Saturday, October 17, 2009

Friends, Roofies and Blaming the Victim a.k.a. Would You Pick Me Up in the ER?

The level of disagreement I feel over DoubleX columnist Lucinda Rosenfeld's "Friend or Foe" advice regarding roofies, friendship, alcohol and the emergency room is without measure. If I had to put it simply, I'd say, "I couldn't disagree more." But specifically, I feel like her advice is wrong on so many levels that I can't quite wrap my mind around it.

Little known fact about me: When I was in college, someone drugged me. That event not only shapes my trust or distrust of others, it shapes my opinion of people who shift the blame for such incidents from where it belongs, squarely on the shoulders of the person who did the drugging, to the victim. Most people seem to understand nowadays that it isn't OK to echo the old "she deserved it" line when it comes to sexual assault. Why, then, do so many people still cling to that ridiculous notion when it comes to violating someone by drugging them? What is the main reason that someone would drug another person? Oh. Right. To subdue them, likely so that they can't/won't fight off a sexual attack. Do they deserve that part, too? Did I deserve it?

Regarding Rosenfeld's terrible advice, it's an insult to almost anyone that she assumes people don't care enough about their friends to get up and go to the emergency room if they are in need. Are you kidding? If I got a call in the middle of the night from a friend in the ER, I'd be out the door before I even hung up the phone. This woman in the article was talking about close friends whom she had known for 10 years. Really? Ten years of friendship and they leave her in the bar, ignore her when she frantically calls for help while almost passed out on a sidewalk, and then get grouchy with her when she needs assistance leaving the hospital? A follow-up letter indicates that her friends ignored her hysterical call for help because, in her drugged state, she danced with a guy one of her friends had a crush on. Those, in my opinion, are not friends at all. I would do better for a complete stranger. Hell, I'd not leave someone I actively disliked passed out on a sidewalk in the middle of the night. This isn't even so much a friendship issue as a "here's what decent humans do" issue.

Rosenfeld argues that there is a limit to what you can expect your friends to do for you. I agree with that statement, taken alone. But she goes on to say that friends are really only good for chats about boyfriends or pets, and if you want someone who will actually be there for you in an emergency, you need to either be having sex with them or they should be related to you. That's a bit silly, don't you think? You can only expect decent treatment if you have a partner or live really close to your parents?

Even worse, though, is that the entire advice piece reads like an indictment of this woman's life and choices. She may have been drinking or (gasp) drunk. She might have engaged in ye olde flirting and dancing with men! Maybe she was doing lines in the club bathroom. It's possible that she had called her friends for help before. But.... none of those things excuse her "friends" for leaving her at a club and then ignoring her requests for help. None.

Even in Rosenfeld's apology, she says she just didn't believe this woman's story. That may very well be the most genuine sentiment in the whole shebang. I did drink a bit in college, but I'd say I probably drank less than many of my classmates. I didn't regularly call for help or end up in compromising situations. In fact, I can't think of a single time that I called someone to pick me up in the middle of the night, for any reason. However, when I told a few of my friends that a young man at a party had drugged me, I got the same treatment as the woman in Rosenfeld's column. They didn't believe me. It took me a few years to really get mad about this. Full understanding of the situation came with age and more realization of just how awful and potentially dangerous that situation was. I do know this, though. That very same guy I tried to warn people about drugged and raped another young woman a few months later. She never even attempted to press charges. Why? She "knew no one would believe her."

My question is this: Would you pick me up from the ER? Would you show compassion to another human being who is clearly in a terrible and scary situation, or would you cast aspersions on their honesty and actions? Is it too much to expect your friend to give you their life savings? Probably. Is it too much to expect that your friend won't leave you for dead on a sidewalk somewhere? Uhh. No.