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 they are blacked out, unconscious, or incapacitated (including from the use of drugs or alcohol).


Incapacitation means the physical and/or mental inability to understand the fact, nature, or extent of the sexual situation. Incapacitation may result from mental or physical disability, sleep, unconsciousness, involuntary physical restraint, or from the influence of drugs or alcohol.

With respect to incapacitation due to the use of drugs or alcohol, incapacitation requires more than being under the influence of alcohol or other drugs; a person is not incapacitated just because they have been drinking or using other drugs. Where alcohol or other drugs are involved, incapacitation is determined by the facts and circumstances of the particular situation, looking at whether the individual was able to understand the fact, nature, or extent of the sexual situation; whether the individual was able to communicate decisions regarding consent, nonconsent, or the withdrawal of consent.

For example, if a person has sex with someone who is unable to consent or who 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. Use of alcohol or drugs is never an excuse or a defense against allegations of sexual misconduct, and does not diminish personal accountability or criminal liability.

Waive of Drug/Alcohol Violations When Reporting Violence

Often victims who have been drinking and/or using drugs at the time of a sexual assault have intense feelings of guilt and self-blame. They are also more likely to encounter blaming responses from other people. However, the College strongly encourages and aims to support individuals who have experienced sexual violence in their reporting of these instances of sexual misconduct. Individuals who report information around sexual misconduct to the College will not be disciplined by the College for any violation of its drug and alcohol policies in which they might have engaged in connection with the reported incident.

The amnesty provided under this section of the College Sexual Misconduct Policy is separate from and in addition to the amnesty provided under the College’s Communication of Care Provision to individuals who seek immediate medical or security assistance for students whose health and well-being may be at risk due to the overconsumption of alcohol and/or other substances.

For more information on College policy and definitions of consent, incapacitation, and the use of alcohol and other drugs, view the complete Sexual Misconduct Policy.

Rophynol and GHB

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.


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”.


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.


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.


Common names

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


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.


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 experience soreness or 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. The on-campus Hamre Center for Health & Wellness does not provide drug testing services, but nearby Regions Hospital provides this service as well as sexual assault examinations. If you aren’t able to get drug 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. For more information about “date rape” drug testing and sexual assault examinations, visit the Regions Hospital website.

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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 them 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 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.

  • 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 and what their appearances and effect are.
  • Avoid sharing or trading drinks with anyone.
  • Don’t drink from a punch bowl or from open 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 they are safe. Don’t allow them 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 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 heavily or ingesting drugs that may lead to incapacitation. You may go further sexually than you would have had you been sober, or you or your partner may be unable to ask for, give, and receive consent.
  • 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.

Learn more about dating/domestic violence and drug abuse at addictionresource.com.

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