Sexual Assault and Substance Abuse

*Content Warning: Drug facilitated sexual assault*

Written by: Phoenix Brune

Sexual assault and substance abuse are heavily intertwined. This is because perpetrators may use substances as a dangerous tool to sexually assault others. Not only this, but after a traumatic event like sexual assault, survivors may utilize substance abuse as a coping mechanism. The social stigma surrounding both sexual assault and substance abuse can cause extreme difficulty throughout a survivors healing process leading to a lot of guilt and self blame. However, it is extremely important to note that even if survivor of sexual assault willingly drank alcohol or took drugs, the survivor is not at fault for being assaulted.

Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault

Drug-facilitated sexual assault is used to describe any sexual assault that occurs when the individual is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Drug facilitated sexual assault often happens with the use of “date rape drugs”. Date rape drugs are any type of drug used to rape or sexually assault another individual. Some common date rape drugs can include alcohol, gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), ketamine, rohypnol, and ecstasy. Many of these drugs are colorless, tasteless, and work quickly making it difficult for an individual to detect. Thus making these substances a dangerous tool for a perpetrator to use to assault someone. Some common side effects are dizziness, having problems talking or slurred speech, trouble moving or controlling your muscles, feeling nauseous or vomiting, sleepiness, confusion, trouble breathing, and passing out. Alcohol is the most common drug used in sexual assaults. Alcohol facilitated sexual assaults make up almost half of all sexual assaults.

With all of this in mind, it is important to note that substance use does not cause sexual assault, but rather shows that perpetrators often utilize substances as a dangerous tool to assault someone.

Increased chance of Substance Abuse

Substance abuse may occur after a traumatic event like sexual assault. Survivors of sexual assaults are left with trauma such as, PTSD, shock, flashbacks, intense emotions, and painful memories. Many sexual assaults go unreported due to societal and personal factors, leaving substance abuse as a coping mechanism. Some studies show that sexual assault survivors are 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol, 3.4 times more likely to use marijuana, 5.3 times more likely to use prescription drugs for non- medicinal purposes, 6.4 times more likely to use cocaine, and 10 times more likely to use drugs other than cocaine.

Seeking Help

When seeking treatment for both substance abuse and sexual assault, it is important to find a place that understands and incorporates both components into care. Effective treatment starts with the first step.

We here at SARC we hear you, we believe you, and we stand with you.


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