Victims With Unique Consideration

Alchohol & Substance Abuse

Alcohol and drugs are frequently used by perpetrators to facilitate the commission of sexual assault crimes.

Ingestion of alcohol and/or substances prior to the commission of sexual assault crimes tends to “co-occur” with both the perpetrator and the victim.  It is not uncommon for perpetrators to ply their victims with alcohol and/or substances to make it easier for them to commit the crime of sexual assault.

The consumption of drugs and/or alcohol can:

  • Make it Harder for a Victim to Tell when a Situation could be Dangerous (e.g. that the perpetrator is physically isolating the victims from others, etc.
  • Render a Potential Victim Unconscious
  • Enhance the Aggressiveness of a Perpetrator
  • Re-enforce Racist, Negative Stereotypes that can Result in Bias Against the Victim and Victim Blaming
  • Many Perpetrators Attempt to Physically Isolate a Victim from Others Prior to the Commission of a Sexual Assault Crime.
  • An intoxicated person may be at higher risk for sexual violence because she may not be able to discern any “signals” that the perpetrator is trying to separate and isolate her.
  • A person’s consumption of substances and/or alcohol is NEVER an excuse for sexual violence. An intoxicated victim can never give consent to any sexual contact. Thus, any sexual contact that takes place when a victim is substantially impaired due to drug or alcohol consumption should be treated as a crime.

Victim advocates frequently recommend that American Indian/Alaska Native teens and women employ a “buddy system” when attending social events where alcohol or other similar substances will be present.  Under this strategy, two or more women agree to actively monitor each other’s whereabouts during the social event and to ensure that all of the “buddies” are safely returned to their homes at the end of the event. Having an extra pair of monitoring ears and eyes at a social event can make it more difficult for perpetrators to physically isolate victims and commit sexual assault crimes.
Perpetrators may also trick the victim into ingesting drugs or alcohol in order to commit acts of sexual violence.  “Date rape” drugs (including Rohypnol, GHB and Ketamine) cause the victim to lose consciousness and/or lose the ability to remember the assault.  Proving drug-assisted sexual assaults can be challenging. Many “date rape” and recreational drugs leave the victim’s system before the victim realizes that she has been sexually assaulted and may not be present in blood or urine samples taken during forensic examinations.

There following are some signs indicating that a victim may have been administered a “date rape” drug:

  • The victim feels intoxicated or “hung over” even though she hasn’t consumed any drugs or alcohol.
  • The victim feels that the effects of drinking alcohol are much stronger than usual.
  • The victim remembers having a drink or two, but cannot recall anything after that.
  • The victims wakes up to find that her clothes are torn or put on incorrectly.
  • The victim feels like she has had sex, but she cannot remember it.

Alchohol & Substance Abuse

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Phone: (520) 623-8192
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*National Tribal Trial College is a project of the Southwest Center for Law and Policy (www.swclap.org) This project was supported by Grant No. 2011-TA-AX-K045, awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.