The powerful tranquilizer Rohypnol or "Roofies," much stronger than Valium, is one of many drugs cited in cases of date or acquaintance rape. Meghan O'Connor, youth community educator at The Women's Center of Greater Danbury, Conn., says others include Ecstasy and GHBJ, or Gamma Hydroxybutyrate, also known as "Liquid Ecstasy."
"It looks a lot like getting very drunk very quickly," she says. Most of these drugs incapacitate the victim; effects include loss of muscle coordination, temporary paralysis, a feeling of heaviness in the arms, and the inability to move, talk or resist in any way. Because many of these drugs have no taste, they can easily be added to a drink without the victim's knowledge.
The problem, says Kari Lincoln, director of education at the Sexual Assault Crisis and Education Center, is that "depending on the dosage used, (people) may feel soreness so they know they've been sexually active, but they have no recollection of anything happening."
If you suspect you were victimized through the use of such a drug, she suggests you go to the police immediately. Although these drugs can be detected in blood or urine, the longer you wait, the less likely it is that they will show up in a test.
With any rape, it's important to be checked out in a hospital as soon as possible. Although victims are not obliged to undergo an "Evidence Collection Exam," as in any crime scene, Lincoln says, "evidence needs to be collected, and in this case, the crime scene is the victim's body."
The 13-step process, performed by a physician or trained nurse, includes the collection of hair samples, swabbing vaginal fluids, a search for injuries and bruises, tests for sexually transmitted diseases and dispensing the morning-after pill to prevent pregnancy.
"It's understandable how rape victims want to go home and shower," says Katie Wright, clinical director at the Sexual Assault Crisis and Education Center in Stamford, Conn. However, she says it's important that the police have evidence other than a person's words.
As to support systems, agencies like the Sexual Assault Crisis and Education Center offer a 24-hour crisis hotline, staffed with certified sexual assault counselors. Victims can be accompanied by agency staff members to the hospital or police station around the clock.
"Our goal is to empower the client," says Wright, noting that staffers will advocate for the victim and meet with police, with her consent. Individuals like court advocate Renee Cannella, an attorney based at the center, help victims address various issues. The client is also encouraged to start counseling as soon as possible.
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