The Reality of the Date Rape Drug

woman driving car thikning about date rape drug
Each month we hear from more than ten women of all ages and backgrounds who have been victims of date rape and are now pregnant. Most of the time, they do not know who the biological father is. For example, just after spring or winter break is a time when we see a peak in pregnancy. For many of these women a date rape drug was involved.

The CDC reports that “almost 3 million women in the U.S. experienced rape-related pregnancies” during their lifetime.

The adult pregnancy rate associated with rape from a current or former intimate partner is estimated to be 26% of the total 18 million women who have experienced vaginal rape.

Several college-aged women have reported waking up in frat houses or apartments with no clothing on; finding themselves in strange surroundings with unknown people, or having actually been sexually assaulted while under the influence of a date rape drug.

Rohypnol is becoming the drug of choice for would-be rapists. Most predators target unsuspecting victims by slipping these illicit drugs into beverages at parties, bars, nightclubs and dances. Rape drugs have the power to make one drink feel like six or more.

Laura, a sophomore from Florida, was one such call to our center. Laura, who attended a private party off campus, recalls she was dancing when the perpetrator probably laced her beer. She only had one drink and started feeling kind of sick; then her memory became foggy.

“I started feeling drowsy, really dizzy and confused about where I was. My roommate was going to come with me to the party but at the last minute she made other plans. I decided to go alone, which was my first mistake.”

Laura has no memory of what happened for the next eight hours.

Laura woke up in a back room in the club with bruises on her thighs and half-naked. She suspected that someone may have had sex with her, but couldn’t remember who the person was or any other details. She was hung over for days afterward.

Laura blocked the whole incident from her mind and allowed a numbness to take over. Her grades fell and she found her mind wandering in class. These reactions are not uncommon for women who have been raped, and can be used as a defense mechanism against being overwhelmed with feelings or losing control. Other women may become anxious or depressed.

In Laura’s case she discovered six weeks later she was pregnant. She dropped out of college to have the baby and chose to have him adopted by a childless couple through our adoption center.

“It was the only way I could make something good out of something so bad. I needed to do something positive and it wasn’t the child’s fault,” Laura said.

Laura recalls when she first found out, how angry and scared she was. “I wouldn’t have sex with a guy I didn’t know. I have always been so careful of what I do and who I date. I was just so mad at myself for not being more careful. I didn’t know if I had contracted a disease or HIV. It was very scary and embarrassing.”

Two young Caucasian women sitting on the floor of a school discussing rape
Toni was a 19-year-old victim of a date rape drug in her freshman year in San Diego. During Spring Break she was assaulted at a party by a friend she met in a class and had known for almost a year. She kept saying, “I considered him one of my best friends. He acted like he would protect me. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it actually happened to me.

“My body was violated. My trust in him as a friend has been shaken and I feel betrayed…I kept saying to myself, ‘I know him, and he’s not a terrible person – so it must have been something I said to him or something I did that got me into this mess.’ I don’t remember and I keep trying to remember what I did, or said – what happened that night- my own judgment has been compromised!

“I just couldn’t go through with an abortion after what happened. As hard as the pregnancy was for me, I have always believed there are no mistakes in life and that this baby didn’t cause this and should not be the one that suffers. I had done the suffering already; abortion wasn’t the answer to my problem. It took some time, but I chose a family that I knew would love this child no matter what. Even after all I had been through, something good came out of it. It was not what I dreamed of when starting college, but I have never regretted giving birth and giving her life. I still have trouble trusting people, but I am working on it.”

Date rape is one of the fastest-growing sexual assault crimes in America
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, “Date Rape” is one of the fastest growing drug-facilitated, sexual assault crimes in America today. Studies confirm that acquaintance rape occurs more commonly among college students — predominantly first year students — than among any other age group. A study found one in four college women reported being the victim of rape or attempted rape and 84% of their assailants were boyfriends or acquaintances. Most victims remember nothing of the incident except the feeling of being violated. The same study found that one in four college men admitted to having used sexual aggression with women, and one in twelve to committing a sexual assault of some kind. These men will slip the drug into a woman’s drink without their knowledge, most often in combination with beer, and wait for the drug to incapacitate the woman before sexually assaulting her. The assailants go to parties to look for easy targets and opportunities. They wait until the victim is too out of it to say “no” and then have sex with her. Many men do it just to take advantage of women sexually. The drug is often added to punch or other open container drinks at fraternity parties, college functions and social gatherings, where it is reportedly given to female party goers in hopes of lowering their inhibitions and facilitating a potential sexual conquest for the assailant. High risk situations are clubs, parties, bars, and raves. Women contacting us are of all backgrounds and ages. Many are still in some shock over being pregnant and are not sure of the race of the man that raped them and have little to share about the “father” of their child.

