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Police tell public of date rape dangers

Wednesday, February 11, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:09 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A man drives home from a bar after drinking three beers. He knows this amount of alcohol should not affect his driving ability, but he has to pull over halfway home because he feels ill. This is an example Sgt. Danny Grant gave of how “club” or “date-rape” drugs have affected people in Columbia.

Grant was unable to give exact numbers to show increased use of the drugs at a Tuesday press conference. But as supervisor of the Columbia Police Department’s Community Services Unit for the past eight years, he said that he has encountered many informal reports of date-rape-drug victims during the last three or four years.

The police department is investigating two potential cases of date-rape drugs, Grant said.

GHB effects and characteristics

Most victims of club drugs like gamma hydroxyl butyrate, or GHB, and Rohypnol, commonly known as “roofies,” become incoherent under the sedatives’ influence. Police said people often use the drugs to sedate victims so they can be robbed or raped.

Incidents such as this often go unreported. The effects, along with traces of the drugs, usually wear off after six to eight hours, so the only solid evidence in the case is gone. Victims can tell police where they were, but in most cases, they do not know who slipped the substance into their drink. People suspected of using date-rape drugs can be charged with assault.

GHB is most commonly used in a clear and odorless liquid form. Rohypnol, also used in liquid form, is tasteless and odorless.

Investigating the reports in Columbia

Although there have been many informal reports in Columbia by victims of date-rape drugs or their friends and family, there has been no trend in location, Grant said. “My argument is: Because the cases are so difficult to work and so hard to put your finger on from an investigative standpoint, that it’s probably an issue that is more suited for education, just trying to educate people to be careful when they go out at night,” Grant said.

Tips for staying safe

Police suggest that people should not leave drinks unattended and should be cautious of who they accept or buy drinks from.

Leigh Voltmer, executive director of The Shelter, a domestic violence and rape crisis program, urges women in particular to ensure that someone is watching out for them, to make sure they have a friend nearby and have a plan for how to get home.

Grant said the problem could be alleviated if parents knew about what is going on in clubs.

The police have a free publication, “Let’s All Work Together To Fight Drug Abuse,” with information on club drugs and other drugs. Questions should be directed to drh@gocolumbiamo.com. The Shelter maintains a 24-hour hot line for rape or domestic violence victims: 875-1370.


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