caused me to shed my first “real” tears over “all of this”, if only for about 90 seconds. Maybe my immature sense of fairness was hurt, or that’s the only extent of emotion I’m allowing myself because I’ve known since the beginning no one would ever be punished for what happened to me. If only I had enough sense to go directly to the E.R. that morning- if I got DNA and a positive drug screen- then the police would bother pursuing my case, but without tangible evidence, I’m just another case number with no leads and no point. I don’t know why I’m torturing myself by allowing myself to feel disappointed. “Justice” was never in the cards on this one; I’ve always known that.

I’m staying off of social media these days. It’s an irritation. The speculation and the sentimental imaginary “hugs” from odd acquaintances aren’t helping. I know that people on the outside of this think they can offer suggestions to help, or think they can suggest a new angle that I haven’t thought of, but the truth of the matter is I’m evidently a lot more knowledgeable than they are about all of it. Their sense of reality on the whole matter stems from TV shows and wishful thinking. Someone even had the audacity to suggest that since I’ve been to that bar before maybe someone targeted me because they remembered me. Jesus, that’s just the dumbest thing I’ve ever read. I know they mean well, but I decided that I really don’t need to read everyone’s dime store novel theories. Real life sometimes is just…random. I said it before: this is a crime of opportunity. I simply, stupidly, presented that opportunity.

The bar manager did say that she ejected a person that night because he was bothering the other patrons. I now think it was the guy that that girl was getting me away from- my very last memory for nine hours. If that’s the case, he was a dark, curly haired, obnoxious 22 year old kid, not that I can confirm with the surveillance footage to be sure. She also said that she didn’t think I was drugged- as I wasn’t “falling down all over the place”. From what I’ve learned since my first post, people can remain animated, walking and talking within a blackout, particularly if they have not consumed too much alcohol. From the outside, apparently, people just assumed I was drunk, no different from anyone else at the bar that night. That is so scary. In all reality, I really needed help- and no one realized it. Worst of all, as I was completely checked out in an anterograde amnesiac stupor, I certainly couldn’t have been able to let someone know that I needed help.

In other news, I get my second Hep B shot this Friday. Ick. I hope they use the small needle. The E.R. nurse claimed she was being nice to me by using the “small needle”. Maybe she says that to everyone, but her eyes got really big when she described the “big needle”, so I’m inclined to believe there’s a larger, more painful needle that generally goes with that inoculation. Not that I know anything about shots; I haven’t actually watched one go into my arm since I was 9 years old. If I want to avoid a total freak out, I have to watch the wall during the entire process and avoid seeing the needle at all costs- just a trick I finally developed after dealing with that phobia for my entire life. It beats having people sit on you while forcing you to take the shot in the ass. (Sadly, this is not an exaggeration. That…actually happened…once. Ahem.) Yeah. Fun times.

I haven’t started counseling yet. They haven’t called me so I assume that means there hasn’t been an opening in the schedule. I’m not that worried about it, but as sad as I felt this weekend regarding the surveillance footage, I’m beginning to realize that maybe I’m not as shatterproof as I initially thought. I’m still well overall, but I can see how perhaps the little things can add up over time and cause that facade to crack.

So…if anyone reading this wants to recommend some good stand up comedians, and in particular, good recent stand up comedy videos, pretty please leave your suggestions in comments. I’m running out of amusing/distracting entertainment at an alarming pace and need more post-haste. Danke.

Truvada, and adventures in post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)

I haven’t written lately despite learning so many things last week because I feel miserable. Emotionally, I’m still a rockstar, but I have felt physically sick for these past couple of weeks, thanks to this blue horse pill that I hope will prevent me from feeling like this for the rest of my life. There was a possibility that my doctors were going to take me off post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) last week for fear that I was developing severe side effects, but even if the doctors had reached that conclusion, I would have fought to complete the course of my PEP regimen because as terrible as the side effects have been, the very remote possibility of developing HIV is far scarier. But, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

I was prescribed a four week course of Truvada when I was in the emergency room as a prophylactic measure against HIV. Truvada is a combination of two drugs, emtricitabine and tenofovir, in one pill, which is why I sometimes seem to contradict myself by referring to being on “these HIV drugs” or “this HIV drug”. Emtricitabine is a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor and tenofovir is a nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitor. These types of drugs are sometimes referred to as NRTIs and NtRTIs. Without getting into the science that I really don’t understand given that I’m not a biochemist, NRTIs/NtRTIs are supposed to prevent the enzymatic process that allows HIV to reproduce.

