Dear Dr Laura,
I was raped at a sex party last month in a houseshare in my university town. I’m 23. I’m not massively experienced with drugs and it was only the third time I had tried G. I didn’t want to have sex with the guys; they were all older than me and quite big frames and muscles, not my types at all. I tried to shout out and to stop it, but I didn’t seem to make any sense when I was speaking. About four guys overcame me and basically fucked me multiple times whilst I was off my head on GHB. I was both conscious and unconscious during it, and although I tried to leave they simply didn’t let me. My friend Mark took me home. He hadn’t realised what had happened and feels bad about that but also says I should report it. I haven’t even been to my sexual clinic yet? I’m all messed up inside and just feel really dirty, pathetic and weak to have allowed it to happen. Can you help please Dr Laura?
I am so sorry to hear what happened to you; this is unequivocally rape, you were forced to have sex you didn’t consent to, and a very traumatic thing to have experienced. Chems, like anything that can affect you consciousness or ability to make a decision (including alcohol), can blur the boundaries of consent and there have been several court cases related to consent and chems use. Data from Manchester shows that 40% of men attending a chem sex service reported non-consensual sex but most did not know that penetration while unconscious is a crime. However, there are no blurred boundaries here – you didn’t want to have sex, you tried to stop the sex. The fact you were unable to, does not make you pathetic or weak – how could anybody, especially under the influence of drugs, be able to overcome four men?
You are not dirty. It is not dirty to enjoy sex, it is not dirty to attend sex parties – sex is a normal part of a healthy life and sex parties can be part of that if that’s your choice. The issue here is that what happened was not your choice, it was forced upon you.
Even if you had not shouted and tried to stop the sex, the law is clear: consenting to sex means you’ve agreed, by choice, and have the freedom and capacity to make that choice. Alcohol and drugs (including chems) can affect your capacity to consent. If you are asleep or unconscious (as you were at times) you do not have capacity. If you do consent to sex you can change your mind, just because you are at a sex party that does not mean you consent to sex, even if you’ve started having sex. Consenting to one type of sex does not mean consent to all types. Being pressurised or blackmailed into sex are wrong. Consenting once does not mean you consent on other occasions.
I agree with your friend that you should report this but would suggest the first stop should be a sexual health service. I’m not sure when this happened if you are HIV-negative and not taking HIV PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), you would be offered PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis, 3 anti-HIV drugs for a month) if you attended within 72 hours. A sexual health service can offer you the appropriate tests for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV, hepatitis C and, unless you are immune hepatitis B – again, depending on the time frame, unless you have symptoms they may advise waiting to do some of the tests. Importantly, a sexual health service can listen to what happened and give you advice about reporting to the police or contacting specialist organisations who deal with sexual assault and rape. Counselling can be beneficial after an experience like this and, again, sexual health services can advise you. They can also offer support, or direct you to someone again, regarding safe drug use if you wish.
Some organisations that can help (all have good websites/support lines) include:
- The LGBT Foundation
- The Havens
56 Dean Street have some useful information and links on their website including this leaflet from Galop, SurvivorsUK and London Friend: dean.st/wp-content/uploads/sites/11/2016/04/Consent-and-Chemsex-Advice.pdf
GHB, also known as G, stands for gammahydroxybutrate; it’s a sedative so can make it one of the main drugs associated with ‘chem sex’ and usually sold as a clear liquid. G is illegal and you can read more about the law here: – see talktofrank.com/drug/ghb. The strength can vary so take small amounts (0.5-1.5 mL measured with a syringe, less if you are on the HIV drugs ritonavir or cobicistat) and wait 1-2 hours for the effect to kick in before you take more. You should avoid alcohol as this increases the risk of passing out; symptoms of overdose include dizziness, vomiting and confusion. If someone passes out on G, put them in the recovery position and, unless you’re in a place with a first aid area, the safest thing to do is call an ambulance. If you decide to use G again follow this advice (the London Friend website has more good tips) to reduce your risk of passing out.
In terms of sex on G, Galop advises to set boundaries in advance (ideally telling a friend who can keep an eye out for you) and remember that you can say NO at any point – anyone who ignores your wishes is breaking the law.
So, in summary, please go to your local sexual health clinic for advice. You are not weak, and have already found the strength to share what happened to you, so use your strength to get some expert advice and support.
(Photo posed by model)