Who is Keeping Records on Victims of Date Rape Drugs?
Updated: Jan 16
IOWA, Iowa City --
Who’s keeping records on victims of date rape drugs? According to Iowa Hospitals, The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), and Iowa City PD, no one they know of. Today, many other sedative medications are being used to unknowingly spike people’s drinks.
Alcohol is the number one date rape drug. Numbers two, three, and four are Rohypnol, GHB, and Ketamine. If these drugs are mixed with alcohol, they become stronger and can cause serious health problems – even death.
There is a lack of comprehensive data available to support the prevalence of date rape drugs aside from what other scientific journals research on small scales. Just last year, an Iowa City man was arrested for having two-hundred pornographic videos that showed him having sex with incapacitated women. He was charged with eighteen counts of sexual abuse and twenty two counts of invasion of privacy, last January. His trial was this March.
Incapacitated rape (IR) is when a victim is incapacitated due to the consumption of alcohol or other drugs. In a national report on Drug-facilitated, Incapacitated, and Forcible Rape, researchers said, “During the past year alone, over 1 million women in the U.S. have been raped.” Almost half of those women reported to have been incapacitated or drugged during the time of the rape. Other studies have proven that IR is more prevalent than forcible rape.
With almost half of the women-related rapes in the US each year involving drugging and incapacitation, why is there so little record of those who do come forward?
The national report on drug-facilitated, incapacitated, and forcible rape also reported that “Having accurate information about the scope, nature, and consequences of rape in the United States is critically important.”
In the state of Iowa, there are no public reports on the amount of IRs, and little to nothing of drug reports. In fact, after several phone calls to hospitals and sexual abuse advocacy organizations, it was discovered that there are no records of the number of rape kits that have been administered in Iowa City.
When asked for the number of drug tests that the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) does that are sent in specifically relating to allegations of being date rape drugged, DCI representative Bruce Reeve said “I’m not sure that the organization has anything in place for that.”
Public records by Iowa City Police, the state of Iowa, and the 2014 National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) by the FBI do not reveal any data on the amount of drug-facilitated rapes. Distinctions in Iowa City records vary from sexual assault, sexual assault with an object, and forcible fondling. The communications department said that there is no system in place to search or report the number of drug related cases.
What We Know
SART/ SANE is a sexual assault response team that is made up of sexual assault nurse examiners. Pam Terrill, a seasoned nurse in the SART/SANE program estimates that her program averages eighty to ninety drug tests a year.
When a rape or allegedly drugged victim goes into a hospital seeking medical attention, a nurse from the program will come and take care of the victim’s needs. These nurses are the only ones that are certified to handle these situations.
“We can’t test specifically for GHB or Ryhpnol,” said Terill, “the urine sample is tested for one hundred to two hundred drugs.” Due to the wide selection of drugs the sample is tested for, Terrill said that some victims that have taken other drugs such as marijuana refuse to do the urine sample due to fear of association.
It is difficult to prove that someone has been drugged because a drug can leave a victim’s body within as little as twelve to seventy two hours, according to several scientific journals. This makes it imperative to record good data within the right time frame when people do come forward. This type of data can help create better laws, policies, and programs to help protect those that have been targeted for assault.
Local Accounts of Date Rape Drug Encounters
In a poll on my Facebook account, I asked, “How many people do you know that have been drugged in Iowa City (IC) and or in an IC bar?” Although it is not a credible way of polling, the results were alarming. Twelve people commented and forty-two people were reported to have been allegedly drugged in Iowa City. One commenter claimed he knew fifteen victims, three of them men.
The commenter that knew fifteen alleged victims, Nathaniel Gavronsky said, “I know many other women who have been assaulted, but never got tested, so I don't know if they were drugged or not.”
The twelve comments on the Facebook post reported the same number of those drugged as half of the victims that get tested by SART in one year. This kind of assault is the most underreported.
Another commenter, Luke Guy said, “I woke up the next morning and I was out of it, I wasn’t even speaking sentences. My friends rushed me to the hospital because I was so sick and incoherent.”
Date rape drugs often have no color, smell, or taste. The characteristics of these drugs make it difficult for the victim to coherently register the event. A governmental women’s health website reports that “The drugs can make you become weak and confused — or even pass out — so that you are unable to refuse sex or defend yourself.”
