Steubenville Police told the New York Times that too much time had elapsed since the alleged assault to test for drugs, “The police said the case was challenging partly because too much time had passed since the suspected rape. By then, the girl had taken at least one shower and might have washed away evidence, said McCafferty, the police chief. He added that it also was too late for toxicology tests to determine if she had been drugged.”
It’s true that prosecutors would rather have hard physical evidence like a rape kit done immediately after the assault (though we should pause to wonder why 400,000 rape kits are gathering dust in this country – never tested). And it’s also true that prosecutors prefer to have physical evidence like blood tests that prove positive for the date rape drug.
However, since rape is one of the most under-reported crimes and in the Steubenville case, the victim did not know she had been raped until her family discovered the pictures and tweets about their daughter, it might behoove prosecutors and police to get a little creative — that is, if they really want to make these charges stick.
Yes, Police might not have great DNA evidence, but they have witnesses who took pictures of these men sticking parts of their body into this unconscious girl. They have a tape where a member of the rape crew refers to her over and over again as the “dead girl”. Why is he calling her “dead girl”? Anyone? Could it be because her body responded like a dead person’s, or a person who had been deeply sedated, using a drug that originated as anethesia?
I understand that many of the investigators and prosecutors are not of the date rape drug age. I also presume that they have good intentions, but may not fully understand what this is all about. So, I want to help them out. I’ve been “roofied” (slang for being slipped GHB or Rohypnol), so I know for a fact that there is a very clear difference between being drunk and being roofied. Anyone who has lost the sensation in their body in a matter of minutes can tell you that it is a very distinct feeling. (Thankfully, I got out of the situation due to a friend who was also roofied, but whose higher body mass slowed down the reaction time of the drug long enough for him to get us out of danger.)
When roofied, you can’t feel your body anymore. It starts out with your legs being wobbly and weak, and then quickly you can’t feel your body. You feel as if you are dying, but you don’t care. If you realize, as I did, that something is very wrong, you become alarmed when you can’t form the words to tell your friends what’s going on. You pass out quickly, especially if you are a thin woman/girl.
Sure, it might sound like being very drunk, but getting drunk doesn’t separate you from control over your body to the point where you can’t make your arms or legs move or make you so numb that you won’t wake up when an object is forcibly inserted into your body. (I ask men reading this, do you think you’d wake up if someone was raping you, even if you were really, really drunk?)
Alcohol isn’t enough to keep a patient asleep during surgery. “Prior to the 1840s, doctors and dentists did not routinely use anesthesia when operating on patients… Although alcohol, opium or other botanicals sometimes helped alleviate the agony, most surgical patients remained conscious and endured excruciating pain.” So they invented anesthesia, some forms of which have now become “roofies”.
Science exists, so use it. Medical science knows when to use anesthesia and when not to, based on pain levels. Why not reverse that to make a case for if someone has been drugged or is “just drunk”. Did this level of pain wake them up, or not?
Assuming the police and prosecutors want to make these charges stick, they need to get serious about addressing the issue without the ideal physical evidence that is so rarely available in rape cases anyway — and even when available, is ignored and not processed because in this country, rape has been treated as the price of being a woman. Nearly one in five women have been sexually assaulted in this country. It’s not just women, either. One in 71 men (1.4%) have been raped.
Police might be astounded to learn (and sadly, I’m not being sarcastic) that while it used to be hard to test for roofies after 72 hours, there are “new” (2003) studies (prepared for the U.S. Department of Justice) that show you can detect roofies by testing the hair and urine of the victim for up to a month after the assault:
1) “Micro-plate enzyme immunoassay method allows to detect flunitrazepam and related compounds in urine at least up to 5 days after administration of a single dose of Rohypnol® (like in drug-facilitated sexual assault scenarios).”
2) Application of solid-phase extraction and highly sensitive gas chromatography – mass spectrometry with negative ion monitoring chemical ionization allows to detect 7- aminoflunitrazepam, flunitrazepam major metabolite, in urine 14 days after administration of a single dose of Rohypnol®.
3) The concentrations of 7-aminoflunitrazepam in hair are much higher than concentrations of the parent drug, flunitrazepam. The metabolite remains in hair for at least one month after administration of a single dose of Rohypnol®.
4) The new technology allows to detect the other compounds such as diazepam, alprazolam, triazolam, and ketamine in hair in very low concentrations.
Since Jane Doe came in three days after the assault, we should be all good here.
But we know better. The real secret? Rape tests and roofie tests are expensive and often sent out of state for testing. There’s confusion about what can be tested and how. It’s not just Stuebenville. Even when the inital rape kit is done, it often sits unprocessed.
There are ways to test for drugs. It’s a matter of resources and priorities. The real shame here is that not only in Steubenville, but all across America, we treat our vulnerable victims like they are the problem. Even when we care, we still don’t do what we could, and certainly not what we should.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.