The date rape drugs are often referred to as the “alphabet drugs” called “E” or Ecstasy, “G” which can be either GHB or GBL and “K” or “Special K” which is Ketamine. For a while Rohypnol or “Roofies” was one of the most popular date rape drugs, but it has been replaced by GHB as the date rape drug of choice. The most popular date-rape drugs are (GHB) gamma hydroxybutyrate and ketamine. The “date rape” drug or “sexual assault” drug is the street name for Rohypnol because it has been associated with date rape. GHB is produced in clear liquid, white powder, tablet, and capsule forms. It has also been commonly known as: Rophies, Roofies, Roachies, Forget Pill, R2, roofenol, Roche, circles, La rocha, Rope, Trip-and-Fall, Liquid X, Liquid E, G-Juice, Rib, Mexican Valium, Roach-2, Roopies, Ropies, Mind-Erasers, Liquid Ecstasy, Somatomax, Scoop, or Grievous Bodily Harm. Ketamine is also known as “K”, “Special K” or “Vitamin K”. It commonly comes in a liquid form, but is also found in powder or pill forms.

Rohypnol is not legal in the US, nor is it manufactured or sold legally in the United States. It is used as a short-term treatment for insomnia in other countries. It is produced and sold legally by prescription in Europe and Latin America, then smuggled into the United States by mail or travelers. The drug is often distributed on the street in its original “bubble packaging” which creates a false appearance of legitimacy and makes it appear to be harmless and legal. Rohypnol tablets are white, scored on one side, with the word “ROCHE” and an encircled one or two indicating the dosage on the other. Rohypnol is a low-cost drug, often less than $5.00 per tablet. The tablets are sold in a sealed bubble pack of one or two mg doses.

Rohypnol can be dissolved in a beverage, and is often undetectable.
Ecstasy is also known as MDMA and is known on the street as Adam, XTC, E, M, Bean, and Roll. Ecstasy comes in a tablet that is often branded; a few samples are shown below:
Examples of date rape drug Ecstasy
In combination with alcohol, it can induce a blackout with memory loss and a decrease in resistance. Women as young as 13 throughout the country have reported being raped after being involuntarily sedated with Rohypnol. Roughly ten minutes after having the drug in her system, the victim may feel dizzy and disoriented, too hot or too cold or both; some become nauseated. Sedation starts approximately 25-30 minutes after the drug is ingested and crests within two hours, with effects continuing for up to eight hours.

The drug has no taste or odor. Victims don’t have any memories of what happened while under the drug’s influence. The woman can appear extremely intoxicated, with slurred speech or experience difficulty speaking, gastrointestinal disturbances, poor urinary retention, poor coordination, swaying, blood-shot eyes, decreased blood pressure, and then she passes out . . . but without the odor of alcohol.

Date rape drugs can leave victims without any memories of what happenedVicky was 19 when she discovered she was pregnant –- she had no physical signals of rape. She woke up in her own bed and therefore had no reason to be concerned. She assumes that she had too much to drink, although she doesn’t remember the previous night’s events; she thought a friend must have helped get her safely home. She was shocked to discover 2 months later that she was pregnant. “I hadn’t had sex for over a year and bought three pregnancy tests before going to a clinic for a blood test.” Vicky chose to keep and raise her child with the help of her family. In her words, “Having the baby brought peace and healing to my life.”

Alcohol and Rohypnol are very hazardous in combination. If a woman is drinking alcohol when the drug is slipped in her drink, the drug may greatly impair her memory and judgment. A woman who becomes intoxicated on a combination of alcohol and Rohypnol may experience “blackouts” lasting 8-24 hours following ingestion, making her unable to resist a sexual attack. If combined with other drugs, the results may lead to respiratory depression, aspiration, coma and even death. Possession of Rohypnol is punishable for up to three years in prison and a fine. Distribution and administration of this rape drug without the person’s knowledge is punishable by twenty years in prison and a fine.

Preventive measures to protect you and your friends
By taking the preventive measures to protect yourself and your friends, you can avoid becoming a victim. Print this article out and give it to a friend . . . it may save her life.

Here are a few helpful tips for staying aware, alert and safe from date rape:

  • Be careful about accepting drinks from anyone you don’t know well or long enough to trust. The best choice is not to let anyone fix you a drink. Offer to mix the drink yourself. Always carry the drink yourself.
  • Don’t share or exchange drinks with anyone.
  • If you are accepting a drink, make sure it’s from an unopened container and that you open it yourself.
  • Never accept drinks from individuals you do not know and trust.
  • Do not drink from open containers at parties and accept drinks only from bartenders or servers. Watch them open the can or pour the drink. Don’t be distracted by conversation.
  • If dancing, don’t leave your drink unattended. If you realize your drink has been left unattended, toss it out.
  • Consider buying a specially designed drug testing coaster (see below) to test your drink for the drug. They are low-cost and a smart choice.
  • Remember, any kind of beverage can be drugged; there is no taste or smell.
  • If possible bring your own drinks to parties. Don’t drink from a container that is being passed around.
  • If your drink tastes or looks differently than it should, or tastes “funny” or salty; if it is foamy, cloudy, or has residue in it, throw it away.
  • Don’t go to parties alone. Travel in a group of people and stick together at a party. Look out not only for yourself, but your female friends.
  • A really good idea is to not let your friends get too drunk or wasted. If they do party intensely, take them home yourself. Stay with them to make sure they are all right before leaving.
  • Don’t let your friend disappear and don’t let her wander off with a member of the opposite sex. Stay by her side. Don’t leave with someone you do not know well or have just met.
  • Refuse to drink from a punchbowl; this is a place where anything can be dropped in.
  • Stay sober. Don’t use drugs or alcohol; you need to have a clear head at all times.
  • Assign a designated sober person when going out.
  • Notify other female friends about the effects of these dangerous drugs.
  • Be observant to the behaviors and actions of your friends. Trust your instincts.
  • Listen for the street names of the drugs mentioned above.
  • Keep a cell phone with you and charged up in the event you have a problem and need help.

