Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault


There has been an increase in sexual assaults involving the use of drugs and alcohols as perpetrators find more severe and dangerous means to sedate victims. The common use of alcohol as a sedative is being combined with and even replaced by illicit use of drugs like Rohypnol (ro-hip-nol), Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GHB), Ketamine and Ecstasy. More and more frequently these drugs are being used to sedate potential sexual assault victims. Among reported cases in which drugs have been used to facilitate rape, the perpetrator most commonly slips the drug into the victim's drink. Some of these drugs used to facilitate sexual assault can be produced in forms that lack color, odor, taste, and dissolve quickly. A victim can ingest it unknowingly.


Though Rohypnol is illegal in the U.S., and GHB is FDA-approved only for physician supervised protocols, they are both manufactured and sold legally in other countries. Rohypnol is intended to curb severe sleep disorders, and GHB to be used as an adjunct to anesthesia.


75% of all acquaintance rapes involve alcohol and/or drugs. Drugs, when used with alcohol, can result in a loss of consciousness and a loss of the ability to consent. The effects of all drugs are enhanced when taken with alcohol. Victims who have been given alcohol and/or these sedating drugs often do not remember the assault itself and therefore may not immediately report it.


In West Virginia someone who is drunk or drugged cannot give consent to sex. If someone has sex with another person while she/he is in such an incapacitated condition, it is sexual assault. Simple possession of these drugs (described below) is punishable by up to 3 years in prison and a fine. Administering these drugs to another person without their knowledge and with the intent to commit a violent crime (including rape) is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine.



Drugs Being Used to Facilitate Sexual Assault:

Sexual assaults can be facilitated by the use of drugs, both "street" and legal. While alcohol is often a factor in sexual assaults, illegal drugs (also called "club drugs") can also be a factor. Some victims are drugged without their knowledge when the drugs are slipped into their drink. Some of these drugs are tasteless, odorless, act as a quick sedative, and usually cause amnesia and/or a loss of consciousness that may last anywhere from several hours to several days. These drugs have been misused to involuntarily sedate individuals in order to commit sexual assault. These drugs are often referred to by a number of street names.


The only way to be sure that a person has been drugged is by testing their urine or blood. Every hour matters. Chances of getting proof are best when a urine/blood sample is obtained soon after the substance has been ingested.



What is Rohypnol?

"Rohypnol" is the brand name for the drug flunitrazepam, a central nervous system depressant, belonging to a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, which include widely used medications such a Valium, Librium and Xanex.


Rohypnol is currently a Schedule IV drug under the Federal Controlled Substance Act of 1970 with Schedule I penalties for illegal possession, importation, or distribution in the United States.



Facts About Rohypnol:


  • Street names are Roofies, R-2s, Roches, the Forget-Me pill, Whiteys, and Mind-Eraser.
  • A benzodiazepine called flunitrazepam (10-20 times more potentthan valium).
  • Illegal in the United States, however Rohypnol is used legally by prescription in 80 countries for short term treatment of severe sleep disorders and as a surgical sedative.
  • It is available only in pill form that is tasteless and odorless.
  • Dissolves quickly in liquids (soft drinks, alcohol, etc.).
  • Effects begin within 20 to 30 minutes of ingestion. Strongest effects occur within one to two hours.
  • Can cause amnesia for up to 8 hours after one dose along with slurred speech, decreased pulse and increased blood pressure.
  • Has been used as a recreational drug at raves.
  • Is no longer in the blood after 4-6 hours. Can remain in the urine up to 48 hours because of the way the body metabolizes the substance.
  • The pill is an oval shape and is olive-green in color. When dissolved in liquid, the pill produces a blueish-green dye.



Facts About GHB (Gamma Hydroxybutyrate Acid)


  • Street names are Grievous Bodily Harm, Liquid G, Easy Lay, Liquid Ecstasy, Georgia Home Boy and Great Hormones at Bedtime.
  • Used as a steroid alternative by body builders. Thought to produce slow-wave sleep which occurs when the muscle building hormone is secreted into the body.
  • A colorless, odorless liquid that has a salty or plastic taste.
  • Can easily be disguised in margaritas and other fruity drinks.
  • Potency varies due to its production.
  • Is manufactured illegally.
  • Illegal for any person to produce and/or sell GHB in the United States.
  • Effects of the drug begin within 15–20 minutes after ingestion; peaks by 60 minutes, plateaus by 90 minutes.
  • Works as a sedative. It has a dose-response effect. Lowered dosages can decrease inhibitions. Higher dosages can cause nausea, drowsiness, muscle stiffness, respiratory problems, seizures, loss of consciousness, coma and death.
  • Can cause the victim to make a loud, chainsaw-like snoring sound.
  • Often causes sudden vomiting and involuntary muscle jerking.
  • Can cause breathing to slow to only six breaths per minute.
  • Gives a rapid onset of intoxication, comparable to alcohol but with a euphoric high and a sought after out-of-body experience.
  • Is no longer in blood after 4–5 hours. Remains in urine up to 12 hours.
  • Long-term use causes addiction.


