Roofied: There is nothing funny about date rape

By Larry Gross
Contributing Writer

Are you enjoying the new “Dear Maija” column in CityBeat?

I don’t know if this is truly an advice column, satire or something tongue-in-cheek. In the July 1 column, a letter to Maija caught my attention. The letter was from “Rock and a Burny Place,” asking advice about living with herpes and how to get a date.

Maija did a lot of joking about STDs and thought all of them were funny, except for AIDS. I’m glad she didn’t think that was funny, because my twin brother died from it.

Toward the end of her advice, Maija had this to say: “Even if you don’t find the right guy with herpes, there’s a 50 percent chance you’ll get roofied. Either way you get laid.”

Roofied: It’s been many years since I’ve heard this word. I’m going to tell you a story that happened over 20 years ago. Names, places and some facts have been changed to protect innocent people.

This was back in my accounting-manager days for a Cincinnati manufacturing firm. One of those I was supervising was the receptionist, who had given her two-week notice. I asked the people in human resources to put an ad in the paper for the position, but it turned out someone inside the company who was interested.

Ellen was looking to leave the inventory department. When I interviewed her for the job, she said she liked greeting people and answering the phone and no longer wanted to deal with numbers, which was a big part of her job in working with her boss, Don. She came across friendly and likeable and I needed a receptionist. I hired her.

A couple weeks after Ellen started the job, a female friend of mine, a co-worker, came into my office and closed the door. She told me a rumor she’d heard about Ellen. My friend talked to Ellen about it and confirmed it to be true.

On a date with her then-boss Don, Ellen had gone to his place and had drinks. Don apparently put something in her drink – a sedative, a date-rape drug. After Don roofied Ellen and took her clothes off, he took advantage of her. Then, with a Polaroid camera, he took photos of her naked body.

These photos, four in total, were copied then distributed to the men working in the inventory department.

My female co-worker, telling me this nightmarish story, was outraged. She wanted me, as Ellen’s new boss, to do something about it.

A day later, in a closed-door discussion, Ellen, in tears, said it was true. This was the real reason she wanted to leave the inventory job. She had been humiliated and embarrassed.

I went to human resources with this story, but they could do nothing without proof. I went to Don, the cockroach in the inventory department. He denied everything. I went to the three guys who worked for him. They didn’t want to get involved, didn’t want to get in trouble or fired by Don.

The only thing I knew to do was play on their decency and professionalism. I also wasn’t above making them feel guilty for their silence about such a repulsive act. Ellen was going through a divorce. She had two small children she was trying to raise by herself. How could they look at nude photos of a young mother and think it’s funny? How could they not see how wrong this was?

Finally, after five weeks of badgering, one of the guys folded. We went to the human resources department. Don’s employee had copies of those Polaroid photos. Within one hour, the inventory manager was fired and escorted out of the building.

Ellen could have prosecuted Don, but because of her children, didn’t want to press charges and have her name in the papers. She wanted to move on. Others at the company wouldn’t let that happen.

Like Maija’s column, some treated this as a joke. Others thought of Ellen as “loose” or someone to look down on. One idiot told me she thought Ellen had wanted it to happen.

Finally, in an effort to put it behind her, Ellen left the company and the city. Looking for a new beginning, she and her kids packed up everything and moved to Virginia.

That’s where they still are. We talk a few times a year. Ellen and her family are doing fine. She lived through her nightmare – and that’s exactly what it was. That’s why the “flip” approach in Maija’s CityBeat column about being roofied leaves me a bit cold.

I’m not trying to rip apart my colleague, Maija You see, I write for CityBeat, too. It’s her column, and she can write whatever she wants. She’s young. I’m not. Maybe I’m being uptight on this subject, but I can’t forget.

Being roofied happened to someone I know. 20 years ago. This almost destroyed a friend’s life. I still can’t bring myself to think this is funny.