It happened in 2013. I was 27 year old and had recently moved to Australia from Ukraine. My relationship with my husband had became rocky, and I decided it was time to split up. I packed my things, collected my 2 year old daughter from childcare and moved out.

I rented a room at Tim’s place. Tim was an ex-policeman, now working as a carpenter. He was polite, friendly and sociable. He even moved my things with his truck for free, so I was absolutely sure I would be safe in his house.

From time to time he asked me out on a date. I was not ready for a new relationship, and I didn’t really like Tim as a man. He was a balding 47 year-old, with grey patches in his hair and a large jelly belly. I politely refused to go out with him.

One day when I was preparing my dinner Tim said, “Hey, Vira, I remember you have said you would like to eat less salt. I have a sauce here. They make it from cherries. It tastes like salt, but doesn’t contain any salt.” He then took out a little white photography film container with a sticker on it reading “Cherry Meth”. “Yes, of course,” I replied, unsuspecting of what Cherry Meth was. He sprinkled quite a lot of it onto my steamed veggies.

I woke up at 2 am in tears and with pain below my waist, especially between my legs. I was hurting inside. All my muscles were hurting. I ran into the lounge room. I couldn’t understand what was going on. I felt extremely scared and panicky and couldn’t understand why.

I slid down the wall and cried out, “Police! Somebody please, call the police!” And then I howled like a wolf. Tim walked out of his room looking pale and worried. He looked at me and didn’t utter a single word.

I knocked on the other tenant’s door. Nobody answered. Renaldo, the Filipino tenant, wasn’t at home. I went back to my room feeling dizzy. I fell asleep.

In the morning I had no memory of the night before. I continued living my life as if nothing happened. As weeks went by I became withdrawn. Normally an avid reader — going through stacks of self-help books and magazines– I stopped reading. I couldn’t concentrate, but I didn’t understand why, and I didn’t care anymore.

When I went into shops and people for some reason asked me if I was ok. I looked scruffy and pale and didn’t even realise it, but I didn’t care. I also had strange nightmares about being raped. The nightmares were haunting me but I thought they were only nightmares. It was only months later that I began to have memories of what happened that night.

It turned out that all this time, from April until August 2013, my landlord Tim was drugging me and raping me. He used a very dangerous drug — GHB — also known by the street name as “easy lay”. GHB induces sleep and erases memory of what happened to you while under its effect. I looked up “Cherry Meth” and found it was an alternative name for a date rape drug. I knew nothing about illegal drugs and I had never heard the name before.

In July 2013, Tim received a notice from the bank telling him he was going to be evicted from his unit. Therefore me and my child had to move out, too. I quickly found a two bedroom flat in town and moved in. That is how I got saved from that man. On the last day of my stay at Tim’s place he said, “Hey Keira, do you know what Cherry Meth is?”

“No.” I replied.

“It is a date rape drug. Men put it into girls’ drinks and then have sex with them. The girl then doesn’t remember anything. In the morning she feels scared and doesn’t know why. I am writing a novel about a guy that did that. He took revenge on her for not wanting him. He doesn’t rape her by himself. He trades her to his seven friends for 10 dollars a night. He will say to the police and to everyone else she was his girlfriend and they slept together. They will believe him. He will never get caught. It will eat the girl away her entire life because there is nothing she can do.”

Tim smiled. “I am writing the man from myself and the girl from you. It is a true story, and it is too late to tell the police. All the evidence is gone.” I was in a state of shock. He grinned even broader. My entire stay at his place played in my mind like a movie, the “cherry sauce” he gave me, and me crying in the lounge room at 2 am. It all now made sense.

I went to the police and told them everything. And Tim was right– it was too late. Nothing was done due to a lack of forensic evidence and Tim is still out and about, living his normal life.

As time passed, I didn’t get any better. There were two unsuccessful attempts of suicide. Each time I changed my mind in the last minute. I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and anxiety and my symptoms escalated to the point where I ended up an inpatient in Mental Health Unit for two weeks. They prescribed me an antidepressant that made me gain 10 kilograms in just one week.

As I left the Mental Health Unit my weight skyrocketed and I am now 32 kilograms overweight, weighing 92 kilos. In a while I learned to love myself even with those kilograms.

After I got a bit better I was determined to be me again. What happened to me in Tim’s place deprived me of confidence, but I was ready to repair it and do something in my life. My husband Corey supported me a lot and started treating me differently than before the separation. I decided I wanted to reconcile with him, and he was more than happy to agree. Now our family is reunited and we are planning another child. On weekends I give lessons of Russian language and spend time with my lovely little daughter. After I stay at home with my child for a while, I am going to study counseling. I want to be able to help other people who have gone through abuse, especially sexual abuse.

I’ve come across Tim in town a couple of times since. I saw his car parked at the shopping centre we normally go to. But now I couldn’t care less. Life must go on. And for me, it is going on.

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