Alcohol or Drug-facilitated Sexual Assault (ADFSA)
Please click on any of the subject headings below for information about alcohol and drug-facilitated sexual assault.
How and Why Are These Substances (Mis)Used?
What Does Alcohol Have to Do With This?
Consent While Intoxicated
What Should I Do if I Think I’ve Been Drugged and Sexually Assaulted?
Alcohol or Drug-facilitated Sexual Assault (ADFSA) occurs when drugs or alcohol are used to compromise an individual's ability to consent to sexual activity. In addition, drugs and alcohol are often used in order to minimize the resistance and memory of the victim of a sexual assault.
Alcohol remains the most commonly used chemical in crimes of sexual assault, but there are also substances being used by perpetrators including: Rohypnol, GHB, GBL, etc. These drugs may come in any form, including powder, pill, tablet or liquid.
For a more detailed breakdown of substances used for sexual assault, please look at this PDF file.
Diminished capacity exists when an individual does not have the capacity to consent. Reasons for this inability to consent include, but are not limited to: sleeping, drugged, passed out, unconscious, mentally incapacitated, etc.
It is important to understand diminished capacity because oftentimes victims of sexual assault in these situations blame themselves because they drank, did drugs, etc. It is essential to emphasize that it is not his or her fault, that the aggressor is the one who took advantage of his or her diminished capacity. For more information about the role of alcohol and other drugs in diminished capacity, click here.
Sedating substances are used to enhance the effects of alcohol and/or other drugs and to diminish inhibitions. Some drug abusers reportedly use sedating substances to extend the effects of heroin and to diminish the after-effects of crack or cocaine. Unfortunately, these substances also have been misused to commit sexual assault by spiking victims’ beverages.
What are the Physical Effects of Sedating Substances?
Individuals may react differently to sedating substances depending on the dosage, their metabolism and sensitivity to the substance, and the presence of alcohol and/or other drugs. There are several telltale signs that an individual may be under the influence of a sedating substance. Possible effects include impaired judgment, disinhibition, dizziness and confusion. If an individual appears extremely intoxicated after consuming a nonalcoholic beverage, or only a small amount of alcohol, she or he may have unknowingly ingested one of a number of substances. Sedating substances can temporarily inhibit a person’s ability to remain awake and conscious. And someone who has been sedated may experience sudden or unexplained drowsiness and have trouble with motor coordination.
Brief periods of impaired memory also may result from the misuse of some sedating substances. This means that the person may not remember what happened while under the drug’s influence. Depending on the substance and the presence of alcohol and other drugs in the person’s system, more dangerous and sometimes life-threatening side effects may occur.
How can I Reduce my Risk of Being Drugged and Sexually Assaulted?
There are a number of precautions to take to reduce the risk of being drugged:
- Do not leave beverages unattended.
- Do not take any beverages, including alcohol, from someone you do not know well and trust.
- At a bar or club, accept drinks only from the bartender or server.
- At parties, do not accept open-container drinks from anyone.
- Be alert to the behavior of friends and ask them to watch out for you. Anyone extremely intoxicated after consuming only a small amount of alcohol may have been drugged.
Most importantly, whether you follow these tips or not, if someone sexually assaults you, it is not your fault. You are never to blame for someone else’s actions.
For centuries alcohol has been used to facilitate sexual assault. It is the substance most frequently associated with date rape, and the most easily accessible sedating substance. Alcohol can have tremendous sedating effects, leaving anyone vulnerable to assault. The physical effects of alcohol are similar to those of sedating drugs and include impaired judgment and motor coordination, disinhibition, dizziness, confusion and extreme drowsiness. If enough alcohol is consumed, an individual may fall unconscious or may not remember the details of what occurred. Here are some tips that may help reduce your risk of sexual assault in social situations where alcohol is served:
- Limit alcohol consumption so you are better able to assess your surroundings, especially if you are in a group setting or with someone you do not know well or trust.
- Be cautious about consuming different types of alcoholic beverages at one time. Mixing various types may accelerate the sedating effects.
- When drinking alcohol in social settings, make arrangements with a friend so that you leave together.
Q. Can the defendant’s own intoxication be asserted by a defendant in a rape trial to negate the requirement of intent?
A. No. Voluntary intoxication is never a defense against rape allegations. Jordan v. Commonwealth, 181 Va. 490; 25 S.E 2d 249 (1943) (“Voluntary drunkenness is not an excuse for crime or attempts to commit crime.”)
Q. Can intoxication of a complaining witness be used by a prosecutor to show that the defendant used the complaining witness’s “mental incapacity or physical helplessness” to engage in sexual intercourse without his or her consent?
A. Yes, but only when the evidence is sufficient enough to show that he or she was so intoxicated that she was “physically unable to communicate an unwillingness to act.” Otherwise, evidence of physical non-consent is necessary.
A victim’s intoxication is most relevant to try to show that the conditions of §18.2-61A(ii) have been satisfied (i.e. that the defendant exploited the mental incapacity or physical helplessness caused by the victim’s intoxication). “Mental incapacity” and “physical helplessness” are defined differently by statute. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-67.10 defines “mental incapacity” to mean “that condition of the complaining witness existing at the time of an offense under this article which prevents the complaining witness from understanding the nature or consequences of the sexual act involved in such offense and about which the accused knew or should have known.” Va. Code Ann. § 18. 2-67.10.3. “Physical helplessness” means “unconsciousness or any other condition existing at the time of an offense under this article which otherwise rendered the complaining witness physically unable to communicate an unwillingness to act and about which the accused knew or should have known.” Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-67.10.4.
Source: The Rape Crisis Advocacy Project (RCAP), Public Service Center, University of Virginia School of Law, 2005.
If you or a friend feel dizzy, confused or have other sudden explained symptoms after drinking a beverage, call a family member, friend, the police, a doctor or 911 for help getting to a hospital. If you think you have been victimized:
- Get to a safe place and ask for help. You can call Sexual Assault Services, your local rape crisis center or 800-656-HOPE (toll-free) for information or support. Sexual Assault Services can assist you in getting the medical and legal help you need.
- Seek medical help immediately.
- Go to a hospital, clinic or private doctor for treatment of external and/or internal injuries, tests for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, and support services.
- Describe any and all symptoms fully to your physician or nurse.
- Consider making a police report.
- Do not shower, bathe, douche, change clothes or straighten up the area until medical and legal evidence is collected because these actions will destroy evidence.
- Try not to urinate prior to providing urine samples.
- If possible, find cups or glasses from which you drank and submit these to the police for laboratory tests.
Can I Prove I’ve Been Drugged?
If you think you have been drugged, ask the hospital emergency room or Student Health Services to take a urine sample as soon as possible. Most substances can be detected through appropriate drug testing. The findings of such tests can provide valuable evidence in a court of law if you wish to prosecute the case, but it is important that the sample be handled according to proper legal procedures. Sexual Assault Services can assist with your medical and legal needs.
Where Can I go for Help?
There are a number of resources you can go to for help if you suspect that you have been drugged and sexually assaulted, or if you feel anyone you know may be abusing drugs.
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): 301-443-1124
Sexual Assault Services 24-hour cell phone
Non-Emergency: 703-993-2810 | Emergency: 911