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Can I report a rape if I was high on drugs at the time?

With chemsex-related sexual assaults on the rise, what are your rights if you find your 'party and play' session going wrong?

Can I report a rape if I was high on drugs at the time?
G O'Clock
The short film G O'Clock explores rape at chemsex parties

Yes, you can report a rape to the police if you were high at the time.

However, depending on your situation and location, there are many considerations to take into account before you do.

With sexual assaults and rapes in chemsex environments rising, and the recent Gay Star News chemsex survey showing how three in 10 who have engaged in chemsex telling us they have been sexually assaulted – knowing your rights is important.

As part of the Gay Star News chemsex series, our conversations with Galop, the UK’s LGBT+ anti-violence charity, HM Prison and Probation service and managers of sexual assault referral centers all point to rising cases of violent and complex cases of assaults.

More of these cases are expected. Added complications include live streaming, porn and blurred lines of consent in chemsex scenarios.

After speaking to these services we have put this article together to offer some initial advice on what to do if you think you are the victim of sexual assault.

However, this is just a starting point. You should always seek expert and personalized advice as well.

It focuses on UK laws and resources, so is most pertinent to those in the UK. However, it does contain takeaways for anyone across the world.

It’s important of course to remember that as laws around the world vary, on sexual assault, rape and sexuality itself. This will impact on the way you are treated. If you are unsure, always contact a local LGBTI organization for advice.

I’ve just been sexually assaulted, what should I do?

Catherine Bewley from Galop is very clear, after an assault you should ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you in danger now?
  • Do you need immediate help? 
  • Have you been injured?
  • Have you overdosed? 

If the answer to any of these is ‘yes’, seek out emergency help.

If you are in danger, call the police.

Bewley says ‘you always have the right, if you feel in immediate danger and feel frightened for your life, to get a phone and call 999’

If you are hurt or require emergency medical help and can get yourself there, you should go to an emergency room, A&E or urgent care center.

If you can’t get yourself there, you have the right to call an ambulance.

Where should I go?

If you don’t have urgent medical needs, where you go to ask for help is an important decision.

Different services will be better prepared for helping people with sexual assaults and rapes that have happened in ‘high and horny’ situations.

You can go to the police. However, Galop’s Catherine Bewley highlights that the best first port of call is a lesser known service.

In the UK this is the network of Sexual Assault Referral Centers or SARCs.

They offer help and services to victims and survivors of sexual assault regardless of whether they decide to report the offense to the police or not.

Catherine Bewley explains to GSN that these centers are designed to do everything a person needs in both the immediate and medium term for victims of sexual assault.

If you are in the UK, you can find your local SARC here.

Other options include:

  • Going directly to the police
  • Seeking help from Galop or a similar service aimed at helping survivors of rape and other sexual assaults
  • Sexual health clinics

But Bewley had this message when considering where to go:

‘We’ve had clients who’ve walked into a police station after being sexually assaulted and it hasn’t gone well. If they’ve been under the influence or have drugs on them, then the challenge increases.’

‘If you need immediate help go to A&E or the sexual assault referral centers [SARCs].’

Chemsex series about party and play high and horny promo gif

What happens when I go to report a rape?

If you chose the SARC route, the first thing that’s important to know is, you can’t just turn up.

You need to get a referral, which can be as simple as calling ahead to book an appointment.

The Havens in London, for example, have a 24-hour phone number for you to call and make appointments.

It can also be done through a sexual health clinic, a third party like Galop or through the police.

When you get to the SARC,  you’ll be seen by doctors and nurses who will:

  • Listen to you and take a history and account of the incident
  • Find out about any emergency incidents
  • Get examined for injuries
  • Take the forensic swabs that can later be used as evidence
  • If needed, you will be provided with HIV PEP, Hep B vaccinations and given guidance on getting STI checks
  • The doctors will perform a risk assessment on mental health and offer advice on managing the symptoms or you’ll receive a referral to more urgent mental health care if required

This call all be done anonymously, without any intention to take it forward as a criminal complaint. This is particularly useful if you are unsure about whether you want to report it to the police.

You can have important evidence and fresh memories gathered, that can be stored while you make decisions about what to do. This is important because as Bewly explains:

‘Evidence goes so quickly, particularly in a chems experience. They hold it while you decide what to do.’

‘They’ll ask, do you want to speak to a police officer? At this point, you can ask for or an anonymous appointment. Either way, a non-uniformed child abuse and sexual offenses case officer will speak to you. They will talk it all through with you – then it’s up to you after whether you report.’

