RED ZONE: Without a trace

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Photo credit: Jian Bautista

In a bar or party setting, everyone is at risk when inhibitions are low. Drinks spiked with drugs used to facilitate sexual assault, or also known as being “roofied,” is a serious problem and is difficult to report because of the lack of evidence. Understanding the dangers of date rape drugs and taking proper caution before going out can help in case of a dangerous situation.

Though there have been many instances in Anchorage about individuals being drugged, finding available statistics is challenging due to lack of reports.

“It’s difficult to innumerate how many reports there are because it is generally under reported and when people do report that they feel that they have been drugged, it’s very difficult to find evidence of that. Having no recollection of what occurred can make it difficult to feel confident in making a report to law enforcement,” Keeley Olson, executive director at Standing Together Against Rape, said.

If someone had slipped drugs into a friend’s drink, Olson recommends disposing the drink to prevent the friend or anyone from possibly sipping from the drink.

“There are a variety of different things given the circumstances,” Olson said. “Whether I feel like I know for sure what I just saw happen I might confront the person directly, I might cover the drink and say, ‘I’m going to have this tested’ or I might be so concerned that it will end up in the wrong hands that I’m going to just dump the drink immediately. Even if have a question about whether or not it was drugged or not I might just dump that drink if I have a questions that it could have been.”

There are numerous types of drugs to facilitate sexual assault including Rohypnol, gamma-Hydroxybutyic acid (GHB), or Xanax, but the most common drug is alcohol.

“If somebody is incapacitated by alcohol then they’re unable to fend off an attack, they may be unconscious, they may not be able to recall what happened, they may feel like they were sexually assaulted and may not know for sure, so alcohol is definitely the most common drug that we would see be used,” Olson said.

These drugs pass through the body within 72 hours,.

“The way they can find that is from the first urine after you’ve been drugged, often times that is missed because someone has been so incapacitated that they have wet themselves so that they aren’t able to test it,” Olson said.

Any drug used to facilitate sexual assault can be a date rape drug and these drugs often have no color, smell or taste.

Denise Valkyrie, Anchorage resident, described an incident that took place in the summer of 2016 involving her friend.

Valkyrie, along with another friend and the victim spent the night dancing at Koot’s. They were in the swing bar, where her friend might have been drugged.

“Symptoms began presenting in the bar, but were not apparent as a drugging until after I had rushed her out to the car in the parking lot. She said something wasn’t right, and then began to lose the ability to communicate,” Valkyrie said.

At first, Valkyrie was worried that her friend was dehydrated, due to over dancing, when she needed to sit down and her body temperature has risen. Valkyrie decided to take her home, but once they arrived, her friend was unable to walk and speak. Valkyrie alerted Koot’s to notify security and call 911.

Valkyrie then rode in the ambulance to Providence Alaska Medical Center with her friend.

“They did a urine analysis for illicit street drugs like heroin or cocaine or meth and they tested her blood alcohol concentration to establish if she was just drunk,” Valkyrie said. ”Her BAC was 0.02 and her drug panel was completely clear. They then treated her symptoms, affirming she had been drugged at the bar, but refused to further test for what drug was used on her.”

Valkyrie did research of her own and found that the drug that closely related to the symptoms were GHB.

“[GHB] is deadly when mixed with alcohol. She could have gone into a coma,” Valkyrie said.

Valkyrie asked the hospital why they didn’t test her friend for date rape drugs and told her it was hospital policy.

Providence’s emergency room said via phone that there is no official policy, and drug incidents are handled on a case-by-case basis.

With no evidence of a drug used to facilitate sexual assault or evidence of sexual assault, they were told by the hospital to not file a report on the incident.

“They discouraged filing a police report as there wouldn’t be any physical evidence to support our ‘claim,’ since the hospital didn’t test for known date rape drugs,” Valkyrie said.

Due to this experience with Providence, Valkyrie believes there should be a new approach with handling drugged patients and the seriousness of being drugged.

“There needs to be a better system in place to test for the common drugs used for this kind of crime, which are well known already, as well as more compassion and support in reporting the crime,” Valkyrie said.

Drugs used to facilitate sexual assault, however, do not always appear in alcoholic drinks.

“I know of one case when a woman was the designated driver and she was just drinking water, but she [was] drugged and it was in her water. You may never be able to find evidence to find exactly what it was,” Olson said. “You don’t even have to be drinking alcohol for it to be something you can be drugged, or it can be in food as well.”

Brittney Kupec, Alcohol, Drug and Wellness educator at UAA, said being alert when out drinking at a bar or party and watching the drink being made is a way of being proactive.

“Always make sure you are aware of your surroundings. When drinking, make sure you watched your drink being poured. Never take a drink from a stranger or someone you don’t trust. Remember that most sexual assaults occur from someone the victim knows, so be careful who you are trusting. It is always better to choose unopened drinks, avoid leaving a drink unattended or share drinks. Also, if something tastes funny, don’t drink it,” Kupec said.

Symptoms of being drugged include feeling weak, confused, losing ability to speak and walk. It is advised to seek immediate medical attention and call 911.