Blair Weyer: Guest opinion
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Are you wondering what to do with your new understanding and knowledge of drug-facilitated sexual assault? If you have been following this series of articles, you likely have a good understanding of what drug-facilitated sexual assault is, how perpetrators target and carry out an assault, the challenges faced by victims and the resources available in our community to assist victims.
So now what? How do we take this information and translate it into actions that will help prevent future sexual assault, whether against you or another? Once again, it is important to embrace the fact that preventing drug-facilitated sexual assault is both a personal and community responsibility.
From a personal standpoint, there is a multitude of precautions an individual can take to protect themselves. The practices everyone, especially women, all have heard at some point include not accepting drinks from strangers, keeping your drink with you at all times and staying in groups. These are great recommendations, but what about the opportunistic predators who take advantage of someone who becomes incapacitated willingly? There is no way to avoid the fact that alcohol, often consumed willingly, is the No. 1 drug used to facilitate sexual assault.
Monitoring alcohol consumption, consuming food and staying hydrated all help curb blood-alcohol concentration. Most people will experience impaired speech, motor skills, decision-making and memory around a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.10. The average person can metabolize approximately one standard drink per hour, a number that varies greatly based on gender, weight and tolerance. Mixing prescription and/or recreational drugs with alcohol adds a whole new dimension to the effects of alcohol. Mixing these substances can result in undesirable side effects such as blackouts, confusion and extreme disorientation – even with light to moderate consumption. Common-cold medicines, antidepressants, sleep aids and many other medications have the ability to create these effects.
Although sexual assault is a crime that occurs between individuals, it takes the climate of a community in order to thrive or not. American culture has led people to believe that it is inappropriate to intervene in the personal lives of others. The scientific community even has identified this phenomenon as the bystander effect, which proves that people are less likely to speak up against something they view as wrong or inappropriate when they are in a group. Ask yourself this: If you were alone and witnessed someone breaking into your neighbor’s house, would you call the police? What if you were out for drinks with a group of friends and witnessed someone scoping out and preying upon a vulnerable individual at the bar? How likely would you be to say something to management, your friends, or even that individual about your concern?
It is important that, as a community, we hold one another to the standards necessary to prevent sexual assault. Prevention efforts, in order to be most successful, are not only the responsibility of potential victims but of an entire community. If we simply teach individuals to prevent an assault, the perpetrator will merely find another individual to target. However, if we all send a message to perpetrators that their actions will not be tolerated, they no longer have a community in which to commit an assault. Every person in our community – bouncers, bartenders, servers, managers, visitors and residents alike – have the ability to shift how our community approaches this issue. Drug-facilitated sexual assault is not just a personal issue – it is a community issue.
The Aspen Police Department would like to encourage all questions and comments on this topic on our Facebook page. Please visit us at http://www.facebook.com/AspenPolice to become part of the conversation. The APD also reminds the public to call 911 or contact the department at 970-920-5400 to report an assault. You also can seek confidential assistance from RESPONSE by calling its 24-hour hotline at 970-925-7233.