SOU: Watch out for spiked drinks

Campus security has warned Southern Oregon University students to watch out for spiked drinks.

SOU Director of Campus Public Safety and Parking Fred Creek warned students last week through social media and a mass email that the school has “received several reports of drink-spiking at some of the local establishments” in Ashland.

“Stay vigilant, stay safe, Raider Fam!” Creek warned on Facebook.

Creek declined to say how many reports of drink-spiking — the act of adding drugs or alcohol to somebody’s drink without their permission — he’s fielded or at which “establishments” it’s taken place, but he said it’s a big enough problem to justify the campus-wide warning.

“Even if it’s just one, it’s (enough),” he said. “This is a good time of year for us to give out these kinds of reminders to people to take caution when they’re going out in public.”

In the Oct. 25 post, Creek advised anybody who suspects they’ve been victimized to call 911 or campus public safety at 541-552-6911. Effects of drink-spiking differ based on many factors — age, size and drug used among them — but common reactions include unconsciousness, decreased inhibitions, paralysis and memory loss.

Ashland police Chief Tighe O’Meara said no reports of drink-spiking have come in to APD in recent weeks, but he said the public’s heightened awareness can only help.

“It’s something that people, especially young people, young women, have to be aware of,” O’Meara said. “It does happen and it does happen in Ashland.

“You should not leave your drink unattended or drink it if it’s been out of your sight, or take a drink from somebody you don’t know. … All of these things can help increase your safety and minimize the chances of you being victimized. Because the only possible reason somebody would (spike your drink) is to follow that up with a sexual assault.”

Creek agreed.

“This is just as important as having a designated driver,” he said.

Susan Moen, executive director of the Jackson County Sexual Assault Response Team, noted that drinking a tainted beverage is not the only way somebody can be victimized at a bar.

Moen leads local training seminars that teach bartenders how to spot potential sexual predators and use “interruption techniques” to derail assaults before they occur.

A letter SART sends out informing bars about the free training lists some dire facts: One in four women assaulted in Oregon, including 90 percent of adult women, do not report the assault; more than 70 percent of the perpetrators are acquaintances of the victim; and false allegations are rare.

The list of restaurants and bars that have signed up for SART training includes Louie’s, The Black Sheep Pub & Restaurant, RedZone Sports Bar & Grill and Omar’s Fresh Seafood & Steaks.

“What we know is most sexual assaults are premeditated,” Moen said. “Perpetrators intentionally create vulnerability or take advantage of vulnerability. ... Some of the things we teach bartenders to spot is somebody who is intentionally trying to get someone else to drink more than they intend.”

Moen said SART teaches bartenders not to refill a drink unless the person attached to it requests it. When a bartender declines to refill a drink and cites the bar’s policy, Moen explains, that's called an interruption.

Moen said she tells bartenders they don’t need to be sure a customer has nefarious intentions in order to interrupt a potential situation. A bartender who trusts their instincts may prevent a sexual assault.

“What we’re teaching them is to spot behavior that could be something,” she said, “and then use non-confrontational ways of interrupting that behavior. And that might just be checking in or paying a little bit of extra attention to a dynamic that’s going on. Because if the perpetrator thinks somebody is paying attention, they’re probably going to move on.”

— Joe Zavala is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-821-0829 or Follow him on Twitter at @Joe_Zavala99.

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