Several Humboldt State University students — as well as some community members — have been using the social media outlet Instagram to start a dialogue about date rape drug use and its prevalence in the Humboldt County party scene.
An Instagram post in February alleged that an Arcata venue was no longer safe for women. Several women had reported drinking beverages that had been laced with the date rape drug, rohypnol. The post didn’t allege that any sexual assault had occurred, thus many who believed they had been exposed to date rape drugs didn’t report their cases.
“I thought that after I was roofied, I was lucky because I wasn’t raped and my friends got me home safe,” said a student who wished to remain unnamed. “I thought, ‘well, nothing happened so I don’t have to talk to the police.’ But now I realize that something did happen to me. I was drugged totally without my consent and without my knowledge. That’s really scary.”
Neither HSU’s Health Center nor the campus sexual assault resource center, Check It, had information regarding the actual prevalence of date rape drug use in the county, however, both centers provided information for students who suspect that they have ingested a contaminated drink.
“I would start by saying that many different substances are used to facilitate sexual assaults, the most common of them being alcohol,” said Paula Arrowsmith-Jones of the North Coast Rape Crisis Team.
“What is most important to know is that anything that interferes with someone’s mental processes could be used to take unfair advantage and anyone heavily under the influence cannot give knowing consent for any sexual act.”
Mira Friedman, the lead for Health Education at the Student Health Center said, “I don’t have information about the prevalence of drugs used to perpetuate sexualized violence. However, I can tell you that alcohol is the number one drug used by perpetrators.
“For anyone experiencing harm we refer them to the Campus Advocate Team.”
The Campus Advocate Team (CAT) assists students every step of the way who wish to report assault or who need support after being assaulted. CAT works in conjunction with, not for, the University and prides itself on offering numerous support services to students who need them.
“CAT offers individual counseling and support groups led by certified sexual assault counselors. They offer support no matter where you are in your process of healing,” Friedman said.
“CAT will accompany you to the hospital or to file a report, they will work to answer any questions you may have, and can also provide you with referrals for local therapists and other community resources that may fit your needs.”
What is GHB?
One of the most commonly used date rape drugs, Gamma Hydroxybutyrate acid (GHB) is a colorless, odorless and tasteless drug that comes in powder and liquid form and that is oftentimes paired with alcohol to increase intoxication.
GHB is sometimes used as a recreational drug, but often it is seen to be used to unsuspectingly incapacitate victims to make it easier to sexually assault them.
What does it feel like?
When consumed with alcohol, GHB can impair memory, inhibitions and coordination.
Signs of GHB consumption include nausea and/or vomiting, grogginess, loss of consciousness, a sudden increase in sexual desire, difficulty communicating, erratic facial expressions, loss of coordination, slowed breathing, visual disturbances and agitation.
One common experience is that those exposed to GHB and alcohol reported feeling much more speedily intoxicated with far fewer drinks.
What resources are available to me?
If you feel uncomfortable or unsure of what to do at any point during the process (in the hospital, reporting, or just want support), contact the Campus Advocate Team’s (CAT) 24/7 hotline at (707) 445-2881.
They can assign you a counselor who will accompany you through any process you decide to take; whether it be to proceed with legal action or not.
CAT is a group specifically designed to support survivors of sexualized violence with the assistance and support lead by certified sexual assault counselors.
They will help you with any needs you may have during the initial process, and can refer you to numerous local therapists if needed.
What do I do if I think my friend or I have been exposed to GHB?
- The first thing to do if you notice something isn’t normal or if you feel you have been exposed to a date rape drug is to stop drinking and leave the premises immediately with companions.
- Make sure you are with people you trust, and once removed from the situation, get help or alert individuals about the situation.
- Then, monitor breathing and state of consciousness. If you or the individual are having trouble breathing, are vomiting excessively, or cannot stay conscious go to the emergency room immediately.
- Stay with the individual the entire time. Their behavior can be erratic, and it is important that they stay away from any threat. It is possible that they may know their assailant and are unaware of the danger they pose.
- Make sure they are safe and comfortable.
- Alert authorities. Date rape drugging is a felony – regardless of sexual intent or not. It is important that, if possible, you alert the police or other authority of non-consensual consumption so as to apprehend the culprit.