Letter: Advocates concerned about rise in spiked drinks | SteamboatToday.com

Letter: Advocates concerned about rise in spiked drinks

Advocates of Routt County is sounding the alarm about a dangerous phenomenon currently impacting the safety of our community and our visitors. We have been fielding recurring stories of bar patrons being “roofied” (having their drinks drugged with debilitating intoxicants) throughout the summer, including very recently. So, for the sake of awareness and promoting safety, let’s candidly discuss the issue of DFSA, or “drug-facilitated sexual assault.”

As a tourist destination, our community is at a higher risk of DFSA impacting our local nightlife. Thousands of transient visitors that come through Steamboat create an opportunity for abusers to exploit. In the pre-COVID era, Advocates of Routt County conducted a local survey which revealed that 48% of respondents knew someone who has had their drink spiked with another drug without their knowledge. Also, 44% knew someone who had been sexually assaulted or were victimized themselves.

So, leaving aside the unknown number of victims who were only visiting and didn’t seek services locally, if the rates found by this survey are representative of the broader community, nearly half our population is being impacted by sexual violence (directly or indirectly), often with drugs involved.

Let’s be candid, “dosing” someone with intoxicants to sexually assault them is perhaps the most disgusting and cruel behavior there is. At some point, we must address the apathy among leaders of every venue that passively allows this predatory behavior to continue. Knowing that victimizations resulted from drugged drinks at their establishments and casually allowing this to occur unchecked is beyond irresponsible. Their unwillingness to take measures for keeping their customers and our community safe too often results in life-long trauma for victims we serve at Advocates and, ultimately, impacts our entire community.

Rather than avoiding the issue because it’s difficult or denying that this criminality even exists in our community, people across the service sector (and beyond) must take a stand to bluntly declare: “toxic behaviors won’t be tolerated here” and be ready to take action when faced with misconduct.

Not only are patrons more likely gravitate to establishments who proudly and publicly make their safety a priority — which is simply great for each business — collectively developing a reputation as a place that takes sexual misconduct seriously is one of the most effective prevention measures available for a tourist destination.

We at Advocates also strongly encourage all bars, restaurants, and venues to join the growing Good Night Out community as one powerful measure that owners and service workers can take to protect our local nightlife. Through an engaging, free presentation provided by professional advocates and local bar owners, participants in Good Night Out will be able to identify and safely respond to problem behaviors, so potential victims have a new, immediate line of defense. The broader effort among establishments who
take this training is about building our entire nightlife into a stronghold of safety by working together to prevent DFSA and predatory behaviors. Together we can take steps to ensure there isn’t one more victim of drug-facilitated sexual assault in our community. Ever.

For more information about DFSA or the Good Night Out program, please contact Graham Hackett via graham@advocatesrc.org

Graham Hackett
Advocates of Routt County

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