walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Involuntary Drugging: the thing you've never heard of that should scare the piss out of you

A while back, I failed to get through _Smile at Strangers_, a book about women, self-defense, martial arts -- totally my kind of thing, but I had some problems with it and abandoned it part way through, deeply troubled by the book and by my problems with it. More recently, I read McCaughey's _Real Knockouts_, a book about feminism and self-defense, from a decade an a half or thereabouts before _Smile at Strangers_. I had a different set of issues with that book. In the course of discussing those issues with my husband, and friends in person and online, I worked through some of my own values involving who should do what about various really unfortunate circumstances. I can't say that I changed many of my underlying values, however, I understand them better and am better able to articulate them.

One point that I kept coming back to was that I worried about a lot of other kinds of violence more than I worried about rape. Another point that I kept coming back to was that I felt that some women believed issues were mostly problems suffered by women from men who abused them -- and the women were wrong. Those were _human_ problems, with male and female victims, and male and female perpetrators.

One point of agreement between McCaughey and I is that women (in her formulation), people (in mine) can and would benefit in many ways by taking steps to intervene before they are assaulted/attacked/victimized. When I was a younger driver, I was rear ended by another car, once quite seriously, and another time less seriously (I was also in a rear ended vehicle as a passenger on a couple other occasions). Between having the experience and hearing about other people having the experience, I gave some thought and did some asking around about how I could prevent what is regarded by the law as entirely the fault of the person driving the striking car. That is, I, as the _victim_, wanted to avoid this ever happening to me again. I have more than one friend whose car was stolen; they and other friends routinely use The Claw. When I encounter news of something like nail polish to detect date rape drugs or a straw or whatever, I think of the nail polish and the straw in the context of leaving space in front of my car or to the side of the car and watching my rear view mirror to see if anyone is coming up to quick behind me. I'll lay on the horn and dodge out of the way to avoid being rear ended again (I have actually avoided two further events in exactly this manner -- you would be amazed how apologetic the drivers of the other vehicle look once they realize what just happened).

My primary response to the nail polish and the straw, being like The Claw, is to ask two questions: is this an event that is at all likely to happen and is the proposed intervention effective? Now, I'm not too sure about The Claw, but I can say with utter certainty that everyone is underestimating the seriousness of the involuntary drugging problem we currently have. Part of the problem, is that everyone assumes that the purpose of drugging someone without their consent is to perpetrate further crimes upon them: rape, robbery, etc. This ignores two possible motivations. We know from what people said and wrote in past decades with open drug use that many who use drugs want to make everyone else use them, too (sober person at the party Just Needs to Loosen Up and Have a Drink, come on, a hit will feel So Good, etc.). 12 Step and other programs have worked hard to change cultural mores to reduce pressure on non-consumers to, er, consume, and for consumers to be able to stop when they want to without feeling a lot of social pressure to imbibe or inhale or ingest more. So: it's possible that some of this involuntary drugging is some idiot/asshole high as a kite who Just Wants to Share.

Another possible motivation is, to put it bluntly, psychopathy. The type of person who is attracted to the bright lights and the big city for stimulation, and whose empathic comprehension and connection is, as a history of abuse, limited, non-existent or severely distorted, might well retail enough self-preservation to realize that we're really finally going to enforce rape, if not now then soon, I mean, look, we're finally processing all those kits. But we're not paying any attention at all to whoever it is putting drugs in people's drinks and then NOT following through with a rape or other assault.

How big is the problem?

I dunno! Nobody knows. There are estimates ranging from 15K a year to a million, in terms of victims. A 60-40 split between men and women victims shows up in more than one context. The ages of the victims are basically the ages that might ever show up in a bar. And the bar context is recognized. Some places have changed laws that once STOPPED you from carrying your drink to now more or less requiring you to hang onto it at all times.


That article is from when the epidemic was just starting. It was still being heavily framed by rape and the assumption of a female victim, but the few people writing about this problem have moved on, whether policy makers and the community at large have kept up.




