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Date rape becoming serious problem in St. Augustine

March 12, 2014 3:57 pm by: Category: Features, News 5 Comments A+ / A-

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By Marne Burghoffer | gargoyle@flagler.edu

Photo by Nick Scammacca

Every two minutes in the United States, someone is sexually assaulted.

Drugs are reported as a factor by 25 percent of female victims nationwide, and an even larger 50 percent of victims at the Betty Griffin House Rape Crisis Unit at Flagler Hospital.

Date rape can happen closer to home than is typically assumed, even in small towns like St. Augustine. Jody Carlile, a Flagler College student, unknowingly accepted a compromised drink in her own home by a female acquaintance she thought could be trusted.

“The next day I remember feeling very scared by how much I couldn’t remember, considering how little I drank and speculating whether or not I had been slipped something. However, I simply shook it off,” Carlile said.

Drug facilitated sexual assault occurs when someone is subjected to sexual acts while they are incapacitated or unconscious due to the effects of ethanol, a drug or any other intoxicating substance, and as a result unable to consent to such acts. It is more commonly referred to as date rape.

Many St. Augustine residents know someone who has had it happen to them. Date rape is becoming an larger issue, leading to larger problems than just a killer headache the next day.

Worse yet, date rape primarily affects young and college-aged women. Over 90 percent of sexual assault victims at the Betty Griffin House Rape Crisis Unit reported drugs as a factor were between 18 and 33 years old.

Rohypnol, Ketamine and Gamma Hydroxybutyric (GHB) are the three most prevalent substances in date rape cases. Because all three lack odor and taste, victims are not aware of what they are consuming. One victim said that she was drinking water when drugged and still had no idea that the beverage was compromised.

Date rape drugs also cause temporary memory loss, loss of consciousness, impaired motor functions and heightened sexual arousal. The drugs are cheap and some are simple to make at home with just a few ingredients. Some, like Rohypnol, are legal in the United States. Many overlook how dangerous the drugs are.

The substances have heightened effects when mixed with alcohol, which can also prove fatal. Many who are drugged are violently sick for the next one to two days. Nausea, however, is a far better alternative when it comes to the possibility of death.

Bars and restaurants around downtown St. Augustine had different opinions on date rape.

Erica Canelos, bartender and server at crowded bar Scarlett O’Hara’s, said she has heard of date rape drugs around the downtown area. A few years ago, Canelos suspected a male customer of drugging a female patron, who seemed to be affected by only one drink.

“We made sure that the guy that she was with didn’t take her home to be on the safer side,” Canelos said. “We looked at the cameras  to try to see when he may have done it but they were blocked.”

While it is important for bars to have a protocol for visible cases of the crime, it more often than not goes unnoticed.

Michael Alexander, bar manager at White Lion Pub and Restaurant, said he hasn’t witnessed any cases so far.

“I’ve never seen it here and I never have seen an issue around Flagler,” Alexander said. “Downtown, I never thought of it being prevalent.”

One student at Flagler, who asked that her name not be used, said was planning to be the designated driver when she went out with friends in downtown St. Augustine. She doesn’t remember what happened after having a glass of water at a local bar. She woke up at the parking lot of a shopping center with no recollection of how or why.

“I never went to the hospital or got my stomach pumped, although looking back now, I probably would have benefited from it,” she said. “I think I just wanted to hide and forget about it. I’m still embarrassed and a bit traumatized from it.”

Date rape is under-reported and it is difficult to find specific proven cases. The Justice Department’s National Crime Victimization Survey, which is the most often cited US data report, does not include any questions asking if the victim was unable to consent to sexual activity because of drugs or alcohol. This causes some to question the legitimacy of the report and how accurate statistics are.

The St. John’s County Clerk of Courts office stated that they do not have a specific record of drug facilitated sexual assault or violations of the Drug-Induced Rape Prevention and Punishment Act of 1996.

Victims, who often feel helpless and embarrassed, rarely take legal action. It is also rare for victims to seek immediate tests to prove what happened to them.

Even if victims decide to get tested for foreign substances, it is often too late or ineffective. The drugs used to commit the assault move quickly through the body and are difficult to detect. For these reasons, reports on this issue do not accurately reflect the number of cases that occur.

Drug facilitated sexual assault does not only occur in female victims. According to the United States Department of Justice Bureaus of Statistics, approximately 10 percent of rape victims are male.

“I went out one day and apparently I went all around town, did not know what I was doing and woke up feeling horrible the next day,” said Brent Kern, bartender at Mojo’s Ancient City Barbecue.  “I feel like I got drugged because I shared a drink with someone. I haven’t seen it while working, but I’ve heard tons of stories about other bars in town”.

The future holds hope for affordable preventative methods being offered at bars with products such as coasters and straws to indicate a compromised drink. Tallahassee-based company Drink Safe Technologies is working on products that will be available in drug stores and popular bars nationwide by next year.

The majority of bars in downtown St. Augustine said that they would be interested in offering these as safety precautions to customers in the future.

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Date rape becoming serious problem in St. Augustine Reviewed by on . By Marne Burghoffer | gargoyle@flagler.edu Photo by Nick Scammacca Every two minutes in the United States, someone is sexually assaulted. Drugs are reported as By Marne Burghoffer | gargoyle@flagler.edu Photo by Nick Scammacca Every two minutes in the United States, someone is sexually assaulted. Drugs are reported as Rating: 0

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