In October of 2011, Bozeman and Gallatin County were awarded a three-year grant from the Department of Justice to improve community awareness, response, and services around domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. A number of projects have been started and personnel brought on board as part of the grant award, including the hiring of Megan Selheim as a Community Education Specialist.
Below, Ms. Selheim answers a few questions about an online survey on Incidents of Involuntary Drugging very recently created by the Bozeman Help Center and MSU's VOICE Center.
TBM: While it's tempting to open up the discussion to rehash the two well publicized rapes in Bozeman this spring, the apparent spike in sexual violence on Montana's campuses this year, the latest news out of Missoula involving UM Vice President Jim Foley's intention to punish a student who spoke out about being raped, even the War on Women currently evident in state and federal legislative branches across America... but what we really want today is to help you get the word out about your latest survey on Involuntary Drugging. Please elaborate on the specifics.
Selheim: Imagine waking up in a strange bed, groggy and disoriented. The last thing you remember was being out with your friends and having a couple of drinks. You have no idea how you got home and what/if anything happened. You begin to panic because no matter how hard you try, you can’t remember the last several hours, how you got where you are, and if anything happened to you during that time.
This scenario may sound like something out of a movie, but incidents like this happen frequently across the country, and as advocates we’ve been hearing a growing number of similar stories from our fellow Bozeman community members—men and women, ranging from teens to late adulthood—who feel they were involuntary drugged while out at either a bar or party.
Often, when people think of “roofies,” they connect it with sexual assault. And it's true that many sexual assaults are facilitated when perpetrators use drugs, alcohol, or both to incapacitate a victim. However, we've been hearing of more instances of people being drugged but not assaulted. Involuntarily drugging another person, even if no other crime occurs as a result, is illegal and is covered by Montana Code statute 45-9-101.
The drugs most commonly used to incapacitate a person are GHB, Rohypnol, and Ketamine. All three are listed under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, and in 1996 the Drug-Induced Rape Prevention and Punishment Act was modified to provide penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment and fines for persons who intend to commit a crime of violence (including sexual assault) by distributing a controlled substance to another person without their knowledge.
The Bozeman Help Center and MSU VOICE Center are the two community-based agencies who respond to sexual assault. When we started hearing more about roofies and about people being roofied but not assaulted, we sought a clearer picture as to what is actually happening in our community. For that reason, we created a short, anonymous survey to gauge incidences of involuntary drugging in Bozeman (link here to the Incidents of Involuntary Drugging survey). It seems right now that most people only report being drugged if they think something else happened as well, like a sexual assault. We're hoping to get more information about roofies in Bozeman, regardless of whether or not something else happened.
TBM: Just to be clear, the survey is open to anyone in the Bozeman area and anonymous, right?
Selheim: We’re asking people who think they have been drugged at any time while in Bozeman, to please fill out the survey. All responses are anonymous and confidential. Survey results are being gathered by the Bozeman Help Center in order to determine the extent of involuntary drugging in our community.
It's important to know that filling out this survey is not the same as making an official report of any kind. We're collecting information to help guide our efforts to address drugging issues in Bozeman. People are encouraged, in addition to filling out the survey, to contact the Help Center or the MSU VOICE Center to learn more about reporting options. Drugs used to incapacitate a person usually leave the body within hours of being administered. If you think you were drugged but tested negative for the presence of any of these drugs, that doesn't mean that it didn't happen.
TBM: Can you tell us about the demographics of the involuntarily drugged? It seems they're not what one would expect.
Selheim: We’ve heard numerous stories, third-hand, about couples and groups of people—men and women—who were out at a bar and experienced memory loss and felt disoriented after only having 1-2 drinks. We’ve also heard stories of people “coming-to” as they were out walking or riding their bikes somewhere other than their usual routes—without any knowledge or memory of leaving and even less knowledge of where they've been. These aren’t the typical stories we expect to hear; and with the higher frequency, the greater the need to collect and compile the information so we can develop appropriate community response and interventions.
TBM: Beyond Bozeman's Help Center and MSU's VOICE Center, are you working with any other organizations, agencies or administrators on this?
Selheim: This survey is the first step in tackling the apparent rise in involuntary druggings. Community agencies with whom we have already worked and will continue to coordinate efforts include local law enforcement, Bozeman Deaconess ER, and MSU to identify and address this issue in our community.
TBM: How long is the survey open and what eventualities could be expected from the results?
Selheim: We're encouraging people to respond to the survey from now through the end of July, so that we may respond in a timely manner. But the survey will remain open indefinitely. Results will be compiled by staff members at the Bozeman Help Center and MSU VOICE Center and will be used to improve community awareness and develop effective intervention strategies. -TBM
Here is another link for the survey, Incidents of Involuntary Drugging.
And here are links to the Bozeman Help Center and MSU's VOICE Center.