Victims Assistance

Sexual Violence: Alcohol, Other Drugs, and Sex

  Alcohol and other drugs can:

  • Inhibit clear thinking
  • Make talking and listening more difficult
  • Increase one's risk or vulnerability to sexual violence
  • Decrease an individual's ability to provide consent to sexual activity

Alcohol and other drugs are not the cause of sexual violence; aggression and power are at the root of it. However, alcohol and other drugs increase your vulnerability for sexual violence to occur because of the reasons listed above. Healthy sexual activity is based on clear, conscious verbal and nonverbal communication in which both parties assume sex will not take place until consent is given. Alcohol and other drugs cloud the ability of both parties to provide this form of communication. In many states, laws require that someone must be sober in order to give true consent. Also, being drunk or high is never a justification for sexual violence.

During unhealthy sexual activity, a person assumes "I have access to sex until my partner says no or pushes me away." Alcohol and other drugs can impede your ability to say no or physically resist and may result in unwanted sexual activity. During illegal sex, a person assumes "I have access to sex no matter what." Alcohol and other drugs are often used to avoid the possibility that an individual will resist sex, therefore making access to sex easy.

Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault

Alcohol is the most common substance used in sexual assault. However, certain drugs like Rohypnol, GHB (Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate), and Ketamine are sometimes mixed in drinks (alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages) and given to an individual without her/his knowledge. Most of these substances are tasteless, colorless, and odorless. They generate extreme drowsiness, sudden fatigue, confusion, and, in the case of Rohypnol, memory loss. Someone under the influence of alcohol or other drugs is at increased risk for sexual assault because of her/his inability to fight back.

  Ways to Stay Safe

  • At a party or bar, accept drinks only from a bartender/server; do not leave drinks unattended; and do not accept open container drinks from anyone
  • If you or a friend feel intoxicated or disoriented after only a few sips of your drink, go immediately to a safe place with someone you trust.
  • Make a pact with a friend that you will not leave each other. Make sure you keep an eye on each other all night.

Signs and/or Symptoms that a friend my need help

  • Frequent absenteeism due to medical problems or concerns about children
  • Does not feel confident making any decision without abuser
  • Has bruising patterns such as rings, fingerprints, or fists
  • Has new bruises on top of old bruises
  • Is secretive about home life
  • Makes excuses about abuser's behavior
  • Minimizes injury (victim's may say "It's not that bad..." or "It's just a scratch")
  • Volunteers explanation that is inconsistent with appearance of injury
  • Will not make appointment without abuser

Suggestions to Say to the Victim

  • "I am afraid for your safety."
  • "I am here for you when you are ready to leave."
  • "You do not deserve to be abused."

What You Can Do

  • Obtain literature about domestic violence to give to a person when he/she is away from the abuser.
  • Provide the victim with information about local shelter and services.
  • Realize that this is a very difficult time for the victim. They feel responsible, afraid, and ashamed.