April is Sexual Assault Month

Each month more than ten women of all ages and backgrounds contact our Adoption Center with the same experience - they have been victims of a date rape drug, and are now pregnant, with most women not knowing who got them pregnant. Just after Spring break, is a time when we see a peak in pregnancy? For many of these women a date rape drug was involved.

The U.S. Census suggests that there may be 32,101 annual rape-related pregnancies among American women, over the age of 18. The adult pregnancy rate associated with rape is estimated to be 4.7%.

Several college aged women have reported waking up in frat houses or apartments with no clothing on. They find themselves in strange surroundings with unknown people and having been sexually assaulted while under the influence of a date rape drug. Just recently, our 18 year old daughter shared her plans to celebrate her graduation with some girl friends in Cancun. I was concerned with their safety, but still wanting them to enjoy themselves so I was prompted to ask her - do you and your friends know what rape drugs are and how they are used? Surprising she had heard very little on the topic. Most of the women who call us don't know either and wish someone had shared the following information.

Rohypnol is becoming the drug of choice for would-be rapists. Most all predators target unsuspecting victims by slipping these illicit drugs into their beverages at parties, bars, nightclubs and dances. Rape drugs have the power to make one drink feel like six or more.

Laura a sophomore from Florida was one such victim. Laura who attended a private party, off campus, recalled that while she was dancing, she left her beer at a table, when she returned the perpetrator had already laced her drink. She only had one drink and started feeling kind of sick, then her memory got foggy, she started feeling drowsy, dizzy, and confused about where she was. “My roommate was going to come with me to the party, but at the last minute she made other plans. I decided to go alone, which was my first mistake.” Laura has no memory of what happened for the next 8 hours.

Laura woke up in the back room at the club; with bruises on her thighs, half naked and suspected that someone may have had sex with her. Laura couldn't remember who the person was or any other details. She was hung over for days afterward. Laura blocked the whole incident from her mind and allowed a numbness to take over her feelings. Her grades fell and she found her mind wandering in class. This is common for women that have been raped and can be used as a defense mechanism. Being overwhelmed with feelings or losing control are common reactions to what has happened to them. Other women may become anxious or depressed.

In Laura's case, she discovered six weeks later she was pregnant. She dropped out of college to have the baby. Laura chose to have him adopted, by a childless couple, through our adoption center. "It was the only way I could make something good come out of something so bad. I needed to do something positive and it wasn't the child's fault.”

Laura recalls when she first found out she was pregnant, how angry and scared she was, "I wouldn't have sex with a guy I didn't know. I have always been so careful of what I do and who I date. I was just so mad at myself for not being more careful. I didn't know if I had contracted a disease or HIV, it was very scary and embarrassing"

Toni, a freshman in college in San Diego was a victim of the date rape drug. During spring break, she was assaulted at a party by a friend she met in a class. Toni had known him for almost a year. She kept saying "I considered him one of my best friends. He acted like he would protect me. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe it actually happened to me, even now. My body has been violated, my trust in him, as a friend, has been shaken and I feel betrayed... I keep saying to myself, I know him, and he's not a terrible person - so it must have been something I said to him or did that got me into this mess.” I don't remember and I keep trying to remember what I did, or said - what happened that night- my own judgment has been stunned! I just couldn't go through with an abortion, after what happened, as hard as the pregnancy was for me, I have always believed there are no mistakes and this baby didn't cause this. Why should this child be the one that suffers? It took some time, but I chose a family that I knew would love this baby. When I started college I would have never dreamt something like this would happened to me! "I have never regretted giving birth and giving her life." I still have trouble trusting people, but am working on it.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice ‘Date Rape’ is one of the fastest growing drug-facilitated, sexual assault crimes in America today. Two thirds of GHB is ingested by people aged 18-25 years old. Ecstasy abuse has increased 500 percent over a five-year period.

