‘Drug rape’ has become a word frequently mentioned by the media. Still, there are a lot of myths around it some of which we hope to break by presenting the following information.
Drug rape is a real concern for both men and women. It is important to be aware of the dangers out there. Also, you might know someone who this happened to, or who thinks this happened to them, but they don’t have clear memories. The information presented here might help to clarify this.
What is drug rape?
Since the mid nineties GRCC have had regular reports of clients who were raped or assaulted where the attacks involved being administered drugs without their knowledge. The most well-known drug is called Rohypnol, or “roofies.”There are an ever-growing number of drugs, which all have different legal status, and are often widely available, and are used by rapists to incapacitate their targets. A lot of the drugs used in these instances are ‘hypnotics’ which means they have an anaesthetising and muscle relaxant effect.
What should I know about drug rape?
Going by the reports we have had at our centre, drug rape is not only something to watch out for when you go clubbing. It happens in pubs, too. The Roofie Foundation has even had reports of people being spiked in non-alcoholic drinks or in food. Always be aware of the danger that, wherever you are, someone may try to spike your drink.
If you are raped after being drugged, it is not your fault.
However, the Roofie Foundation offers the following advice to make it more difficult for a potential perpetrator of drug rape:
• Never ever leave a drink unattended. If you go to the loo take your drink with you. If for whatever reason you have left it unattended do not drink it.
• If a stranger offers you a drink do not accept it. Even if work mates or acquaintances offer you a drink make sure you see it either poured or opened and ensure that no one touches it prior to you drinking it.
• If a group of you go out together help to make yourself safe by nominating a person who will not be drinking (i.e. the designated driver), to keep an eye on the group’s drinks.
• Remember these drugs are tasteless, odourless, and although one (Rohypnol) has a blue dye added to it, this blue dye does not show up for almost 20 minutes. Also it does not show up in red wine, in cola or any other dark drinks. It cannot be seen in a coloured bottle (i.e. in a bottle of Beck’s, Budweiser, or wine bottles).
• Wherever possible try to drink out of a bottle or can. It is much more difficult to spike a bottle or can than it is a to drop a drug into a drink in an open glass.
• Just because you’re not drinking alcohol doesn’t make you safe. The Roofie Foundation have had reports of people being spiked in tea, coffee, milk, milk shakes, and cola.
• Spread this information among friends, in your college or workplace. Tell people that drug rape happens and is a real concern for both women and men. Awareness will make us safer.
How can I tell if I have been drugged?
Bear in mind your own personal tolerance to alcohol. If you feel odd, nauseous, or very drunk after only a couple of drinks, and you know that you shouldn’t be, there is a chance that your drink has been spiked. If so, go immediately to a place of safety. If you are with a friend who you trust implicitly tell them of your worries; get them to get you out of the place as soon as possible and to get you home either in their car or by cab. Once safely home ask them to stay with you until the effects of the drug have worn off.
If you see a friend acting strangely, being unusually drunk, dizzy, possibly exposing themselves, or generally acting out of character, there is a chance that their drink was spiked. Take care of them, bring them to a place of safety and stay with them.
However be very sure that you implicitly trust the person or friend you are asking. Many survivors have been raped by people they know, in some cases work mates and colleagues, in some cases friends of friends or acquaintances, and in many cases the date that they went out with that night.
If you are alone or with a stranger go to the landlord or manager and tell them. It is important to get to a place of safety as soon as possible, get the landlord to put you in his or her private accommodation or an office whilst they ring a taxi or a friend, or your parents to get you home safely. If possible always make sure that a trusted friend accompanies you.
Under no Circumstances let a stranger offer to help you or take you anywhere. They could be a rapist.
The Roofie Foundation have had many reports of victims being brought back to their own home by their attacker and raped in their own beds. If you think you’ve been drugged and raped get support from a local Rape Crisis Centre or similar service. Remember, these drugs can take away your memory. If you wake up in a strange place or even if you wake up in your own bed but there are unusual signs of someone else having been around, and you don’t remember how you got home, even though you didn’t have that much to drink, if you have any physical evidence on your body, if your genital area is sore, or you have bruising, you could have been raped.
I may have been drugged and raped... what should I do?
Don’t wash or shower. We recommend you call Gardai immediately who will bring you to the Galway SATU unit (if you are locally based) where your medical needs will be taken care of, and forensic evidence will be gathered in case you later wish to report this. The number to set up a SATU appointment in Galway is 091 765751.
If you do not want to call the Gardai, you can self-refer to a clinic. A volunteer from GRCC will be there to offer you emotional and advocacy support. We recommend you insist that doctors at the SATU unit take a urine and blood sample to show the presence of any of the drugs used in drug rape (there are about 6 or 7 different ones). It could prove to be vital forensic evidence. This can only be done within 72 hours. For more information on SATU services, see GRCC Services.
Memories may come back, for example in the form of flashbacks or nightmares, weeks, months, or years later. Make sure you visit your doctor or an STD clinic (Sexually Transmitted Diseases). Never forget the risk of HIV/ Aids. Have any physical injuries checked. It is important to get across that, in some cases, the traces of the drug in the body disappear before the memory of the event comes back. Many different times have been given for the drug passing through the body. Some say 5-8 hours, others 8-12 hours. Evidence in Britain seems to point to that fact that forensic traces of these rape drugs can only be picked up within 48 hours. However American forensic tests can pick up traces of the drug after 72 hours, but their police seem to be using different tests, they are also better equipped and are much more aware of the problem.
For emotional support in the long run, contact your local RCC or similar service. Rape Crisis Centres are aware of the existence of drug rape and your story will not be judged.
To find out more on the work of the ROOFIE Foundation, visit the Roofie Foundation’s web site at Roofie Foundation