Trigger warning: sexual assault, rape, roofies
Two weeks after his 21st birthday, in early Sept. of 2017, a Cal Poly senior who wishes to remain anonymous realized date rape drugs, often referred to as “roofies,” are not only a concern for women.
“It’s kind of almost a stereotype that, because I’m privileged to be male on this campus, that I don’t have to worry about those kinds of things. [That is] not the case,” he said. “That whole memory still, the image of that guy, I can’t get out of my head.”
The student was at Frog & Peach Pub with a group of friends when he was roofied. A stranger sat down next to him at the bar, which he said he found strange because the bar was otherwise empty. The man, who looked like he was in his late 20s, began talking to the student while the students’ friends were talking amongst themselves.
Their interaction quickly became physical, making him feel uncomfortable.
“He started to touch me, my shoulder and then he like grabbed my thigh and I was like, I said, ‘Hey man, I’m sorry, I’m not really about that,’ and at that moment I knew I should have gotten up and walked away,” he said. “But — there’s always a but — but my friend came over, the one I came with, and started talking to me about something and I made the mistake of swiveling in my chair, leaving my drink open on the bar. And that’s the last thing I remember.”
The student woke up in his bed with no recollection of what happened or how he got home. After throwing up and responding to his friend’s panicked “Where are you?” text messages, he went to The Center for Health and Prevention to be tested for rape or sexually transmitted diseases.
The center assured him that, based on tests, he had not been sexually assaulted or raped. He then ordered an at-home drug test, which tested for a number of date rape drugs and Gamma hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), often referred to as “liquid ecstasy.” He said he tested positive for GHB, which kicks in about 15 minutes after consumption and only requires very small doses to last three to four hours. High doses can cause unconsciousness and nausea, among other symptoms, according to the US Drug Test Centers.
According to the San Luis Obispo Police Department (SLOPD), there have been only four reports of roofies in 2018. Two victims were men, two were women and only one incident was said to have happened downtown.
However, instances of roofies often go unreported. This student, for example, chose not to report to the police because he could not obtain footage from Frog & Peach and said he felt his claim would be dismissed without video surveillance.
Another student, who wishes to remain anonymous, said her friend was drugged at a downtown bar. According to the woman, around late January of 2018, her male friend was roofied at SLO Brew. He said he began to feel weird after a stranger bought him a drink. When he brought it to his group’s attention, someone who had been previously roofied themselves told him to drink water and urinate into a cup.
The next morning, he delivered his urine sample to a drug testing center in San Luis Obispo and tested positive for another date rape drug, PCP.
PCP is a hallucinogenic, and similar to Ketamine — a commonly used date rape drug — it is considered a dissociative anesthetic. Dissociative anesthetics do not often render the consumer unconscious and instead distort their senses and put them in a state of confusion. They also cause loss of memory, according to the US Drug Test Centers.
According to the anonymous source, he did not report to the police because he was underaged and used a fake I.D. to enter the bar the night he was roofied.
He did not return Mustang News’ request for comment.
However, a senior who also wishes to remain anonymous and was allegedly roofied at SLO Brew Saturday, Oct. 27, felt inclined to report the incident to the police.
“I went to the [San Luis Obispo] police station the next [Tuesday] to file a report against what happened, just to kind of inform them in case this is part of an ongoing investigation — because I had heard from friends that it had been the fourth weekend in a row people had gotten roofied at SLO Brew,” she said.
Mustang News has not been able to confirm whether there have been multiple instances of people being roofied at SLO Brew. However, several sources told Mustang News they have heard of at least six other students who believed they were roofied in downtown San Luis Obispo from September 2018 to October 2018.
The student who reported her instance to the police said all she remembers of the night was having one drink before Ubering downtown with her friends, dressed up in a Halloween costume.
What began as a fun Halloween festivity ended in a concussion and seven cuts along her head.
“I know that a person of my size would not get blacked out from four shots,” she said. “I just completely don’t remember a single thing, and [the next day] I started to clue in, like, ‘Oh my God, I think I was roofied.'”
When she and her friends were at SLO Brew, she was given a drink she said she believes was spiked with a date rape drug. Neither she nor her friends remember who gave her the drink, but bank records show she did not purchase it herself.
