While this may be somewhat out of the ordinary for this blog, I feel that this is a very important subject to discuss. I’d like to take a moment to discuss the problem with date-rape drugs occurring in and around Moscow and to talk about how to protect one’s self. This weekend, I was drugged while dancing with some friends at a bar downtown. For the first time since moving here three years ago, I feel afraid to go out. I am scared for other women (and men) in our community and urge everyone to please be careful when going out drinking, be it at a party or at a bar, because even though, as feminists, we fight for the need not to have to be constantly vigilant, there are certain situations where we need to be.
Last Friday, I went out to the Moscow bars to celebrate a couple of friends’ visiting town and to help console another about her impending breakup. For the most part, it was as normal as a night out can be. No one, myself included, drank more than average or to the point of excess. We remained as a group, even after some people left or splintered off to go different places. Not once did I feel alone, unsafe, or in danger of any kind. But, after a few hours out, I made a mistake – I went to the bathroom and left my drink unattended on the table by which my friends were dancing. When I came back, I finished it and that’s where my memories end.
I have always felt incredibly safe in Moscow. This is the kind of town that it’s generally safe to walk home alone even after the sun has set. However, it’s easy to get caught up in the relative safety of our small town and get lazy. My mistake was leaving my drink alone, even with others I knew mere feet away. The consequence was ingesting a serious dose of Rohypnol (also known as rufinol, or roofies), completely blacking out, losing my ability to walk or communicate fully, and becoming violently and uncontrollably ill.
I got incredibly lucky. I was with a group of people who were willing and able to make sure I got back to a safe place, and a boyfriend willing to stay up all night cleaning up my mess, making sure that I kept breathing and woke up in a warm bed, and willing to explain what happened. Not everyone is afforded this. Rohypnol is called the date-rape drug for a reason, as its most common use is to incapacitate unsuspecting women (and men) to facilitate non-consensual sex. My experience has made me feel unsafe and uncomfortable, but beyond that it shouldn’t have any lasting effects. Yet, if this kind of thing is happening, as it clearly is, I implore you to please be careful when you go out.
Always keep your eye on your drink or have someone you truly trust do so when you can’t. Go out in groups with people you know and trust. Be wary of strangers who want to give you drinks and be careful of how much you ingest regardless. Alcohol, without the aid of other drugs or substances, can still lead to confusion, lack of coordination, memory loss, and poor judgment. Don’t drink too much or too fast, and never try to drive after drinking or accept a ride from someone who has.
The last thing I’m trying to do is fear monger. I honestly believe that most people have only the best of intentions when it comes to going out and having fun, but it is important to remember that small percent with ulterior motives. This definitely isn’t an issue that applies only to women – it can happen to anyone who, like me, makes the mistake of not paying enough attention at the wrong time. It is important to fight for gender equality and the right to personal safety, and, in a perfect world, we wouldn’t need to constantly be on alert. Still, I wouldn’t wish my experience on anyone.
Ladies and gentlemen, please watch your drinks. It’s a good habit to be in regardless and, on the off chance there is someone lurking about, you’ll save yourself a lot of fear, pain, and embarrassment.