Cosby & company: my drug rape

Forty some years ago we were still in the era of sexual liberation pre-HIV. I was a strong confident woman just turned 30, capable of handling myself and the situation around me.

I met the man – whose name I have repressed or simply forgotten, or I would tell you – in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art a month earlier. We talked about Richard Diebenkorn. The next day we sat on Telegraph Hill overlooking the city and getting to know each other. There was no physical contact.

I mentioned I would be in NYC in a few weeks checking out photographers to be guest presenters at a master’s panel I was organizing for the Smithsonian Museum Adult Education program. He invited me to visit him at his apartment – he lived in NYC – and even to stay if I wished. What could possibly go wrong?

My day with prominent photographers took longer than I expected so by the time I was dropped off by cab at his address it was dark. The first thing I noticed was that the street was not what I expected – dark, unkempt, no traffic.

His apartment was in the basement of the building, and he had multiple locks on the door. I instinctively reviewed if anyone knew where I was and realized only a couple people had a vague idea.

Nothing felt right but there was no leaving, no running into the street. I was slightly comforted by his collection of Inuit art.

I sat opposite him with my feet pointing at him, legs crossed, on the round cocktail table between us. I kept the conversation impersonal and refused a glass of wine. I had not anticipated that he would put a drug in the delicious fish stew he made.

To this day I do not know what the drug was. I remember exactly what I remember and I know there were things I never knew. I remember in the course of a minute losing control over my body. I could not move. I could not talk. I could feel horror.

I do not know how the cocktail table was moved or how I became naked on the sofa bed. I remember being raped.

My first words while still under him, “What was that?” meaning the drug. He answered, meaning the sex, “It’s what bodies do.” I said nothing more. Neither did he.

I forced myself to stay awake the entire night, rigid, in terror, while he slept. I felt he could suffocate me if he woke and I were asleep. It seemed likely.

At the first light I stirred, testing my body and hoping he would wake. I would need the door unlocked. He did. I dressed in silence. He let me out in silence. There were still no taxis. I walked for blocks.

Much of the next day is lost. I sat next to Richard Avedon at a conference at MoMA on photography. I went to the bathroom stall and the black and white checkered tile on the floor started moving and re-aligning itself. I was still drugged.

I got on a train home to DC with a bladder in full seizure. Mysteriously, two hours later as I was begging some caring god somewhere for relief the seizures stopped.

Not mysteriously, I never once considered pressing charges. It was to be put behind me, though the memory of the terror has a place in my cells.

Besides I was an adult, I went to his apartment willingly. I had simply made a colossal miscalculation. My instincts had failed me.

There was no way to win in a court. No way. I had no bruise marks. It would be his word against mine.

I knew that. The women raped by Bill Cosby knew that when it happened to them.

If you are looking for a moral to this story, or a word of warning or of advise, I have none except rape of anyone – women, men, children – is the act of cowards meant to control and demean – even split the souls – of those they rape.

I was lucky – a strong woman in a western culture who got out. But there is no statute of limitations on harm done. Writing of this now, I feel the fear, the horror of being incapacitated, the violation of my body and psyche.

Please help vulnerable people find safety, shelter, and acceptance – and justice. Please do not be a wiseass about women, or anyone, filing for suit years after a rape. Repeat: there is no statute of limitations on the harm of being raped or otherwise brutalized.

Rapists are criminals.


8 thoughts on “Cosby & company: my drug rape

  1. Patricia, this is so incredibly valuable. Beautifully written (you are after all a poet) you have given us a place beside you in a horrible incident. Now we not only understand first hand, we were and are there suffering it with you.

    Patricia, this is so valuable. Beautifully written (you are after all a poet) we are there beside you…suffering this horrible experience with you. Because of this, we understand in a way which only actuality or great writing can afford.

    • Thank you, Juliene. I wrote it straight through and posted immediately, not giving myself time to consider not posting it. I’ve never written of it before, and hardly ever discussed it. I have complex emotions around it.

      But my anger at anyone ever belittling a rape, the abysmal ignorance of assuming authority without knowing what they are talking about and the presumptions of collusion by the person raped, made me finally say something.

  2. Patricia, once again you have touched my heart with your honesty and your glorious writing. Thank you.

  3. So sorry you experienced what you vividly described, hope that by sharing some healing may take place for you.

  4. Very strong dear Patricia. The more people share, the more other victims feel encouraged to share their pain and misfortunes.

  5. Thank you for your honesty. Regrets for your experience.
    40 years we accepted much that none of us would today.
    Women today have the courage to fight. It is your duty and your right.

  6. Patricia, I read this on the 1st and have been quandaried as to what would constitute an appropriate comment, since so brave and generous a posting requires acknowledgment. The best that I can come up with, after much thought, is simply to say thank you for sharing this horrific episode of your life and explaining the psychological dynamic of this particularly hideous kind of intimidation.

  7. Patricia…although I knew you as Patty Smith….thanks for sharing your words.
    We are from the same community…but you went on to experience much more of the world. Fact is…the criminal act of rape can take down anyone….no matter who you are or where you came from. I am a reader, not a writer, like you are. But through your eloquent writing I came to feel a bit more personally about your horrible experience.

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