Sexual Assault

  • A broad term that encompasses any forcible sexual activity that occurs without the victim’s consent.
  • A range of behaviors that include, but are not limited to, unwanted kissing and fondling, forcible vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse, forcible vaginal, oral or anal penetration with an object or a finger.
  • A way for the perpetrator to exert power and control, not about “out of control” sexual desire.
  • Not gender specific. Sexual assaults can occur between a male and female, male and male, or female and female.
  • Everyone’s problem!
  • Against the law.
  • A violation of an individual’s body. It affects everyone including the victim, their family and friends.

Common Reactions

Every person reacts differently to traumatic experiences; there is no “right” reaction to a sexual assault. Below are examples of possible reactions to sexual assault.

  • Shock, disbelief, numbness, withdrawal
  • Preoccupation with thoughts and feelings about the assault
  • Unwanted memories, flashbacks, and/or nightmares
  • Intense emotions: anger, fear, anxiety, depression
  • Physical symptoms: sleep disturbance, headaches, stomach aches
  • Inability to concentrate, lower grades
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Fears about safety
  • Feelings of guilt and shame

Common Myths

Myths are beliefs that are culturally formulated, socially transmitted, and Factually unfounded. Myths about sexual assault deny the violent, hostile, and demeaning nature of these crimes and often shift the blame from the abuser to the victim.

  • Myth: Sexual assault results from an uncontrollable, impulsive, sexual urge of biological origin.
  • Fact: Sexual assault is motivated by hostility, power, and control. Clinical studies of offenders find that sexual assaults are not motivated by a biological desire. Unlike animals, humans are capable of controlling how they choose to act on or express sexual urges.
  • Myth: Sexual assault happens to women who “ask for it” by dressing provocatively.
  • Fact: Sexual assault is not the result of the way a person dresses or acts. It is the assailant who decides to assault another person.
  • Myth: When a woman says “no” she means “maybe” or “yes”.
  • Fact: When a woman says “no,” she means NO. Sexual intercourse without consent is rape. A person has the right to control her/his own body.
  • Myth: Most sexual assaults are committed by strangers.
  • Fact: Most sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows.
  • Myth: Spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, and partners cannot sexually assault each other.
  • Fact: Spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, and partners can and do sexually assault each other. Being in a relationship or marriage does not give either partner the right to have sex without their partner’s consent.

* This information was obtained from the Virginia Tech University and Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline.

Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault

Drug facilitated sexual assaults occur when a drug or other chemical agent is used to assist or procure sexual contact, rendering the victim “physically helpless”, thus unable to give consent.

Drug facilitated sexual assaults are an increasing concern for college students. Perpetrators use drugs to subdue their victims prior to assault. These drugs can be found at parties, clubs, bars, and college campuses across the country. The drugs are easily slipped into drinks and consumed by unsuspecting victims. Some of the common drugs used to facilitate sexual assaults are also taken recreationally.

The most commonly used drug in sexual assaults is alcohol. Marijuana is a close second. These may be used alone or in combination with other drugs. Drugs such as rohypnol, GHB, and ecstasy receive a lot of attention in the media, but there are many drugs, legal and illegal, that can be used to facilitate a sexual assault.

Other drugs used to facilitated sexual assault include…

GHB (Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate)

a.k.a. liquid ecstasy, Grievous Bodily Harm, Georgia Home Boy, scoop, somatomax

  • GHB is a central nervous system depressant that is illegal in the US, but is emerging as a popular recreational drug.
  • It is a homemade substance made up of various household cleaners; therefore, the potency of the drug varies.
  • GHB usually comes in liquid form that is colorless, odorless and tasteless. Some people do report a salty or bitter taste.
  • Once ingested, GHB may produce effects in as little as 15 minutes. These effects usually last 3-6 hours, but the drug can remain in your system for 4-12 hours.
  • Common symptoms include vomiting, intense intoxication, unarousable deep sleep, reduced muscle tone (can hear and see, but cannot move), increased sexual interest, and dizziness.

Ketamine

a.k.a. Special K, K, vitamin K, lady K, ketaject, kit kat

  • Ketamine is generally used as a veterinary anesthetic and is legally produced in a number of countries, including the US.
  • Generally found in the form of a white powder or liquid, ketamine may be smoked, snorted, or mixed with drinks.
  • The effects can begin in 15 minutes of ingestion and may include euphoric state, muscle relaxation, loss of muscle function, memory loss, drowsiness, and numbness. These effects may last up to 90 minutes.
  • Ketamine is rapidly metabolized through the body and is difficult to detect after 48 hours in urine or blood tests.

Rohypnol

a.k.a. Roofies, R2, Mexican Valium, Roche, Forget Pills

  • Rohypnol (clinical name flunitrazepam) is a tranquilizer that is 7-10 times more potent than Valium and illegal in the US, but is available in 64 other countries as a treatment for sleep disorders.
  • The drug is usually found in the form of a white or blue aspirin-sized tablet that is scored down the middle. It is odorless, colorless, and tasteless, although recently manufacturers have produced pills that discolor drinks after they are dropped in.
  • Rohypnol usually takes effect within 20-30 minutes after ingestion and effects can last up to 8 hours.
  • Effects include a drunken appearance (drowsiness, light-headedness, dizziness) fatigue, memory loss, slurred speech, lack of motor coordination, amnesia, impaired judgment, and coma. The effects are intensified when the drug is mixed with alcohol.
  • It is important to be tested to confirm the use of Rohypnol. Blood can be tested up to 24 hours and urine up to 96 hours following ingestion.

Tips to protect yourself and your friends

These tips are not a guarantee against sexual assault, but incorporating them into your routine could reduce your risk of sexual assault and other crimes.

  • Do not accept drinks (alcoholic or nonalcoholic) from people you do not know or do not know well. As the majority of sexual assault victims know their perpetrator, a good rule of thumb is to get drinks yourself.
  • Do not drink from a punch bowl or any type of open container.
  • Remember that “jungle juice” and other party drinks often contain large amounts of alcohol that are disguised by the fruity taste of the punch. Even if no illegal drugs have been added, consuming large amounts of alcohol can cause you to be less aware of your surroundings and unable to consent to sexual activity.
  • Always keep an eye on your drink. Don’t put the drink down and leave it, even to go to the bathroom or to greet a friend on the other side of the room. If you are at a crowded bar, you can even ask for a lid for your drink.
  • Pay attention to the taste and color of your drink. If it tastes salty, becomes flat, or appears discolored, throw it out, as these can be signs of GHB or rohypnol.
  • Be suspicious of eyedroppers, mouthwash bottles, and bubble solutions as they are often used to transport GHB.
  • Look out for your friends. If your friend appears disproportionately drunk for the amount of alcohol she or he has consumed, pay special attention to her or his behavior and do not let your friend wander off.
  • If you leave a party without your friends, tell them where you are going and with whom.
  • Remember, a sexual assault is NEVER the victim’s fault, regardless of whether or not these tips were followed.

Signs that you may be a victim of drug facilitated sexual assault

  • If you recall drinking or having a drink, but cannot recall what happened for a period of time after consuming a drink.
  • If you suspect that sexual contact has taken place, but cannot remember any or the entire incident.
  • If you feel more intoxicated than you usually do after drinking an amount of alcohol you are used to consuming.
  • If you wake up feeling more hung over than usual and/or experience a memory lapse, unable to account for periods of time.

 

*Material adapted from George Mason University, Virginia Tech University, and the Virginia Department of Health.