A dangerous mix: drinking, sex and college students
February 25, 2010
A majority of sexual assaults involving college students also involve drugs or alcohol. Advocates say this is one reason the prevalence rate of assaults continues to be high, and also partly why so few are ever successfully prosecuted. By Carol Smith InvestigateWest Sex and drinking are a dangerous mix on university campuses. A majority of sexual assaults involving college students also involve drugs or alcohol. Advocates say this is one reason the prevalence rate of assaults continues to be high, and also partly why so few are ever successfully prosecuted. While alcohol is the number one date rape drug on campus, advocates who help assault victims say students also need to worry about other drugs, including “Rohypnol” or GHB, a banned supplement. A 2006 study funded by the National Institute of Justice found that of the estimated 100,000 sexual assaults reported in the United States each year, about 62 percent were “drug-facilitated” and 5 percent of victims were given date-rape drugs. The study was conducted by University of Illinois researchers in Chicago, and involved sexual assault victims who had come in for rape kit evidence collection in Texas, California, Minnesota and Washington. Researchers analyzed hair and urine samples for 45 drugs. The subjects in the study were all ages, not just college students. But it shows how common drug-facilitated attacks are, something that is true on campuses as well, said Trinka Poratta, a former cop with the Los Angeles Police Department, who now consults with police departments and educational institutions about the issues of drugs and sexual assaults. In fact, she said there are about 40 drugs commonly associated with campus sexual assaults. They include benzodiazepines, such as Valium and Ativan, as well as party drugs, including Ecstasy, and pain medications, such as Vicodin. All of them can significantly impair a person’s ability to consent, especially when used, or given, in conjunction with alcohol. Anything that is synergistic with alcohol can lead to a drug-facilitated assault, said Dr. Naomi Sugar, director of the Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress. “Even antihistamines.” GHB, however, is probably the most notorious. It’s a clear, odorless liquid that can be hidden in an eye drop or nasal spray bottle, then surreptitiously dropped in someone’s drink. It starts to work within five to 15 minutes, said Poratta. Its effects vary, but in combination with alcohol, it can cause amnesia. “It can be a complete loss, or bits and pieces,” she said. GHB is also a sexual stimulant, so perpetrators will often later say that the woman accusing them of assault is the one who initiated the sexual encounter. Later, the woman may not be able to piece together what happened to her in time to get herself tested. Whether a woman initiated sexual contact, or got drunk willingly, is beside the point, said Poratta. Once a woman is impaired, she is legally incapable of consent, and someone who has sex with her can be charged with rape. “I tell guys, you may get away with it a few times, but if you don’t get away with it, you are a sexual predator for life,” said Poratta. “And that is a heavy jacket to wear.” The study authors called for increased toxicology screening of rape victims, something Poratta has also lobbied for. Urine and blood are not routinely collected or screened as part of rape kits in many jurisdictions, making it difficult to later present evidence of drugging in court. “We see a lot of cases where the patient doesn’t have a complete memory, or sometimes any memory,” Sugar said. The clinic collects urine with the patient’s permission, but she said it’s unlikely any GHB would be detectable after about six hours. “Unfortunately, if it’s an episode of complete amnesia, they’re confused, maybe they talk with friends. They sometimes don’t get to the hospital for 36 to 48 hours,” she said. GHB leaves the blood in four hours, said Poratta. “Every minute you wait, you’re ticking away evidence.” Some advocates encourage women who fear they may have been drugged to produce their own urine samples, even before they have decided whether to pursue a claim, just in case. Young men can also protect themselves from charges of drug-facilitated sexual assault, said Poratta. “It’s really simple. Have sex sober.” InvestigateWest is a non-profit investigative news organization covering the environment, health and social justice. Find out more at www.invw.org.
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Cash reigns in the Portland housing market. The city faces pressure from a new kind of speculation, as investors buy thousands of homes with cash and long-established protections for bank-financed homebuyers are ignored. Lee van der Voo and James Gordon report for InvestigateWest.
Wealth and Poverty | March 2015
March 2015 marks the anniversary of a bold promise: King County's 10-year plan to end homelessness. Now that the 10-year plan is ending and local homelessness is worse than ever, talk of ending homelessness is being replaced with less-lofty aspirations: making homelessness rare and brief when it does occur.
In collaboration with KUOW this week, we examine the roots of the plan, the challenges it faced, and where community and city leaders think we go from here.
Equal Justice | December 2014
With grand jury reform elsewhere focused on eliminating racial bias and curbing police use of force, Oregon is an outlier: It is one of just 14 states that do not regularly record the citizen grand juries that charge people with felonies.
Almost five years after police killed an unarmed black man in Portland and the Multnomah Co. district attorney petitioned for that grand jury to be recorded, lawmakers in Salem are lining up behind a reform bill to mandate recording statewide, InvestigateWest has learned.
Seafood | December 2014
A struggle in Alaska over shrinking supplies of halibut is threatening the iconic centerpiece fish in favor of cheaper exports, fast-food fillets and fish sticks.
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Photo: Peter Haley / The News Tribune
Environment | November 2014
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Photo: Paul Joseph Brown/ecosystemphoto.com
Trafficking | October 2014
Authorities say organized gangs increasingly are trafficking children for sex in the Northwest, and even cooperating with each other to stymie police.
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Photo: Oregon DOT/Flickr
Minimum Wage | August 2014
"Everyone is aware that passing a $15 an hour minimum wage was historic," an advisor to Mayor Ed Murray and the Seattle City Council told InvestigateWest. "But if we cannot enforce that, we haven't accomplished much."
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Infrastructure | May 2014
Portable, modular or relocatable classrooms — whatever you call them — are a necessity for cash-strapped schools.
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Environment | April 2014
Energizing our world with wood sounds so natural. And it has quickly become a multibillion-dollar industry as governments including British Columbia and the European Union turn to biomass to replace dirty old coal. Yet what we found when we dug into the coal-vs.-wood debate will surprise you.