You may have heard the term “date rape” drugs and wondered what they are.
Image from: Safe Vibe
Essentially, a date rape drug is any substance that renders you incapable of saying no to unwanted sexual activity, or renders you unable to assert yourself or physically capable of leaving a harmful situation.
Substances can include alcohol, over-the-counter sleeping pills, antihistamines or cold medications, club drugs like ecstasy, as well illegal drugs such as Rohypnol, GHB and Ketamine which are commonly known as "date rape" drugs.
These substances are unknowingly added to the drinks of potential victims and while the media often focuses on illegal drugs being added to alcoholic drinks, drink spiking also includes:
Drug facilitated sexual assault occurs when a person engages in physical contact of a sexual nature with another person:
Perpetrators use drugs to assist or facilitate sexual contact (kissing, fondling, attempted or completed intercourse, etc.) which would otherwise not happen if the victim was not drugged.
“Date rape” is a widely used and common term to describe an assault situation in which someone you know or have just met (but not family) sexually assaults you. It could be someone you meet at a party or bar, go on a social date with, or even someone with whom you are in a relationship.
Read below for more information on drug descriptions and effects, reducing your risks, signs and symptoms of ingestion, what to do if you think you have been drugged, statistics, and the law
For centuries, perpetrators have used some form of sedating drug to either gain control over another person in order to sexually violate, or to take advantage of a person who is sedated or intoxicated. The most common drug has been and continues to be, alcohol.
In Saskatchewan police reported cases of sexual assault, alcohol was a factor in % of cases in 2012. Of those cases, % both victim and perpetrator were drinking.
Because alcohol is easily accessible and socially accepted, it is the most misused and frequently associated with drug facilitated sexual assault.
Alcohol (and drugs) are frequently used at social events to decrease the inhibitions of people and to “let loose and have fun”. And although reducing inhibitions might be fine the right circumstance, alcohol can affect judgment and increase behavior that can put a person at risk for unwanted or risky sexual activity. When drunk it is harder for a person to set limits and to tell when a situation could be dangerous. Drinking alcohol can leave anyone vulnerable to assault when they are incapable of saying "no" to sexual advances.
Intoxication impairs body movement and coordination. A person can become dizzy, confused, extremely drowsy and unable to care for themselves. When large quantities are consumed it is harder to fight back if a sexual assault occurs and it is possible to blackout and have memory loss.
To reduce your risk of an alcohol facilitated sexual assault:
Over the counter sedating drugs
These are sometimes given with alcohol to enhance their sedative effects.
These drugs are powerful and dangerous and often have no color, smell, or taste, so you can't tell if you are being drugged.
Illegal drugs specific to sexual assault
Some drugs are specifically used for the purpose of sexual assault and come in any form of powder, pill, or liquid. After ingestion, the victim becomes sedated, can lose consciousness and will almost always have memory loss.
The drugs are used by perpetrators because they are easy to administer by slipping into a drink and are colourless, odourless and sometimes tasteless.
When a victim feels the effect, she/he will often leave the event and then likely to be caught alone and vulnerable.
If the victim ‘comes to’ during the assault, they are unable to stop what is happening as the drug impairs muscle movement and causes confusion.
After the event the victim may doubt the assault because of an impaired memory of what happened.
Other illegal drugs
These are known as “club drugs” because they tend to be used at dance clubs, concerts, and raves and can lower inhibitions and elicit feelings of well-being, which makes people less sensitive to dangerous situations and at greater risk of sexual assault.
Click here for more detailed information on drugs.
Remember that even if a victim of sexual assault drank alcohol or willingly took drugs, the victim is not at fault for being assaulted.
You cannot "ask for it" or cause it to happen.
Reducing your risk of being drugged and sexually assaulted:
You can reduce your chances of assault if you take precautions and act smart when partying.
Signs and symptoms of drugs:
Facilitated sexual assault drugs are used on both females and males, and can cause you to become weak and confused, or even pass out. You will be unable to assert your rights, defend yourself or refuse sex. Depending on the drug, you may also have periods of memory loss while under the drug’s influence and will feel very sick and confused upon waking.
Tell-tale signs that an individual may be under the influence of a sedating substance are: impaired judgment, decreased inhibitions, dizziness and confusion.
Individuals will react differently depending upon type of drug and dosage, their metabolism, sensitivity to the substance, or the presence of alcohol and/or other drugs.
Some other physical effects of sedating drugs:
What should you do if you think you have been exposed to a drug:
If you or your friend experiences unexplained dizziness, confusion, drowsiness or drunk behaviours after no or a small amount of alcohol, call someone you trust to take you directly to the hospital - do not drive yourself.
Keep a sample of the beverage for analysis and a blood sample will be taken to determine what you ingested.
Never leave the event alone, as the intent of the perpetrator is get you isolated and then sexually assault you.
How to tell if you might have been drugged and sexually assaulted?
Short of being told that you have been given a date rape drug, there is no way to be sure without medical testing, as these drugs leave the body very quickly. Most victims don't remember being drugged or assaulted until 8 or 12 hours after it occurred - however, there are some signs:
If you think you have been drugged and sexually assaulted
Even though pharmaceutical and illegal drugs are relatively easy for a perpetrator to obtain, there is increased awareness of drug facilitated sexual assault.
Contact any of the sexual assault centres of Saskatchewan for information, counselling or support on this issue.
Alcohol was a factor in 44% of sexual assault police reported cases in Regina (overall average from 2009 to 2012).
Sexual assault can happen to women and men of all ages but young women between 15 and 24 are at the highest risk.
When courts are determining whether an assault has occurred they look to whether consent was present. Legally, consent refers to voluntary agreement, conveyed verbally or nonverbally, to engage in sexual activity.
A person is incapable of giving consent when she/he is intoxicated, passed out, or sleeping. Therefore, whether a person is drinking/taking drugs themselves or has their drink spiked unknowingly, they are not legally able to consent to sexual activity.
Drug facilitated sexual assault is a criminal act.
Click here for more information on consent.