Recently, there has been an escalating rise in the numbers of sexual assaults in which drugs or other substances have been slipped into women’s drinks leaving women involuntarily sedated and at risk of being the victim of sexual assault. Everyone needs to be aware of the general threat of substance misuse and the specific threat of sexual assault involving drugs. Awareness is your best defence!
What is drug induced sexual assault?
Drug-induced sexual assault involves the administration of an anesthesia-type drug to render a victim physically incapacitated or helpless and thus incapable of giving or withholding consent. Whether the victim is unwittingly administered the drug or willingly ingests it for recreational use is irrelevant. The person is victimized because of an inability to consciously consent to sexual acts. Victims may be unconscious during all or parts of the sexual assault and, upon regaining consciousness, may experience anterograde amnesia -- the inability to recall events that occurred while under the influence of the drug.
What are date rape drugs?
These are drugs that are frequently used to assist a sexual assault. Because of the effects of these drugs, victims may be physically helpless, unable to refuse sex, and can't remember what happened. The drugs often have no color, smell, or taste and are easily added to flavored drinks without the victim's knowledge. The three most common date rape drugs are:
- GHB (gamma hydroxybutyric acid)
- Rohypnol (flunitrazepam)
- Ketamine (ketamine hydrochloride)
Facts on Drug Induced Sexual Assault
- 75% of the date-rapists and 55% of the women involved in acquaintance rape had been drinking or taking drugs before the sexual assault occurred.
- Date rape drugs come in a variety of forms, including: powder, pills, tablets and liquid.
- In large doses, sedating drugs can cause seizures, respiratory depression, permanent coma, and death.
- Date rape drugs are often referred to by a number of names, including: Liquid Ecstasy, Liquid X, Grievous Bodily Harm, Easy Lay for GHB, Special K for ketamine, and Roofies, Roachies, La Rocha and the Forget Pill for the drug Rohypnol.
- Individuals react differently to date rape drugs depending on the dosage, the person’s metabolism, sensitivity to the substance, and the presence of alcohol and/or other drugs.
- There are several telltale signs that an individual may be under the influence of a sedating substance. Possible effects include: impaired judgement, loss of inhibition, dizziness, confusion, and
to stay awake and conscious.
- Victims of sexual assault involving drugs or alcohol often experience even more psychological trauma than other sexual assault survivors do as they are extremely likely to blame themselves.
How can you reduce the risk of being drugged & sexually assaulted? Check out the following risk-reducing behaviours that can help protect you from becoming a victim:
- Limit alcohol consumption so you are better able to assess your surrounding, especially if you are in a group setting or with someone you do not know well or trust.
- Be cautious about consuming different types of alcoholic beverages at one time. Mixing various types may accelerate sedating effects.
- Eat substantive food before consuming alcohol. A full stomach may help curb sedating effects.
- When drinking alcohol in social settings, make arrangements with a friend so that you leave together.
- Never leave beverages unattended and never take beverages, including alcohol, from someone you do not know well and do not trust. If you are accepting a drink, make sure it's from an unopened container and that you open it yourself.
- Avoid punch bowls. You don't know what's in the punch.
- Appoint a nominated drink watcher (your non-drinking driver?).
- Drink slowly, rather than gulping your beverage, so that if it has been drugged you may have more time to become aware of it.
- Do not drink anything that smells, tastes or looks strange. If it tastes salty, becomes flat, or appears discoloured, throw it out, as these can be signs of GHB and Rohypnol.
- Look out for your friends. If you friend appears disproportionately drunk for the amount of alcohol consumed, pay special attention to her behaviour and do not let her wander off, or leave with people who are not trusted.
- Get help for any one who seems like they may have been drugged - even if you don't know them, stay with them.
- If you think that you have been a victim, notify the authorities immediately!!!
What to do if you suspect you’ve been drugged and sexually assaulted
- First of all, remember that you are the victim. It is not your fault. Seek help.
- Trust Yourself. It is hard to know what to do when you aren't sure what happened. But if your instincts tell you something is wrong, seek help. Don't delay.
- If you think that you or a friend MAY have been given a date rape drug, you are facing a potential medical emergency. Please call the police or 911 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department immediately for a medical evaluation. By acting quickly, you may save a life.
- Get the medical attention that you need and to check for injury, prevent sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, get counselling and collect evidence. Evidence collection does not require you to place a report with the police or press charges; it just preserves these options for the future. Some "date rape drugs" can only be detected in urine for about 12 hours after ingestion, while others can be detected for up to 72 hours. The sooner you get to the hospital, the more likely the drug will be found in your system.
- For the purposes of evidence collection, we suggest that you avoid showering, combing your hair or changing your clothes before going to the hospital. If you must change clothes, put the items in separate paper bags, again to be used in evidence testing. Do not use plastic bags as they may contaminate evidence. If possible, try to keep a sample of the beverage for analysis.
- Decide who you want to tell. Tell someone you trust who can support and assist you. You may want to choose helping professionals such as sexual assault counsellors, crisis line workers, women support groups, health nurses, doctors, or the police.
- Remember that reporting a crime can help you regain a sense of personal power and control. It can also help to ensure the safety of other potential victims.
- Regardless of whether or not you call the police or press charges, academic and judicial intervention may be available to you.
- Do not blame yourself. Often a survivor will blame herself by looking back to painful experiences and seeing many things they “should have” or “shouldn’t have” done. Even if you think you acted carelessly or foolishly, you did not ask to be sexually assaulted. The perpetrator’s behaviour, not your behaviour, caused the sexual assault to occur.