A wise friend of mine once said, "Natalia, you can't make anyone feel any emotion, except guilt." Well, the morning I woke up next to my attacker, it was these words that resonated with me.
I had so many options of how to handle the situation, so many questions for him.
I looked at him with my one open eye; the other had been swollen by something that had gotten into it the night earlier.
I went to stand up and walk to the washroom, but hobbled, as I had fractured my ankle the night before.
I crawled back into his bed with him, and after a long uninterrupted silence, I asked him to grab my keys, my work clothes from inside my car, some ice and eye drops, since I was in no condition to.
I laid in my attacker's bed waiting for him to return. Much to my surprise, I could see the guilt already sinking in. He eagerly grabbed my items, Advil and a water.
I left him to stew in his own silence while I iced my ankle, put in eye drops and chugged the water. "So, what happened last night" I asked him.
Before letting him finish his bullsh*t story about how we went to the club, I cut him off. "No, with us. Did we have sex? Did you use a condom?" I angrily asked.
He answered back, "Well, that makes me look bad."
I knew my guilt trip had worked. He answered that thankfully he had used a condom, and for the record, you taking advantage of girls looks bad and is bad.
But thats how GHB works, other wise known as gamma Hydroxybutyrate (C4H8O3).
The "date rape" drug metabolizes quickly. I didn't learn this until it was already too late and I was reporting my story to the police.
The officer on my case let me know that unless he could have tested me on the spot right, there was going to be no trace of the drug.
It metabolizes with 45 minutes and is tasteless and odorless. It blew my mind that it was so easy to get away with. It made me angry.
GHB was the worst trip I have ever been on. I remember glimpses of the night, and rolling my ankle the second we walked into the first bar.
I hadn't even had my first drink since leaving the house and I already felt weird. Because he was a con-artist, he knew to put something in my drink before we left for the bar.
Then there was the puking. I'm not much of one to throw up, but I upchucked in front of the bar, all over the shower and the couch where my friend left me.
But sure enough, this psycho pulled me off the couch and put me in one of his shirts. There were also flashbacks: him on top of me.
It made me even more angry when I had heard about this new nail polish invented to test out whether your drink had been tampered with.
Maybe if it had been invented earlier, it could have helped me. This thought gave me a false sense of hope that my attacker could be caught. May I remind you this is an attack; I was prey.
Sixty-nine percent of all users experience unconsciousness as one of the "side effects." So why don't we have stricter rules about those who are found with GHB? Why isn't there an intent to rape or intent to harm charge?
My rape didn't go to trial.
Many tell me this is a good thing because it would make the healing process harder. While I agree with this statement, I did not receive justice. Many sexual assault victims don't.
I didn't have a specimen, there was no proof I had been drugged and it was his word against mine.
Sexual Assault Caused Me to "Wake Up"
After I was sexually assaulted, I underwent upheaval. I lost my best friend of eight years because my attacker convinced her that he too was drugged at the bar, yet had no effects of GHB.
I was accused by other friends of being a "slut" and asking for it.
I lost my boyfriend because the anxiety and depression changed my personality. It was an opportunity for me to wake up and see the foundation of what was left to rebuild on: family.
I had to have a harsh moment with myself to decided how I was going to rebuild my life, and how I was going to let this sexual assault define me.
I thought, "Ultimately what is the best way to walk out of this scenario?"
How I Moved On
1. Practicing Self-Care
I cannot stress this enough. Healing starts with you. Instantly the effects of depression and anxiety began to overwhelm my life.
I was hyperaware of my surroundings and the triggers that set off my mental illness.
The week after my assault I had 50 to 75 panic attacks a day. I looked forward to going to work because It was 7.5 hours of time where I had other things to focus on. I realized this was not sustainable.
I knew in this moment there not was only opportunity for change, but a shift. I changed my exercise, diet and began a regular meditation practice.
Take long baths, go for walks with friends, cry your eyes out and take a nap if you need it. Don't be hard on yourself.
Here is your moment to show empathy. It is the greatest gift you can give to yourself.
2. Telling My Story
This is the hardest thing to do, at first. You'll probably cry and get choked up the first 30 times you say it. It's okay to cry, and it's certainly healthy to talk. Each time you do, it gets easier.
I know the most therapeutic for me was when I told my counselor. She knew the right questions to ask and was so understanding and caring toward me. Now, I tell my story as a warning.
Yes, you can be raped at a friend's house when you are hanging out with three friends and one of their roommates.
You don't even need to be at a "party" or "watching your drink" because I was drugged when with friends and I went to the bathroom.
Every time I hear a friend or a coworker say she is going out for a drink, I tell her to keep her drink on her at all times.
3. Giving Back
Do what makes you the happiest. If you want to travel halfway across the world and save "insert cute baby animal here," then do it.
I know the profound effects of bringing people together and creating something great because it’s what fuels my soul.
Last summer, after my rape, I saw the opportunity to help the local sexual assault center.
I volunteered for a campaign called #IRespect. It's an easy project to execute, as you have people write on a white board who they respect and post it to social media.
What is meditation? It is uninterrupted quiet time. It’s the practice of merging the mind, body and spirit. It can take many forms, but all are connected through breath.
Earlier I described changing my diet and exercise routines as a part of self-care. It was through exercise and diet I seemed to be able to manage my moods; it was through meditation I began to heal.
There are many studies showcasing the profound effects of meditation.
It helps you see the big picture, builds grey matter cells in your brain, helps you sleep better and overall, live a longer, happier life.
Meditation improves your ability to manage stress, increase focus and even improve your healing time. I know taking a more mindful approach to my spirit helped me heal.
5. Living In The Moment
It is so easy to get caught up in the past and worry about the future. Remind yourself that this is all excess.
You don't need it, so why are you letting it drag you down? Let go. Adopt a more mindful perspective.
What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is being fully aware of all your senses and focusing more on feeling and less on thinking.
Take deep breaths and let go. Instead, tune in to your senses. There are so many small ways to incorporate mindfulness into your everyday routine.
I like to go for a walk and admire nature, have a meditative shower or even enjoy quiet time over coffee.
Thank you for hearing my story. I send strength and courage for everyone who has been impacted my sexual assault.
I send to you only blessings, gratitude and good vibes.