The Hard Facts: Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault
By: Trey Dyer
Author Bio: Trey Dyer is a writer for DrugRehab.com and an advocate for substance abuse treatment. Trey is passionate about sharing his knowledge and tales about his own family’s struggle with drug addiction to help others overcome the challenges that face substance dependent individuals and their families. Trey has a degree in journalism from American University and has been writing professionally since 2011.
Sadly, legal and illicit drugs and alcohol are commonly used to facilitate sexual assault. Also known as date rape, drug-facilitated sexual assault is one of the most commonly occurring types of sexual violence. Crimes of this nature are frequently committed by someone the victim knows, as 47 percent of rapists are a friend or acquaintance of the victim. Additionally, 75 percent of acquaintance rapes involve drugs or alcohol. Despite these numbers, there are steps that can be taken to prevent drug-facilitated sexual assaults. For victims of these atrocious attacks, there is help and treatment available.
Drug-facilitated sexual assaults most commonly occur in drinking environments, such as a house party or bar, where are commonly used to facilitate sexual assault:
- Rohypnol- also known as “rufilin” or “roofies,” Rohypnol may cause individuals to appear drunk or inebriated. Common side effects include slurred speech, loss of motor functions, confusion, disorientation and loss of consciousness.
- GHB- taking effect in less than 15 minutes, GHB has similar effects to Rohypnol and is often slipped into a victim’s drink. GHB is extremely potent, and a small amount can cause severe side effects.
- Ketamine-popular in rave culture, ketamine is a fast-acting substance that causes dissociation from reality. Other side effects include distorted perceptions of sight and sound, hallucinations, feeling out of control, impaired motor function and slurred speech.
4. MDMA- also known as “ecstasy” or “molly,” MDMA causes individuals to feel intense emotions and decreased inhibitions. MDMA is often mixed with other substances, and the majority of users have no idea what they are taking.
5. Alcohol- alcohol is the most commonly involved substance when it comes to sexual assault. Drinking too much causes the inability to think clearly, set limits, and make good judgement. Memory loss is also a common side effect when drinking at excessive levels.
Victims Taking the Blame
According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, 68 percent of all sexual assaults are not reported to police, and 98 percent of rapists never serve time behind bars for their crime. Victims of sexual assault often experience feelings of guilt or shame and try to claim some kind of responsibility for the perpetrator’s crime, most of the time as a way to cope and take control of a situation that they had no control over. These feelings cause many sexual assaults to go unreported.
Studies show that other reasons victims do not report sexual assaults may be the following:
- Feelings of shame or embarrassment
- A desire to keep the assault a private matter
- Fear of what others will think
- Fear of not being believed or being accused of being responsible for the crime
- Lack of trust in the criminal justice process
Additionally, many victims —and sometimes even law enforcement — try to place blame on themselves as a result of drugs or alcohol they were using at the time of the sexual assault. Eliminating this notion is critical. No matter what a victim was doing at the time of an attack, sexual assault is the never the victim’s fault.
There are steps people can take to protect themselves from drug-facilitated sexual assaults. These precautions include the following:
- Do not accept drinks from others, especially people you do not know
- Open all drink containers yourself
- Keep your drink on your persons at all times, even in the bathroom
- Do not share drinks with others
- Do not drink from community drink containers (Punch bowls, water coolers)
- When ordering or receiving a drink, make sure to watch the drink being poured and carry it yourself
- Do not drink anything that tastes unusual or odd. For example, GHB may cause drinks to taste salty
- Go to social outings with a sober friend
- Pour out any drinks that are left unattended, even if only for a small amount of time
- If you feel intoxicated and have not had any drinks — or if you feel like the effects of drinking alcohol are stronger than usual — stop drinking and seek help immediately
- Do not use illicit drugs that may be laced with unknown substances, such as ecstasy
Being aware of your surroundings is also a crucial step to avoid being a victim of drug-facilitated sexual assaults. Trust your instincts; if something feels out of the ordinary or odd, it probably is.
Help for Victims
Victims of drug-facilitated sexual assault often have difficulty recalling details of the attack or the attack altogether. Frequently, it can take victims hours or even longer to realize a sexual assault occurred. Additionally, date rape drugs leave the body quickly and may leave a person’s system before the proper medical professionals have a chance to test for their presence. It is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible after a possible drug-facilitated sexual assault may have occurred.The following signs could be an indicator of drug-facilitated sexual assault:
- You feel drunk and you have not had any alcohol
- The effects of alcohol feel stronger than usual
- You wake up very hungover and disoriented
- You have no recollection of a period of time
- You remember having a drink but cannot remember what happened after that
- Your clothes are torn, disheveled or put on a different way than you remember
- You feel like you had sex, but you cannot remember it
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, follow these steps to receive the proper medical attention and help:
- Seek Medical Attention Immediately- Call 911 or have someone you trust take you to the hospital emergency room. Do not urinate, clean yourself, bathe, brush your teeth, wash your hands, change clothes or eat or drink before you receive medical attention. These things may yield evidence of the sexual assault.
- Call the Police from the Hospital- Tell the police exactly what you remember. Be honest about all and every one of your activities. Remember, nothing you did, including drinking or illicit drugs, justifies rape or sexual assault. Ask the hospital to take a urine sample that can be tested for date-rape drugs. Date-rape drugs leave your system quickly. The sooner you receive medical attention, the higher your chances of catching the potential presence of date-rape drugs in your system. Rohypnol stays in the body for several hours and can be detected in urine up to 72 hours after taking it. GHB leaves the body in 12 hours. Do not urinate before going to the hospital.
Do Not Clean the Room in Which the Sexual Assault Occurred - make sure to leave the area or room in which the sexual assault occurred exactly the way it is. Leaving the scene of the crime in the condition you find it in after the assault has occurred is important to the investigation process, as it could evidence to investigators
Seek Counseling and Treatment- Feelings of shame, guilt, fear, and shock are common for victims of sexual assault. No matter what you did before the attack, sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. A counselor can help you work through these emotions and cope with the trauma. Calling a crisis center or a hotline, such as the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE, can help victims find the resources they need to get through this troubling time.
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Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. (n.d.). Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault. Retrieved from https://rainn.org/get-information/types-of-sexual-assault/drug-facilitated-assault