Remember: You Did Not Deserve What Happened To You, and the Assault Was Not Your Fault

  • If you think that you have been a victim, notify the authorities immediately.
  • If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can file a police report.
  • Get immediate medical attention. Call 911 or go to an emergency room. Request that a urine sample be taken to screen for the presence of date rape drugs.
  • Preserve as much physical evidence as possible. Don’t urinate, shower, bathe, douche, or throw away the clothing you were wearing during the assault. If possible, save any other materials that might provide evidence, such as the glass or can that held your drink.
  • Call a rape crisis center for information and support.

All women are potential victims of sexual assault, regardless of their age, race, sexual preference, occupation or education. A woman can be assaulted by a stranger, by a friend, by an acquaintance, co-worker or relative.

don't be a potential victim, use protective measures

Q. How will I feel after an assault?

A.

There is no “correct” way to feel after an assault. Be aware that different people need to heal in different ways. Some women may need to talk about the assault a number of times to heal; reliving the violation helps to work through a difficult experience. Seeking a professional familiar with date rape can make a big difference in recovery.

Some women find their faith in God may be strained but find strength in keeping their faith and attending church or synagogue. Other women find the answer may be involvement in activities to help them forget. Then when they are better able to handle the facts and face them, they can find the peace necessary to work through the pain.

Finding a qualified rape counselor or participating in a closed group counseling with other women who understand what you are going through can be healing in itself. Many women who have been victims of the date rape drug have some or all of the following reactions:

  • Anger and frustration
  • Disbelief and denial
  • Guilt/self-blame
  • Helplessness/confusion
  • Avoidance of friends
  • Feeling paranoid
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Sexual disinterest or change in sexual behavior
  • Can’t stop crying or can’t cry
  • Inability to cope with ordinary situations
  • Problems with trust
  • Depression
  • Frenzied involvement in their work
  • Low self-esteem
  • Reoccurring nightmares
  • Changed alcohol or drug use
  • Wanting to forget, escape, or never get out of bed
  • Eating everything or nothing at all

As you work through the healing process, keep these suggestions in mind:

  • It is not your fault — you are not responsible for the unwanted sex.
  • You are not the guilty party.
  • Some people may try to make you feel responsible for what happened because of their own feelings of vulnerability or guilt.
  • That you may have been intoxicated does not give anyone the right to assault you — nothing gives anyone that right.
  • Acquaintance rape happens because the rapist fails to respect the victim’s individual will, not because of irresistible arousal.
  • A rapist acts without regard for the victim, so saying no or even physically resisting cannot always be enough to prevent the assault.

How to Help a Friend Who Has Been Assaulted:

  • Let her make decisions. Offer to make phone calls for information, but don’t take over for her. She has just had control taken away and needs to regain it.
  • Don’t touch her without first asking permission. Say, for example, “Would you like a hug?” or “Would you like to hold my hand?” A caring touch can help the victim but unwanted touching can be very uncomfortable or even threatening.
  • Don’t blame her. Questions like “Why did you go home with him? What were you thinking?” Will only reinforce her sense of guilt or shame.
  • Let her know she is safe and that you won’t violate her trust.
  • Try to deal with your own reactions to the circumstances later. You may feel angry, helpless, confused, or violated yourself. Keep in mind that your friend probably feels all that and more, so seeing your reactions may not help her. Try to focus on her feelings. Later, when her immediate necessities are taken care of, seek out a counselor. A sexual assault can be distressing for friends and family members, as well.

Drug testing drink coaster:

Bars have never been risk free, but so-called date rape drugs give you one more reason to be cautious. After a friend was attacked by a man who may have spiked her drink, Francisco Guerra developed a cardboard drink coaster that can identify two of the most popular date-rape drugs: gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) and ketamine. Just place a drop of liquid on the coaster and rub it in with your finger. If the spot turns blue, toss that cocktail.

For More Helpful Resources

National Institute on Drug Abuse

Rape Recovery Site

Hope For Healing

American Society of Addiction Medicine

Association For Medical Education and Research In Substance Abuse

National Institute on Commonly Used Drugs, including Rohypnol and GHB

State Directory for Offices of Victim Services US Department of Justice

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