Facts About Ketamine:


  • Street names are Special K, Vitamin K, KitKat and Purple Bump.
  • A general anesthetic used in veterinary surgery and for burn dressing changes.
  • Typically this drug is a colorless, odorless, tasteless liquid. May be a light white powder substance.
  • Takes effect in as little as 5–20 minutes. Effects may last 2–8 hours.
  • Can cause slurred speech, unsteady gait, mechanical movements, monotone speech and hallucinations.
  • Close relative of PCP and can create similar violent behavior effects.
  • Can be liquid in pharmaceutical form, may also be in powder form.
  • Is no longer in blood after 24 hours. Remains in urine up to 48 hours



Facts about Ecstasy (MDMA—Methylenedioxmethamphetamine)


  • Street names are Adam, E, Essence, Hug Drug, Love Drug and X.
  • Originally developed as an appetite suppressant.
  • Is rarely used with alcohol. Users drink large amounts of water to prevent side effects.
  • A stimulant that has psychedelic effects that last between 4–6 hours.
  • Typically is a small colored pill with an imprint.
  • Reduces sexual inhibitions.
  • Can cause teeth grinding, sweating or chills, dehydration, and heart or kidney failure due to increased heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Can damage parts of the brain that are critical to thought and memory.
  • Common at all night dance parties known as "raves".
  • Users suck on pacifiers at raves to prevent teeth grinding.
  • Alters perceptions.
  • Users are drawn to lights, thus glow sticks are common at raves.
  • Suppresses the need to eat, drink or sleep.



Physical Effects of Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault:

Individuals may react differently to sedating substances depending on the dosage, their metabolism and sensitivity to the substance and the presence of alcohol and/or other drugs.


There are several given signs that an individual may have been given a sedating substance:


  • A victim thinks she/he may have been assaulted, but is not sure (unexplained soreness or injuries, woke up in a different place and can't remember how she/he got there, etc.).
  • A victim's recollection of assault is patchy and confused; she/he may remember only parts of the assault, or none at all.
  • A victim remembers the assault, but was unable to move or speak. ("It was like I was watching the whole thing. I tried to scream, but no words came out...").
  • A victim felt her/his intoxication level did not correlate with the amount of alcohol consumed. Victim woke up feeling "fuzzy", very hung over, experiencing memory lapse and can't account for periods of time.


Depending on the substance and the presence of alcohol and other drugs in the person's system, more dangerous and sometimes life-threatening side effects may occur.


Whenever drug facilitated sexual assault is suspected, blood and/or urine samples should be collected as soon as possible. Most substances can be detected through appropriate drug testing. The findings of such tests can provide valuable evidence in a court of law if the case is prosecuted. It is important for medical personnel to determine whether ingestion of the drug occurred within the last 96 hours (4 days).



If You Think You've Been Drugged and Sexually Assaulted:


  • Get help immediately.
  • Get to a safe place.
  • Ask a trusted friend to stay with you and assist you in getting the help you need.
  • Call 911.

Preserve as much physical evidence as possible. Do not urinate, shower, bathe, douche or throw away the clothing you were wearing during the incident. If possible, save any other materials that might provide evidence, such as the glass that held your drink.


Go to a hospital emergency department as soon as possible for an examination and evidence collection.


Request that the hospital take a urine sample for drug toxicology testing to be done by your law enforcement agency's crime lab. A special test must be conducted to detect a rape drug in a urine specimen. The first urine after the assault needs to be saved in a clean container. Preferably the urine should be collected at the hospital. The likelihood of detecting drugs used to commit the assault lessens each time you urinate.


Call your local rape crisis center or the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-HOPE) for information and support.



Why Is It Important to Receive Medical Care After an Assault?

It is important to seek medical care as soon as possible after an assault. Taking care of your health at this time is an important step in the healing process. You can be examined for injuries, some of which you may not be aware of, given antibiotics to prevent bacterial sexually transmitted diseases and receive medication to protect against pregnancy. In addition, evidence can be collected which may help lead to the conviction of the assailant in the event that the crime is prosecuted.


Immediately after the assault, it is important not to shower, bathe, eat or drink, douche or change your clothes. These activities can destroy important physical evidence.


When you go to the hospital, take a change of clothes with you. If you have already changed your clothes, take the ones you were wearing at the time of the assault with you in a paper bag. The clothes will be needed for evidence. Do not put the clothing in a plastic bag because plastic can destroy evidence.


At the hospital you will be asked why you are seeking medical attention. You will be asked to give your name, address, and other personal information. You will be asked to give permission for a forensic medical examination to collect evidence. Many hospitals will automatically call a victim advocate for you, or they may ask if you wish one to be called. The advocate is there to help you, to answer your questions, to provide help and support.


Many hospitals now have specially trained nurses to provide care and collect evidence after an assault. These nurses are called Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs). The SANE will document evidence of injuries and determine treatment for the patient. The SANE will do a full examination to note any trauma. Depending on the type of assault, a pelvic examination may be necessary to check for injuries. If you believe that you were drugged and sexually assaulted, tell the attending medical staff or SANE and ask that you be screened to detect the presence of any drugs or other substances used to commit sexual assault. The first urine after the assault needs to be collected. The likelihood of detecting drugs used to commit rape lessens each time you urinate.


A sex crime evidence collection kit may be used to collect forensic evidence. If you choose to report to law enforcement the sex crime kit will be sent to the State Police Forensic Lab.


Sex crime evidence collection kits collected from victims who choose not to report the assault to law enforcement will be sent to Marshall University Forensic Science Center (MUFSC), where the collected evidence will be stored for potential future use. It is important to note that if liquid samples were collected as a part of the toxicology kit (blood and urine), the samples will have a limited life span and will degrade over time. Other samples collected as part of the forensic medical examination (swabs, etc) will have an unlimited lifespan if collected and dried properly.


Should the decision be made later to initiate an investigation in a non-reported case, the victim would need to contact law enforcement and provide the kit tracking number for law enforcement to be able to secure the sex crime evidence collection kit from MUFSC.


If an investigation has not been initiated within 18 months from its time of collection, the evidence collection kit will be categorized as "non-active." Samples collected as part of the forensic medical examination in "non-active" kits may be used for training purposes once all identifying information has been removed. After the 18 month time period, if the "non-active" sex crime evidence collection kit has not been used for training purposes, the victim can still request that an investigation be initiated. There is no statute of limitations on reporting a sexual assault in West Virginia.


Learn More: Forensic Medical Exam



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