Date rape drug reports rise, men often targets

It was a strange sort of pub-crawl. A dozen counsellors and volunteers gathered at the victim’s services building in downtown Whitehorse on a…

It was a strange sort of pub-crawl.

A dozen counsellors and volunteers gathered at the victim’s services building in downtown Whitehorse on a Friday evening in April for briefing.

Their mission: to spread the word.

The Yukon has been “inundated” by the date-rape drug, Sandra Bryce told the crew.

And victims are finding themselves “raped, robbed, rolled and beaten.”

Then, like a SWAT team, the group fanned out through each bar in Whitehorse, armed with information and stacks of colourful coasters.

Through each of the 11 establishments the team told bar patrons to watch their drinks.

If they found a beverage unattended, it was discretely covered with a coaster — a message to the imbiber that it could just as easily have been drugged.

But most importantly, the counsellors listened to people share their stories and experiences with the drug, said Bryce, manager of Yukon’s victim services and family violence prevention unit.

The counsellors and volunteers make the crawl three times a year.

Most of the bars accept and even welcome the invasion.

In fact, on that Friday there was only one Second Avenue bar that turned the group away.

The establishment told them not to bother coming because it didn’t get “busy” on Friday evenings.

On this trip out, the counsellors heard more people tell their stories than even before, Bryce said at the end of the night.

One woman’s daughter landed in the hospital over the weekend after having her drink spiked at a house party.

Another woman passed out in the bathroom after having a few drinks at a local bar.

Countless others had friends who believed they’d been drugged.

Although women are common targets, more and more men are reporting their experiences with the drug, said Bryce.

When approached by the counsellors most men cracked jokes.

“I wish someone would drug me,” said one.

“I don’t have to worry about that darlin’, who’d want to rape me,” said another with a laugh.

Others took the warnings more seriously.

One man, who asked to remain anonymous, told his story to the counsellors.

George, not his real name, had just finished his second drink of the night.

After a long hard day at work he was looking forward to unwinding with a few friends at a local bar.

George was on his way to the bathroom when he ordered his third beer and it was waiting for him when he came back to the table.

He downed it, and then he blacked out.

He woke up then next morning with a bad hangover and a bloody fist.

Bar staff told him they sent him home in a cab.

He doesn’t remember what happened that night, but he knows he never felt that bad after drinking three beers before.

George was lucky, said Bryce.

“A lot of times people will be followed into the bathroom and robbed or assaulted.”

George doesn’t believe he was robbed or assaulted.

But his story is becoming too common in the territory, said Bryce.

While bar patrons have seen the drug around Whitehorse, bar staff are a bit less sure.

“Supposedly,” said one bouncer at a downtown bar. “A lot of people use the drug as an excuse because they drank too much and don’t want to admit it.

“But I’m sure it’s in the Yukon,” he added.

“It’s not that kind of a bar,” said a server at another establishment.

There are a few common drugs used for spiking drinks.

Rohypnol, a.k.a. roofies, is a powerful sedative that can be prescribed as a sleeping pill in Europe.

The drug is tasteless, colourless and odourless.

GHB, or Gamma hydroxy butyrate, is basically made by combining floor stripper and drain cleaner.

It’s sometimes used as a rave drug, but also shows up in spiked drinks.

In small quantities it’s effects mimic intoxication, but in larger amounts, or when mixed with alcohol or other drugs, it causes deep sedation and can kill.

Often found in clear liquid form, the drug is very difficult to detect.

Kedamine, a cat tranquilizer, is also a popular rave drug that can show up unwanted in drinks.

It puts its victim in a frozen state for a brief period of time.

Other sedative drugs like Quaaludes and Valium also show up in drinks.

Then there are the homemade concoctions that could be lethal.

“The other drugs can be even more dangerous because we don’t know what’s in them,” said Bryce.

“There could be a variety of really toxic materials such as floor stripper, which we know is very dangerous.”

The chemicals immobilize their victims.

Some are used to take advantage of people sexually, some are used to rob people and some people just think it’s funny.

“A lot of people told us it happened to them because their friends thought it was funny — it’s like a trick,” said Bryce.

“But that’s a very dangerous trick,” she added.

Sometimes people don’t know that it’s happened to them until the next day, or the day after.

“They think it’s just a really serious hangover, or they’ve got the flu and it’s not until they feel better or they’re talking to friends that they find out what happened,” said Bryce.

And traces of the drugs leave the blood stream after eight hours and cannot be detected in urine after 12 hours.

It makes the drugs hard to track.

“A lot of women who have been given this don’t come to the hospital,” said Whitehorse General Hospital spokesperson Val Pike.

After going back through hospital records, Pike found one confirmed and two unconfirmed cases in 2006 and 2007.

The RCMP has had no recent reports of drugged drinks in the territory.

“I’m not saying that it hasn’t happened, but it hasn’t been reported to us,” said Cpl. Jamie McGowan, who works in drug and organized crime awareness with the Whitehorse detachment.

“It’s rare that people come forward with this type of stuff,” he said.

In the past, the RCMP has seized GHB in the Yukon.

But those seizures are “few and far between,” said McGowan.

Alcohol is often the most dangerous drug found in drinks at a bar.

“The most frequent thing that causes people to black out is excessive alcohol,” said McGowan.

“It remains the number-one drug used for assaults,” he said.

Meanwhile, the RCMP urges people who believe they’ve been drugged to report it to the police as soon as possible.

“If people don’t come forward then we have no way of knowing,” said McGowan.

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