Spiked on a dark night

Spiked on a dark night

A teenager is going out with friends to celebrate the end of exams. Slightly giddy with excitement about an evening out without parental chaperoning, she is feeling… adult. Giggly and already intoxicated by the fumes of this newfound sense of freedom and femininity, she reaches the bar/club as planned with pals.

Here she sticks to mocktails, dances with boys she knows from her college. Into this known circle of friends comes in someone who vaguely knows somebody else. The ‘someone’ sits next to her, starts a conversation. One minute she is chatting, the next she is slumped over. The ‘someone’ is seen by others cuddling the girl, who appears amiable. The guy leaves, the girl blacks out. Chances are her drink was spiked.

Plying a girl with alcohol or drugs, without her consent, is a criminal offence. And yet how many girls will stand up and say this happened to them? They cannot remember what happened with whom the next day! Websites are full of info on date-rape drugs. If the girl is lucky and in a public place she is exempted from full-on rape but her health - mental and physical, is compromised heavily. If she, in her fuddled state, drinks alcohol after this or is on some kind of medication from before, fatal coma comes next. In the 15-30 minutes that the drug kicks in and incapacitates her central nervous system, she looks uninhibited. Her limbs are lax and she is grinning. She is in the process of losing her powers of sight and hearing, hallucinating and slowly paralyzing. This is the time, if the would-be molester is organized, that he casually leaves the party with her in tow along with fellow-molesters. It would look like the girl is leaving with them of her own free will. They can take her anywhere, do whatever, and dump her anywhere in the next 12 hours. She is out cold for that long and won’t be able to identify anyone later.

This is not a “foreign” offence; it is very much an Indian one, a rising phenomenon in the many mushrooming city bars where the young go to feel “hot and happening”.
Awareness of this is low though, as everyone only talks about how ‘wasted’ the victim was that day, ignorant of the real criminal intent and execution behind this. There is peer pressure on others to admire the ‘wastage’ hugely and to look totally accepting of it and the attendant ‘looseness’ of the girl.

And just like eve-teasing or pedophile cases, the victim is left questioning herself; did I imagine it, did I start it? This muddled mind is exactly what the molester is counting on. That and the fact that very few girls will actually go to a hospital for blood tests and in the case of rapes, they cannot even remember  to report to the police!

One can only imagine the harrowing time an adolescent will have in a typical Indian hospital or police station following such a traumatic incident. The questions asked, the fingers pointed, the moral lectures straight off a black and white brain... It will all be about the length of her skirt.

How does one combat this bolt from the blue, this sip from a glass that was yours till it was tampered with?

Always get the drink straight from bartenders, hold your drink in your hand, never keep it down, get a lid for your glass or cover with hand while moving about. And stick with friends; at least the future gets less brutal as they will bundle you off somewhere safe rather than let you walk away into the night with total strangers.

Most date-rape drugs are odorless and tasteless, making it difficult for anyone to decipher it. You know you are a victim if you suddenly begin to lose your senses, the room dims and you feel nauseous. The rest you won’t remember but goes roughly like this: vomiting, slurred speech, no eye contact with anyone despite open eyes, inability to see, hear or feel a thing.

If you are lucky your loved ones, who are waiting right outside only to pick you up from the party, take you straight home. They have to physically carry you and think you passed out from alcohol. (Most probably the drug slipped into your drink is what veterinarians use to anesthetize horses or elephants; there is no telling how it can mess up body and mind.) Till you regain consciousness the next day they are clueless about what actually happened and think you willingly drank alcohol or drank more than you can handle. And if you do not know of the date-rape drug, you will aid the misunderstanding by mumbling apologies, totally fuddled about the previous evening, shamefaced and defensive about something that was not your fault.

Young girls, please note: no one is your friend. You are all alone. Yes, your parents love you and try their best to risk-proof your life but they belong to a different generation that fought different battles. Yes, buddies are fun to hang out with but they are not equipped to decode or defuse unsuspected dangers in social settings. Shrug off the shame – if this has unfortunately happened to you – and move on with a new alertness. Remember that the world is not a safe place. It never was.

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