Cold weather is coming and so are roofies

Posted by in Uncategorized on Sep 15, 2013

Victims will have gone out with a bunch of friends to a bar where they feel safe ….not a dive, not a loud/dark music venue, but a neighborhood bar or an upscale cocktail place. She will remember some cute guy, saying good bye to her friends, and not feeling particularly drunk. The rest is a blank until she wakes up with a stranger (or 2) in bed, often in an unfamiliar place, not having any idea what happened or how she got there. Later, their friends will say that she was acting out of character, making out with the cute guy at the bar or behaving in an unusually sexual way, but at the same time lucid enough that they left when she assured them that she was fine. When she comes into the office, weeks may have passed. She comes in asking for std testing and feeling very guilty and irresponsible for that crazy night, but also asking questions. Questions like, if she was so drunk that she went home with a stranger, why wasn’t she hung over later? Why was the stranger she woke up with talking about what a good time they had when she remembers nothing? Why would this have happened when she knows she can hold her liquor?  As we talk, it becomes clear that she has assumed all the blame and shame for what she takes as a lapse in judgement when in reality she was drugged.

The statistics for rape in our country are staggering. Did you know that:

  • 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime
  • 1 in 4 college women have been the victims of rape or attempted rape
  • 90% of the victims know their assailants.
  • 1 in 12 men admit to having fulfilled the legal definition of rape.
  • 85% or more of sexual assaults involve alcohol.

Drug facilitated assault (roofies, mickies, etc) involves the administration of an anesthesia type drug that renders the victim emotionally incapacitated or helpless and thus unable to consent to/ refuse a sexual encounter.  Having sex with a woman in this state counts as rape. The drug most often implicated in the commission of drug- facilitated sexual assaults is Rohypnol (a benzodiazepine). Other less common ones are GHB (Gamma Hydroxybutyric Acid), ketamine, and Soma.  When slipped into a drink these drugs are colorless, odorless, and often tasteless. The effects happen within 15 to 30 minutes and can last for hours. These drugs render a person incapable of thinking clearly or of making appropriate decisions. This makes for a very passive victim and one who will have no clear memory of what happened. 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 from the time the drug was ingested until it wears off. There are no conclusive estimates as to the number of drug-facilitated sexual assaults that occur each year; however, nationwide law enforcement reporting indicates that the number of such assaults appears to be increasing. Remember too, the most common drug used in rape and sexual assault is alcohol.  Drinking makes you less inhibited and less vigilant, and so more vulnerable to having your drink tampered with.

So, what can you do to protect yourself?

  • Be sure some one knows where you are going and when you plan to be back.
  • Try to avoid going out for the evening alone, and NEVER leave a friend or let friends leave you alone in a bar.
  • NEVER accept a drink from someone unless you have seen it poured.
  • While you are drinking develop the habit of putting your hand over your glass or the top of the bottle
  • NEVER leave a drink unattended. If you have to go to the bathroom or get up to dance, finish your drink or throw it away. Don’t come back to it…you can never tell if it has been tampered with.
  • If your drink has been moved, tastes or smells strange (GHB tastes salty), looks cloudy or has changed consistency DON’T DRINK IT.
    Don’t assume that bartenders are on your side here; they are at best too busy to notice whats going on and, at worst, colluding with the perpetrator.
  • Finally, if you or a friend feel suddenly way too drunk or otherwise “off”, go to the hospital. These drugs can be lethal in high doses.

No one deserves to be raped and the effects of having been a victim can be overwhelming. Feelings of guilt, fear and confusion are common. Every woman I have taken care of who has been “roofied” has taken the blame upon herself. More often than not she assumes that she just “got too drunk” and behaved badly. It is often only when we talk together in my office about the events of the evening that she remembers that it becomes clear that she was drugged. Once we talk through it, there is a palpable sense of relief, a realization that in fact she is not responsible for what happened. After such an experience though, it can be hard to feel comfortable going out, it can be difficult to trust  men, it can be hard to trust your friends if they left you behind that night. Counseling after any sort of sexual assault is an important part of healing, even months or years later.

For more details about what to do if you have been a victim of drug facilitated sexual assault as well as new york city resources click here