Students educate peers on drug risk

Groups, such as MU’s Peer Rape Educators, are raising awareness.
Friday, December 17, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:48 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 6, 2008

Women on college campuses are one of the groups most at risk for sexual assault and date rape, says Kendra Yoder, co-coordinator of MU’s Rape Education Office. In response, the university has formed educational organizations to raise awareness about sexual assault, including one that focuses on drugs used in date rape.

Three major date-rape drugs — GHB, Rohypnol and Ketamine — can be slipped into the drinks of unsuspecting people who later fall victim to sexual assault or rape.

According to MU’s Predatory Drugs Task Force, alcohol also may be considered a predatory date-rape drug.

“Women and men may be grossly underestimating how much they are really drinking. In many cases, alcohol may have been the overdosed drug, not GHB or Rohypnol,” according to information on MU’s Wellness Resource Center Web site.

The drugs affect individuals in varying degrees, but at the very least can make a person feel nauseated or numb, have blurred vision or be rendered unconscious.

Jeff Benson, a physician employed by Bowdoin College in Maine, said drinking plays a central role in more than 70,000 reported cases of campus date rape every year. More than 90 percent of reported sexual assaults on college campuses, he said, involve the use or abuse of alcohol.

The kits the Predatory Drugs Task Force offers are available at Hitt Street Market on the MU campus, as well as all residence halls, fraternity and sorority houses and vehicles used by STRIPES, a campus ride-home program.

Kim Dude, assistant director of the Wellness Resource Center, said most of the date-rape drugs only stay in a person’s system for a few hours.

“As soon as you feel like you’ve been drugged, you need to use the kit,” Dude said.

Students can take the kit to the Student Health Center or a local emergency room and will receive results in about a week. Tracking is done with a bar-code system, so every kit is anonymous.

But if the results of the test come back positive for date-rape drugs, the kits do not hold up in court because the collection method is considered unprofessional.

Dude said the Predatory Drugs Task Force created the kits so people could find out if they had been drugged and then make future choices, such as avoiding a particular bar or watching drinks more carefully, accordingly.

Dude said she advocates several methods to ensure that someone isn’t slipped a date-rape drug in the first place.

“You should always watch your drink being prepared, not accept drinks from strangers and drink in moderation,” she said. “That way, if you are slipped something, you will know it, because it can be difficult to distinguish between being intoxicated and being drugged.”

Yoder said the campus Women’s Center and organizations such as Greek Advocates and Peer Rape Educators are evidence that people are paying attention.

“Our campus is working really hard to respond to the many barriers society puts forth in coming forward,” she said.

While the Predatory Drugs Task Force is made up of campus and community representatives, Peer Rape Educators is an organization that allows students to join the cause of education and prevention of date-rape drugs.

Katie Blair and Liz Davis, two members of the group, conduct programs for residence halls, Greek houses and local high schools about healthy relationships or alcohol, drugs or sexual violence.

Blair started training to become a peer rape educator during her freshman year. “It’s something that pertains to everyone’s life,” she said.

Davis said she thinks the benefit of the Peer Rape Educators group lies in the comfort level that students feel.

“It’s easier for other students to come talk to us,” she said, “because we’re their same age and we can relate.”

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