Drugged assault a focus for Aurora Center

April was Sexual Assault month and the Aurora Center held events to educate students.

by Meghan Holden

Drug-facilitated sexual assault is a problem at every university, but some experts say there are still many misconceptions surrounding it.

The University of Minnesota’s Aurora Center for Advocacy and Education has held several events throughout April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

One of the issues the Aurora Center educates the University community on is drug-facilitated sexual assault, or the use of drugs or alcohol to compromise an individual’s ability to consent to sexual activity, said Katie Eichele, director of the Aurora Center. It’s also one of the main types of assault the center helps people with.

There were 18 forcible sex offenses on the Minneapolis campus in 2011, according to University police. But sexual assaults are widely underreported.

Alcohol is the No. 1 drug used by sexual assault perpetrators, according to the Aurora Center. Eichele said there’s a misperception that it’s the responsibility of the victim to monitor his or her alcohol intake.

“When it comes to alcohol, there is a lot of victim-blaming and a lot of self-blaming,” Eichele said.

But she said the use of alcohol is very intentional by perpetrators with their targets.

Another largely used date-rape drug among young people is gamma hydroxybutyrate, more commonly known as GHB, said Stephen Thompson, associate professor and sexual aggression services director at Central Michigan University.

Although GHB has been a known date-rape drug for more than a decade, Thompson said there are still misconceptions about it.

GHB is a mixture of toxic ingredients and can be created in liquid or powder form, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It can be tasteless, odorless and colorless.

It is commonly confused with the eye-drop solution Visine because perpetrators often put GHB in one-ounce Visine containers, Thompson said.

When someone consumes an ounce of GHB, they remain conscious but become hypersexual and experience memory loss, Thompson said.

An overdose of GHB can result in a coma or death, making the drug more harmful, Thompson said.

Because GHB passes through the system quickly, people who think they have been given the drug should see a doctor immediately, Eichele said.

If students suspect someone has been a victim of any form of date rape, it’s their responsibility to say something, Thompson said.

“It’s not [a woman’s] issue,” Thompson said. “It’s our issue as a culture.”