Matthew, a 6’ 7’’ male, with the build of a Hawkeye football player, recalls taking one drink from a girl who had been pursuing him at the time, during his freshmen year. He says, “The next morning I woke up in jail with a text from the girl apologizing to me. I had been stumbling on the sidewalk trying to get home alone and campus police picked me up.” Matt estimated he had three drinks that whole night, claiming that he became incoherent after the drink he was handed and did not remember anything past stumbling out of the party that night. He was positive he was drugged. After being forced to take a class with student health and deal with fines associated with his arrest, he felt that he didn’t want to take action beyond reporting the incident to the dean.
Many victims who have been drugged are like Matt. Those that have been date rape drugged are less likely to come forward to the police because of the fear of retaliation, perception of insufficient evidence, and uncertainty about whether a crime was committed. Studies and the NIBRS both confirm that freshman students are also more likely to experience sexual assault, as juveniles make up more than half the victims of sexual offenses.
Advocacy and Initiatives to Combat Date Rape/ Date Rape Drugs
Although there is a lack of records for these incidences, there is still a foundation of initiatives in Iowa City that are dedicated to combating these events. When the 21+ bar ordinance was put in place, the then director of Rape Victims Advocacy Program (RVAP), Karla Miller supported a move intended to protect the young adolescents that are preyed upon in these environments.
Moreover, RVAP also holds bystander intervention workshops. The program offers a state-wide twenty-four-hour hotline as well as events to raise awareness and protest against sexual assault and sexual harassment. Every freshman at the university must also go through an online class that covers things such as assault, stalking, and the use of date rape drugs. RVAP has also trained seven Iowa City bars to identify and prevent unwanted sexual activity through the Raise the Bar training provided by RVAP. Similarly, UISG (University of Iowa Student Government) recently administered an optional survey last semester to University students aimed at retrieving data related to these kinds of incidents and more.
The manager of Blue Moose Tap House is one who has taken action in protecting the safety of his patients. He has kicked out alleged drug dealers. People that have been caught administering drugs have been permanently banned. He also has a policy for those that seem to be too drunk or incapacitated to stay in the bar.
He says, “We try to isolate them and find someone they’re with to try to get them home or be able to tell us where they’re going. If they aren’t responsive, our only option is to call the police.” He emphasizes that they do not let just anyone accompany people home and that there is a verification process.
In an attempt to reduce street harassment and give citizens a personal power to report their experiences, Corey Stone created an online map for the Facebook Page End Street Harassment-Iowa City that allows people to pin places that they have been harassed on the streets. After coverage on local media outlets and newspapers, the map turned sour.
On March 3rd the group lost almost all of their data due to backlash from the community in the form of deleting pins, modifying them, and creating pro-harassment messages. They have since salvaged an old map and are allowing pins through e-mail.
On a larger scale, a nail polish brand called Undercover Colors was created a year ago by four men from North Carolina State University. The nail polish changes color once the wearer dips their finger into the drink if it detects a common date rape drug.
On the brands website, its tag prides itself on being ,“The first fashion company empowering women to prevent sexual assault.” The controversial company has received positive and negative reactions to their product.
It has been slammed for promoting the idea of victim blaming. Often, survivors ask themselves if they could have done something differently to prevent this assault. Nay-sayers of this product are saying that it encourages women to assume responsibility for the assault and that this takes away from the real problem. Laura Stevens, a psychology student at the University of Iowa, had this to say about the product
“It’s a beautiful thing that people are creating these things to give women more power, but if someone is going out of their way to assault another, they are going to succeed. No amount of finger nail polish will change that.” In short; there is no perfect way for a victim to prevent rape or being drugged. Studies found that it doesn’t just happen in bars, but it can happen anywhere.
The national training manual for Law Enforcement related to Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault says, “The officer’s strongest tool in addressing the challenges associated with drug-facilitated sexual assault is through meticulous evidence collection and documentation.”
When asked if University of Iowa Police Department (UIPD) has any records related to date rape drugs, Cindy, a UIPD officer said, “I checked our record department and they say they do not have any statistics on that.”
For more information on what to do if you believe you have been a victim of date rape drugs go to https://rvap.uiowa.edu/.
One name has been altered for the safety of those who contributed to this story. RVAP reported to have no comprehensive data but rather notes on individual cases of if they feel drugs were used. However, the records are not released to the public.