HOW WILL YOU USE YOUR VOICE?
by Kristine Bocchino
During a recent bar show in New York, more specifically a brand-sponsored event, someone in attendance put something in my drink, or in other simplified terms, I was drugged. I won’t publicly name the bar or brand, just know that the bar owner and brand reps have been notified and have been asked to do what they can to be more vigilant and foster a safer environment.
Now that I’m a part of the Healthy Hospo team and encouraging people to speak up and discuss tough subjects, not brush things under the rug as we have for decades, I could not ask this of others if I did not practice it myself. It was never a question as to whether I was going to share this story; it was just a matter of harnessing my anger, which I still struggle with, and deciding how I wanted my voice to be heard.
As a veteran of this business, I am generally very careful when in crowded bars and tight quarters, but as we are often led to believe that we are family, sometimes we relax, trusting in those around us. Drugs like Rohypnol, GHB and Ketamine can be in liquid or powder form, often having no colour, smell or taste when added to a drink and they tend to take effect quickly. They can be especially dangerous when mixed with alcohol, possibly causing serious health problems, even death. Used as a weapon, these ‘date rape’ drugs are commonly used to make a person confused about what is happening, less able to defend themselves against unwanted sexual contact and unable to remember what happened. In this case, I was not in any danger, as the effects did not hit me until arriving back at my hotel where I was thankful with good friends. Yes, I avoided what could have been a horrible outcome, but one rarely escapes these situations completely unscathed. It’s a violation, pure and simple, and losing huge chunks of ones memory is a very uneasy feeling, to say the least. One can go through many stages and thought processes when something like this happens: denial, embarrassment, anger, fear, guilt, depression and more. The main thing that I want to share with others who unfortunately experience being drugged or worse, is that there is no need for embarrassment because it is not your fault.
Predators can be around us unsuspected and those people can be disguised as friends and co-workers. I say this not to encourage you to constantly live with an accusatory eye, but just to be vigilant and responsible, try and stay with friends and most importantly take care of each other. What I have found, after many years in the business and much research, is that people who commit these kinds of crimes generally feel powerless in their own lives and may do this to feel like they are gaining power over another, subsequently making them feel better. At the extreme and all too commonly, people do it to take advantage of others sexually. According to a 2012 survey, nearly 11 million women in the US have been raped while drunk, drugged or high. For anyone this has happened to, my heart goes out to you, as I again came very close to being a part of this tragically high statistic just two years ago. I was in another New York bar with a small group of industry friends, including the manager of the bar where it happened. In this instance, I felt like something was off knowing I had only consumed two drinks the entire evening but didn’t immediately put it together. Not until the predator, who had followed me through various parts of the bar, took my arm and tried to pull me outside, did I realize something was really wrong. I suspected what was happening and grabbed two of my bartender friends, introducing them as my brothers. The man disappeared instantly. Back then, maybe out of shame or lack of confidence, I didn’t speak out about it. Until today, the only person who knew about what had happened was my best girlfriend who was with me, as she’s the one who got me home and took great care of me. I owe many thanks to the others for unknowingly keeping me safe that night, and I will rectify that today.
After travelling Europe for two months on my own this fall and never feeling threatened, it saddens me that these things happened right in my own backyard, but regardless of where it happens, it’s absolutely unacceptable. I ask you not to send notes of support, although I know the thoughts are there and I appreciate them so much. What I would ask instead, for anyone who feels comfortable, is that you speak out if this has happened to you. Not an entire story, just a word, a sentence, to show others out there that they are not alone. There are strong, confident, powerful people out there who have experienced being drugged and have not spoken about it publicly, possibly out of embarrassment or out of fear of not coming off as the strong woman or man that they are. But in my experience, speaking about it can make you stronger and break the power the predator holds. It can be therapeutic and necessary in a way, because believe me, walking through a bar show the next day after this happens knowing that anyone walking past could be the one, is a very uneasy feeling. Knowing that he or she may actually be reading this article right now, although it could feel scary to some, talking about it publicly, for me, feels empowering. My good friend asked me the following day, “How do you feel continuing your work with Healthy Hospo knowing that the person who drugged you could very well be a member of the community that you’re now dedicated to helping?”
Irony aside, I choose to lean more toward compassion and forgiveness rather than letting anger and fear take over. Yes, some people might be deterred, but this situation has made me more determined than ever to do my part in ridding this amazing industry of its toxicity. Until we begin talking about and addressing things like this as a responsible, caring community, as well as drug and alcohol abuse, depression and suicide, absolutely nothing will change and will only get worse.
I truly want everyone out there to know that you’re not alone, these things happen and if you are feeling down, stressed, depressed or lost, there are people who will listen and there are people who can help.
For anyone who needs to talk or seeks information on professional help, please don’t hesitate to reach out to myself and the Healthy Hospo team via our website or social outlets. We’re dedicated to creating a world-wide support network, both physically and mentally, and we’re here for you.
For information on Date Rape and associated topics: www.womenshealth.gov
To report a crime in the US: National Sexual Assault Hotline 1.800.656.HOPE (4673)
For more information on the Healthy Hospo platform and our mission of supporting a Healthier, Happier, Hospitality Industry Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org