Truvada is lauded as being a bit of a wonder drug as it reportedly has fewer side effects than older HIV meds. There are even some researchers who are encouraging the regular use of Truvada among high risk groups (namely, men who have sex with men) who are HIV- as a pre-exposure prophylaxis measure, though quite honestly, given my experience with it, I certainly wouldn’t opt to take it if I weren’t in direct risk. (It’s also really expensive, around $26/pill.) Truvada seems to be a go-to drug for PEP if HIV exposure is a possibility because it is a combination of two classes of recommended post-exposure drugs, and at a dose of only once per day it has a higher patient adherence rate than other medication regimens that require multiple doses per day.* However, there is really no single drug or set of drugs that is prescribed in HIV PEP as there are a number of drugs and combinations that are possible. The CDC recommendation is a 28 day course of “highly active antiretroviral therapy” (HAART) beginning within 72 hours of possible exposure. The State of California recommends the same. The reason that the accepted PEP course is 28 days long is because animal studies indicate that a course of only three days is ineffective, a ten day course is effective only part of the time, and that a course of longer than four weeks does not seem to increase efficacy.

Anyway, I feel miserable because… first, it was the persistent nausea. Luckily, that is subsiding. Normally I would juice fast a couple of days a week but since “my incident” and being put on Truvada, I have been forced by necessity to eat solid food every day, and to snack regularly throughout the day to keep the nausea at bay. At first this was difficult because my stomach really didn’t want to accept all this food, but being human, it’s now gotten quite used to regular feedings.** Occasionally I have dizziness, and that’s probably the worst side effect of them all, but luckily the dizzy spells are short lived, and only tend to last 5-10 minutes. What I’m really struggling with these days are the round-the-clock headaches and the all-pervasive fatigue that borders on narcolepsy.

I’m only being slightly facetious when describing the extreme exhaustion as “borderline narcolepsy” because I am bloody tired ALL THE TIME. My body is dragging. I feel so weak. Every little thing seems to require extra effort. The headache just compounds it. Last Monday, I drank three energy drinks, an energy shot, and I still had to take a 30 minute nap- at work- just to make it to 5 PM.

I spend all my free time now cat napping. I’ve never been a very good napper but now I am napping all the time on the weekends and evenings because I simply cannot stay awake. I only have access to a fraction of my brain capacity right now. My eyes cross and go blurry all the time. I’m virtually useless at work except for the really mundane tasks. Despite having “quit” caffeine last year, I’m forced to drink it in mass quantities just to remain upright at my job. I cannot do arithmetic in my head these days, and have to keep bringing the calculator up on the computer to do the simplest problems.  I have no attention span. My escape lately has been watching television shows, but I have to rewind constantly because I’ll realize several minutes on that I have no idea what any of the characters have said. It’s taking me literally two hours to watch a one hour program.***

Truvada is processed by the kidneys, so (sorry to get graphic) my urine output has been phenomenal. The dehydration is apparently compounding the headache problem. But, I drink water constantly…and I think you can imagine how this cycle goes. I’m freaking Niagra Falls. Luckily, the diarrhea subsided around the same time as the nausea, or else I can’t imagine how much harder my head would be pounding or how much sicker I would feel now. Though I am (graphic alert again), literally (literal alert again) taking a shit every time I go to the bathroom. (Yes, I could have worded that more politely, but really, why bother?) The laxative effect is still in effect, and maybe my regular snacking is what is keeping my bowels from going completely helter skelter on me.

I find a little bit of irony in that Truvada is a big blue pill. In The Matrix, it was the red pill that made you see reality, but the blue pill that allowed you to continue living in fantasy. To have Truvada prescribed, you are already enmeshed in reality, a reality where you may develop HIV or may have already developed it. You can’t get much more “real” than that.

I had my first (and so far, only) anxiety attack regarding “all of this” for about ten minutes last weekend. For some reason, my extreme exhaustion hit at the same time that springtime allergies hit our area.  I slept for three and a half to four hours solid both Saturday and Sunday afternoons. This is not normal for me at all. I only sleep like this when I’m sick. That voice I’ve kept at the back of my head since my assault must have felt extra ballsy because I thought, “What if these are the ‘early flu-like symptoms’ that people experience soon after HIV exposure?” I shot off a couple of emails to my PCP (Primary Care Physician) and started researching Truvada and PEP post-sexual assault online. I relaxed a bit after reading a few points like, even if my attacker was HIV+, I still have only a slight chance of contracting it; or that if I complete this cycle of PEP, numerous observational studies indicate I should be fine.

