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Volume 69, Issue 18, Thursday, September 18, 2003


Women face drugs, date rape when out

While data shows drop, new dangers arise

By Karen Klucznic
The Daily Cougar

This is the second in a two part series dealing with rape. Part one appeared in Tuesday's newspaper.

When Cathy Ransom was drugged and brutally raped at the age of 17 during a college fraternity party, she became one of the nearly 250,000 American women who are sexually assaulted each year. 

On dates, at parties and in clubs, the threat of sexual assault has taken on a new face in the form of date rapes and rapes that use predatory drugs to keep the victim from ever even knowing a rape has occurred.

"Rophynol, GHB and Ketamine are the most popular forms of date rape drugs," said Bernadette Weston, president of Cougar Peer Education Program, at a recent seminar on date rape. "Students need to be aware of the dangers of each of these so they know what to look for." 

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Rohpynol, also known as "roofies" or "roche," is a sleeping pill legally produced and sold outside the United States. Ten times more potent than Valium, Rophynol comes in a white pill form and is easily dissolved in drinks. After ingestion, the effects usually occur within 30 minutes. When combined with alcohol, they can last more than 24 hours. Signs to look for include dizziness, disorientation or the sensation of feeling too hot or too cold.

The effects of Rophynol continue to increase over time, peaking at two hours and rendering the victim incapable of responding coherently to normal or crisis situations.

"The company making Rophynol has recently changed the color of the pill so that it shows up when dissolved in light colored drinks," said Weston. "This makes detection easier in some cases." 

GHB (gamma hudroxybutrate), called "liquid ecstasy" or "easy lay," is sold illegally as an odorless, colorless liquid in water bottles, according to the DEA, but can also come in powder, tablet or capsule forms. In lower doses, GHB causes drowsiness, nausea and visual disturbances. In higher doses, comas and seizures may occur. Because traces of GHB only remain in the body between eight and 10 hours after ingestion, early medical attention is vital in detecting its use.

Ketamine, known as "Special K," is a sedative veternarians typically use on animals. It can be ingested orally, nasally or intravenously. The effects typically last three hours and remain detectable in the body for 48 hours, said Weston. Victims may feel vaguely aware but detached from reality when under its influence. 

The use of date rape drugs is prevalent in both one-on-one and social situations, Weston said. 

"Students should always keep an eye on their drinks and cover their cup with their hand when walking around a party or club," she said. "And watch the bartender or whoever pours your drink, because you never know when someone may try to slip something in." Group dating, as opposed to more intimate situations, is also a good idea, she said.

Though the occurrence of date rapes involving drugs or alcohol is on the rise, sexual assaults occur every day without them. Sixty-six percent of victims know their attackers, according to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, and four out of 10 assaults take place at the victim's own home.

"Everyone should always be aware of their surroundings," said Weston. "Rapes are usually planned, and locking your doors, even if you feel safe where you live, can save you."

In addition to the date rape seminar, Cougar PEP provided students with a brief demonstration by Jessica Wheeler, a former UH graduate and black belt in karate, on ways to avoid sexual assault.

"Use the ABC rule," she said. "Avoid by stepping to the side of your suspected assailant; block their punch or grip with your hand or arm; and counterattack hit them in the stomach, head or anywhere to hurt them." Yelling to attract attention is also a good idea, and remaining confident throughout is key to escaping, she said.

RAINN recommends that the first step in case of attack is to find a safe environment. Then preserve any evidence of the attack by not bathing, brushing teeth or changing clothes. Washing away any evidence will inhibit the ability of the police to catch and prosecute the attacker.

RAINN recommends seeking medical attention right away, because there is always the chance of STDs or pregnancy.

Most importantly, RAINN recommends reporting the assault to a law enforcement agency. 

"If attacked on campus, we tell students to use the Emergency Call Boxes located at various areas," said UHPD Sergeant Leslie Grimillion. "The call buttons in the elevators will also ring the police department immediately." 

While it is common for victims to feel ashamed or embarrassed, Weston encourages students to remember that a sexual assault is not their fault.

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