Alcohol, Drugs, and Sexual Violence

A majority of the sexual assaults experienced by college students occur in situations involving drinking - - by the victim, the assailant, or both.

The definitions of rape and sexual assault include having sex with someone who is unable to consent because he or she is intoxicated, drugged, or unconscious. For example, if a person has sex with someone who is unable to consent, or is prevented from resisting, because of the effects of alcohol or other drugs, it can be considered rape or sexual assault if the person knew, or reasonably should have known, that the victim was mentally and/or physically incapacitated.

Often victims who have been drinking and/or using drugs at the time of a sexual assault have intense feelings of self-blame. They are also more likely to encounter blaming responses from other people.

Even if the person who assaulted you had been drinking and/or using drugs, he/she is still responsible for his/her behavior. Being drunk is not an excuse for committing any criminal acts, including sexual assault.

Rophynol and GHB

Overview

Rohypnol and GHB (gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid) are classified as depressants and are potent, dangerous substances that are often involved in sexual assaults and rapes and are commonly referred to as “date rape” drugs.

Internationally, they are used to treat insomnia, among other things. But, because they are so frequently used in sexual assaults, both substances have restrictions in the United States. GHB is banned in at least 20 states, and is classified as a controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). While Rohypnol is still legally available and used in other countries, it is completely banned from the United States. In recent years, GHB has become more commonly used than Rohypnol.

Additionally, both Rohypnol and GHB are very hard to detect in the bloodstream, and are processed quickly by the body. Therefore, it is absolutely critical that people who believe they may have been given either of these substances get their urine tested at a hospital as possible. Using sensitive tests, the drugs can be detected up to 60 hours after ingestion—the more time that passes the more difficult it is to detect. After 72 hours, they are impossible to detect.

rohypnolRohypnol

Common names

Common street names for Rohypnol include “forget me drug”, “roches”, “roofies”, “ruffles”, “la roche”, “R2”, “rib”, “roach”, “roofenol”, “rope”, “rophies”, “Reynolds”, “Robutal”, and “wolfies”.

Appearance

Rohypnol used to be produced as a round, white tablet that dissolved in liquids without taste or color. One side of the tablet was scored and the other side was imprinted with the word “ROCHE”. In 1997 the manufacturer changed Rohypnol so that spiked drinks would be easier to detect. It is now a greenish, oblong tablet that contains a blue core and is imprinted with the number 542. If mixed with light or clear liquids, it will turn them blue and leave floating particles. But, mixing it with darker liquids would mute or even hide this effect. Generic and off-brand versions of Rohypnol also may not have this effect.

Effect

The drug gives the feelings of drunkenness -- reduced anxiety and inhibitions, relaxed muscles, impaired judgment, and sedation, but the effects are very amplified and work faster. It also causes a loss of motor control and coordination, difficulty speaking, dizziness, and disorientation. Symptoms appear just 15 to 20 minutes after ingestion, and usually last at least 4 to 6 hours, but can last as long as 12 hours. Additionally, the combination of alcohol and Rohypnol can cause blackout-like amnesia. People who have unknowingly been given Rohypnol will often wake up several hours in an unfamiliar place with no idea how they got there, and little to no recollection of what happened in the preceding hours. Often, if they have any memories of the time, they are distorted and confused. Nausea usually also occurs the day after ingestion.

GHBGHB

Common names

GHB has been many street names to include “lollipops”, “Liquid X”, “Liquid G” and “Fantasy”.

Appearance

GHB can take many forms: it can be a clear liquid, a white powder, a small tablet or a capsule. When mixed with drinks, it is odorless and colorless. Depending on the dose and original form, it can sometimes have a salty or metallic taste, or be completely tasteless. It is illegal to manufacture GHB in the United States, so most domestic-sourced GHB is made in small, basement labs.

Effects

GHB is classified as a depressant. GHB by itself, and at low doses, mostly just relieves anxiety, and generates feelings of relaxation and disinhibition. However, as it gets combined with alcohol and the dosage increases, GHB can cause nausea, physical and mental paralysis, difficulty breathing and thinking, headaches, hallucinations, and loss or clouding of memory. The sedative effects of GHB also range from sleep to coma to death. GHB usually starts working on an individual within 15 to 30 minutes, and the effects can last 3 to 6 hours. Repeated dosing can extend this period.

