The Scars Left by Date-Rape Drugs

I have a scar above my lip. It happened on my 25th Wedding Anniversary celebration trip at the beach. Excited, I got ready first and, to get out of the way of five adults and few bathrooms, I stepped across the road to hear some music and sip a cool drink in a glass I didn’t have to wash. I woke up eight hours later, in pain and feeling drugged. Fortunately, my worried husband found me before whoever slipped me a date rape drug had time to inflict his ill-intentions.

When each of my three daughters left for college, I preached early and often about the dangers of “pill slipping” and encouraged them to be careful. Never did I think I would bring back a scar for a souvenir after being slipped a date-rape drug. Today it serves as my daily reminder of the dangers of sexual assault, Alabama survivors’ indelible scars, and the need for a compassionate response for victims and strong accountability for perpetrators.

Our daughters and granddaughters are now returning to college campuses. My prayer is that fun times do not turn into horrible nightmares. I have seen that pain. I have offered a comforting shoulder to girls like Megan Rondini, whom I wish I had met before she took her own life when her rape trauma turned too excruciating to bear. When I worked at Vanderbilt University Hospital’s psychiatric unit as a Registered Nurse before going to law school, I cared for patients on suicide watch. Megan’s case was mishandled and those accountable must bear that scar.

According to the Department of Justice, female college students aged 18-24 are three times more likely than women in general to experience sexual violence. Women of this same age and who are not enrolled in college are four times more likely.

Half of all sexual assaults on college campuses occur in August, September, October and November. Most involve alcohol. Many involve a combination of alcohol and drugs that are slipped to the victim. Most assaults are never reported. When asked why, over 63% of students in a 2015 study by the Association of American Colleges, believed sexual assault would not be taken seriously by campus authorities. Without supportive services, some victims, like Megan, will turn to self-blame, some to self-medication, and some will try to block it out and live with the pain. Ninety-four percent of these women will experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Worse, 33% will contemplate suicide and 13% will attempt suicide. Megan was a beautiful University of Alabama co-ed who reported her assault immediately to authorities, who sought supportive services, and who failed to receive what she needed. Before there are more Megans, let’s come together to prevent violence and when we can’t, to support victims and punish their attackers.

I urge all Alabama universities to review their policies and practices in order to make their campuses safe places for victims to report assaults. Add SANE (sexual assault nurse examiners) to their student health facilities. I urge campus police and off campus law enforcement to carefully investigate and not rush to a ‘he said, she said’ case-closed conclusion.

Talk to your daughters. I know personally it can happen to anyone. Date rape drugs are especially cunning as they render the victim unable to fight back and unable to describe what happened to them. My husband found me wondering incoherently in a parking lot, unable to even recognize my mate of 25 years. Imagine trying to identify a random attacker. With date rape drugs becoming more common, I would like to work for reforms that change the way these cases are handled when the victim is drugged to the point of incapacitation for the purpose of sexual assault.

When I worked as the U.S. Attorney for Northern Alabama, I fought tirelessly to bring justice to people who took advantage of others, whether they were a corrupt elected official or a crazed abortion bomber. From my days as a nurse, it has been my mission to protect, defend and heal hurting people.

It is time to protect our daughters. I have a photo of three beautiful faces and one ugly scar to remind me of how the world can change in a single sip.


Alice Martin is the former United States Attorney for Northern Alabama (2001-2009) and former Chief Deputy Attorney General for Alabama (2015-2017). She is running for Alabama Attorney General.

Contact: Alice Martin