Bill Cosby Raped Me…Kind Of
I’m 18. It’s 1997, the height of the Roaring Nineties. Pre-9/11. The dawn of the Internet. The world is still so dang innocent. I have a summer job at a restaurant. It’s a popular location on a lake in Minnesota where rich people dock their boats and party and suck dick.
It’s also the height of my perceived “coolness.” At 18, I have a fake ID. I count on reverse-psychology to fool the bouncers. “No one who looks this young would be dumb enough fake being this old.” It works. I feel as cool as I’ve ever felt in my life.
I am drinking in downtown Minneapolis with my legal drinking age coworkers. One night, we run into a man who frequents our restaurant. We wait on him all the time. He’s an older, powerful banker and a great tipper. He seems nice enough. They all seem nice enough.
He brings us shots. The last thing I remember is looking for my pager. (Yes, my pager — I told you these were innocent, adorable times). It’s exactly the same thing my friend remembers before she too, blacks out. Funny coincidence.
CUT TO: I come to — he’s on top of me. I’m crying and begging him to stop. He’s laughing. I black out again. I come to again, this time, I’m naked, crawling on his floor, searching for a phone. I black out again. I’ll spare you the gory details mostly (sadly) because I know some sick fucks out there are getting off on this right now. Long story short, when I wake up the next morning — I have no recollection of anything.
This is the nature of “roofies” (Rohypnol aka “the date rape drug”). You don’t feel hungover. You feel fuzzy. Like you’re in the blurry, dream sequence of a Christopher Nolan movie…or a drugged Carrie in Homeland. My friend and I, still groggy, politely thank our host (to this day this infuriates me more than anything) and head to our car. It’s only then I notice she has a hickey on her neck. My friend has a boyfriend. It was not his hickey.
“What the fuck???” It’s at this moment, as we leave the parking structure, spiraling down, floor after floor, we start putting the pieces together. The car isn’t the only thing in a downward spiral. It’s also at this moment I internalize the unbearable shame I’m already feeling. Merciless cement in my veins. My heart turns to stone. That sinking sensation that I’m drowning in a tempest of emotions too tumultuous to survive.
We go directly on a 3-day river-rafting trip but I’m just binge drinking until I blackout. I don’t want to feel good. I want to feel NOTHING. I’m hoping I can give myself wet brain or better yet, die. My friend’s boyfriend is obviously livid and wants to murder banker dude. She has no recollection of anything, but at least she woke up with underwear on. He also suggests we file a report, something I file away in, “Yeah right. No thanks. Never.”
First of all, I’d have to admit I’m breaking the law with my fake ID. “That’s what I get for breaking the law,” I tell myself. I’m a good Catholic. It would also mean, now days later and too late for a rape kit, it will be my word against his. He is the respected head of one of the largest banks in Minneapolis. I am a drunk, 18-year old waitress. Who are the courts going to believe? And finally—and most terrifying—it means I have to tell my story. A story I am desperately doing everything in my power to forget. A story I never want my family to hear. A story I want to spotlessly erase from my mind forever. So I do.
So I think. I seek out every drug I can get my hands on to block the memory, the pain, the shame. My rampage of self-destruction includes—but isn’t limited to—men, crystal meth, heroin and finally lands me square in rehab at 19-years old. It’s here for the first time, I tell my story. Only then do I begin to heal.
But I’m living proof of how insidious rape culture can be. Even now, 18 years and a lot of therapy later, my own shocking, default reaction is to victim shame the women who are coming forward and make light of their situation. It’s toxic social conditioning.
In a way, I was raped by Bill Cosby. They’re all Bill Cosbys, the men who get away with this kind of behavior. And they are everywhere among us. They’re our brothers, fathers, uncles, cousins, step-dads, friends. Collectively, no one wants to look at this. No one wants to think of his or her favorite pudding-eating, fatherly role model as a predatory sex-offender. But we must. I must.
Because today, instead of identifying with the victims, women whose story mirrors mine almost IDENTICALLY, I’m caught off guard by how quickly I want to deny the plausible truth of their accusations. Ah yes, the power of dissociation…a part of me is like, “Really ladies, it’s a little late.” Denial in the form of sarcasm is my defense mechanism, particularly in the face of being reminded of a moment so damaging to my psyche — I’d rather act like I have no idea what these women are talking about.
But the truth is, if a group of women from Minneapolis suddenly came forward accusing my rapist, the untouchable banker, of rape, I would absolutely come forward and tell my tale. In solidarity. In the hope that justice can still be served. So the other women know they aren’t alone. And I would be met with the same scrutiny, the same doubt, the same judgment these women are met with today. Met by ME.
ME! A woman who has been drugged and raped by a powerful man and silenced by shame and fear. I AM THEM. Yet still, my natural reaction is to make jokes at their expense. I’M MAKING JOKES AT MY EXPENSE. The true reason the term “rape culture” makes me cringe is because it’s alive and well in me. A fact I had to look squarely in the face today and the reason I’m even writing this. In victim shaming these other women, I realize I’m still victim shaming MYSELF.
And it’s high time I show that 18-year old the compassion she deserves.