I Was Drugged And Raped At Burning Man: My Story

Burning Man is an annual arts and culture festival that takes place in a temporary volunteer-operated city constructed in the middle of the desert. About 70,000 people attend each year, and nearly all of them are blitzed out of their minds, wandering from steampunk dragon to kaleidoscope room. The sheer number of people roving around on drugs also makes it an ideal hunting environment for a particular kind of sexual predator. In 2012, Cate Edelstein was drugged and raped in “Black Rock City.” Here’s what happened:


A Drug-Wielding Serial Rapist Prowled 2012’s Burning Man

2012 was Cate’s first-ever Burning Man. She was 19 and attending with her exceedingly cool-with-it mom. They were both staying at a BDSM-focused “theme camp.” Theme camps are one of the basic organizational units at Burning Man. Some of them bring art projects, while others bring bars or dance floors. Cate’s camp held classes on safe bondage — “Sexy Whipping 101,” “Safe Choking 202,” and the like.

“So one night I went off by myself. I was totally sober. I was just drinking water. I was 19, so I couldn’t go to any of the bars anyway.” She walked down main street until she found a dance camp playing music she dug. “I stopped at a camp and talked to the guy who I thought was talking IDs for a little bit. I went and talked to the DJ for a while. I thought the DJ was pretty cute … and when I left, the guy who was checking IDs told me that his friend thought I seemed like a really cool person, and he wanted to talk to me some more, so if I wouldn’t mind, [whether I would wait] for him to finish his DJ set and talk to him.”

That guy did not in fact know the DJ. He was a drug-wielding serial rapist looking for targets. “Two years later, some woman from [the rapist’s] camp contacted me … said, ‘We don’t know who did this to you, but this guy who was in our camp one year just got arrested in Portland, and it sounds like what happened to you.’ And she sent me his picture, and it matched the guy who was checking IDs.”

This is Marlin Brandt Pohlman:

Brent Wojahn/The Oregonian
“Marley” or “Shithead” for short.

When Cate saw his picture, she recognized him immediately. “The last thing I [remember] is that I was at one of those kitchen areas of his camp, and he asked me if I wanted a glass of water.” If you heard an ominous musical sting in your head just then, hold on. Cate doesn’t actually know how he dosed her. He could’ve spiked her water, but she’d later learn Marlin’s MO: He operated out of festivals, concerts, and hip West Coast cities like Portland, looking for isolated women so he could inject them in the neck using a spring-loaded medical syringe filled with scopolamine and god knows what else.

Scopolamine is a useful little chemical that can help treat nausea. In parts of Latin America, high doses are used to drug tourists and turn them into zombies. In the States, police used to use it as a truth serum, but its horrific hallucinatory side effects were ruled too cruel. The woman Pohlman injected in Portland nearly died from it. When police investigated, they found a full drug lab at his house.

“They found in his attic that he had all these drugs … a bunch of research chemicals, ketamine … scopolamine … he’d use that, mix it with ketamine, LSD, and research chemicals, and inject it into people’s necks.”


What It’s Like Forcibly Tripping Through Burning Man Right After A Sex Crime

However he delivered the drugs, Cate only recalls the aftermath: “I woke up … later in the ER tent, hooked up with IVs, not sure where I was.” Cate was too high to even talk for roughly 48 hours. The medical staff assumed she’d simply taken too many drugs on her own — which, y’know, isn’t an unfair assumption to make about a 19-year-old at Burning Man.

“I was there with a bunch of the medical professionals who all just assumed I’d taken too many drugs and partied too hard the night before. I was so knocked out of it from the drugs the guy gave me that I didn’t know my name, I didn’t know where I was … I was tripping balls for about two days after that. Every time it would get dark outside, I’d see this freaky monster that I remember from The X-Files as a kid …

20th Television

But she says, “for me, the most traumatizing thing was that for two days, I didn’t know where I was. I couldn’t control my bladder or bowels — y’know, I was just so pumped full of drugs that I couldn’t see anything, my eyes were so dilated. They had to carry me for the first 24 hours because I couldn’t stand … I was seeing, like, two-inch little people living their whole lives from beginning to end flying around on bees that were trying to stab my eyes.”

“It was pretty fucked up,” Cate adds, unnecessarily.

Cate obviously has long-term psychological trauma from the experience. Not necessarily from memories of the rape itself, because she doesn’t remember it, but from being unexpectedly forced into three-day trip. “I do have an anxiety disorder right now … not from the rape, but from the sheer amount of drugs that were pumped into my body.”

Not only was she too drugged to resist, but she was also completely unable to report her own rape for days. Once she sobered up enough to control her body, Cate took a shower. That’s when she saw what had been done to her: “I realized that I was covered in bruises, my throat had closed from being choked … I had a bite mark, ah, part of my labia was bit off. It was pretty brutal.”


The Police Have A Larger Presence Now, But They Couldn’t Help Then

Burning Man isn’t an anarchist Mad Max-style free for all. There are a ton of cops around these days. Presumably ones who are very good at dealing with nudity.

Michael Macor/The San Francisco Chronicle
“It’s all good, dog. I’m naked under this uniform.”

