Editor’s note: On Wednesday, Bill Cosby was released from prison, after his 2018 conviction for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand was overturned on a technicality regarding a prior nonprosecution agreement. According to NBC News, 60 women have accused Cosby of sexual assault, with testimonies that contained similarities such as offering career mentorship, inviting them to his home, and drugging them. Today we share the reaction to this news from a woman who herself survived being groomed, drugged, and sexually assaulted.
I was 18 and had just started a new job at a local bar and grill.
As a waitress you’re used to being grabbed, groped, and having your butt slapped. It’s not okay. It’s never okay. But having been in the service industry for three years by that point, sadly, I’d gotten used to it.
My first week was hard. I couldn’t remember the numerous table numbers and one particularly awful night an anxious customer grabbed her beer off my tray causing the other five to topple over into her purse.
I didn’t think I was gonna make it there.
But then, one particularly friendly bartender, a guy named Joe, started to help me. He’d get my orders up before all the other servers, and, with that, my tips also went up.
By the beginning of my second week, he asked me out. Seeing as I wasn’t old enough to legally drink, he suggested a local bar where his friend worked called Sherlocks.
Joe seemed great. He was strong and handsome and told me he used to be a Navy Seal. He subtly sprinkled this into conversation multiple times.
I already had my son at this point, but my parents agreed to babysit so I could go out and celebrate my new job. I just had to be home by 12.
I met Joe at his house. We got in his car and headed out. I’ll never forget, he ordered me a whiskey sour. He asked if I’d ever had one before, and I said no.
While I was under the legal age, I’d actually started drinking at 15 and could handle my liquor pretty well. It’d become somewhat of a party trick . . . I could drink huge guys under the table because somehow I had a crazy high tolerance for tequila.
So I was shocked that after my second drink, I felt really out of sorts. Not just buzzed, but nearing unconsciousness. The next hour played out like a scene from a movie. I remember short bursts of moments… being in a parking lot… then black… throwing up in said parking lot… then black… being put in the back of a car… then a long, long time of just black.
My next lucid moment came when I woke up shivering in Joe’s room. A fish tank bubbled a few feet away from me, and a huge Navy Seals flag tapped against the wall as the ceiling fan gently blew it.
I was so cold. My body felt like ice. I quickly realized it was because I was undressed. The only thing still on were my pants, but they were down around my ankles. I hurriedly pulled them up and searched for the rest of my clothes. The room was empty as I dressed.
As soon as I was fully clothed, Joe walked in. He acted as if he’d been sleeping somewhere else and my rustling had woke him up. My head was still super cloudy as I began searching for my phone. I needed to know what time it was. My mother would be worried sick and probably furious if it was past curfew.
I kept asking him where it was, but he wouldn’t give me a straight answer. I think I might’ve started crying at that point, and that’s when he walked me out to his car. My phone was sitting right there on his front seat. The screen read 3 am and I had twenty-something missed calls.
I went back into his house, grabbed my car keys, and rushed home. My mother was livid. She asked so many questions that I had no answers for. I felt so stupid . . . so ashamed. The only thing I did know for certain was that his attempt to rape me was unsuccessful, or at least not as successful as he’d hoped. When I got home, I noticed my tampon was still in. I’d been on my period, and that was evidently enough to stop him.
Obviously, I was grounded indefinitely, which is weird when you have a kid but are still somewhat of a kid yourself. I was only allowed out of the house for school and work.
As the weeks wore on I talked to Joe less and less. I still didn’t know exactly what had happened to me that night. Had I really drank too much? That’d never happened before (or since, and I’m now 37). But, at the time, I thought it might’ve all somehow been my fault.
A few months later, another new girl started at the bar and grill. This was her first waitressing job. She was petite and bubbly. I really liked her. We became fast friends, and one day she shared something with me that stopped me in my tracks. She said she’d gone out with Joe the night before and blacked out. She went on to say it was so strange because that had never happened to her… she never threw up or lost consciousness when drinking… especially not after only two whiskey sours.
Another waitress nearby must’ve seen the look on my face because she walked over and asked what we were talking about. Over the next few minutes, we both told her all about the strange similarities in our “dates.” Eventually, she stopped us and said, “He drugged y’all.” She told us how she took GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid) recreationally and that it sounded like it because sometimes it can make you sick, and cause you to lose consciousness.
I was only 18 and had absolutely no clue what to do with this information. I hate to say it because I can’t explain why this thought didn’t even cross my brain at the time, but no one even considered or suggested calling the cops.
The other waitresses and I simply requested a meeting with the bar’s general manager. She seemed like the “adult” in charge at the time, although she was probably only a few years older than us. (Side note: years later that same manager was a contestant on a season of The Bachelor. I remember thinking, as I watched her cry over a dress, “Seriously, THIS was the person I reported that awful thing to?” But at the time I didn’t know any better.)
We told her our stories, recounted the eerie similarities. She said there wasn’t enough evidence to do anything about it, but that she’d keep an eye on him, and then that was it.
Nothing more ever came of it.
I think about that often, because this was clearly a pattern. A pattern that likely didn’t stop with us and probably ended much worse for other women.
I could’ve saved others from going through what I’d gone through, but I had no clue how to do that at the time. My 18-year-old brain was so different from how my 37-year-old brain is now. All the guilt and shame I felt for my actions that night are finally gone because I can see what happened so clearly. But since then I’ve transferred that guilt and shame onto my not having reported it to the police back then.
They likely would’ve done nothing either. There was no hard evidence. But perhaps it would have put Joe on their radar . . . I’ll never know and I’ll never be able to go back and handle it differently.
Months after this, after I’d quit that job, I ran into Joe’s brother at a party. Turns out Joe was never in the Navy. His whole persona was a lie. He knew exactly what he was doing and what the end goal was . . . to convince women he was noble and trustworthy so they’d let their guards down . . . so they’d assume something must have been wrong with *them* or *their tolerance,* and not the man fetching their drinks.
Bill Cosby is just the latest liar to win, but he won’t be the last. Because as long as men can convince us not to trust ourselves, they’ll continue to convince judges and juries as well.
But we know the truth. WE will always know the truth.