Studies confirm that acquaintance rape occurs more commonly among college students, predominantly first year students, than among any other age group. A recent large study, found one in four college women reported being the victim of rape or attempted rape and 84% of their assailants were boyfriends or acquaintances. Most rape victims remember nothing of the incident, except the feeling of being violated. The same study found that one in four college men disclosed to having used sexual aggression with women, and one in twelve to committing sexual assault of some kind. These men will slip the drug into a woman's drink without their knowledge, most often in combination with beer, and wait for the drug to incapacitate the woman before sexual assaulting her. The assailants would go to parties to look for easy targets and opportunities. They would than wait until the victim is too out of it to say ‘no’ and then will have sex with them.

Many men do it just to take advantage of women sexually. The drug is often added to punch or other open container drinks at fraternity parties, college functions and social gatherings. The drugs are then slipped into the females drink in hopes of lowering their inhibitions and facilitating in a potential sexual conquest for the assailant. High risk situations are clubs, parties, bars, and raves. Women contacting us are of all backgrounds and ages. Many are still in some shock over being pregnant and are not sure of the race of the man than raped them. Many of these girls have little to share about the ‘father’ of their child.

The date rape drugs are often referred to as the ‘alphabet drugs’ called ‘E’ or Ecstasy; ‘G’ which can be either GHB or GBL; and ‘K’ or ‘Special K’ which is Ketamine. For a while Rohypnol or ‘Roofies’ was one of the most popular date rape drugs, but it has been replaced by GHB as the date rape drug of choice. The most popular date-rape drugs are (GHB) gamma hydroxybutyrate and ketamine. The ‘date rape’ drug or ‘sexual assault’ drug is the street name for Rohypnol, because it has been associated with date rape. GHB is produced in clear liquid, white powder, tablet, and capsule forms. It is also been known commonly as: Rophies, Roofies, Roachies, Forget Pill, R2, roofenol, Roche, circles, La rocha, Rope, Trip-and-Fall, Liquid X, Liquid E, G-Juice, Rib, Mexican Valium, Roach-2, Roopies, and Ropies, Mind-Erasers, Liquid Ecstasy, Somatomax, Scoop, or Grievous Bodily Harm. Ketamine; also known as K, Special K or Vitamin K, commonly comes in a liquid form, but is also found in powder or pill forms.

Rohypnol is not legal in the US, nor is it manufactured or sold legally in the United States. It is used as a short-term treatment for insomnia in other countries. It is produced and sold legally by prescription in Europe and Latin America, then smuggled into the United States by mail or travelers. The drug is often distributed on the street in its original ‘bubble packaging’ which creates a false appearance of legitimacy and makes it appear to be harmless and legal. Rohypnol tablets are white, scored on one side, with the word "ROCHE" and an encircled one or two indicating the dosage on the other side. Rohypnol is a low-cost drug, often less than $5.00 per tablet. They are sold in sealed bubble pack of one or two mg per dose.

Rohypnol can be addictive and cause physical dependence. It has physiological effects similar to Valium, but is nearly ten times more potent. Withdrawal symptoms include headache, muscle pain, confusion, hallucinations and convulsions. Some women have had seizures occur up to a week after cessation of use. Rohypnol can often be dissolved in a beverage, and is easily undetectable. Ecstasy Also known as MDMA is known on the street as Adam, XTC, E, M, Bean, and Roll. Ecstasy comes in a tablet that is often branded; a few samples are shown below:

In combination with alcohol, it can induce a blackout with memory loss and a decrease in resistance. Women, as young as 13, throughout the country have reported being raped after being involuntarily sedated with Rohypnol. Roughly ten minutes after having the drug in their system, women report feeling dizzy and disoriented, at the same time feeling too hot or too cold or both, some become nauseated. Sedation starts approximately 25-30 minutes and crest within two hours. The effects can continue for up to eight hours. The drug has no taste or odor. Victims don't have any memory of what happened while under the drug's influence. Most of the woman can appear extremely intoxicated, with slurred speech or experience difficulty speaking. Some may experience gastrointestinal disturbances and urinary retention, poor coordination, swaying, blood-shot eyes, decreased blood pressure, and then may pass out....but without the odor of alcohol.