My PCP is a family doctor and really doesn’t know much about HIV. I wondered this when she told me to wait six months before getting my next HIV test when she called the morning after my E.R. visit because I thought that sounded a bit antiquated. She couldn’t answer my questions, so instead referred me to an infectious disease expert and my new ally. “Sue”, a nurse practitioner in the infectious disease department at Kaiser, called me not once, but twice, of her own accord and added herself to my practitioner panel so that I could easily email her questions. After ascertaining that I am most likely not developing lactic acidosis from Truvada, she admitted that the early side effects of Truvada feel exactly like the flu. Oh joy! So, Truvada does have fewer side effects than the traditional HIV meds, but it takes six-eight weeks of continuous use before they normalize. Since I only get to experience the joy of Truvada for four weeks, I’m suffering all the side effects.

As she is an expert, I wanted to know why I wasn’t given a more rigorous PEP regime in the emergency room. PEP in the U.K. as well as in other states here very often includes an additional drug, a protease inhibitor, in addition to the two NRTIs/NtRTIs. True, the standard PEP when the risk of exposure is unknown is exactly what I got: a four week course of Truvada starting within 72 hours of potential exposure. However, the standard PEP if there is assumed to be a high risk (assailant is HIV+, is known to have sex with men, or is an intravenous drug user), is Truvada plus Kaletra (another single pill combination of two drugs: lopinavir and ritonavir) or an even newer recommendation of Truvada plus Raltegravir (brand name: Isentress). I wanted to know why I wasn’t given this regimen, despite not knowing the status of my attacker, precisely because we don’t know the HIV status of my attacker. I would have preferred to tread as cautiously as possible. Of course, I only read up on HIV PEP 10-14 days after my attack, so it would have been too late to add another drug to the mix. HIV PEP procedure needs to begin within 72 hours, though I have read a couple of sources that will prescribe PEP up to five or seven days, but with the disclaimer to do so goes against standard guidelines and is probably much less effective. (Experts claim that HIV will have reproduced just enough times within the system to render PEP procedures moot after just a few days. Animal studies indicate that HIV takes about three days to reach the lymph nodes and five days to reach the blood cells. This is why starting PEP as soon as possible is crucial.)

Sue said that I should rest assured that I was given exactly what the CDC recommends, and that additional drugs could have increased side effects. Kaletra supposedly increases complaints of diarrhea, for example. However, it seems that Isentress is better tolerated, and adds no additional side effects other than those experienced by Truvada anyway, but as the studies involving Isentress are newer (the abstract I linked to above was published only last month), perhaps this knowledge hasn’t filtered through to the CDC. Besides, the CDC have not updated the HIV PEP guidelines since 2005. (But a lot of research has been performed since 2005…?) Standard guidelines in the U.K. for post-sexual assault PEP are Truvada plus Kaletra, and apparently France follows the same. The recent studies and reports about Truvada plus Isentress demonstrate equal effectiveness, and with fewer side effects.

Though, Sue did set my mind at ease. She even had to take a four week course of Truvada once, so she could sympathize with what I was going through. She suggested that I not drink acidic drinks (no juice, damn), and avoid spicy foods (the day after I had Indian food for dinner, ha!) to see if that improves the side effects. She also encouraged me to drink more liquids, but I already drink more beverage than anyone I know. She should have reminded me not to drink alcoholic beverages while on that call- even though I’m not drinking at all right now- because Truvada can be pretty hard on the liver.

Although I do feel much better mentally in regard to my PEP regimen, had I known as much as I know now, I would have insisted on Kaletra or Isentress in addition to Truvada when I was in the E.R. I’d rather be safe than sorry, and I would have wanted as many weapons in my arsenal as possible, even with the chance of increased side effects. So, that’s my take-home lesson of this blog post. If you suspect you were possibly exposed to HIV (through unprotected sex, sexual assault, a needle stick, or because of sharing needles or a condom break), you need to go to the E.R. and start PEP as soon as possible within the first 72 hours. Insist that they give you either Kaletra or Isentress in addition to Truvada, if those options are available.**** Make sure that you are satisfied with the care you have received and understand fully how you are to follow your PEP regimen. You might have to consult with your pharmacist when you pick up your meds if you are unclear about anything, and make sure they give you printed information for all drugs you received so that you can refer back to the literature later if you are having unusual side effects. There is the potential that some side effects may be life threatening, so be sure to pay attention to your symptoms and do not hesitate to ask questions or seek medical attention if necessary.

Needless to explain, I’m not a medical professional and this blog post shouldn’t be taken as absolute advice, though personally I wish I had read this before my emergency room visit so I could have been a better informed patient.***** At the very least, had I read this at the beginning my PEP course I would have had a much better idea of what I had in store: headaches, fatigue, the attention span of a goldfish…

Ahhh…just a bit longer. I can nearly see the bottom of that pill jar now.