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What To Do If You've Been Drugged

Some signs that you might have been drugged:

  • You feel drunker than you should given the amount of alcohol you've consumed
  • You wake up feeling fuzzy and you can't remember all or part of last night
  • You remember having a drink, but you can't remember what happened after you finished it
  • You feel like you've had sex, but you don't fully remember the encounter

Most date rape drugs leave the body within 24 to 72 hours, so it is important to get a drug test as soon as possible after the assault has occurred. If you aren't able to get tested in time, you can still file sexual assault charges if you wish. There may be other evidence that indicates you were sexually assaulted, regardless of whether you can prove you were drugged at the time.

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Ways out of a dangerous situation

If you are at a party, club, bar, or some other place where you might be put at risk, and you start to feel out of control, there are a few things you can do right away:

  • Look for a friend or someone else you can trust. If possible, tell her or him to take you to a hospital or call 911. If you can't talk, try to show your friend that you feel sick. If you have to, throw up. Your friend will get the message.
  • If you can get to a phone, call 911. The police should be able to register your location even if you can't talk. If possible, find a friend to go with you.
  • If you can't find a friend or get to a phone, make a scene. Say loudly, "Did you put something in my drink?" This may alert the people around you to the situation.
  • Scream, cry, or throw up. The person who drugged you will probably not want the attention or the mess.

If you think you've been drugged, do not leave by yourself. You need to have other people around in case you lose consciousness.

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Strategies for safety when drinking

There are several things you can do whenever you go to a party, club, or bar, or even on a date to reduce the risk that you will be a victim of date rape or sexual assault. In general, go to parties in groups, and appoint a sober person for your group. Check up on your group of friends throughout the night.

If you are drinking alcohol

  • Be aware of your ability to tell someone else what you want and to respond to what they want. During a sexual encounter, you need to be able to communicate clearly with your partner. Can you be sure that everything that happens is consensual?
  • Know your limit. How many drinks can you have before you no longer trust your decisions? How many drinks can you have before you are unable to communicate clearly about what you do and don't want?
  • Don’t accept a mixed drink or an opened container from anyone. If someone offers you a drink, watch it being made and carry it back from the bar yourself. If you are unsure about any of the ingredients, don’t drink it. Open all bottles yourself.
  • Be aware of date rape drugs. Don't accept a mixed drink or an opened container from anyone. If someone offers you a drink, watch it being made. If you are unsure about any of the ingredients, don't drink it. Open all bottles and cans yourself.
  • Avoid sharing or trading drinks with anyone.
  • Don't drink from a punch bowl or from a container being passed around.
  • Be in control of your drink. If there has been any opportunity for someone to spike your drink, dump it. Do not leave your drink sitting out for someone else to find.
  • Don't drink anything that looks or tastes unusual or suspicious. Be on the alert for excess saltiness or bitterness, unexplained residue, or odd colors or textures.
  • If one of your friends shows signs of being drugged, leave the party and make sure he or she is safe. Don't allow him or her to "sleep it off." If necessary, call 911, or take your friend to a hospital immediately.
  • If you see someone spiking a drink, do something about it. Dump the drink, bring attention to the situation, and talk to the host of the party.
  • Warn your friends about clubs or parties where date rape drugs have been used. Avoid high-risk areas.
  • Do not accept a drink from someone you don’t know.
  • Do not mix medications and alcohol and know your own limits.

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Alcohol and Intimacy

  • Avoid hooking up when you or your partner have been drinking. You may go further sexually than you would have had you been sober.
  • Be clear about how far you are willing to go sexually before you begin drinking and before you hook up with someone.
  • Be aware that your non-verbal behavior may be interpreted differently than you intended.
  • Communicate your wishes verbally to your partner. Say YES when you mean YES and NO when you mean NO.
  • Trust your gut. If you feel uncomfortable, leave immediately.

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