Vicky was 19 when she came up pregnant - she had no physical signals of rape, she woke up in her own bed and therefore had no reason to be concerned. She assumed she had too much to drink, although she doesn't remember the previous night's events. Vicky thought a friend must have helped get her safely home. She was shocked to discover 2 months later that she was pregnant. “I hadn't had sex for over a year. I bought three pregnancy tests before going to a clinic for a blood test.” She chose to keep and raise her child with the help of her family. In her own words "having the baby brought peace and healing to my life."

Alcohol and Rohypnol combination is intensified and very hazardous together. If a woman is drinking alcohol when the drug is slipped into her drink, the combination can impair her memory and judgment greatly. Woman who become intoxicated on a combination of alcohol and Rohypnol often experience ‘blackouts’ lasting eight to twenty-four hours following ingestion – which can make her unable to resist a sexual attack. If combined with other drugs the results may lead to respiratory depression, aspiration, coma and even death. Possession of Rohypnol is punishable for up to three years in prison and a fine. Distribution and administration of this rape drug without the person's knowledge is punishable by twenty years in prison and a fine.

By taking the preventive measures to protect yourself and your friends; you can avoid becoming a potential victim. Print this article out and give it to friends you now … it may save a life!

Besides the worries of unprotected sex, sexually transmitted diseases are a high risk - your best defense against rapists and date rape drugs is awareness.

Here are a few helpful tips for staying aware, alert and safe:

• Be careful about accepting drinks from anyone you don't know or have known long enough to trust. The best choice is not to let anyone fix you a drink. Always mix the drink yourself and carry your own drink.
• Don't share or exchange drinks with anyone.
• If you are accepting a drink, make sure it's from an unopened container and that you open it yourself.
• Do not drink from open containers at parties and accept drinks only from bartenders or servers, watch them open the can or pour- don't be distracted by conversation.
• If dancing, don't leave your drink unattended. If you realize your drink has been left unattended, toss it out.
• Consider buying a specially designed drug testing coaster- see below to test your drink for the drug. They are low-cost and a smart choice.
• Remember any kind of beverage can be drugged- there is no taste or smell.
• If possible bring your own drinks to parties. Don't drink from a container that is being passed around
• If your drink tastes or looks differently than it should or tastes funny or salty, foamy, cloudy, or if it has residue in it throw it away!
• Don't go to parties alone; travel in a group of people and stick together at a party. Look out not only for yourself, but keep an eye on your female friends.
• A really good idea is to not let your friends get too drunk or wasted. If they do party intensely, take them home, staying with them to make sure they are all right before leaving.
• Don't let your friend disappear and don't let them wander off with a member of the opposite sex, stay by their side. Don't leave with someone you do not know well or have just met.
• Don't put your drink down and leave it unattended, even to go to the restroom. Monitor your drink constantly.
• Refuse to drink from a punchbowl; this is a place where anything can be dropped in.
• Stay sober. Don't use drugs or alcohol; you need to have a clear head at all times.
• Assign a designated sober person when going out.
• Notify other female friends you know about the effects of this dangerous drug.
• Be observant to the behaviors and actions of your friends, trust your instincts.
• Listen for the street names of the drugs mentioned above.
• Keep a cell phone with you and charged up in the event you have a problem and need help.

Remember You Did Not Deserve What Happened To You and the Assault Was Not Your Fault!

If you think that you have been a victim, notify the authorities immediately if you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can file a police report. Get immediate medical attention. Call 911 or go to an emergency room. Request that a urine sample be taken to screen for the presence of date rape drugs. Preserve as much physical evidence as possible. Don't urinate, shower, bathe, douche, or throw away the clothing you were wearing during the assault. If possible, save any other materials that might provide evidence, such as the glass or can that held your drink. Call a crisis rape center for information and support. All women are potential victims of sexual assault: regardless of there age, race, sexual preference, occupation or education. A woman can be assaulted by a stranger, by a friend, by an acquaintance, co-worker or relative.

Q. How will I feel after an assault?

There is no ‘correct’ way to feel after an assault. Be aware that different people need to heal in their own ways. Some women may need to talk about the assault a number of times to heal. Some need to work through their difficult experience – sometimes by reliving the violation. Seeking a Professional Counselor educated with date rape can make a big difference in recovery.