_________________________________________________________

*The CDC document “Antiretroviral Postexposure Prophylaxis After Sexual, Injection-Drug Use, or Other Nonoccupational Exposure to HIV in the United States” actually says, “Adherence to antiretroviral medications can be challenging, even for 28 days. In addition to common side effects such as nausea and fatigue, each dose reminds the patient of his or her risk for acquiring HIV infection. Adherence has been reported to be especially poor among sexual assault survivors. Steps to maximize medication adherence include prescribing medications with fewer doses and fewer pills per dose…”

**(If, however, my stomach starts calling me “Seymour”, all bets are off.)

*** (I’m not a person to misuse the term “literally” in place of “figuratively”. This has actually happened a few times in the past week alone. I’m not counting all the times I have to pause to snooze in the middle of a program either. I am figuratively a space cadet. See what I did there? I’d laugh at myself for typing that except I’m too tired to exert the energy. Even this very post has literally taken me days to write. Man, that deserves a knee slap…but maybe I’ll get around to it tomorrow?)

****If your clinic will not give you Truvada, Combivir and Kaletra is also a frequently prescribed combination with a high success rate. Both meds are also a combination of two drugs, though Combivir is an older drug combination that contains AZT, the first drug approved in the United States for HIV/AIDS treatment. It may have harsher side effects than Truvada, but it might be cheaper, so take this regimen if it is the only option they are offering you. This course is consistent with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. Note: the link directly above, is also an excellent FAQ regarding post-sexual assault PEP.

*****I also recommend this source regarding HIV PEP in general: this page details your various options- the pros and cons of electing a PEP course, the different combinations of PEP regimes, the different classes of drugs in PEP regimes, the likelihood of infection, ect., though the information presented here is much more dense than the FAQ linked above.

Addendum to the previous

I neglected to mention, and I really should have, that the drugs commonly used in sexual assaults are odorless and tasteless. Teetotalers and designated drivers should still exercise the same precautions. Don’t assume just because you are not imbibing that you can let your guard down. Water can be drugged just as easily as any beer or cocktail.

It seems almost silly that something as simple as keeping your hand over your drink while you’re not drinking from it can potentially save you a world of headache. It really shouldn’t be necessary. Anyone should be free to go out and have a good time, to enjoy a drink or three at a bar, alone or in a group, without worrying about some nefarious jerkwad with villainous intentions putting something in their glass.  If nothing else, I hope that what happened to me can serve as a warning to other people and potentially prevent anyone else from undergoing the severe inconvenience I’m currently experiencing.

I was drugged and raped ten days ago.

There’s no subtle way to delve into this topic, so I’ll state it bluntly: I was drugged and raped ten days ago.

I haven’t wanted to talk about it. And I still don’t. I’m fine. I really am. I’m not seeking pity, sympathy, or attention, nor am I trawling for comments, and frankly if anyone asks a question, I probably won’t answer. I want to make it absolutely clear: I’m really not interested in talking about it, period.

However, yesterday I went looking for books about rape in Barnes and Noble and was disappointed to find only two. One, the venerated and much celebrated “classic source” that is now unfortunately as old and dated as I am, and the other focused only on “acquaintance rape”. Neither was particularly informative nor useful to my case. So, the inner feminist decided that there is potentially more value in me telling other people what happened to me than the embarrassment I would feel by letting the secret out. I’ve learned some very important things, and I’m still learning them. I should share, if only to potentially help someone else.

I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do so far: went to the E.R.; took every pill, potion, and inoculation offered, was prescribed a HIV drug for a month prophylactically; filed a police report (granted- I didn’t, but the nurses did on my behalf), and though I feel fine mentally, I’ve got eight free individual sexual assault victim counseling sessions to be scheduled as soon as a counselor’s schedule opens up. I have to go back and get two more Hep-B shots and an HIV test in six months. I have been extremely pragmatic in my approach to dealing with this, but I get choked up when I even think of telling anyone I know that this happened to me. In fact, that is the only thing that I feel even vaguely emotional about in all of this. I’ve had to recount what happened to a receptionist, six nurses, two doctors, and a triage counselor so far. I can talk about it in a detached way as in, “These are the facts, as far as I know them,” but it scares me to think that someone who knows me “in real life” will forever more identify me as this one incident rather than who I am. Maybe that’s an over-dramatization that I’ve been using in order to justify not telling “friends” about this, and really just a mechanism to allow me to further marginalize what happened to me. I could play pop psychology all day long, but something tells me that that would not be helpful. I really can’t go there right now.

So far I have been dealing with it very well, so well that some people have even described me recently as happy and cheerful. (Wait, that doesn’t sound like me at all, does it? What the…? Huh?) I’ve been carrying on with my day to day life with little interference despite near-constant reflection. I can feel proud of myself that I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do, that I’ve done what I can to take care of myself after the fact.