Burning Man is a generally peaceful place now. Every year, around 40-60 people are arrested at the festival, mostly for nonviolent drug charges. In 2015 there were no reported rapes. But 2012 was noted as “more rapey” than previous burns:

In a thread Cate’s mom posted about the rape, other women came forward to talk about their experiences being raped on the playa:

And in 2013, the year after Cate’s rape, 12 people were arrested for sexual assault. And there were fewer cops there in 2012, so Cate didn’t exactly get John Law’s A-Team assigned to her case. “It was these two cops who were, like, retired. They said, ‘OK, well, we can send you out to Reno.’ I asked them if I could have a ride back, because I was staying with my mom for the summer … I was told that they’d just kinda dump me off there …”

Weirdly, Cate, the 19-year-old still-kinda-tripping rape victim, didn’t relish the idea of being stranded alone in Reno. And so, “I was told that they couldn’t help me. And that was the last I heard from them. In Nevada, if you’re assaulted, you’re supposed to get at least three free counseling sessions … I wanted to do that, but I kept calling — probably for three months — Pershing county, asking for the report, because I needed [a copy] to prove that I had made one … and they kept telling me that they had no such paperwork.”

She would later learn that at least two other women were raped at Burning Man that year under similar circumstances, “and knowing that this guy was arrested a year later, it’s kind of frustrating that that wasn’t followed up either.”

Cate pointed out that thanks to the publicity around her rape, “Burning Man’s really had to respond about the importance of consent.” And since the event seems to be significantly “less rapey” these days, it’s likely that her story has helped protect other women. But that has come at the cost of her turning into a living cautionary tale. “I’ll hear people talking about it — ‘Oh, that girl who got raped in 2012.’ And I’ll say, ‘Yeah, that was me it happened to.’ It’s kinda weird to be used as an allegory … for the worst thing that can happen to you out there. But it makes people aware that that’s something they do have to watch out for.”


Misinformation About The Rape Wound Up Hurting Innocent People

“Afterwards, when I got home, my mother was very upset about what had happened, so she posted something on the Burning Man website. Mentioning, y’know, this huge rape happened on the playa … She named the camp that the police thought it might’ve happened at, even though I did not think it had happened there. I thought it had happened at the camp next door.”

The comments eventually filled with death threats against her rapist and the misidentified camp. “It was weird, because it went from ‘I was just assaulted in the desert’ to people making all these assumptions. That I was gang-raped … that this guy was stalking me around the playa for days and came after me in the dead of night … all these things that had never happened. [Other people said] that I had made it up. That I’d just wanted sex, and didn’t want to tell my mom or my boyfriend about it … it kinda just spread out from there … the camp that everyone thought this happened at … ended up getting shut down over it. There were so many people sending them, like, hate mail, saying they were like a rape camp … they ended up not even coming back the year afterwards because of it.”

Cate tried to correct these rumors: “I made comments too, on a couple of articles, blogs I was able to find … I did try to set the record straight …” But the internet wasn’t through twisting things around. Some even started accusing Cate’s camp of being the Rape Camp. Cate found those accusations on a random woman’s website: “She had a beef with our camp because our camp is BDSM-themed. I’m part of a camp that is, y’know, into that. And she felt that because she was not into that thing herself, ‘Well you know you can’t trust this camp. I heard that somebody got raped there. She was like brutally assaulted by this camp, and I heard that they were in on it.’ And I was like, whoa, that is totally not the case …”

That lady eventually deleted her post, but not before a bunch of strangers on the internet saw it and started threatening Cate’s friends with violence. And not before another completely innocent camp had their hobby tainted.


But At Least The Other Burners Were Incredibly Supportive

After being caught in Portland, Marlin was sentenced to six and a half years in prison and a lifetime on the sex offender registry. But the damage was done, and Cate will never enjoy another festival aga-

“I [still] go [to Burning Man] every year. Yeah, every year.”

Oh. Alright, then. Marlin didn’t get to ruin shit, and leaves no legacy whatsoever. Die and turn to dust, utterly inconsequential to the world, Marlin. Cate doesn’t hold a single bizarre hallucinogen-themed serial rapist against the festival itself. “I live in San Francisco. I can get raped walking outside any fucking day here. It’s just, a bad guy was out there.”

And it turns out that an event based around being open-minded is a pretty good place to find emotional support. “I tell people all the time, I love Burning Man. I had so much support from everyone there. The rangers were amazing. My camp was amazing. People were so supportive of me there, more than they would be in a city.”

The rangers she’s referring to are a group of 700 or so volunteers who take basic training in desert survival, first aid, and interpersonal conflict. They’re like cops, but without the authority to back up any kind of power trip. They vastly outnumber the police in Black Rock City, and they were much more helpful in Cate’s case. “When I told the rangers what happened, they were there every single day. They were making sure I was OK. They helped me find my bike two months later. They found my backpack, which was empty, and they sent it back in the mail. Y’know, when I go, every year, one of the rangers who came to my camp comes just to see how I’m doing.”

Cate is so very obviously not happy that she was raped by a comic-book-caliber villain, but she’s glad for the support she received in the immediate aftermath: “Once my theme camp learned what happened, they were there for me constantly.” And the support didn’t end when she and her mom headed home. “They’re still there, and they care.”

Also check out Raped On The Battlefield: What Male Veteran Survivors Know and 6 Realities Of Life When You’re Raped By A Celebrity.

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Read more: http://www.cracked.com/personal-experiences-2528-a-drug-wielding-serial-rapist-attacked-me-at-burning-man.html

from Innovative Home And Kitchen Tools | iHomeInnovations http://www.ihomeinnovations.com/blog/i-was-drugged-and-raped-at-burning-man-my-story/
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