Ask Polly: I Was Roofied at My High-School Reunion!

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Dear Polly,

The subject of this email pretty much says it all: I was drugged at my 10-year high-school reunion, an event I had no interest in attending but went to anyway, mostly because my best friend wanted to go.

I wasn’t the only one who was drugged either — there were four of us total; three of us were unmarried, at the bar without dates, attractive. None of us were sexually assaulted. Which is exactly why the police offered us zero support and essentially laughed in our faces when we went to report it, despite the fact that we were all at the bar together, this was a closed event, and it all hit us at the same exact time. We were drugged.

I found this article from the Cut that actually sums up my experience quite well, but other than that, there are almost no resources available for people who have experienced this. I don’t feel any shame around what happened. I know too much about how cruel these people are to take responsibility for what they did to me (especially since the videotape from the bar shows me holding on to my drink the entire night).

I know I’m an adult and I take full responsibility for being there; it’s not my best friend’s fault I was drugged. I am just so angry. So fucking angry. I went to high school with a bunch of privileged, wealthy assholes who grew up to be more of the same. I grew up to be someone who doesn’t take shit, and I feel like the chip on my shoulder that’s been there since I was 13 is what’s keeping me from breaking down right now. I feel like I was robbed of something I didn’t even really want; something that hovered in the future ever since I left that fucking town ten years ago.

The most infuriating part of all of this is that they’re just going to get away with it the same way they got away with everything. And everyone at that reunion, up until I made the incident public, believed the victims were just women who can’t hold their alcohol. No one I spoke to that night has come forward to reassure me that I was okay, that they saw me, that they remember talking to me. Not. A. Single. Person. Out of an event with at least 150 attendees, maybe 12 people reached out.

I hate my hometown, and the culture that produced these people. And I am trying really hard not to hate myself. Not for being drugged, but for going in the first place. If I hadn’t gone, I could’ve walked away with my head held high, on my own terms. Instead, if I don’t attend any future reunions, they’ll think it’s because I’m scared. (Fuck them.)

I’ve already had a fucking awful year: I lost my job, my landlord is the worst, I’m wrapping up grad school, I live in a city I can’t afford, had weird health issues for a minute, dealing with post-election depression, and now this fucking drugging. But I have some real things going for me: wrapping up grad school, started a band and writing songs, in a relationship with the love of my life, my friends (non–high school) are great.

I know one of the key answers here is “go to therapy or take up kickboxing,” but I need something to whisper to myself at night. Something that doesn’t involve wishing for their slow, painful deaths. Because that’s not the kind of person I want to be.

High School Still Sucks, What a Surprise


I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through. It’s incredible to me that human beings are capable of such cruelty. What you experienced is a very personal form of terrorism: Some coward (or group of cowards) resented you and your friends because you had the audacity to take up space and behave confidently while also being sexually attractive. You had more power than they could bear. They hated you for that power, and hated that you didn’t give a fuck how they felt about you. But for them, it wasn’t about being seen or understood by you. They didn’t want to start a conversation. They wanted to silence you and hurt you. There was nothing at all to be gained, beyond some snickering behind closed doors over your distress and pain.

It’s natural to have a lasting reaction to that kind of malice. If you didn’t feel that loss of control deeply, I would worry about you a lot more. For a lot of victims of sexual assault, it’s not the actions or physical transgressions that linger as much as the total loss of control and the malice behind those actions. Carving out a path back to normal life is going to be a huge challenge for you.

The cops obviously should’ve allowed you to take a drug test, so at least they could see: “Oh, some people in our town are dosing women. They could kill someone doing that. They could kill my sister’s kid by giving her too much GHB. They could rape a lot of women in this town. I should maybe verify that this happened, at a small event where everyone was on an invite list, for fuck’s sake. How hard could it be?” Because people know who did this. It wouldn’t take a whole hell of a lot of poking around before you’d isolate someone who knows something and would say something to a cop in an interview.

But this is where we women land so often: Even when some men wouldn’t literally drug anyone or grab a woman by the pussy, they don’t really mind living in a world where it happens. Maybe the bitch had it coming to her. The same attitudes extend to people of color, which we can’t leave out of any discussion about the perpetuation of our racist, sexist, bigoted status quo. Even when this or that guy on the street wouldn’t choke a black man with his bare hands or roll up and shoot a 12-year-old in a under a minute for no fucking reason at all, he really isn’t bothered by the fact that these things happen. You could show these people the video of Sandra Bland getting her face pushed into the dirt by a cop shortly after being pulled over for FAILING TO SIGNAL A LANE CHANGE and shortly before she showed up dead in jail, and they wouldn’t even say, “Yeah, that wouldn’t happen to my white wife, ever, and that’s wrong.” They would assume that mouthy bitch had it coming to her. A big swath of our country is enraged by any person of color or woman or LGBTQ human being who has the audacity to stand up for themselves.

They don’t even recognize that they feel that way. You can say, “This black woman died under mysterious circumstances after being violently arrested over a failure to change lanes.” And they would still say shit like, “I always signal before I change lanes.”