But, there are so many coincidences, and when they pile up, I pause. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. (I got raped in Sexual Assault Awareness Month for crying out loud! Maybe “they” should work on better flyer distribution?) One week exactly after it happened to me, Denim Day was observed. Denim Day is a day of activism that was coined after an Italian judge deemed that the rapist of an 18 year old girl was not guilty because she was wearing tight jeans (which he ruled would have required “assistance” to remove). I bought my first and only pair of skinny jeans that day. The only time I’ve worn them was that night. When I found them still cuffed at the bottom, crumpled on the floor of a camper, I joined the ranks of women who could testify that yes, even “tight jeans” can be removed by another person. When I was at the E.R. and recounting to the doctor things he could and couldn’t do, the police could and couldn’t do, because I couldn’t describe my rapist, and because I had already showered, ect., he stopped and asked, “Where do you work?” When I went to answer he stopped me and said, “What I mean is, how do you know so much about this?” I thought post-rape procedure was common knowledge, but I guess not. Maybe there was an article or two in Seventeen or Cosmo that I read twenty years ago, I don’t know. As far as knowing about rape drugs, I Googled that before I went into the E.R. Besides, hasn’t everyone seen at least one or two episodes of CSI or Law & Order? To put the frosting on the cake, my oldest friend is a board member of CALCASA (the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault). I’m so not in the demographic to get raped. Teenagers, followed by college students- those are the people statistically most likely to get raped. At my “advanced age” of 36, I’m in the 1-2% range. As a bonus, up to 92% of rape cases are by someone you know*- I didn’t know the person or people who did this to me, yet another anomalous statistic. In so many ways, this was unlikely to happen to me. Yet…it happened. It all happened anyway.

The thing is, I can’t say exactly what happened. There is a nine hour hole where my memory is supposed to be, and I can only imagine, but never know, what occurred. I could spin myself crazy trying to think of every scenario and possibility, but I don’t believe that would be helpful if I am to maintain any semblance of emotional and mental stability. These are the facts as I can recall:

1. I was in a bar, drinking only my third (and intended to be last) beer of the evening. I planned to get something to eat right after. A girl waved me over to get me away from a guy that she said had been hitting on every woman that came into the bar that night. I don’t even know if I finished that third beer. I don’t know who dosed me. It could have been anyone because frankly I was careless: I turned my back on my drink so many times. I had no friends with me, so no one there had any vested interest in making sure nothing happened to me or my drink. Still, this isn’t to say that any of this is my fault. The fault lies solely with the person or people who illegally spiked my drink. They took any and all choices away from me. It didn’t even dawn on me that the girl could have been involved until the counselor at WEAVE (my local community nonprofit that offers various modes of support for this and related issues) suggested that was a possibility. Though- that’s the whole “spin yourself crazy inventing scenarios that may or may not have happened” ball of wax. It really could have been anyone in that bar, and I’ll never know who or why me. I will never even know if the same person who drugged me is the same person who would later have intercourse with me while I was incapacitated. I’ll never know if there was one person or multiple people involved. There are so many unknown variables.

2. I woke up in a camper/RV-sort of vehicle a block from the bar. It was morning. I was wearing only my socks. The too few details I have at all are flashes, some too ugly, and I don’t want to recount them here. I was so spacey. Nothing made sense and after drifting in and out of consciousness a few times, it finally kicked in: THIS IS MORNING. I WAS JUST AT THE BAR. THIS ISN’T RIGHT. When I jumped to my feet, looked down, and saw only my socks, I knew something was wrong but my brain still wasn’t processing. I remember blurting out, “I’m naked and on a bus?” The guy laughed and told me to lay back down. The camper had a kitchen area so I kept asking for water. He had none. Still, I kept asking for water, and when he relented and went to go get water, I gathered all my things (miraculously almost everything was there), dressed quickly, bailed, and quickly “floated” back to my hotel. I have no idea how I knew where I was, but somehow I knew how to get back to my hotel. I don’t even remember walking back. The “floaty” feeling lasted all day and made me really exhausted- super exhausted, ultra exhausted.  I was still under the influence of something and not in my right mind. Because of that fact, I have no memory of the person, I could not describe him, I couldn’t describe the camper, I didn’t get the license plate of the camper, no- nothing useful. For some reason I think he had a gravelly voice and maybe sandy hair, but I don’t know why I think that because I don’t have any real memory of him despite knowing that a) I talked to him and b) he had sex with me. I smelled different, and I knew it was “his” smell on me, but how do you describe a person’s smell? I had nothing “useable” or “actionable”. I was in a deep fog and could not process anything, especially what happened. The entire world felt fuzzy, if that makes any sense at all. It was as though my brain had succumbed to complete torpor.