Some women find their faith in God may be strained, but find strength in keeping their faith and attending church or synagogue helpful. Other women find the answer by being involved in activities to help forget, then when they are better able to handle the facts and face them head on they can find peace to work through the pain.

Finding a qualified rape counselor or participating in a closed group counseling with other women, who understand what you are going through can be healing in itself. Many women who have been victims of the date rape drug have some or all of the following reactions:

• Anger and frustration
• Disbelief and Denial
• Guilt/ Self Blame
• Helplessness/ Confused
• Avoidance of Friends
• Feeling Paranoid
• Difficulty in Concentrating
• Change in Sleep Patterns
• Sexual Disinterest Or Change in Sexual Behavior
• Can't Stop Crying Or Can't Cry
• Inability To Cope With Ordinary Situations
• Problems With Trust
• Frenzied - involved in work
• Low Self-Esteem
• Reoccurring Nightmares
• Changed Alcohol Or Drug use
• Wanting To Forget, Escape OR never get out Of Bed
• Eating Everything Or Nothing At All As you work through the healing process, keep these suggestions in mind:
• It is not your fault - you are not responsible for the unwanted sex.
• You are not the guilty party.
• Some people may try to make you feel responsible for what happened because of their own feelings of vulnerability or guilt.
• That you may have been intoxicated does not give anyone the right to assault you - nothing gives anyone that right.
• Acquaintance rape happens because the rapist fails to respect the victim's individual will, not because of irresistible arousal.
• A rapist acts without regard for the victim, so saying no or even physically resisting cannot always be enough to prevent the assault.

How to Help a Friend Who Has Been Assaulted….

• Let her make decisions. Offer to make phone calls for information, but don't take over for her. She has just had control taken away and needs to regain it.
• Don't touch her without first asking permission. Say, for example, "Would you like a hug?" or "Would you like to hold my hand?" A caring touch can help the victim but unwanted touching can be very uncomfortable or even threatening.
• Don't blame her. Questions like "Why did you go home with him?" What were you thinking of? These questions will only reinforce her sense of guilt or shame.
• Let her know she is safe, and that you won't violate her trust.
• Try to deal with your own reactions to the circumstances later. You may feel angry, helpless, confused, or violated yourself. Keep in mind that your friend probably feels all that and more, so seeing your reactions may not help her. Try to focus on her feelings. Later, when her immediate necessities are taken care, is the best time for you to take care of yourself and seek out a counselor. A sexual assault can be distressing for friends, and family members, as well.

After a friend was attacked by a man who may have spiked her drink, Francisco Guerra developed a cardboard drink coaster that can identify two of the most popular date-rape drugs: gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) and ketamine. Just place a drop of liquid on the coaster, and rub it in with your finger. If the spot turns blue, toss that cocktail. Fifteen million of these coasters have already been distributed; look for them at 7-Elevens
http://www.drinksafetech.com/ about 40¢ a coaster

For more helpful Resources:

National Institute on Drug Abuse
Phone: (888) NIH-NIDA

Rape recovery site

American Council for Drug Education
Phone: (800) 488-3784

Hope for Healing

Support for people conceived through rape and incest.

American Society of Addiction Medicine
Phone: (301) 656-3920

Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse
Phone: (401) 444-1817

State Directory for Offices of Victim Services
US Department of Justice
For assistance in accessing local Victim Services: includes a clickable US State Map

Author's Bio: 

Mardie Caldwell, C.O.A.P. is a Certified Open Adoption Practitioner, an award winning author of 2 adoption books AdoptingOnline.com and Adoption: Your Step-by-Step Guide. Mardie is also the talk show host of Let's Talk Adoption.com with Mardie Caldwell and the founder of Lifetime Adoption in 1986. She travels and speaks nationwide on adoption topics, family topics, infertility and writing. She has been quoted in and consulted for Parenting and Adoption magazines and has appeared on CNN, CBS, ABC, BBC, NBC, and Fox. Featured in Parade Magazine, Caldwell is an adoptive mother living in Northern California.