Yeah, I’m politicizing every single goddamn thing right now. Go read Miss Manners if that makes your socks itch, motherfuckers. This is where we live. This is what we are. Taking responsibility for this nightmare world, that’s the order of the day, like it or not. If you’re not in the fight at this point, you’re sleepwalking or you secretly want to be protected by deeply corrupt, deeply poisonous systems that, whether you know it or not, are bad for you, too.

Every day of your life, you should refuse to take the blame for the poisons of your culture. You weren’t to blame for going to the stupid reunion in the first place. You’re a human being who made an entirely benign choice. You’re angry at yourself because you happen to be angry at yourself anyway and this situation kicks that up. Listen: Growing up free of self-hatred in a culture that hates women is impossible. Women are blamed for hating each other and hating themselves constantly, in a million mundane ways, day in and day out. Never forget for a second that we landed here because our culture hates the fuck out of us for making ourselves seen and heard. Our culture wants us to stay small, and it will punish us for refusing to do that, over and over again. The same is true for black people in this country, specifically. We live in a country that largely experiences black empowerment as repugnant. Forget empowerment, in fact. You can make your demands so modest that they hardly even sound like demands at all (we matter!) and it doesn’t help. Take an entirely peaceful movement that merely asserts that black people SHOULD MAYBE BE ALLOWED TO STAY ALIVE, and somehow a giant swath of white people are furious or irritated or anxious or vengeful.

Meanwhile, you feel out of control, and you also do feel shame, I think, even if it doesn’t take the exact shape that you might expect. You say the chip on your shoulder is keeping you from breaking down. I understand that very well. You’re a tough person. But toughness doesn’t necessarily do you a lot of good in situations like this, that aren’t about the ability to face down immediate danger or confront bad people about their bad intentions. Right now, your toughness is making you turn your rage and your shame outward and inward at the same time, without knowing it. This is making you furious and cold and temperamental and depressed. I’ve been there many times. Trust me, you have to let yourself feel vulnerable about this at some point, or it will eat you alive. I know that sounds like girl advice, from girl to girl, wheeeeee! But I would tell a man the same thing. You have to process the total lack of control you felt. And that will help on other fronts, too. We all have to process our lack of control at this point in history. You also have to process the malice behind this. Some part of you believes that you deserve to be loathed deeply. I don’t know a woman alive who doesn’t hold this belief in her heart. It’s just a matter of excavating it.

When you dig for this belief, it’s a good kind of digging, like digging in a garden on a perfect fall day, when every goddamn shitty thing in your life falls away and you’re just a person breathing the air and feeling wide awake and alive. Even when you dig down to this awful truth, it feels freeing. “Oh, I see now. I blame myself for every single thing that happens to me. I believe that I am, at heart, unlovable and that I make the wrong decisions at every stupid turn. I BELIEVE THAT BITCH (ME!) HAD IT COMING.” Hold these beliefs in your hands. You can finally see how you turn these things on yourself, and then turn that anger on others. As long as you believe that you are bad just for being a woman, you will blame other women for the same thing, without even knowing it. As long as you’re furious at yourself for making small decisions that led to big tragedies, you’ll blame other people for deficits that are largely outside of their control.

The people who did this to you are miserable enough already, trust me. Your ill will and laser-like focus on these criminals doesn’t change a thing. Unless you’re going to go back to the cops and discuss your options (which I wouldn’t necessarily rule out), you have to move forward. You don’t separate yourself from them by wishing for their slow, painful deaths. (I know you already know this part, but stay with me.) When you focus your rage on them, over and over, instead of digging, you become more like them. When you value “toughness” and anger over your fragile heart, when you close yourself up trying to regain control instead of feeling your powerlessness, you become just another blind, angry shell of a human. They are everywhere. Don’t join their ranks. Digging emancipates you. Forgiving yourself emancipates you.

Forgive yourself for the abiding sin of being a woman. Forgive yourself for being a human with a body that you do not have total control over. Forgive yourself for being a vulnerable living being who can be harmed.

But don’t absolve yourself of the wider injustices of the world. Widen your perspective past your town and the assholes you went to high school with. I’ve known a lot of arrogant, blind humans in my life, and some of them were actively hateful in the ways you describe. If I made that small set of assholes my focus, it would be a huge waste of my energy. If I took all of my anger at that type of person and refocused it on anyone who misunderstands me or disrespects me now, I would wind up caught in some echo of past injustices, spinning my wheels and wasting my precious time.

I have to reserve my strength for more important battles, and so do you. I have to give my heart and my time to people who can use it and are grateful for it. You need to dig a little deeper into your feelings, so you can finally bury that small town for good. That town and those people are smaller than you realize. Let them think you’re scared. Let them think that you’ve sprouted horns. Let them tell whatever stories they want to, as they grow smaller and smaller and finally disappear. Release them. Don’t speak of them. You have a higher purpose on this Earth. Honor your purpose. Honor your principles. Show your gratitude to the people who understand you, who stand by you, who will always have your back. Move away from the darkness, into the light. You know the difference. This is your gift. Honor it.


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Ask Polly: I Was Roofied at My High School Reunion!