What is drug-facilitated sexual assault?
Drug-facilitated sexual assault occurs when alcohol or drugs are used to compromise an individual’s ability to consent to sexual activity. These substances make it easier for a perpetrator to commit sexual assault because they inhibit a person’s ability to resist and can prevent them from remembering the assault. Drugs and alcohol can cause diminished capacity, a legal term that varies in definition from state to state.
You may have heard the term “date rape drugs” to refer to substances that can aid a perpetrator in committing sexual assault. Drug-facilitated sexual assault can happen to anyone, by anyone, whether the perpetrator is a date, a stranger, or someone you’ve known for a while.
How does a perpetrator use drugs and alcohol?
Drug-facilitated sexual assault occurs in two ways: when the perpetrator takes advantage of a victim’s voluntary use of drugs or alcohol or when the perpetrator intentionally forces a victim to consume drugs without their knowledge.
Some victims blame themselves for drinking too much at a party or putting themselves in a potentially dangerous situation. It’s important to remember that if a sexual assault occurs under these circumstances, it is still not your fault. The blame falls on the perpetrator who took advantage of you.
A perpetrator may intentionally drug a victim, resulting in a situation where it is easy to manipulate the circumstances and commit an assault. Perpetrators use a variety of substances to incapacitate a victim.
- Alcohol is the most commonly used substance in drug-facilitated sexual assault.
- Prescription drugs like sleep aids, anxiety medication, muscle relaxers, and tranquilizers may also be used by perpetrators.
- Street drugs, like GHB, rohypnol, ecstasy, and ketamine can be added to drinks without changing the color, flavor, or odor of the beverage.
How will I know if I’ve been drugged?
Depending on the substance, the initial effects of a drug can go unnoticed or become apparent very quickly. Being familiar with the warning signs can help alert you to the possibility of drugs in your system. If you notice any of the following warning signs in yourself or someone you know, reach out to someone you trust immediately. If you notice these symptoms in another person, you can take steps to keep that person safe.
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling drunk when you haven’t consumed any alcohol or very limited amounts
- Feeling more drunk than you normally do after a certain amount of alcohol
- Sudden increase in dizziness, disorientation, or blurred vision
- Sudden body temperature change that could be signaled by sweating or chattering teeth
- Waking up with no memory, or missing large portions of memories
Can I consent to sexual activity if I’m drunk, high, or have been drugged?
Legally, you cannot consent to sexual activity if you are drunk or high.
Also, a person cannot consent if unconscious.
Click here for more information on consent.
Can perpetrators of sexualized violence use being drunk or high as a defense in court?
Canadian law is clear: being drunk or high is not an excuse for criminal behaviour.