Here's the article that convinced me I really should drill down on this issue:


In a world in which feminist bloggers and websites are attacking the nail polish idea because it is part of a larger culture of victim blaming, there's _a man_ who was roofied who is inventing a straw so it won't happen to him again.

We need a good, old-fashioned consciousness raising. There are some terrible (and I suspect at least a few of them are _the bartenders_) people out there putting drugs in drinks and injuring if not killing many, many, many people a year, every year. They are _getting away with it_. There is no investigation, no punishment, no prosecution. It is an invisible crime, with high costs to individuals and, increasingly, to ER departments.

I'll be looking next into what kind of enforcement is already occurring, and trying to understand where the best point of intervention might be. While social changes (carry your drink with you) are useful if it is another party-goer/bar hopper doing the drugging, they won't do anything if the bartender is the perp -- or if the dishwasher has figured out a way to coat the glass with something, or someone messed with the ice machine or whatever. If it's one of those, we're going to have to do some epidemiological tracking and, conceivably, some regulatory action at bars.

Finally, raising awareness should help get reporting closer to incidence (which will help with the epidemiology, and to get law enforcement and the health care community to recognize the problem). In the meantime, as much as it pains me to say it, having a sober wing man or wing woman may be the only way to truly stay safe out there, and that sober wing man or wing woman had better be made aware of what to watch out for, because if this happens to you, all the articles indicates you'll wander off and resist assistance. And fall down and break your own face.

ETA: Involuntary intoxication is a defense in DUI cases. Law enforcement has, in at least this case:


tried to suppress a date rape drug impairment claim. It got appealed and kicked back down.

"But in a ruling later affirmed by the county District Court, Missoula Municipal Court granted a motion by the city of Missoula to prevent Paffhausen from claiming involuntary intoxication, and from calling witnesses about the use of date rape drugs in the city."

Even now, but much more so in the past, rape victims have had to contend with layers of resistance to the idea that a crime has been perpetrated against them. While I sure don't want to suggest that people accused of DUI are like rape victims, I would like to point out that either one of these things could happen to a woman who went out and had a glass of wine at a bar to relax and socialize. And they both potentially have very serious consequences for that woman. We should probably be taking this seriously.

If you take a look at the comments thread, it really does have a lot of victim-blaming going on in it, and law enforcement more concerned about people "getting off" their DUI conviction by claiming involuntary intoxication with other drugs -- rather than worrying about whether there's a fucking epidemic of involuntary intoxication occurring in their jurisdiction that, you know, maybe they should do something about.

Then again, there's this, in which a man who was taking prescription meds and legal marijuana is claiming that they messed with his head and that's why he killed his wife and kids:


I sure wouldn't want to be on that jury.

Meanwhile, the California initiative process is driving as fast as it can in the direction of making this even easier:


Prop 47 reduced possession of some substances, perhaps including date rape drugs, to a misdemeanor from a felony. This falls in line with current legalization/regulation approaches.

The opinion piece frames possession of "date rape" drugs as a sexual assault issue. Still! In 2014! There is no concern shown for the possibility that the drugs themselves might be the assault. *sigh* I don't know what fraction of people wandering around with the relevant drugs are intending to use them consensually vs not. So, you know, maybe this was a reasonable choice, especially given California's prison overcrowding and other problems.

Lawsuit in 2013 against The Abbey because it had employees drugging women customers and taking them outside and raping them.


My efforts to find out how that turned out are failing.

It's not just the US:


A bartender in Canada says he has been drugged 3 times!

"Chisholm, who tends bar at CBTG's, said it's not only the customers who've been victimized.

"I've been a bartender for 23 years and I've personally been 'roofied' three times myself.""

Canadian police want people to come forward in hopes they could start to get a handle on this, but alas, the effects of the drugs are such that people can take a while to figure out what happened, and while they sleep it off, all the evidence disappears (from their bloodstream, but also from security footage).


The embarrassment factor comes up in a lot of these stories. I will also note that a _lot_ of these stories seem to involve the third drink of the evening. I'm not sure why that is. Is it selective recollection? Do these drugs start having really negative interactions with that amount of alcohol, but with less it is less bad -- and with more it is fatal? I have no idea.
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