In the Boston area, medical advocates can be summoned when a rape victim goes to a hospital, or calls BARCC’s 24-hour hotline. The advocate is there to ensure that the victim, who is likely distressed, is aware of and has access to all the resources she requires, such as emotional support, emergency contraception, or STD testing. The advocate also notes what kind of treatment the survivor requests.
This data, collected by BARCC rape-crisis counselors, shows that last year 68 women requested a toxicology report after being raped, indicating that they believed drugs may have played a role in their assault.
Of the women who made the request, "there has been little use of alcohol," says Lucia Zuniga, director of the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program, which has sexual-assault medical experts on call to respond to rape cases at local hospitals. (SANE nurses collect detailed information that can be used later as evidence if a woman decides to press charges.) "But the victim has a period of unresponsiveness, unconsciousness, or amnesia," Zuniga says. "They know something is different."
Still, not one of those 68 toxicology reports turned up any GHB or Rohypnol, says Zuniga. There were, however, traces of toxins that could be used as date-rape drugs, but are not commonly associated with the slickness of the crime, such as Ketamine (otherwise known as "K," a horse tranquilizer that acts as a sedative), Benadryl (high doses of this allergy drug can induce serious drowsiness), and copious amounts of alcohol. ("Alcohol is the number-one agent used in these settings to create sedation," she says, and the number-one substance that comes back on toxicology reports.) It’s impossible to say whether any other drugs were present.
Indeed, more often than not date-rape victims blame themselves for partying too hard. "You weren’t raped," M. used to tell herself. And though she can remember having only a few sips of that Corona, she’d think, "You probably drank more than you thought you did."
Hard to detect
Date-rape victims rarely press charges. None of the women I spoke with for this article reported their cases to the police. (Only 40 percent of rapes nationwide are reported, according to the National Bureau of Crime Statistics. Of those reported, only 50 percent lead to an arrest. And after that "it’s very difficult to prosecute a case that is acquaintance rape," says BARCC director Gina Scaramella.)
Much like the rapes themselves, the victims’ reasons for not reporting the crimes are nearly identical.
"If you’re drugged, you already feel like the world doesn’t believe you," says M., who harbored her secret not only from the authorities, but from her friends and family for more than a month before finally telling a friend the bits and pieces she remembers. "You can’t even tell a coherent story."