National Indian Country Clearinghouse on Sexual Assault


Alcohol and drugs are frequently used by perpetrators to facilitate the commission of sexual assault crimes.


Ingestion of alcohol and/or substances prior to the commission of sexual assault crimes tends to “co-occur” with both the perpetrator and the victim.  It is not uncommon for perpetrators to ply their victims with alcohol and/or substances to make it easier for them to commit the crime of sexual assault.

The consumption of drugs and/or alcohol can:


    • conf1 Make it Harder for a Victim to Tell when a Situation could be Dangerous (e.g. that the perpetrator is physically isolating the victims from others, etc.)


    • conf1 Render a Potential Victim Unconscious


    • conf1 Enhance the Aggressiveness of a Perpetrator


    • conf1 Re-enforce Racist, Negative Stereotypes that can Result in Bias Against the Victim and Victim Blaming

    Many Perpetrators Attempt to Physically Isolate a Victim from Others Prior to the Commission of a Sexual Assault Crime.

    An intoxicated person may be at higher risk for sexual violence because she may not be able to discern any “signals” that the perpetrator is trying to separate and isolate her. 

    A person’s consumption of substances and/or alcohol is NEVER an excuse for sexual violence. An intoxicated victim can never give consent to any sexual contact.  Thus, any sexual contact that takes place when a victim is substantially impaired due to drug or alcohol consumption should be treated as a crime.

Victim advocates frequently recommend that American Indian/Alaska Native teens and women employ a “buddy system” when attending social events where alcohol or other similar substances will be present.  Under this strategy, two or more women agree to actively monitor each other’s whereabouts during the social event and to ensure that all of the “buddies” are safely returned to their homes at the end of the event. Having an extra pair of monitoring ears and eyes at a social event can make it more difficult for perpetrators to physically isolate victims and commit sexual assault crimes.
Perpetrators may also trick the victim into ingesting drugs or alcohol in order to commit acts of sexual violence.  “Date rape” drugs (including Rohypnol, GHB and Ketamine) cause the victim to lose consciousness and/or lose the ability to remember the assault.  Proving drug-assisted sexual assaults can be challenging. Many “date rape” and recreational drugs leave the victim’s system before the victim realizes that she has been sexually assaulted and may not be present in blood or urine samples taken during forensic examinations.


There following are some signs indicating that a victim may have been administered a “date rape” drug:


۞ The victim feels intoxicated or “hung over” even though she hasn’t consumed any drugs or alcohol.
۞ The victim feels that the effects of drinking alcohol are much stronger than usual.
۞ The victim remembers having a drink or two, but cannot recall anything after that.
۞ The victims wakes up to find that her clothes are torn or put on incorrectly.
۞ The victim feels like she has had sex, but she cannot remember it.



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Research indicates that seventy-five percent of all women in drug and alcohol centers report having been sexually abused and/or assaulted.  Thus, it is not surprising that some American Indian/Alaska Native victims of sexual violence may self-medicate with alcohol or substances. Victims may use drugs or alcohol in order to “numb” themselves and to cope with the unwanted symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Comprehensive victim services should include offering the victim the choice to access healing modalities (traditional and “Western”) to address the victim’s physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional adverse health consequences associated with the sexual violence. 


National Indian Country Clearinghouse on Sexual Assault, a project by the Southwest Center for Law and Policy © 2013

This project was supported by  Grant No. 2011-TA-AX-K045 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women. Points of view in this document are those of the author and do not necessary represent the official position of the U.S. Department of Justice. All rights reserved. | Privacy policy