After that drink, her friends described her as acting strange and easily agitated.
She told her friends she was going to the bathroom and was out of their sight for about 20 minutes. In that time, she had walked from SLO Brew to Mother’s Tavern, where her roommate was just across the street.
When she arrived at Mother’s Tavern, she could hardly stand or open her eyes and the bouncer refused to let her in. Her roommate immediately took her home.
“[When I woke up], there were gashes in the back of my head,” she said. “It felt like I had been kicked behind my neck. My entire back hurt. It was like the muscle part felt like . . . when you have a flu and it’s just like your entire body hurts. So I couldn’t figure out what was happening, and I was like, ‘This is not normal.’ I couldn’t remember the entire night.”
Her friends had not noticed the cuts the night before because she was wearing fake blood as a part of her costume, she said.
The following Monday, she went to the on-campus Health Center where she was told she had a severe concussion and metal fragments in her head.
She said she believes she fell in the 20 minutes she was alone. However, the doctor said she was likely hit on the head, given the alignment and severity of the cuts.
When she asked if she could be tested for roofies, however, the Health Center told her the drug would not still be in her system two days later, especially since the concussion had caused her to throw up many times. They also said even if she were to be tested, the Health Center can only test for the three most commonly used roofie drugs — Rohypnol, GHB and Ketamine, according to the US Drug Test Centers. The doctor, however, told her her symptoms described the “classic roofie.”
“Not knowing what happened kind of gives me a little peace of mind, because then I can be like, ‘Oh, maybe I did just fall.’ And nothing like [sexual assault] happened; that is a big relief.”
She reported the incident to the police the day after going to the Health Center. She said when her mother asked if the police could acquire security footage from the night, the police told her it would not likely help. She did not report the incident to SLO Brew.
According to University Spokesperson Matt Lazier, the Health Center is able to test urine for flunitrazepam, also known as Rohypnol, and GHB. The test must be ordered through a medical provider and would cost the student $204 or $87 depending on the test. The results take one week to obtain and could come back negative if the chemicals have already broken down by the time the test is taken. The Health Center could not accommodate for an interview.
According to US Drug Test Centers, there is a wide range of drugs that can be used as date rape drugs. However, basic date rape urine or hair drug tests include testing for GHB, Ketamine and Benzodiazepines, including Rohypnol.
Rohypnol, the namesake of “roofies,” is now illegal in the United States and the pill is made to change the color of any liquid it is dissolved in to. The drug usually kicks in 30 minutes after consumption and symptoms include trouble standing, slurred speech and going unconscious.
More comprehensive drug tests can test for all of the above in addition to a range of opioids, sedatives, over-the-counter drugs, hallucinogens and cannabinoids.
Most drugs are traceable for up to seven days after consumption. However, date rape drugs can leave a person’s system in 72 hours or less, according to the Health Center website.
In San Luis Obispo, Star Testing offers drug tests. And Respect. Inspire. Support. Empower. (RISE), the Center for Health and Prevention and SLOPD all offer Suspected Abuse Response Team (SART) exams. According to the San Luis Obispo County website, a comprehensive SART exam includes a medical history, description of the assault, head-to-toe assessment, photographic and forensic evidence, preventative sexually transmitted disease treatment and potential counseling.
The Center for Health and Prevention, RISE and Planned Parenthood also offer sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment.
SLOPD Officer Fred Michael said if anyone is roofied, it is important they report it to the police.
“We want [everyone] to know we’ll take a report no matter what,” Michael said. “We can begin a paper trail.”
He said to avoid the risk of being roofied, people should always tend to their drink, never accept drinks from strangers or even acquaintances and keep a hand on their drink at all times.
If someone thinks they have been roofied or sexually assaulted while under the influence of roofies, Safer — Cal Poly’s confidential sexual assault reporting resource — said it is important the survivor not blame themselves, according to Lazier. Safer and RISE offer counseling for sexual assault survivors.
Quinn Fish contributed to this story.
Given the sensitive nature of the topic, Mustang News allowed for sources to remain anonymous if they wished to do so. A previously named student was offered anonymity at the time of the interview and declined. The story has been updated to omit their name. Articles may be corrected or amended if it is determined the material upholds source rights and expectations. We appreciate all of the source’s input on this important topic.