Relationships

The Time I Was Date-Raped

What perplexed me more than anything wasn't what had happened but why

I'm one of the thousands of women who will feel vindicated if the Montgomery County Court in Pennsylvania finds Bill Cosby guilty of sexual assault. Not because I have a personal vendetta against Mr. Cosby, but because I, too, was a victim.

It was the early 1980s. I was living in Manhattan, working at my first job, when a friend introduced me to Rick, a CBS cameraman. He was nothing like the "boys" I had dated. Rick was older, muscular and possessed a Marlboro Man aura—complete with droopy mustache. His accent was straight out of "Raging Bull." Rick didn't walk. He swaggered. But it was his career in television that really intrigued me. I wanted to hear all about it.

I remember agonizing over what to wear and borrowing a friend's Betsey Johnson platform shoes. I wanted to impress the pants off Rick. I needn't have bothered. Within minutes of meeting him at a Columbus Avenue watering hole and sipping my first drink, I blacked out. When I regained consciousness, I was naked and a 210-pound weight was on top of me. At first, I couldn't make out what was happening. It didn't feel anything like sex. I thought someone was trying to kill me. I gasped for air while nausea rose in my throat. I knew that people could die from inhaling their own vomit. I was desperate to get him off me.

"Man, you're killing me!" I cried.

"Man?" he said.

"I've got to pee," I said.

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It wasn't true but it worked. Rick peeled himself off me and I scrambled to the bathroom. Safe. I didn't bother to shower. Somehow, I managed to get dressed and find my way to the street. I do not remember Rick suggesting otherwise. It was 6:30 a.m. I staggered along the sidewalk in ridiculously high platform shoes looking for a coffee shop. Anyplace that was open.

I entered Éclair, a European pastry shop on West 72nd Street, and stood dazed in front of the display of crème puffs, lemon tarts and cookies. What did I look like to the employee behind the counter with my messy hair, rumpled dress and red-rimmed eyes? Just another morning-after survivor of the club scene? Or the victim of sexual assault?

I sat in the coffee shop, still trembling, trying to piece together what had happened. How did I end up in Rick's apartment? Why didn't I remember anything? I had never blacked out before. I was not a drinker. Never had been. I smoked weed as much as any of my peers in college, but had slacked off since coming to the city. If a social occasion called for alcohol, I always ordered a white wine spritzer with a twist. Just one. I didn't like the taste of beer, mixed drinks or the hard stuff.

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It didn't occur to me to report the incident to the police. What was there to report? I had, admittedly, had sex on first dates before. The only difference was, this time it wasn't consensual. Or was it? I had a vague memory of Rick helping me climb the stairs to his apartment. But I didn't recall anything before or after. What perplexed me more than anything wasn't what had happened but why.

If Rick had wanted to seduce me, he didn't need to drug me. I was available. So was he. At the time, all he had to do was be a congenial dinner date and a damn good kisser. Unlike the Cosby case, I didn't reject Rick's advances. I never had the opportunity. So what motivated him to slip Rohypnol or another date rape drug into my drink? Probably, the same factors that caused Bill Cosby to drug his victims.

It all goes back to the culture of the time. I worked in the fashion industry where the drug of choice was cocaine. The same was true of the entertainment industry in which Rick and Cosby worked. People wanted to feel sharp, stay awake, energized. Coke did that. But when they did too much coke, they needed to come down. That's where Rohypnol and Quaaludes entered the picture. They were the "party drugs" of the day. Everyone had access to them. There was no stigma attached. Yes, some people had seizures and others, like Michael Jackson, died. But the party went on. And on.

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That still doesn't answer the question. Why did Cosby, or in my case, Rick, habitually drug women and sexually assault them? The one answer that rises to the top is: because they could. They weren't looking for "relationships." And, for whatever reason, they didn't want to pay for sex. Drugging their dates was quick, effective and it worked. Every time! They didn't think of it as rape, assault or a crime. They thought they were partying. Why not? Everyone in their social set was doing it. Drugs were passed around as casually as after dinner mints.

There will be those who, out of loyalty to Cosby, will question the victim's motives and timing. Why didn't she speak up and press charges 10 years ago? Why did she consent to take "pills" and drink wine in the home of a famous—and famously married—celebrity? The defense will paint the victim as a gold-digger of loose morals. They will, no doubt, present a laundry list of every sexual contact she has had going back to the 3-year-old with whom she played doctor.

I, however, will be watching the trial unfold from a different perspective. I am still waiting for the answer. Why do men do this?

   
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