A new twist on reporting suspected “date rape” druggings

If it’s true that many “date rape” druggings go unreported, what does it mean when allegations of such severe crimes go public in a new way? Asheville grappled with that complicated question this week, and the answers are still coming in.

The question was called by an Xpress reader, Kimberly Miller, who alerted us that two women had recently used the social-networking tool Twitter to say that they’d been surreptitiously drugged while drinking at two local bars and that they were alerting others to their experience. Miller cautioned that the reports were unconfirmed, and both of the women say they were not raped or otherwise abused, just drugged.

On Jan. 24, Xpress published a brief online report noting the information Miller had passed on — and cautioning that no one was suggesting that the bars’ staff had any role in the alleged druggings. In the aftermath of our report, more allegations and rumors of similar crimes appeared online in Twitter messages.

Some readers (and some Xpress staffers) debated the propriety of Twitter-reported drugging allegations, with questions including: Is it wise to repeat unconfirmed reports of such crimes? Is it unfair to name the bar where the alleged crime occurred, due to the potential risk to the establishment’s reputation? Do the recent Twitter messages about alleged druggings mean that there’s a spike in the use of so-called date-rape drugs? And is such self-reported crime information even useful, since it is unconfirmed?

During the discussion, some answers have emerged. Melissa Williams, the Asheville Police Department’s spokesperson, wrote via e-mail that “we haven’t had a ‘trend’” of reported date-rape druggings, and that, in fact, “it may be at least a year (or more) since any such crime was alleged or reported” to the department. She advised that anyone, male or female, who thinks they were drugged without their awareness, should call the police.

Asheville-based sexual-abuse-prevention group Our VOICE has been tracking the reports of drug-facilitated assaults it receives since February 2009. Since then, the organization has received an average of about one such report per month, according to Anna Sharratt, Our VOICE’s prevention, education and outreach coordinator.

Sharratt cautioned against putting much stock in those numbers. “Most victims of sexual violence, drug-facilitated or otherwise, do not report the crime to rape-crisis centers or law enforcement,” she said. “Estimates say that only 20 to 40 percent of victims of sexual assault ever report the crime to the police. We may assume that for every report we receive, there are several other victims who chose not to report.” Furthermore, she noted that date-rape drugs, which are often referred to as “roofies,” “diminish a victim’s ability to recall memories of the events that ensued after ingesting the drug,” and that “many people may not report because they are unsure of their own recollections.”

Sharratt urges anyone who suspects they’ve been drugged to report it in one or more ways. The options include:

1) Filing a report with the police or sheriff’s department, which might lead to a criminal case.

2) Filing a “blind report” through Our VOICE by calling 255-7576. “You may provide as much or little information about the incident as you wish, but you need not supply your name,” she explains. Our VOICE will then, in turn, pass that information to law enforcement.

3) Fully report the incident to Our VOICE, which will keep the report confidential if requested, and which offers counseling, case management and other support to victims. (Our VOICE also offers free trainings to local bars that want to ward off such attacks.)

As to the wisdom of using social-media tools to spread the word on alleged druggings, Sharratt had this to say: “This week’s flurry about date-rape drug incidents at local bars on Twitter has introduced a form of citizen reporting. While this method may prove useful, Our VOICE strongly recommends a formal report to Our VOICE and/or law-enforcement entities.”

Miller, who originally alerted Xpress to the drugging reports, added this message to the ongoing Twitter discussion: “Hoping my [Mountain Xpress] tip re: roofies isn’t causing a witch hunt or unnecessary panic but raising awareness.”

Jon Elliston, managing editor

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About Jon Elliston
An Asheville-based mountain journalist: Former Mountain Xpress managing editor. Investigations and open government editor at Carolina Public Press. Senior contributing editor at WNC magazine.

7 thoughts on “A new twist on reporting suspected “date rape” druggings

  1. Very glad to see this information in print. Anyone who enjoys “roofing” another person has some serious mental problems. I hope that it does raise awareness so that everyone will try and keep an eye out for suspicious activity in local clubs. We all (women and men) should remember to keep drinks in sight at all times.

  2. Trust me

    As Asheville becomes more and more of a “Beer City” with the help of media such as The Mountain Express and the tragic Tony Kiss of the CitiZEN-Times we can expect nothing more than an increased rate in such horrid things as an increase in “Date Rape Drugs”.
    This alledged “Beer Culture” brings with it the frat boy mentality, the stupid drunk straight people who should be home by the time the mall closes.
    YOU have created the atmosphere that brings nothing but Parrot-Headed Bullshit to downtown Asheville.
    Of course there is going to be an increase of women getting drugged, of course there is going to be in increase in anti-gay violence, of course downtown Asheville will no longer be a place where ANYONE can feel free to be whoever they want to be; because it will be overrun by these dumb as straight, white, heterosexual, date raping assholes.
    I know it sounds dumb, I know it sounds Pidgeon-holing but with this “Beer Culture” comes idiocracy.
    I hope downtown Asheville will be happy with the mess it has made.

  3. Wow

    Not for all the tea in china would I ‘trust you’ Mr. or Ms. ‘Trust me.’ You make A LOT of assumptions but mainly it looks like your emotions are far out of control to fairly provide logical reasoning. You have no problem pointing the finger and blaming others. In many, many years here and frequenting many bars, I have never witnessed this so-called “frat boy mentality” you infer. Yeah, what you wrote sounded sounded dumb. And immature.

  4. woman, 30s

    I’m glad to see this info in print. Emails and Facebook posts have been circulating all week also. As a result I learned of 3 friends that this had happened to. A business’ reputation may be at risk but they can react appropriately and protect their patrons. A woman’s safety is also at risk. It is important to note that many of these rumoured places are in neighborhoods and the patrons walk home at the end of their night. I encourage everyone to get this info out. Train the bartenders, train the staff, put the message on coasters…

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