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  • Jessica

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At this precise time, on this precise day, four years ago, I was drugged.


The scene: the South of France.

The scenario: a birthday party at a friend's house.

The friend group: a gaggle of twenty somethings doing their masters.


It hurts so much to think about that night that my hands freeze over the keyboard. Do I want to talk about what happened? Never. Do I want to talk about the aftermath? Even less.


Maybe numbers would be a safer place to start. But then we would have to address the fact that four years later the criminal case still hasn't progressed beyond my engagements with detectives.


We would have to address the silent parts.


That are silent for very good reason.


They're silent because I spent a lot of time fearing for my life. They're silent because quite frankly no one really cares. They're silent because I went to the only place I knew to ask for help the following day and they sent me away.


The place that was supposed to be safe. That was supposed to help. Turned. Me. Away. And told me they couldn't help me because it hadn't happened in front of their own eyes on their own property. The woman I broke down in front of and begged for guidance, turned on her heel and straight up walked away.


So I didn't talk about it. I survived that exam season (in which I was obliged to sit in the same room as the person who assaulted me), because, what else was I supposed to do?


I couldn't tell my family, they would be devastated, my little sister was already in hospital at the time. My friends? The ones I trusted supported me, but we were kids, they didn't know what we were supposed to do.


I was in a strange country, with no support network, with nowhere to turn. So I turned inwards. I stopped leaving the house. I stopped leaving my room and talking to my flatmates. I stopped getting dressed. 12 hours a day of something mind numbing (Netflix or scrolling) and those five exams until I could leave the country, leave that place, and never go back.


I cried those heavy, primal tears. You know the kind that vibrate through your entire being? The kind that make you want to howl. Silently, of course, so my flatmates wouldn't be concerned. I ignored texts and pleas from friends to join them for holiday parties. I attended each of those exams and found out the following Spring that I was top of the class. Big whoop. The class that tore me down, cast me as a foreigner and accused me of seducing a guy they were interested in for themselves. Dude, I had no CHOICE in the matter. I said NO. On repeat. I thrashed and flailed my drugged limbs the best I could. For HOURS.


This year was the first year I got any sort of help that actually helped. In the months and years after the assault, I sought help 8 times. For my mental health. I went to primary care doctors and got referrals. Three different doctors. I saw 5 different psychologists for different reasons during different time frames. Probably about 50 appointments over three years. That's fucking expensive by the way.


And for all the good that did me, I left multiple jobs (before they could let me go for being anxious and depressed), I squandered multiple dreams, I became small.


I stopped dressing like myself, opting for black, for sweatpants, for oversized men's clothes, for suits, for high necks, for shoes I could run in (in case I needed to).


My current wardrobe is 50% mens and I bought it all myself. (Shoutout to my dad whose size L shirts I adopted as my own). I've left the house twice in a short dress in the past four years and both occasions were in the past 2 months with a male partner I feel very safe and secure around.


Isn't that wild? I didn't even know how many adaptations I'd made to my life until I stated to a friend this past summer "I never go out with bare legs once it gets dark". And then I realised I don't go out. Ever. Only to restaurants or high end bars that have security and I know the management.


I went out once this year, in Austin, with my bf and a friend and a man tried to drug me - in front of me - at the bar. Sorry, what?!


I just don't really know where this all leaves me other than confused. Do I keep my stories and experiences to myself, and remain silent? Do I battle through the legal system - designed to protect people from other people - that hurts me? Do I give up?


*disclaimer, I have tried to give up and exit this life and I strongly encourage anyone feeling hopeless to ask for help or just speak to one person, you are not alone and I promise it will get better*


It's hard. It's so fucking hard. To wake up every day and be reminded of the things that hurt you. Of the things that took your life away. No matter how I dress, I get looked up and down at the beginning of every meeting I walk in to, by both men and woman. Why is that?


I get catcalled in the street, even in sweatpants and a hoodie.


I look over my shoulder in broad daylight.


I don't have a social life beyond dusk unless it's at home or I'm hosting.


I get at least three inappropriate private dms online a day - ranging from comments on my appearance and intellect, to insults, to sugar daddy and marriage proposals, to sexual threats.


Three weeks ago, a man in the industry I work in lay hands on me at the end of a business meeting. Even after I said no multiple times and pushed him away, did it again in the elevator on camera. And had the nerve to text me on another number the next day to apologise as though that suddenly made it okay.


I want to say that I'm the exception. That I'm just some anomaly that's had a rough go of it but we all know that's bullshit.


Ask your girlfriends, your wives, sisters, nieces, daughters and especially MALE friends. Nobody wants to talk about it, but we all have stories. Because even if you're not directly affected by sexual assault, you're directly affected by the PTSD of assault survivors.


I don't really have a call to action other than it's time we stopped pretending sexual assault isn't real or is something that exclusively happens behind closed doors. Because it's still happening everywhere, all the time.


The guy that hurt me four years ago? That took my life away until I fought to take it back? He's got a big deal job in Monaco. The guy that lay hands on me 3 weeks ago? Is the keynote speaker at a conference in Miami this weekend.


How is this possible you ask? Because the legal processes and systems are just that. Processes and systems, that take time, money and involve gatekeepers. I wouldn't be surprised if nothing ever comes of the crimes I have reported.


But they will stay with me. And no matter how much work I do to recover and move beyond them, they still happened. And I can't make that go away. Their faces, actions and the aftermath will haunt me every day until the day I die.


And that, my friends, is my why.

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