Group builds awareness of date rapes in Milwaukee’s bar scene


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Ayla Boyle remembers the clang of the pinball machine and its dizzying lights.

“Then it just draws a blank,” she said.

The night of June 14 — when Boyle, 22, believes she was drugged at a bar on Milwaukee’s E. Locust St. — she said she only recalls snapping into consciousness a handful of times, usually to images of falling to the ground.

Boyle said she woke up the next morning bruised and aching, but not hung over. Her phone was missing, along with any memories of the night after 8 p.m. She wasn’t sexually assaulted, but Boyle said she thinks it was the second time she was slipped the date-rape drug GHB.

Friends told her they spent the night chasing after her as she ran wild — as if she had drunk eight or nine beers, and not the four she had actually had.

The unsettling experience prompted Boyle to create a campaign called Date Rape Awareness Milwaukee. The initiative will provide an outlet for people who have had experiences with rape or druggings, she said, and help build awareness of what to look for when watching out for friends.

In the weeks since the campaign kicked off, it has attracted 50 active volunteers and raised $1,300.

Boyle said she plans to use those funds to provide to Milwaukee bars an infographic listing date rape drug symptoms and hospital contact information, along with drug test strips and employee sensitivity training. The initiative also plans monthly victim-survivor support meetings.

When Boyle wrote about her experience on Facebook, responses poured in from friends. One poster even commented that she had been hearing accounts of druggings at a bar in Riverwest once a month for about the past five months.

Aurora Health Care’s sexual assault treatment branch is the second busiest center of its kind in the country, serving 800 victims a year. Executive Director Maryann Clesceri said while drug-facilitated sexual assault has long been an issue, it hasn’t gotten any easier to tackle.

“It does happen quite often,” she said. “Things kind of ebb and flow… now, I think, it is coming back.”

In 2010, one of the most recent years with available data, Milwaukee County law enforcement agencies and advocacy groups reported more than 3,500 cases of sexual assault, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report from that year, the Burden of Sexual Violence in Wisconsin.

Boyle said the first time she was slipped GHB she was raped after losing all control of her body and memories in a way symptomatic of date rape drugs. Both experiences have been terrifying. she said.

“I was just really scared and really sore,” she said. “That was not me.”

The often odorless and tasteless drugs weaken and overwhelm victims with fatigue. They might have trouble standing or talking, experience blackouts peppered with moments of lucidity, or feel detachment from their bodies, surroundings and thoughts.

The crime often goes unreported because victims tend to have so few memories of the incident and the drugs quickly leave the body.

Lian Markovich, a DRAM organizer, said she frequently hears stories of drugs slipped into cups.

“There’s no data, you really hear it from friends and friends of friends,” she said.

But once people have the avenue to discuss date rape and drugging, they want to walk down it, said Cory Taylor, another Date Rape Awareness Milwaukee leader.

Taylor said he was raped eight years, when he rebuffed a co-worker at a house party and woke up to her sexually assaulting him.

When he reached out to his male friends, he said they brushed the incident off.

“The reaction was bizarre,” he said. “There’s a culture (that) no matter what, you want to have sex.”

At a Riverwest bike ride event that the campaign participated in earlier this summer, Boyle and Taylor said countless people approached them to share stories of drugging and sexual violations.

One 50-year-old man told the pair he believed he was drugged at Summerfest after he had one beer and was sent reeling in and out of consciousness. Another woman told them she suspected she had been roofied at a bar downtown, where she ended up unable to move or talk despite having kept a close eye on her drink. Neither was assaulted.

DRAM monthly survivor support sessions will be hosted by Heart Haus, an urban farm, bed and breakfast and community center in Riverwest. Heart Haus co-founder Ben Koller said he, too, has friends who have been drugged at local bars.

“We’re a culture that’s based on drinking,” he said. “But people deserve to feel safe.”

Source: http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/group-builds-awareness-of-date-rapes-in-milwaukees-bar-scene-b99554722z1-323541271.html


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