This past April, I was drugged after my beertending shift at Mike Hess Brewing Company. Most likely by a coworker.
I had three beers after finishing work. Only three. I remember specifically who poured each one for me. I have a high tolerance, and they were light beers. That night I blacked out completely. It wasn’t until regaining consciousness and feeling weird for awhile, in total about 12 hours after those beers, that I realized something was seriously wrong.
I couldn’t sleep for three days. I couldn’t eat either. I had to call off work. I was sitting in my house with my heart pounding and hands twitching, unable to even keep track of what day or time it was. I desperately tried to recall details of my blackout and what had happened previously. I had all the symptoms of “GHB” dosing, the date rape drug. I don’t think I was sexually assaulted. In this way, I was “lucky”, I guess. I hazily remember being dropped off at my house by a friend and then it all went black. I’ll never really know what happened during those hours. Anything could have. I should have gone to the hospital, I know. My only lame excuses for not going are that:
- My Covered California insurance had lapsed and I was poor, and
- I was completely incapacitated and unable to make logical decisions as to how to handle the situation.
Four days later, I was able to go back to work and proud of myself for making it through a shift without crying from the anxiety swirling through my brain. I wanted to put this all behind me. It took me a few more days and some convincing by my husband and friends to realize I had to report this incident. “Not because anything can be proven,” they said, “but in case *he* ever does it to anyone else.”
My manager was initially sympathetic. He listened to my story and suspicions and was horrified. He told me he had my back 100%. “It’s like you had something taken from you,” he said. Yes! That was exactly how I felt. The whole week had been taken from me. All my relative certainty about my my job, my coworkers, my LIFE was gone. He said he was glad I came forward, and that he knew I was hurting about it, but that I needed to tell the owners, Mike and Lynda Hess, my story also. I knew this, of course. I left relieved, feeling like it was going to be taken care of. At least I would be heard. My manager told me he’d pass along the gist of the situation and I went home, expecting a phone call would come quite soon from the owners who treated all of us employees as “family.”
Nothing happened for days. I started stewing. Was I overreacting? I thought we were family? Had I made this into a bigger deal than it was? My friends told me I hadn’t. I couldn’t stop reliving those horrible, nauseous, heart-pounding days. Finally, I emailed Mike Hess, asking if he had in fact heard the story, and if we could have a meeting. His response:
“…I don’t think that there was anything I needed to do on my part.”
He didn’t need to write an incident report? He didn’t need to hear my whole story? HE DIDN’T EVEN NEED TO ASK ME IF I WAS OKAY? At this point, my brain was basically exploding. I felt a weird sense of mourning over the time in which I completely lost control of my brain and body. My anxiety was through the roof and I was questioning my drinking habits, my memory, basically wondering if I had just gone completely crazy. I felt like it was all my fault. I couldn’t go a day without breaking down into tears. I didn’t feel safe at work, and now I didn’t feel valued one iota either.
So it fell to me, the victim, to set up a meeting with Mike Hess and convince him that he should care about this. The meeting happened. I made my point, and Mike reluctantly apologized for not following up. An “investigation” was launched. It was basically the most unprofessional handling of the situation possible. The story was spread to almost every single employee, with my name on it, instead of being kept confidential. A bunch of old crap that could be proven about a certain suspicious person came to light. Mike Hess promised several coworkers of mine that certain suspicious person would be fired without delay. Everyone agreed it was for the best, and the news spread like wildfire through the grapevine. That was the only way I heard about it. I was left out of the whole thing after that first meeting. Two days after the promise of a termination, Mike Hess changed his mind. Integrity, out the window.
I was riding the Coaster train when I heard the news “through the grapevine” again. I immediately emailed my manager asking for a meeting. I never got a reply, not that it really mattered. I was ugly-crying on a crowded train. I felt completely played, foolish, and angry. I knew I was done. So I quit. What else could I have done? I quit a job I used to love, a job I deserved, a job I wanted to grow with. And the bad guys won. Because in the end, of course, I was easily replaceable. Self-respect was my only consolation prize. Along with that self-respect came a month of frantic job-searching and interviews in which I tried to come up with believable, non-disparaging reasons for leaving Hess. Because no one wants to hear a crazy-sounding sob story about roofies and self-respect in a job interview. I’m lucky I have a spouse that works and I could afford to be unemployed for a month. I’m sure some people stuck in terrible job situations don’t have the luxury of being able to quit.
I’m still really fucking angry about it all. Every yoga class, every meditation, every “let it go” moment always brings me back to this. Three quarters of me is constantly trying to “release” it, to forgive. The other quarter is pretty sure I’d feel better if I punched someone in the face or slashed some tires. Don’t worry, I’m not planning to act on those urges. I’m not even sure that writing this will assuage my psyche. I’m not asking for sympathy. I know it’s a first world problem. I get to be torn up about this because I’ve never experienced anything worse. Some would say that means I should just shut up about it. All I know is that lately silence feels wrong, it feels like a concession. This stupid, stupid situation has taken up my whole year and the effects have reverberated everywhere.
This could easily turn into a “Watch your drink, silly girl” story, but that’s not the point. I guess the only point I can come up with is that this shit happens and it needs to stop. And if it’s happened to you you need to stand up for yourself and talk about it so that maybe someday sick creeps will stop robbing women and bosses will stop sweeping terrible situations under the rug. I thought I was taking the high road for a long time by staying quiet about it but the high road isn’t really easing my mind much, so I figured I’d try breathing some fire.