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May 16, 2008

Bar-pickup rape may be one of many, BRAVO warns

Man’s drink may have been drugged before assault

Columbus--A gay man was sexually assaulted just over two weeks ago after an evening in a bar, and community advocates are warning that it is not an isolated incident.

The Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization sent out a community alert last week warning people to be on the lookout for a white man in his mid-30s, about 6’1” with shaggy brown hair, weighing around 250-265 pounds.

He drives a late model grey or silver pickup truck, and is believed to target men in and around the city’s gay bars.

According to Gloria McCauley, the executive director of BRAVO, a “date rape” drug was most likely involved in the assault.

Substance like the club drug GHB and Rohypnol have been used to facilitate sexual assaults by making the victim more pliable to the perpetrator’s will. They  often cause amnesiac after-effects, leaving the survivor with little or no memory of the evening.

In this instance, McCauley says, the survivor was in a club, talking with someone he met there.

“There’s a good chance his drink was tampered with in the course of the evening,” she said, because “he remembers nothing until he woke up at home the next morning,” but knew he had been sexually assaulted.

“That’s fairly typical of a whole series of so-called date rape drugs, the victim will have little to no recollection of the event,” she said.

“This tends to go, unfortunately, in a series,” she continued. “Our ‘guesstimate’ is that when a perpetrator is out there, he’s not going to do it just once, which is why we issued the community alert, to remind everyone in the community to be conscious.”

“As we always say, keep your drink in your hand, keep your eye on your drink,” McCauley noted. “If you’re going to go somewhere with someone you’ve just met, let someone else know who you’re going with.”

That last report BRAVO got of a similar sexual assault was in the fall, but that does not necessarily mean it’s a different perpetrator, or that he has been inactive for the last few months. McCauley concurred that he could have been active elsewhere, or that other assaults were simply not reported.

“Unfortunately, sexual assault and rape are incredibly underreported, both to agencies such as ours or rape crisis centers, but also less often reported to law enforcement,” she said.

“All sexual assault survivors tend to underreport, but for men the barriers are just so much higher,” McCauley explained. “Society has a difficult time with the concept of a man being sexually assaulted and implies a lot of blame on a male victim that is higher than the repercussions that women are often up against.”

“In my view, it’s even more difficult for gay men because often society will say: Oh, you were asking for it, similar to the way that women are blamed,” she opined. “In the case of acquaintance rape, or date rape, that’s another series of barriers.”

“Our job is to try to educate the community about sexual assault and educate the community on the standard ways of keeping ourselves safe,” McCauley concluded.

For immediate response to a sexual assault, contact the police. In Columbus, survivors of sexual assault can also call the 24-hour rape hotline at 614-2677020, or BRAVO at 614-2947867.


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