I have to emphasize- I was not feeling hungover. I simply had not drunk enough to even be drunk in the first place. I don’t even know if I finished that third beer. If I did, it would have been my third beer in about ninety minutes. That feeling of utter poisoning- nausea, a pounding head, every light too bright, every sound too loud- I didn’t have that. I was under the influence of something completely different that made me thoroughly discombobulated.

3. All I wanted to do was come home, shower, and sleep. Yes, you’re not supposed to shower after rape or change your clothes. (They tell you if you must change your clothes, to put each item into a separate paper bag. I actually got out of my clothes as soon as I got back to the hotel.) I’ll refer back to the “I was still under the influence of something and not in my right mind” piece of the narrative. Despite one of my first flashes back into consciousness was being fucked from behind, as absurd as it seems, I didn’t know what was I supposed to make of it. I wasn’t sure if it was real because the memory was so dreamlike. It seemed unpleasant, so I didn’t want to think about it, particularly since thinking felt so laborious anyway. All I wanted to do was come home. Once home, I showered, and I still had the smell of someone else on my hands even after washing my hair. I kept washing my hands. I had a Lady MacBeth moment because for several hand washes, the smell wouldn’t abate. I tried to sleep but despite my lethargy, my eyes wouldn’t stay shut. The same few flashes kept coming back but as nothing added up, I told myself they were uncomfortable and just to ignore them. I was in denial that I was under the influence of something and it didn’t become apparent to me until the next day when I was still inexorably exhausted. Perhaps I was just far enough out of the fog by then to finally Google “effects of Rohypnol”.

Shit.

I refined the search. “Symptoms of Rohypnol in rape”: blackout of 8-10 hours despite not being drunk, feeling that someone had sex with you, waking up in unfamiliar surroundings, extreme exhaustion.

Shit. Shit. Shit.

Time to call Kaiser. I was bruised on both arms and hips. There was a bruise at the top of my inner left thigh near the crease of my crotch. There was a bump on my head just behind the hairline. While on the phone, I looked down and noticed that the bruises on my right forearm were perfect finger indentations. Someone had grabbed me by the arm hard. It was like it really took me over 24 hours to wake up and now that I had, it was all coming together into one big slice of Swiss cheese. The advice nurse filed a police report with the S.F.P.D. on my behalf and told me to get to the E.R. as soon as possible.

4. The triage nurse was a bitch whose face contorted when I told her that I drove home, while we now know (in retrospect) that I was still under the influence of something. I told her point blank that there would be no criminal case pursued as I could not act as my own witness (that’s just reality- a very paltry percentage of drug rape criminals are ever convicted, if they ever go to trial at all, and being unable to identify my rapist pretty much meant nothing was to happen in my case), and besides, I’ve already showered and changed my clothes. I just wanted a drug test and whatever prophylactic measures generally occur post-sexual assault, hold the judgment and derision. Maybe she was of an older generation where victim blaming is still in vogue, but that’s immaterial. Mercifully, she was only a part of my care for a few minutes. The E.R. doctor and nurse, in stark comparison, were awesome, and genuinely decent people. I felt supported but thankfully no one even approached being “too supportive”. (E.g. no one offered me the whole sympathetic hand on my shoulder, soft voice “Are you okay? Waa waa.” thing. Thank goodness.) Over the four hours I was in the E.R., the nurse and I started cracking jokes and tried to be as irreverent as possible. I mean, what else can you do when you’re walking around carrying your own urine in a cup, people are extracting vials of blood from your arm, and people just out of view on the other side of the curtain are whispering about your case? The fact was, though I had to be logical through the interview, examination, and all the drugs and needles,  I was still finding certain things to be funny, if even in a dark humor kind of way. I stopped and wondered: “Do I want to laugh and smile right now? Aren’t I supposed to be morose and tragic?” In a roundabout way, what I’m saying- it really wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t scary. Though, I do have to admit I did get out of the pelvic examination. As there would be no criminal case pursued, and aside from a bruise near my crotch, I had no injuries that I could feel “down there”, thus there was no point, particularly since Kaiser does not collect DNA even if I wanted them to. I expressed that to the nurse, who agreed with me, and she communicated that to the doctor. I got to keep my clothes on throughout my physical exam. However, this brings me to the first of a few points that caused me to write this in the first place.

HOSPITALS DO NOT DO RAPE KITS. Well, very, very few of them do this. Even the local university research hospital in my area (UCDMC) that has always done them has stopped doing them recently. Still- go to the E.R. Get medical attention as soon as possible. You can always ask the E.R. nurse to call a rape crisis center and ask for an advocate on your behalf, or to call the police if you cannot call yourself. The police will have to arrange for possible evidence collection because hospitals simply don’t.

