Going out and drinking can be risky, especially for women. There is always a danger that someone may try to slip a substance into someone’s drink.
“It’s a huge sadness that we even have to have a discussion about how you keep somebody from slipping you substances so that they can harm you,” said Meredith Lierk, director of the Violence Intervention and Prevention Center.
Both Lierk and Michael Reiner, assistant vice president of Public Safety, stressed that one important way to stay safe is to always be with friends and have a plan to get home.
“You go together, you leave together,” Lierk said.
“Have a plan before you go out of how you’re going to get home if your primary plan fails — if you get separated from friends,” Reiner said.
Reiner said that it is also important to have a signal to let friends know if you need to get out of a situation.
Reiner and Lierk also said it is vitally important to always have control over your drink.
“Alcohol is the number one drug for drug-facilitated sexual assault,” Lierk said. Sara Eliason, director of prevention and education at the Women’s Center for Advancement, recommended that anyone going out should practice bystander-intervention.
“When you’re out with friends, be an active bystander,” Eliason said.
Eliason said that could take the form of alerting the bartender or security to a situation that seems wrong or by intervening directly to get someone out of an unsafe situation.
Lierk said there are many different substances that could potentially be slipped into a drink and, depending on the substance, there might be different effects.
“There are so many different types of drugs that are available to people that incapacitate someone’s mind, motor function, and/or both. That happens most often with alcohol,” Lierk said.
However, both Reiner and Lierk said that most people will know if something is off based on past experiences with alcohol.
Reiner said that if someone is experiencing “a feeling of disorientation or extreme intoxication that doesn’t align with the amount of alcohol you’ve consumed,” then there may be some other substance involved.
Eliason also said that alcohol alone can result in a dangerous situation whether by someone taking advantage a person’s over-intoxication, by making a drink stronger or by continuing to give a person more drinks.
Reiner and Lierk both described the phenomenon of “blacking-out” associated with either over-consumption of alcohol or a substance mixed with alcohol.
“[That] can be terrifying because you don’t know what happened,” Lierk said.
Reiner said that substances that may have been added to a drink can leave someone’s system very quickly, so it is important to address the problem sooner rather than later.
“If anybody believes that they have been victimized by this they should really ask for a drug test as soon as possible just to be able to establish [...] whether a drug was used,” Reiner said.
Lierk said that a person should seek medical help, especially if they cannot account for their whereabouts during the entire night or if they think they may have been sexually assaulted. In this case she recommended requesting a sexual assault nurse exam.
She said that these exams can be anonymous and the victim can consent to how much evidence is collected. She added that in this instance, the victim could also ask for a drug test.
Both Lierk and Reiner encouraged anyone who has been a victim to a drugging or a sexual assault to contact the VIP Center.
“If somebody thinks they’ve been drugged at all, I strongly encourage them to reach out to us,” Lierk said.
She said that the VIP Center can help survivors go through the process of reporting incidents and provide them with resources and support.
“We always invite people to start in a confidential space with an advocate who can help walk you through your options and really help provide support and care during a difficult time,” Lierk said.
“You are not alone in this. I see you. You will always have a home in the VIP Center,” Lierk said. “At the very core, that is why we exist. We exist so that no one is alone in the most horrific thing that’s ever going to happen to them.”
Eliason also said that the Women’s Center for Advancement offers many supportive services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence.