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Sexual Assault - Drug-Facilitated

A drug-facilitated sexual assault occurs when a person is rendered physically incapacitated or helpless, and unable to give consent, by use of any drug, intoxicant, or other means, in order to create submission to sexual conduct.

Any drug or intoxicant can be introduced into a victim’s body in three ways:

  • Involuntary ingestion: a drug has been dosed into food or drink consumed by the victim.
  • Voluntary/involuntary ingestion: After voluntarily having a few alcoholic drinks, the victim consumes a drink secretly dosed with a drug.
  • Voluntary ingestion: the victim voluntarily consumes a drug.

The most common way to set up a situation for a drug-facilitated sexual assault is for the perpetrator to add the drug to a victim’s drink.  Either the perpetrator buys the drink for the victim, or waits for the victim to leave the drink unattended.

A victim may be unconscious through all or part of the sexual assault.  Whether the victim voluntarily or involuntarily consumes the incapacitating substance is irrelevant. Under Colorado law, it is considered against the victim’s will if the victim is incapable of appraising the nature of his or her own conduct. 

Substances Used for Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assaults

Drugs used to facilitate sexual assaults diminish a victim’s ability to maintain consciousness or evaluate the situation.  Alcohol is the most commonly used substance, but all have the purpose of sedating and incapacitating the victim. The most common drugs used to incapacitate are:

  • GHB: Gamma Hydroybutyrate, can be used to dose a victim, but is also available in mainstream drug culture. A symptom of those who have ingested GHB may be to suddenly go to sleep or pass out, and just as suddenly to snap their head back up and be awake again. There may be seizure-like movements, and combativeness may be present upon reemergence from unconsciousness. There is no antidote to GHB, only life support and waiting for the body to eliminate the substance.  GHB can be found in liquid form and looks like water.
  • Rohypnol: A powerful depressant that is ten times more potent than Valium. When mixed with alcohol, another depressant, it can be deadly. Rohypnol is colorless, tasteless, and dissolves in alcoholic drinks. Behaviors are similar to that of alcohol intoxication.
  • Ketamine: Used as an animal tranquilizer, ketamine is also part of the mainstream drug culture. When used as a disabling drug to facilitate a sexual assault, the victim may first feel the inability to move of his or her own will. There may be muscle rigidity, and the victim may feel panicky. The victim will remain conscious, but have hallucinations and memory will be impaired. High doses can cause a coma or stupor where the victim appears to be awake, but is unresponsive.
  • Scopolamine: Scopolamine has many medical uses, but in large doses is very toxic and life threatening. Scopolamine is the active ingredient in Burundanga, a light yellow powder derived from a plant in South America. It is very soluble in liquids and is nearly tasteless, making it easy to disguise in food or drink. A victim may experience blackouts, amnesia, and a hazy memory of events surrounding a sexual assault. 

Do You Suspect You May Have Been a Victim?

Be aware that drug-facilitated sexual assaults do occur. Effects from these drugs occur rapidly and quickly, usually within 20-30 minutes. If in a social situation, such as a nightclub, raves, or large party, do not leave your drink unattended. Additionally, be cautious when accepting a drink from a stranger. 

If you suspect that your drink or food has been dosed with a drug, you should immediately seek medical help. The drugs named above, along with several others, are toxic substances and can cause life-threatening situations. 

Report the sexual assault to the police. Even if the victim feels nothing can be done, or has very sketchy memories of the events, police should still be advised. A perpetrator seldom commits this crime one time only. It may take several reports to generate enough evidence to stop the sexual predator.