(Edit: most areas have only ONE designated hospital that will do the correct evidence collection. Call the local rape crisis center for information as to where to go or search online for the hospital in your area that does this. Doing this may help your police case later if you decide to file a report. The designated hospital for evidence collection will also most likely see you free of charge. Don’t listen to your insurance company like I did – they will not give you accurate advice about what you need to do in this situation. I am now regretful that I called Kaiser Permanente first and followed their instructions as having done so hurt my case in the long run. It is easier to have your records transferred to your health insurance carrier after the fact than to not have this important evidence collected in the first place. Also, I was told by the SFPD Sexual Assault Unit that had I gone to a proper evidence collection equipped E.R. that they still would have searched for DNA even after a day had passed and I had already showered. The inspector said they still retrieve DNA even after a couple of days sometimes.)

NOR DO THEY TEST FOR “RAPE DRUGS”. I thought half of the point of me going to the E.R. within the supposed 48 hours that Rohypnol was detectable was to get a definitive answer that I was drugged and the identification of what exactly I was drugged with. Hospitals do a “generic” drug screen of commonly abused and illegal drugs. Only after my urine was run through a drug screen, did the E.R. doc tell me that they do not screen for so-called “date rape drugs” like Rohypnol, GHB, or ketamine. I asked what the value was of doing the drug screen at all, and he said that it would have picked up some benzos like Valium or Xanax, but- Rohypnol does not show up on a normal benzodiazepine screen. The doctor said that I could opt to have a sample of my blood sent out for screening but I would have to pay out of pocket and it would take four weeks to get the results back. (I’ve since found out that there are urine strip tests you can order online. Maybe some rape crisis centers keep these available, but that probably varies.) As I was at Kaiser, and already paying through the nose, I did not opt for an expensive test I couldn’t afford as I couldn’t even afford this E.R. visit.** Besides, the doc said something immediately after explaining the benzo screen, “…but I believe this really did happen to you, given the symptoms you have described.” The guy has an M.D., and that’s his opinion? That’s good enough as a definitive confirmation to me. We still don’t know for sure if I was given Rohypnol, but as the effects of GHB last only three-four hours, and I was blacked out for around nine, it would indicate the former or at least something very similar.

(Edit: the “one” evidence collection hospital in your area should be able to test for “rape drugs” and do so free of charge. See above.)

HEALTH PROFESSIONALS IN CALIFORNIA ARE MANDATED BY LAW TO REPORT SEXUAL ASSAULT TO THE POLICE. I already alluded to this, but they will do this on your behalf if you do not want to report it yourself.  In my case, the Kaiser advice nurse filed my report over the phone and gave me my case number so that I could provide it at the E.R. When the E.R. nurse asked if it had been reported, I just gave her my case number. This may have been the beginning of our short term psuedo-bonding experience because she took it from me and said, “Thanks. This makes my job a lot easier.” She still had to call and confirm it though, and as it wasn’t in the system yet, I still had to go back over the details I already told the other nurse when she reported to the police. No, I can’t describe the guy; no, I didn’t get the license plate number; yes, I was blacked out for approximately nine hours, yes, soreness, bruises, blah blah blah.

(Edit: the report that healthcare providers provide on your behalf is little more than an incident report. It is not the same as a bona fide police report and will not result in a criminal investigation. If you want a record of your assault on file for the good of the community, or to pursue criminal charges against the perpetrators of your assault, you will still need to go to the police station and give a formal report and interview. You can do this at anytime, though sooner is better than later. If you are too emotionally traumatized to do this immediately, it is understandable to take some time first. The police will still be there when you are ready and able to give your full report. You may also want to contact a rape crisis center to have an advocate with you while you file your report, or you can take a trusted friend with you for moral support and as a witness to what you are told while you are at the police station.)

RAPE DRUGS TAKE EFFECT IN AS LITTLE AS TEN-FIFTEEN MINUTES. You really do not have much time, and if you have already been drinking (as I had), you might not even notice that you are suddenly under the influence of something else (as I did not). You have to be vigilant. Keep your drink in your sight at all times. Put your hand over your glass or bottle when you are not drinking from it. Only go out with friends. If someone starts acting uncharacteristically loopy and intoxicated- way out of proportion to what they have had to drink- they may have been drugged. Get them somewhere safe immediately. This can happen to ANYONE. It happened to me. It can happen to you or anyone you know. Men, women, young, and old- this is a crime of opportunity.

(Edit: it may not be obvious to anyone else that you have been drugged. You can be walking and talking while in a blackout. You do not necessarily start falling down or pass out immediately. You appear to be intoxicated, but in a bar or party situation, no one else may realize that you’re under the influence of anything other than alcohol. This is why it is important to have a “buddy system”.)

