Twice in the last four years, Lauren Tuck has had her drink spiked with a date-rape drug.
But she’s one of the lucky ones. Vigilant friends helped her to safety before anything terrible happened.
Now she’s gone public, urging people to be careful with their drinks when they are out partying.
“This has happened to me two times in four years and I’ve had friends around me protecting me and keeping me safe,” said Tuck, who resurrected the government’s Protect Yourself, Protect Your Drink campaign at Coasters bar on Thursday.
“It’s an awareness campaign, but it’s also to change behaviour—a drink in your hand isn’t always safe.”
Protecting victims is essential because catching drink-spikers is practically impossible.
The RCMP don’t have any figures on how often date-rape drugs are used and most of their information is anecdotal. It’s tricky because date-rape drugs, like Rohypnol and ketamine, aren’t illegal—they’re prescription drugs.
“I don’t think it assists victims of this crime to know the source of the drug or the kind of drug administered to them,” said Sgt. Blake Wawryk, head of the Yukon RCMP’s drug division.
“What’s important is that they protect themselves and, when they suspect something has happened, that they go to someone they trust, or to the hospital.”
Currently, there is just one person before the courts charged for using a date-rape drug, said Wawryk.
There’s a difference between someone who’s had a few drinks and someone who’s upping their buzz with something else, said bartender Jonas Smith, who manages Coasters.
But that doesn’t make date-rape perps easier to find.
“It’s obvious,” said Smith. “I can serve you all night and give you seven beers and four shooters, but all of a sudden you’re really screwed up? But who knows if they went and smoked a joint in the parking lot or they did some pills that just kicked in?”
Drugging incidents usually happen in batches, but that doesn’t help police.
“Some people do these drugs recreationally and then there are prescription drugs as well, so it’s not like a shipment rolls in and the underground phone network starts going, ‘It’s in.’”
Years ago at the Capital Hotel, several people returned to the bar over the course of a week complaining they thought they’d been drugged one night, said Smith.
“I checked the security camera footage and there was one particular individual that was around each one of the people who reported,” said Smith, adding that’s not much to build a case on.
“It’s a mess and it’s really hard to deal with.”
The scentless, colourless additives will make a victim nauseous, unco-ordinated and confused. Within a few minutes, the body could go completely limp.
Smith’s ex-wife was once drugged at the Capitol. She began to feel woozy and, no more than four minutes later, she had crashed in their apartment next door, he said.
Most encounters go unreported because it’s difficult to know for certain you’ve been drugged.
Last summer, during the Atlin Arts and Culture Music Festival, Tuck’s aggressor was able to slip a roofie into her drink even though she was holding it in her hand.
She must have held her glass on her side, said Tuck, imitating one of the gestures on the campaign posters.
“I can name 10 people who have had a date-rape drug happen to them,” said Tuck, who testified that it was after talking with a friend who suffered the same fate that she decided to do something about date rape.
Tuck initially went to the Women’s Directorate, but was told the Yukon Liquor Corporation had to be on board.
“(The liquor corporation) gave me $10,000 right away,” said Tuck, snapping her fingers.
With Tuck’s direction, Yukon College, Victim Services and the Women’s Directorate met several times this past year to resuscitate the campaign that ran in 2004 and 2008.
The $20,000 campaign has produced six posters, explanatory coasters and a phone line for victims.
The posters will be sent to every licensed operation in the territory.
One features people chatting in a cafe, another pictures a man standing with his thumb in his beer bottle.
Even soups have been targeted by date-rape drugs, said Justice Minister Marian Horne at the campaign opening.
“I suspect I know the person who gave it to me the first time, but that was four years ago,” said Tuck. “We can spend a lot of useless energy trying to find out who’s doing it, when what we can do is be responsible for our own behaviour.”
Tuck is the only person willing to publicize her experience for the sake of the campaign.
“I knew that if I didn’t do it, (the campaign) never would have happened.”
Contact James Munson at