Being Drugged and Robbed Didn’t Ruin My Life

Why it’s unfair to compare Cardi B’s crimes to Bill Cosby’s and R. Kelly’s.

Jeremy Helligar
Mar 29 · 4 min read
Cardi B (Photo: Chris Allmeid/Wikimedia Commons)

Let me begin by saying, I am not here to defend Cardi B.

On a good day, I find her annoying and borderline intolerable. It’s not just that she makes me root for Nicki Minaj, or that she has defended the open homophobia of her (estranged?) husband Offset by criticizing gays for being openly offended by it.

My distaste for Cardi B is based on what she does to my ears when she isn’t rapping. She makes them bleed. The blood was gushing buckets this week as I watched her ranting in an old video that made the rounds on social media.

In the clip, she admitted to pretty serious past misdeeds: drugging men who wanted to have sex with her and then stealing their money. It was a bold and heinous admission, one that has some comparing her to Bill Cosby and R. Kelly while shouting “Double standard!”

Detractors have even created the hashtag #SurivingCardiB in response to the damning revelations. That’s a reference to Surviving R. Kelly, the Lifetime documentary that launched the downfall of R. Kelly earlier this year over crimes against women that are even more sordid than the drugging and rape charges that landed Cosby in prison.

While I agree that there is a double standard at play — a male celebrity’s career probably wouldn’t survive admitting doing the same thing to women that Cardi B used to do to men — the Bill Cosby and R. Kelly comparisons mystify me.

It’s extremely sloppy math that should leave rape out of the equation from the outset. There’s a more direct and accurate route to “Double standard” that doesn’t involve invoking the names of rapists. Not all druggings are created equally, and in the general scheme of criminal behavior, robbery is less than rape.

Let’s look at it from the mark’s point of view. I’m fairly sure that most women who are drugged and then sexually assaulted would spend the rest of their lives dealing with demons that would make the aftermath of being drugged and only robbed seem like a flesh wound.

As embarrassing as it is to admit, I’ve been the mark. I’ve never offered a guy money for sex, but while I was living in Buenos Aires, I was robbed on several occasions by hook-ups who stole away like thieves in the night while I was passed out. It happens to gay gringos in the city frequently enough to almost be a rite of passage.

Only one guy in South America ever drugged me, though. It was in Rio during my first trip to the continent. I won’t go into all of the humiliating details here that I’ve already recounted in my book Is It True What They Say About Black Men?, but when I woke up fully clothed in bed after spending more than 24 hours in a deep slumber, I immediately knew what had gone down.

The drugger/robber didn’t take much: only about $25, a credit card, a bottle of Dolce & Gabbana cologne, and my deodorant (at least he was a hygienic smooth criminal!). I easily replaced all of that stuff and quickly forgot about it. The incident rudely interrupted my holiday, but it didn’t spoil Rio for me.

As out of it and violated as I felt the morning after the morning after being drugged and robbed, I was relieved that I had woken up with my clothes on, shoes and all. That meant, I assumed, that it had been an invasion of privacy and not an invasion of my body. I don’t know what I would have done if I had woken up naked.

I’m not condoning Cardi B’s actions, and I’m not judging her differently because she’s a woman. I think what she did to those men is as abhorrent as what that guy in Brazil did to me.

But I survived and recovered with minimal hand-wringing. My Rio holiday may have been somewhat tainted, but my life wasn’t. I imagine a survivor of drugging and sexual assault would be unlikely to feel the same way — at least not without a lot of time and probably a lot of therapy.

Robbery is a temporary setback. Rape is forever.

I’ve been drugged and robbed without being sexually assaulted, and I’ve been sexually assaulted without being drugged and robbed. Only one of those experiences left a permanent scar.

Jeremy Helligar

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Brother. Son. Friend. Writer. Journalist. World Traveler. History-Obsessed Anxiety Survivor. Loner. Author of “Is It True What They Say About Black Men?”