I’ve been amazed at how “normal” I still feel. I know I’ve been victimized, but I don’t feel like a victim. I’m still “me” regardless of this despicable act against me. In so many ways I feel extremely fortunate. I woke up in a motor vehicle for fuck’s sake- I COULD HAVE BEEN DRIVEN ANYWHERE. I was so lucky to wake up in familiar surroundings, even if I’m still marveling at how the hell I knew where I was given the condition I was in. I was completely blacked out for about nine hours- I could have been dumped in the Bay. I could have been killed. I wasn’t. I’m still here. Yeah, so the HIV drugs I’m on make me feel nauseous and dizzy. That sucks, but I only have to take them for a short period of time (*fingers crossed*). I’m lucky to live in an area with a good community outreach nonprofit that has secured funding to give victims of sexual assault eight free individual counseling sessions. As the triage counselor said, “It can’t hurt,” and that’s a damn good point, so I’ll be happy to take them up on that.

In an odd way, I also feel fortunate that I can’t remember what happened. I think it would be a lot worse if I knew every detail. It is as though I was handed a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle, opened the box, and found only five pieces inside, and wouldn’t you know it? No corner pieces. I’m actually okay with that. Again, I can imagine every possible scenario and let my imagination run wild with it, but I don’t think that would be useful. I remember what I remember, and I’ll deal with that in counseling.

In another way, I feel fortunate because I’ve been through this before. I was 18 last time, passed out drunk, and woke up dizzy and ill to flashes of my “friend” Chris [name not changed, because, frankly, fuck that bastard] shoving his cock in my mouth, being inside of me, and then re-dressing me. I faded in and out as it was happening. I had drunk eight beers by myself, alone at home, and passed out in my bedroom. He had come over, let himself in, and then really…let himself in. In so many ways that was a lot worse than this, because it involved a betrayal by a “friend”, and I was a lot younger and didn’t have as many coping skills. If I was able to handle that incident at half my current age, then I can handle this.

So, now I’m just dealing with it day by day. I feel like I just picked myself up, dusted myself off, and proceeded to put one foot in front of the other. I’m still getting out of bed everyday. There have been a couple of times where I’ve told myself, “OK…go!” I’ll give myself twenty-thirty seconds of an intense crying spell and then, “OK…stop!” Wipe my eyes with a single tissue and go forth with my day. I’ve never been able to exert that kind of control over my emotions before, but maybe that is the extent that I’m able to feel right now. Mostly I just feel numb. There have been a few times I’ve told myself, “Come on, get pissed off already!” I should be angry. I should feel violated. I could feel humiliated, paranoid, dirty, disgusting… I’m not coming home at night, turning on every light and checking under the bed for boogeymen. I’m not a sopping mess. I’m not having nightmares or suicidal thoughts. I don’t feel anything except vaguely embarrassed, and that feeling only arises when I consider talking to someone who knows me personally. Time to get rid of that, so out it goes. Maybe I can’t speak it, but I sure as hell can type it.  (Obviously, as I think I’m at over 4,000 words already on this. Go, me.)

If you’re a friend of mine and you’re reading this, I can’t emphasize enough that I’m fine. I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do. I’m getting professional help. In fact, the triage counselor was amazed that I came in only one week after my incident. I guess most people let it fester for much longer before they seek assistance. I’m going to be all right. If I really need to talk about this, I’ll come to you to talk about it but please don’t bring it up with me. Yes, I am isolating myself a little bit, as I don’t feel that I could handle socializing right now, if only because I can’t handle conversation at the moment. Because really, what the hell am I going to talk about? (“Ha ha, Newt Gingrich is finally ending his unrealistic Presidential campaign. What a baffoon! By the way, I was recently sexually assaulted by some stranger in San Francisco. Pass the pickle relish!”) I’m a loner by nature anyway, and this is how I recover and process. (With heaping servings of Game of Thrones for fantasy and stand-up comedy for levity.) In all actuality, I’m really kicking ass at this, whatever “this” is. Dealing? Accepting? Coping? As I told someone last week, if there were such a thing as the Coping Olympics, I’d be a medalist.

*A statistic from a BBC Radio One radio program on acquaintance and drug-assisted rape. Other statistics have shown this rate to be between 60-80%, but it depends on the study, the size of the polling sample, and the population polled.

**Total cost: $200 to get discharged…and I had to sign something that said I could be billed for other charges later. That’s because my insurance…sucks. Thankfully I had my credit card on me. The additional drug screen would have been as much as $600 or more, but the doctor didn’t know the price for sure. (Edit: Had I gone to the “correct” hospital to begin with, and not followed the advice of my insurance company, I would not have been charged for the visit, and would have had the proper drug screen done for free. That’s hindsight for you.)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.