Alcohol is the most common drug used in sexual assaults. It is readily and legally available. The side-effects of alcohol consumption can include impaired decision making and perceptions, memory loss, loss of consciousness and coordination. These may make a person more vulnerable than when they are sober.
The choice to take advantage of a persons’ vulnerability due to alcohol intoxication is the choice of the perpetrator.
A perpetrator may deliberately target you because you are intoxicated whether through your own voluntary consumption of alcohol or other drugs, or because they have facilitated your intoxication as part of a plan to sexually assault you.
It does not matter whether you were drinking alcohol and/or took the drug/s yourself, or were drugged without knowing it; sex with a person who is seriously impaired or incapacitated due to alcohol or drugs is rape.
Was I drugged?
There are a growing number of other drugs used by those who commit sexual assaults. Some of these drugs are legal. They are generally ‘hypnotics’ which means they make you sleepy and relax your muscles.
You may have been drugged if you identify with any of the following symptoms:
- If you feel odd, nauseous or very drunk after only a couple of drinks, and you know this is not normal for you, there is a chance that your drink may have been spiked. If so, go immediately to a place of safety.
- Some people have described being drugged as a sensation of suddenly feeling they have the flu.
- Because of the effects of some drugs, you may not know you have been drugged or you may not be able to act. You may also suffer memory loss.
Remember non-alcoholic drinks can be spiked too. The drugs used have no taste or smell although one (Rohypnol) has a blue dye added to it. However, this blue dye does not show up for almost 20 minutes.
What should I do?
- If you suspect your drink has been spiked, or that someone is intentionally trying to make you drunk, tell more than one person as you may not know who spiked your drink. It could be someone you think you can trust.
- Be very careful about accepting help that is volunteered to you particularly if they want to take you somewhere, eg a lift home, help getting fresh air etc.
- Approach authority figures or others whom you are confident have had no contact with you that night and ask for their help. Call the Gardaí, go to the landlord or manager. You may feel well enough to call a taxi for yourself to go home. If you are being accompanied make sure there is more than one person accompanying you. If these are not options lock yourself in the bathroom until help arrives.
What should I do if I think I have been raped?
- Some drugs (including alcohol) can take away your memory. You may wake up and be unsure how you got there but feel the situation is suspicious and suspect you may have been assaulted.
- You may not necessarily have any outward physical signs on your body as the drug (including alcohol) will have made physical violence unnecessary.
- All Garda stations should have drug testing kits (early evidence kits) available which can test for the presence of some drugs. The sooner you get tested the better.
- If you go to the police or to a hospital, you need to insist that they take a urine and blood sample to show if any of the drugs used in drug rape are present (there are about 6 or 7 different drugs).
- You can also go to the nearest Sexual Assault Treatment Unit for medical and forensic examination.
- If you want to report the rape, it is best to do this as soon as possible before the evidence leaves your body.
- In many cases, the traces of the drug may disappear from your body before your memory of the event comes back. Forensic traces of rape drugs can only be picked up within 48 hours.
- If you choose not to report to the police, visit your doctor or a clinic as soon as possible after the incident to be tested for sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, and to have any physical injuries treated.
Memories may come back in the form of flashbacks or nightmares, weeks, months or years later. This can be very frightening and you may need support when this happens.