There Is Strength in Our Stories: Dear G—River Stillwood

April 23, 2017

Dear G—,

Six months ago today you came for Sunday dinner at my home, drugged and sexually assaulted me. You continue to deny it, to tell everyone I “came on to you,” “it was mutual,” but you and I both know the truth.

The police know, too. They know the drug was not in the wine you brought and left behind, but in the salad dressing – the already open, salty bottle of Zesty Italian accompanying the bitter green salad you’d made – the only thing besides your bowl you took home with you when you left.

Good news for you. It looks like you’re going to get away it. A problem with detecting date rape drugs, (especially oily, salty GHB), is that they metabolize very quickly, usually in 4-12 hours. They only show up in the urine during or shortly after consumption. That’s why it was long gone by the time I realized what you’d done. It was more than 20 hours after you’d drugged me when medical staff at the hospital performed the rape kit. I’d gone to the bathroom three times by then.

Because date rape drugs are metabolized so quickly, less than 4% consumed stays intact in the body long enough to end up in hair. Yet, some did show up in my hair – not enough to be “forensically conclusive” – but enough to show you drugged me. Everyone knows I don’t use drugs – social or prescription. The only way the drug got into my hair is because you gave it to me.

Unfortunately for me, it looks like I will be one of the 987 out of every 1000 sexual assault victims who never gets to face her perpetrator in court or deliver a Victim’s Statement. Therefore, I’m writing this letter to you. There are some things I’d like you to know and the half-year anniversary seemed like the best opportunity to tell you.

First, foremost, and very clearly, I want you to know that I know fully and completely that you drugged and sexually assaulted me. With unmitigated cowardice, malice, and dehumanizing intent, you drugged me and you sexually assaulted me.

I was out for 10 hours. Not the one or two hours you told the Sheriff’s Department. Or the “maybe three or four” you told our friends. Ten hours. My internet service provider proved it. I logged off when you arrived four minutes after noon and I logged back just as you were leaving at 11:37 PM Sunday night.

The detective said you likely have somnophilia (a rare condition where you can only maintain an erection when your partner is unconscious. “Sleeping beauty syndrome,” it’s more commonly called) or you’re a psychopath. While only you know which (and psychiatrists debate if there is even a meaningful separation between them), you and I know this to be true.

You, however, have convinced yourself that drugging and sexually assaulting women is a kindness, at best, a harmless dalliance, at worst. From the meticulous way you went about it – from spiking the dressing, to assaulting me, to posing me for hours naked from thighs to shoulders while you fondled yourself and drank wine in the recliner (I do remember some things), to washing my body and redressing me when you finished, to putting our Sunday dinner away, to doing the dishes, to waiting until I’d awakened and peed out the evidence and then collecting the salad dressing before you left — it is highly unlikely that I am the first woman you’ve drugged and assaulted. Even the police and crime lab officers assured me of that.

You suggested before you left that I took pleasure in your sexual manipulations — “You enjoyed yourself tonight,” you said – as though a physical response from me made what you did okay. To that I say two things:

1. I am lesbian. I was drugged. Never would I have had a sexual encounter with you if I had not been drugged. Never.
2. Human bodies are made to respond to stimulus. Had you put a match to my arm it would have hurt, my skin would have reddened and blistered, and I would have been no more able to yell “Stop!” or get away from you than I was when you were performing unwanted, uninvited oral sex on me (another unforgettable snippet).

Don’t for a second confuse my body’s natural response to stimulation with any indication that I wanted you to assault me or that it was not a horrendous act of violence.

And you didn’t just assault my body. You assaulted my mind, my soul. Quite literally, you took me from being my own person and objectified me to the point that I was nothing more than a living, breathing, warm-bodied blowup doll. I could not say “no,” I could not move away, I was in and out of consciousness, could barely think. If you had wanted to slice and dice me and fry me up for an after dinner snack, there is literally nothing I could have done to have prevented it.

G—, what you did was not harmless. In fact, it’s was an act of such a cowardly violence, it was such an intimate betrayal, it wrought such destruction, that I will never be the same because of it.

Here are the effects your assault has had on me:

I don’t trust anyone anymore. I mean no one.

No one except law enforcement has been in my house since the assault. No one is allowed inside.

I rarely go outside. I don’t want you to see me when you drive by – and you drive by so often. I don’t want you to know if I’m home or away, what I’m doing, how long or short my hair is or how much weight I have gained or lost. Nothing.

Inside the house is no picnic, either. Not once since the assault have I sat or spent time in the living room. Or dining room. I spend as little time as possible in the kitchen and wash dishes only when I run out of clean ones. Every time I stand at the sink, I see is you calmly, carefully washing away the evidence while I lie unconscious and exposed on the living room floor. And I wonder, what the hell were you thinking as you washed up? For the life of me, I can’t imagine.

Until you assaulted me, I believed that I could take care of myself. When you drugged me, in my home, without my realizing I was in danger, that I needed to protect myself, you took that essential piece from me – that rock solid core of self-agency – and smashed it to smithereens. I now know at a cellular level that danger can come from anyone, anywhere, at anytime, and that I cannot protect myself from it.

I keep a gun with me now, always. Even in the shower. If danger comes again, I will not be the only one hurt.

I no longer love life the way I did until you assaulted me. I do not want to die. I am not suicidal. But that wide, embracing enthusiasm that you so liked about me, that optimistic energy and elan, that wide open engagement with happiness that you always applauded … Gone.

My faith in humanity is destroyed. Until your assault, I believed the vast majority of people are good, that goodness itself was both a natural law and a sort of insurance against harm: If I was good to others, they, and life, would be good to me. I now understand that goodness is a force so weak it doesn’t take abject desperation to crush it. It readily collapses under the weight of selfish want.

You have turned my rich spiritual landscape into a cold, barren desert. I no longer believe in God, Buddha Nature, or The Universal Source. There was no “reason for this to happen.” You aren’t better for having assaulted me. I’m not better for having been assaulted. There are no valuable lessons to be learned.

G—, I picture you reading this and smugly thinking that what I gained from your assault, then, was clearer vision. That you brought me closer to some essential knowledge of “how things really are.” To that I say my illusions were not yours to take, nor is any clarity gained yours to claim, any more than were my body, mind and soul yours to take six months ago.

It feels very unlikely that I will recover much of who I was before your assault. But you’ve taken 10 hours, much of my personal agency and dignity and what I valued about myself. I’ve given you a few more hours today with this letter. You will get no more of me, ever, except this:

I hope one day you meet a fully loaded logging truck, on a curve, in your lane. Or Karma’s equivalent of that. While I no longer believe in Karma, G—, you do, and one of us has to be right. In this case, I’m hoping it’s you.

I am a survivor. A writer. A lesbian. A sufferer of PTSD. G—’s assault was two and a half years ago. The rape kit still has not been processed. G— continues to drive by my house regularly. Soon, I am moving out of state.

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