It’s a horrendous thought. You wake up in a strange place feeling ill. Some of your clothes have been removed. You aren’t sure what happened the night before, but you have a sinking feeling that something horrible has occurred.
The scenario happens more than you might think with reports by women who suspect they have been drugged and sexually assaulted on the rise. Graham Rhodes, founder of the Roofie Foundation – named after the street name for the drug Rohypnol – which helps drug rape victims says: “We get about 1,000 calls a year – but that’s the tip of the iceberg.” The message? Date rape can and does happen.
What’s more, most victims are raped by someone that they know rather than a stranger – less than 10 per cent of rapes are carried out by strangers. While women are the most commonly targeted victims, men can be drugged just as easily.
The crime is usually committed by the rapist putting a pill into a drink without the victim’s knowledge. There are a number of drugs used for this such as GHB and Rohypnol which worryingly are “becoming more and more readily available,” says Rhodes. Both GHB and Rohypnol are tasteless, colorless and odourless – perfect for spiking drinks. The chemicals are fast- acting- affecting the body’s central nervous system within 10 minutes leaving the victims drowsed, confused – and easy prey for sex attackers.
A number of people are known to have died after drugs were slipped into their glasses while those that survive could not only end up pregnant, but contract HIV, hepatitis, and other sexually transmitted diseases or be stricken with lifelong infertility. That’s the physical consequences, not to mention the mental consequences.
The best defense against date rape is to try and prevent it wherever possible. Sadly asking a friend or family member to keep an eye on your drink or even taking it to the toilet, has become a grim but necessary routine on a night out. Here are a few others things that you can do…
*Keep your wits about you. If you’re going abroad, don’t forget that date rape is a global problem. As we head towards sunnier climes, we leave behind not only the stresses and strains of everyday life, but often our inhibitions and common sense.
*When in bars or clubs, get your drink directly from the bartender and don’t take your eyes off him/her or your order. If you set it down to go to dance floor, don’t go back and pick it up.
*At parties, don’t drink from punch bowls or other large, common, open containers. It’s hard to trust anyone out there.
* Remember soft drinks can also be a target for date-rape drugs.
* Keep your eyes and ears open. If there’s talk of date rape drugs or friends seem too drunk for what they have actually downed, leave immediately and don’t go back.
* Don’t spend time alone with someone who makes you feel uneasy or uncomfortable. Follow your instincts and remove yourself from situations that you don’t feel good about.
*Think about taking a self defense course which can build confidence and teach valuable physical techniques you can use to get away from an attacker.
Unfortunately even if you do take every precaution, date rape can still happen. Here’s what to do should the nightmare happen to you…
*Go straight to hospital where trained medics can take care of you.
*Call or find a friend, family member or someone you feel safe with and tell them what happened.
*If you want to report the rape, preserve all physical evidence by not changing your clothes or washing and call the police right away. The drugs leave the body very quickly meaning urine tests must be administered within several hours of ingestion in order to detect the drugs. But because victims suffer some memory loss, they are often hesitant to go to the police and don’t report the rape fast enough to collect medical evidence…
* If you’re female and suspect you have had unprotected sex, you need to take the emergency contraceptive pill.
* You can also call a rape crisis center such as RASA. Feelings of shame, guilt, fear and shock are normal but remember that even if you drank alcohol you’re NOT at fault for being assaulted.
The Date Rape drugs
Salty-tasting clear fluid or white powder that is easy to make at home. Acts as a muscle relaxant and causes short-term amnesia when taken with alcohol.
A white powder that is mostly used on animals. It can cause a catatonic state and short-term amnesia.
Use of this drug is less widespread following manufacturer Roche’s decision to add a green dye to the tablet. Rohypnol is prescribed for sleep problems.
You’re not alone
Lady Isabella Hervey had her drink spiked with Rohypnol during a night out. Her would be attacker then tried to force her back to his house – but she escaped by jumping from a moving taxi. The LA based Brit said: “I knew something wasn’t right because I have never touched a single drug in my life and felt totally out of it.” The incident happened when she was with a “friend of a friend. I thought I was safe. He told me he’d drop me back in a minicab – but it was going in the opposite direction, I had to jump out and run home crying.” The effects of the Rohypnol left Isabella terrified: “I had no feeling in my body and couldn’t push him off. I was paralysed…that’s why I don’t drink anymore.”
Helen Mirren, who found fame in police drama Prime Suspect, says she was date raped several times in her late teens and early 20s: “It was all terribly upsetting and disturbing. Afterwards, you blame yourself and feel like crap. And we all say, ‘I shouldn’t have gone there, had that drink.”