When you go out for a night on the town with your girlfriends, you probably want to let your hair down and have a good time. While you should never let the threat of an attack keep you from having fun, being aware of the possibilities can keep you safe from problems and let you enjoy the night.
Stay in a Group
Even if it’s just two of you, sticking together can help you stay safe. It’s easier to watch out for each other in a group than it is alone. Also, criminals are more likely to take advantage of a woman who is alone. Having a friend to watch your back is something we recommend whenever possible. Using the buddy system is an excellent way to make sure you get home safely.
It’s even more important to watch out for your friends and have them watch out for you if you plan to be drinking. Having a designated driver (DD) can help ensure everyone gets home safely. While it’s never fun to feel like a babysitter, having at least one sober person in a group can help discourage criminals from taking advantage of anyone in the group.
Many bars also offer help from bartenders for anyone who is feeling uncomfortable by a “bad date” or predatory person. There may be signs in the bathroom letting you know to order a specific drink that will tip the bartender off to your discomfort. They will then alert a bouncer to take care of the situation. Whatever the case, you can almost certainly enlist the bartender if you feel unsafe for any reason, whether it’s to call you a ride home or keep an eye out for a certain individual’s behavior.
Keep an Eye on Your Drinks
It can be easy to forget this when you’re out dancing or having a good time, but criminals take advantage of opportunities. Leaving your drink unattended on a table or bar can provide an opportunity for a criminal to slip a drug into your drink. Unfortunately, there’s been an uptick in reports of women being drugged at bars recently.
Make a habit of taking your drink with you or buying a new one anytime you leave one out of your sight for a period of time. It may cost you a bit more money over time, but it can save you a major headache later (literally). Also, don’t accept drinks from strangers. If you want to accept a drink offer from someone, go to the bar and watch the bartender pour it.
Even if you’re at a party where you trust everyone, it’s a good idea to keep your drinks under your control. Also, consider drinking water — it’s a lot harder to slip something into than an alcoholic drink or soda.
Know the Signs of Being Drugged
There are many drugs that can cause someone to become drowsier than normal or make them an easier target for sexual assault or theft. In fact, alcohol is considered a drug that can cause this sort of behavior by changing a person’s consciousness level and lowering their inhibitions.
Criminals may take advantage of someone who is incapacitated, and may even add drugs like rohypnol to an alcoholic drink. Quaaludes are popular both as a party drug that someone may take to relax and as a drug used to impair a possible victim. These “date rape drugs” can act quickly and cause a woman to lose consciousness or impair her ability to resist. It’s important to recognize when you or a friend may be experiencing the effects of a drug that you didn’t consent to taking.
Symptoms of being drugged include:
- Being far more “drunk” than the number of alcoholic drinks you’ve had, or feeling/acting drunk even if you haven’t had any alcoholic drinks
- Blacking out or “time traveling” (not remembering how you got somewhere)
- Extremely slurred speech
- Extreme drowsiness
If you or a friend think you’ve been drugged, your first priority is to get to safety. Stay together and get a ride with someone you absolutely trust, preferably to a hospital emergency room. Make sure any incapacitated friend doesn’t leave with strangers for any reason. Call an ambulance if that is the safest possible way to get out of the situation and to a hospital.
Seek medical care as soon as possible, and request immediate testing. Drugs that cause this sort of intoxication can leave the system within a few hours, making them hard to detect. Even if you don’t recognize that you may have been drugged until you wake up the following morning, seek medical care to test for signs of sexual assault. In order to preserve evidence, avoid taking a shower until you have been seen by a medical professional.
Report Your Concerns to Police
Even if you don’t have a complete recollection of what happened, it’s important to report your suspicions to police. Criminals may use the same methods or frequent the same bars or restaurants, and once police are aware of the issue, they can work to prevent it from happening again. While you may feel that your case is hopeless because you can’t remember exactly what happened, everything you do remember can be a clue and provide a bigger picture.
You can also call the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) to receive confidential support, help finding a health facility nearby, and more resources to help you in your steps to recovery.