Date rape drugs can be detected in the body only for a short time. You must act fast if you or someone you know has blacked out after a night out partying and you suspect sexual violence. In the following you will learn what to do.
- Call the emergency number 112.
- Call an emergency doctor immediately if the victim is unconscious or not responsive – the victim's life might be in danger.
- Check respiration and pulse. If necessary, place the person in the recovery position.
In case of respiratory or cardiac arrest, apply CPR until the emergency doctor arrives.
- If party drugs are mentioned when placing the emergency call, the police might come along. If the emergency doctor learns about a possible party drug consumption in person, s/he is strictly bound by medical confidentiality.
- In cases of physical violence: don't hesitate to call the police (110); they can arrange for an immediate examination at a hospital in order to gather evidence.
- You can call emergency numbers from your mobile phone even if you're out of credit.
- If you suspect foul play but don't (yet) want to report to the police, the Institute for Forensic Medicine of the Charité hospital (Institut für Rechtsmedizin der Charité) can, for a fee, test blood and urine for date rape drugs.
- Since these drugs can be traced in the body for only up to 12 hours after ingestion, it is advisable to keep urine in a clean container in the fridge in order to get it tested later.
Ask for support
This is an emergency – ask for help and support from someone you trust, a friend, a family member. Even if it's in the middle of the night, call someone.
It's important to have a person you trust by your side and to not be alone right now, whether you decide to go to the police or to the ER or not.
Securing evidence: what you can do
Date rape drugs are detectable in the body only for a short time. You need to act quickly if you want to have clarity and need evidence to file charges. The drugs are traceable in blood and urine for up to about twelve hours. You can do the following to secure evidence:
- Contact the police. If they have reason for suspicion, they will arrange for evidence to be collected.
- Go to the emergency room of the hospital and inform the medical staff of your suspicion. However, be aware that the hospital isn't legally obligated to collect blood and urine samples. It is also uncertain whether they will store these so that they may be used as evidence in court.
- Go directly to a forensic institute, such as the Charité Forensic Institute (Rechtsmedizin der Charité) in Berlin, to undergo toxicological exams. However, you'll have to cover the costs yourself if you don't want to press charges with the police.
- After the twelve hours have elapsed, there is still the option to determine the presence of date rape drugs via a costly and complicated hair analysis. The public prosecution authority may order such an analysis, otherwise you'll have to cover the costs yourself.
Gathering evidence after sexual assault
Evidence of sexual assault can be gathered at the Charité hospital's institute of legal medicine and forensic science (Gerichtsmedizin der Charité). A gynaecologist can also secure evidence.
- Even if it causes you discomfort or revulsion, you should not wash or shower before a medical examination, in order to preserve potential evidence. If you need to go to the bathroom before the examination, keep the urine in a clean, closed container.
- If you need to go to the bathroom before the medical exam, store the urine in a clean and closed container and keep it refrigerated.
- Don't wash clothes or textiles that may have been touched by the perpetrator in order to preserve potential DNA evidence and other traces. Torn clothes must also be preserved since they may indicate that physical violence was used to force you to have sexual intercourse. These items must therefore be carefully secured (ideally in a clean paper bag).
- If you know or suspect that the offender was in your apartment, don't move anything, so that potential traces such as fingerprints or hair can be secured.
- It may be very useful for future developments of the case to write down what you can remember about the circumstances and events as soon as possible. Potential witnesses should do the same.
At the police
If you want to press charges you have to contact the police. This might not be easy. The police will question you and try to reconstruct what happened.
You might be asked some uncomfortable questions regarding, for example, your alcohol or drug consumption.
It's best to inform the police as soon as possible so that they can proceed to an extensive and thorough preservation of evidence that can be used as evidence in court. You can contact the police by dialling 110, going to the nearest police station or directly contacting the criminal investigation department (department “Delikte am Menschen”). In Berlin this is the LKA, Fachkommissariat 13.
If you press charges with the police, the criminal investigation department will organise for you to be examined by a doctor. Blood and urine samples will be taken if the investigators believe that claims of foul play are substantiated. Physical injuries will be documented. Potential DNA evidence (semen or pubic hair for example) will also be saved as evidence. This is why you should wait until after the medical examination to wash or shower, even if it causes you discomfort or revulsion.
Your rights with the police
- Try not to go to the police on your own; go with someone you trust and who
supports you, and insist on keeping them with you during the hearing. However, this isn't possible if this person is a witness to the events.
- If you would prefer the hearing to be conducted by a female police officer, the police is obliged to try to accommodate your request.
- If some questions throw you off or seem strange to you, you can ask why they are being asked.
- If the questioning is getting to be too much or too uncomfortable for you, you have the right to interrupt or stop at any time. You can continue later or have another (female) police officer question you. You have the right to have your lawyer with you during the hearing.
- You can request breaks at any time if you feel exhausted.
- Only sign the transcript if it accurately reflects your statement. Correct any mistakes before signing it.
- If German is not your mother tongue, you have to right to have an interpreter. The transcript also must be translated before you sign it.
It takes courage to go to the police
Sexually abusing someone who is incapable of resistance is a crime. It's precisely the criminals who benefit form the victims' feelings of fear and shame. The more victims find the courage to come forward and go to the police, the greater the likelihood that and end will be put to the criminals' game. While it isn't easy and can be stressful to go report a rape under date rape drugs to the police directly after it happened, the sooner you contact the police the greater the likelihood of identifying and convicting the perpetrator.
Hurt or unconscious? Get medical help!
You should see an emergency doctor or go to the nearest emergency room immediately if you were unconscious or are hurt. The doctors there are bound to professional secrecy. Tell them that you suspect having been raped or abused under date rape drugs.
Examination and documentation
Ask for the injuries to be documented, for pap smears to be taken and for blood and urine to be tested for the substances used as date rape drugs. Be aware, however, that this is not a standard insurance benefit and will be done (or not) at your doctor's discretion.
Not all medical labs can test for the substances in question; the forensic medicine institute in charge should come in then. In Berlin this is the Charité Institute for Forensic Medicine ( Rechtsmedizin der Charité).
Again, it is important to not wash or shower before a medical exam and gathering of evidence.
Why a medical exam?
- Even if you don't go to an emergency room or are not sure if you want to press charges, you should see a gynaecologist within 24 hours in order to:tend to injuries
- get tested and treated for sexually transmitted diseases and sexually
- learn about the possibility of getting tested for HIV
- get a prescription for the morning after pill (emergency contraception) if
- be able to document traces and examination results which will be crucial
evidence should you decide to go to the police (this is however not a standard insurance benefit).
Off the rails
Being raped under date rape drugs or having that suspicion constitute exceptional circumstances and are extremely traumatising emotionally and physically. The state of shock often lasts far after you have recovered physically. Additionally, the uncertainty about what exactly happened is often distressing and exhausting.
You might feel completely off the rails. You might not feel like yourself, might feel insecure, anxious, abandoned and directionless. Some experience nightmares or trouble sleeping. Unfortunately, some friends and family may react inappropriately and show little sympathy and understanding, or they might expect you to get over it quickly.
Counselling centres can help
You can find help at counselling centres for women such as LARA and helplines for women (Frauennotrufe). The women who work there are trained in helping victims of rape with the psychological and emotional stress. Nobody will question your words here on principle. These centres and helplines know about date rape drugs and will offer you help and support in dealing with doctors, police and can put you in touch with a female lawyer.
If you feel like the police or other institutions are not taking you seriously or treating you in an inappropriate manner, organisations that help crime victims such as Weißer Ring can help you.