It was a frightening story — and a fragment of a much larger and even more frightening reality. Recently, St. John’s actor Sara Tilley wrote on her Facebook account about being drugged during a fundraiser for a local arts group. Tilley experienced a range of symptoms as a result of having what was apparently a rape drug slipped into her drink at a club.
It made news around the city, with Tilley recounting her experience.
It was valuable coverage of a serious issue, but the discussion that Tilley’s story has brought
forward is startling. More and more people are discussing the fact that they have suffered similar druggings in the downtown — there are even people who have suffered aftereffects who only had water to drink, water that was apparently drugged.
A Memorial University professor told a Telegram editor that at least two young women in his class have told classmates they were drugged. Others have posted on Facebook and in other social media forums and comments sections about their experiences with the illegal abuse of such drugs.
The discussion isn’t that Sara Tilley was a victim of a unique incident — no, the discussion is about how many people either have been drugged or know someone else who has been attacked in this way. It is disturbing to see how frequent a problem this kind of assault has become in St. John’s.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary issued a news release warning people about the problem and offering the usual warnings: have friends watch your drinks when you are in the washroom; don’t leave beverages unattended; don’t accept drinks from strangers; make sure you see your drink from the time that it’s being poured to the point when it reaches your hand. It’s all good advice, but it’s also about making potential victims responsible for the actions of others.
Catching those who are drugging unsuspecting men and women — and yes, it’s happening to men as well — is admittedly a difficult process. The drugs metabolize quickly and blood tests have to be taken quickly even to establish that a drugging has taken place.
Often, the person who’s been given the drug is in no condition to make the decision to have a blood test.
And the attackers have ample opportunity to slip away in crowded downtown bars long before anyone knows what has happened.
What can we do about a problem much larger than it appears on the surface?
Well, perhaps the rest of us — those of us who recognize that drugging someone is despicable, craven behaviour — have to be on guard, not only for ourselves, but for everyone else.
Pay a little extra attention when you’re out enjoying yourself, and perhaps we can all work to catch the kind of lowlife who would essentially poison someone else for their own pleasure.
It can’t hurt for them to know we’re watching.