Aspen bartender on a ‘roofie’ crusade
ASPEN ” An Aspen bartender has launched a campaign to educate people about the increased likelihood that they could be drugged by a quick slip of the hand from a would-be sexual predator.
Graham Black, who bartends at Brunelleschi’s, has partnered with Women’s RESPONSE and the Aspen Police Department to raise awareness about the distribution of what’s commonly referred to as “roofies,” or date rape drugs.
Roofie is a slang term for a flunitrazepam tablet, which also is known as Rufinol. The drug is typically slipped into an unattended cocktail without the victim knowing it. The drug’s effects cause a person to become confused, drowsy and lose their memory.
Black, 26, and his friend, Samantha Jacobs, 23, are raising money to produce 27,000 cocktail napkins that read “Be Aware,” and will be distributed to local bars. The napkins also will have a sexual assault hotline number.
“It is a reminder while you are at the bars because that is when you need to be aware,” Black said.
Since the campaign was launched on Monday, Black said he has raised $400 toward his goal of $1,300, which is the cost of the napkins. Participating businesses thus far are the Aspen Jewel Box, Cache Cache, Brunelleschi’s and The Steak Pit, who have all contributed financially.
Black said he is looking for volunteers, cash donations, ideas and connections to further the cause.
The effort was spurred after one of his female friends was slipped a roofie at a local bar two weeks ago. She recalled having a beer and a half, and then doesn’t remember a thing. While she made it safely home with her roommate, there was a suspicious man following them.
“She woke up at 6 a.m. and thought it was 2 a.m.,” Black said. “She lost all memory of what happened.”
Black said his friend was afraid to report the incident to police, so he did. That’s when he asked if he could partner with authorities to raise public awareness. They held a brainstorming session with Peg McGavock, executive director of RESPONSE, a local nonprofit organization that aims to end violence by providing support and direct services to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Aspen Assistant Police Chief Linda Consuegra said date rape drug incidents aren’t always reported, especially since victims don’t realize they’ve been drugged until well after the fact.
And combined with alcohol, it can be a recipe for disaster.
Black said when he approached local business owners and bartenders, some reported to him that it’s happened to them before. Black himself has seen it happen while bartending.
He added that nightclubs in Aspen are likely places where females let down their guard and don’t watch their drinks with an eagle eye.
Jacobs said it’s a woman’s responsibility to watch out for herself and her friends.
“It’s stupid not to do something as a female,” she said. “It hits too close to home. I’m one person away from our friend and Aspen is too small of a town for this to happen, frankly.”
But as an international resort town, Aspen has plenty of outside influences and that can bleed into its nightlife.
“Here, there is a false sense of security,” Black said.
Sexual assaults in Aspen have made headlines in the past couple of weeks, with the most recent being a woman who was allegedly sexually assaulted by a Carbondale man at the Centennial apartments. He reportedly followed her off a late-night bus and assaulted her outside of her apartment. Police arrested him shortly after the incident and he is being held in Pitkin County Jail on numerous charges.
Consuegra said unfortunately it takes that kind of exposure for people to be aware of their susceptibility.
“We’re taking the opportunity to take advantage of the headlines and sexual assault falls under so many things that we should be educating the public about what it is,” she said, adding alcohol consumption is the No. 1 drug involved in 90 percent of rape incidents.
“It’s about staying in control … it’s easier said than done but you have to lay out guidelines for yourself,” she said, adding women shouldn’t walk home alone and have friends be looking out for one another while they are out.
Black said he will be attending Friday’s sexual assault seminar hosted by Aspen police in City Council chambers in the basement of City Hall. The seminar will be held at 6 p.m.
Representatives from the police department, RESPONSE, Aspen Counseling Center and the community will discuss Colorado’s sexual assault laws, safety tips for women, awareness information for men, resources for sexual assault victims, and more.
Consuegra said Aspen police are a resource that can be tapped into if anyone is suspicious of another person or feels uncomfortable. Police will even drive a woman home to ensure their safety ” all they have to do is call 920-5400.
“We’re here to help,” she said. “That’s our job.”
According to the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network website, most rapes ” 73 percent ” are committed by individuals known by the victim rather than strangers, and the incidents occur in familiar, social situations. In 2006, there were 272,350 reported sexual assaults in the United States, and authorities believe 60 percent of all sexual assaults go unreported to the police.
“I’m sure it happens all the time,” Jacobs said. “It needs to become a more acceptable thing to come forward.”
If anyone is interested in donating their time, money or other resources to Black’s cause, call him at (302) 233-2026.
“I am working on prevention,” he said. “I’ll take anything, there is no minimum … I understand the economy but if I can get people to give $10, $20, I will get that $1,300.”
Donations are being accepted at RESPONSE. For more information, call 920-5357.
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