Blair Weyer: Guest opinion
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
How did I get here? Where are my clothes? What happened last night? Could I have prevented this? Is this somehow my fault? Could I have been drugged? Who should I call? Should I report this to the police?
These are some of the questions that are likely to flood the mind of a victim of a drug-facilitated sexual assault. As discussed in last week’s editorial, even the voluntary consumption of alcohol and/or drugs does not make it OK for someone to be taken advantage of sexually. Our culture has the tendency to point the finger of blame at individuals who consume alcohol, dress in certain attire or express themselves in ways that are interpreted as sexual. None of these acts takes the place of consent, which is the most important distinction between “casual hookups” and sexual assault. It is important for all of us, including the victim of the assault, to recognize that sexual assault is never a victim’s fault.
The journey for a victim of drug-facilitated sexual assault can be confusing, challenging and emotionally difficult. From the outside looking in, it is easy to assume that individuals involved in this type of incident would be eager to report what happened to law enforcement and seek medical attention. This is not always the case. Extreme feelings of shame and guilt can plague victims of sexual assault, preventing them from reporting such cases. Some people also fear the medical costs associated with going to the emergency room or hospital.
Thankfully, the Roaring Fork Valley has a variety of services, many of which are confidential and free, available to assist victims of sexual assault.
RESPONSE is one such resource that is available to individuals by calling its 24-hour helpline at 970-925-7233. RESPONSE offers confidential, nonjudgmental advocacy services for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, assisting them with getting the care they need. This might be providing emotional support through individual counseling or a support group, helping a victim to access medical care, educating a person on what they have experienced and the choices that they have, helping an individual to navigate the systems of law enforcement and the courts and providing accompaniment with a client to the hospital, the police or court.
The Aspen Police Department is also equipped to assist individuals with documenting drug-facilitated sexual assault. The department will pay for an initial blood and urine sample to be tested by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. This test looks for commonly used drugs such as Rohypnol, GHB and Ketamine as well as alcohol and prescription and recreational drugs. The department’s priority in these cases is to investigate the sexual assault, not to charge people with drug offenses. It is important that individuals receive medical care and provide blood and urine samples as soon as possible following a potential drug-facilitated sexual assault. Some drugs used to facilitate sexual assault can leave the body in as little as four hours. The more frequently an individual urinates, the faster these drugs leave the system. Waiting even a few hours can mean the difference between an accurate test and loss of evidence. If you or someone you know believes they have been drugged, immediately call 911 or seek medical attention. Do not wait until the morning after if you can help it.
As with any case, the police department will handle these cases in a thorough and professional manner. Under Colorado state law, the name of a victim of sexual assault will not be released to the public. As a community that strives to create a safe environment for all who live in, work in and visit Aspen, the police department is seeking everyone’s help in preventing this type of crime. Please read the final editorial in this series on Feb. 7 in order to learn strategies that can be taken as a community to prevent drug-facilitated sexual assault.
The Aspen Police Department wants to remind the public to call 911 or contact police at 970-920-5400 to report an assault. You also can seek confidential assistance from RESPONSE by calling its 24-hour helpline at 970-925-7233. Aspen Police Department would like to encourage all questions and comments on this topic on its Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/AspenPolice.
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