By Grace Delgado
I am speaking out today because I am strong now, and I can finally talk about the night I was raped. I share my story to build on the momentum that has been made by clubs and organizations this term that have worked to raise awareness on the occurrence of rape and sexual assault, and to pay respect to the survivors by attempting to embody their experience. With events like Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, our student body is showing progress towards addressing the issue. However, in the aftermath of the recent false report of sexual assault, I noticed that our campus remains detached from the problem overall. By telling my account publicly, I hope to put a face to an issue that is often invisible.
It happened in November, two years ago, when I was a sophomore on a term abroad in Hanoi, Vietnam. I don’t know, and will never know, the name of the rapist. All I remember is his British accent.
It was like waking up from a dream into a nightmare. I was barely holding myself upright when I gained some consciousness. I was numb, yet could tell that I was hurt and noticed some blood on my calves. My mind started racing, telling me I was in danger, but my body was slow at reacting. I went into flight mode. I felt myself push and kick hard. I stood upright, desperately reached for the door, struggled down the steep stairs, got to the first floor and kept my pace as I raced to the last metal door to the outside.
My heart should’ve been thumping hard, yet it beat the slowest it ever has. It seemed like an eternity getting to that last door. I was anxious to escape from the building, and feared that his hand would grab me at any moment and take me back inside again. I found myself outside and kept going. The streets were small and often led to dead ends. I remember feeling like I was trapped in a maze of cement. At one point I looked up at the walls and imagined I could climb, or even better, fly over them. But then I was forced back into semi-reality and kept walking.
I must have walked for hours because by the time I was more lucid again I noticed my shoes were broken and my feet were covered in blisters. I managed to get to a highway, where I hoped to God I would see a cab. A while later, I spotted lights of a car coming towards me, the only car I had seen on the street (Hanoi has a midnight curfew for all businesses so no one is out late at night). I instantly walked onto the highway, and ended up standing in front of the car just to make sure I didn’t lose my only way out.
In very broken Vietnamese, I repeated my student housing address over and over, trying to make myself understood. Perhaps the driver of the car was saying something, concerned for my safety? But I was not registering his words. I got in the car. Once he finally started driving, an overwhelming rush of happiness shot through my body.
The next morning I woke up confused about what had happened. I prayed that it was all just a nightmare, but as I moved to get out of bed I saw my feet covered in mud and blisters. I was afraid that my roommate would wake up and see me with the bruises and drops of blood on my leg. I was ashamed of what she would think. I had to get moving quickly before I was late to my internship in the Hanoi Open University, so I got myself ready and left before she woke up.
All this time I wondered how it even happened, and why I wasn’t able to fight back. It was only recently, at the beginning of this term, that I finally gave in and sought counseling (for the first time in my life). Over the weeks of spilling out details of my story, my counselor and I found parallels between my account and the symptoms of “date rape” drugs used by rapists.
Given my symptoms, I was most likely given GHB. According to womenshealth.gov, “GHB takes effect in 15 minutes, and can last three or four hours. It is very potent: A very small amount can have a big effect. So it’s easy to overdose on GHB. Most GHB is made by people in homes or street ‘labs,’ so you don’t know how it will affect you.”
I experienced almost every symptom on the list, including; relaxation, drowsiness, dizziness, problems seeing, loss of consciousness, temporary memory loss, tremors, sweating, slow heart rate and a dream-like feeling, as well as distorted perception of sight and sound, lost sense of time and identity, loss of coordination and numbness.
Other symptoms I could have experienced include nausea, seizure, vomiting, coma and death. It was scary to learn that this drug was recently made legal in the U.S. to use as treatment for narcolepsy.
Two other drugs to be aware of that are used to facilitate sexual assault are Ketamine (liquid ecstasy) and Rohypnol (roofies), they are odorless, and may be in liquid or pill form that are difficult to see in dark drinks or in a dark room.
Also keep in mind that it is probable that many of the women and men in the line at Upper or walking among you to class have been raped or sexually assaulted.
I ask you to respect them, and me, by avoiding the rape jokes and all inappropriate uses of the word “rape.” From my own experience, I can say that when you do this, you are personally affecting me by bringing back flashbacks of that traumatic night.
Telling this story is not the finish line, but a first step in my battle to recovery.
To any survivor that is reading this, I want to say that it truly does get better. Seek counseling if you’re comfortable, because letting go of some of the burden makes it a little easier to get up every morning. Know that you are strong, and you’re not alone in this battle.