Something important to keep in mind during your visit is; if you tell the SARC you work in a notifiable occupation, they will be obliged to tell your employer.

These are any jobs where you are in a position of trust. Whether that’s with children, national security, teachers, police officers, social workers.

If you work in one of these fields and still wish to report, you may want to and it is your right to remain anonymous when you go to a SARC. You also may want to seek independent advice from a sexual assault or LGBTI organization like Galop first.

Going to a SARC is not the only route. You can also contact the police, in the UK if it’s an emergency use 999, or if not you can use to ‘101’ service.

I’m afraid I’ll be arrested if I ask for help

When drugs are involved, the victim may be worried that they will be implicated for reporting the use of chems during the assault.

At the SARCs, you have the option of reporting anonymously.

It’s your right to have the evidence gathered and stored, so you can make a decision at a later date about whether you want to take it forward to the police.

When GSN spoke to the London network of SARCs, Havens, the advice from Clinical Lead Dr Rebecca Adlington was clear:

‘Come forward anonymously in the first instance. That way we can take the swabs and store them until they are sure about what they want to do with them.’

Adlington said this was important because a lot of people want to report assaults to prevent them happening to someone else. But won’t, because they fear the process that it will set in motion.

If you report the assault and submit evidence anonymously, it helps police gather data and DNA evidence that can feed into ongoing investigations.

If your anonymous data is cross-matched with any in ongoing investigations, you can be informed. This allows you the choice to then pursue the claim.

Dr Adlington highlighted how important this is to her as someone who helps run the service. As with other experts in the field, she tells GSN about how some sex offenders are now targeting chemsex environments. However, low reporting rates are making it difficult to catch these offenders.

‘Unless people come forward, we can’t help you keep your community safe. It’s difficult to put perpetrators behind bars.’

Chemsex series about party and play high and horny promo gif

If I was high at the time of the assault, will I be arrested?

When Gay Star News spoke to Stephen Morris at the HM Prison and Probation Service he made it very clear the police are in a difficult position with chemsex sexual assaults.

Though they can ignore the drug use and just focus on the sexual assault, in practice, this is not always the case.

‘Some [police] would ignore the [sex assault] victim aspect and go for the criminal [drugs] aspect,’ Morris says.

The Crown Prosecution Service has the same dilemma. Morris says some victims of sexual crime may find themselves as a witness against the abuser … but also on trial themselves in a separate drugs case. This is particularly worth considering if you use crystal meth, which is a class A drug

Simon Cordon, Service manager of Havens, the London SARC network, says they are working with the Police to change the way the way they approach this. But it is very much a work in progress:

‘What we know is the police are interested in the assault, and we’re trying to work with our police colleagues about managing the expectations of both victims and police.

This is something Catherine Bewley also reiterated. She says Galop hopes for further clarity from the police and CPS about the charging of victims of sexual assault for drug supply offenses.

The discussion on this has begun, which she says is ‘a welcome development because it is a massive barrier to reporting

Bewley also said it was important to highlight that you won’t be criminalized for taking drugs, you can only be arrested for possessing or supplying. However, she warns:

‘If you have a stash, and share it, that’s supply. And because sharing is part of the culture of chemsex it becomes a huge challenge.’

But consent is so blurred at chemsex parties?

Bewley’s work leads her to see accounts of sexual assaults on a daily basis. She says all she wants to create is a safe, confidential, information space that can help people.

‘I just don’t want people to suffer in silence. Remember the phrase silence = death from the AIDS campaigns? There is a parallel with that now.’

Bewly remembers her first chemsex assault client was six years ago. Since then reports have been rising. However, she says she doesn’t know whether there is more sexual assaults and rape is happening now.

‘I think now we’re just talking about it. Back then people were only talking about sexual health. Then we were too afraid to say assaults were happening.’

However, just as GSN reports during our chemsex series, she also sets out a new and worrying trend that is becoming more evident.

‘There are some people out there deliberately setting up scenarios where rape and sexual assaults can happen. With those scenarios, it would be good to get intelligence to the police.

‘But there are some scenarios where guys get confused about consent. No-one intends to go over those boundaries and they wake up and they think, I didn’t mean to do that or have regrets.

‘I think more gay men who sexually offend will get charged and sentenced. It’s right that it happens but it’s better to try to prevent rape and sexual assaults happening in the first place, so all of us need to start talking about this.

‘No-one has the right to hurt other people. We have fought hard for the right for to have the sex we want. But it is not about putting my rights over yours when it comes to sexual experiences. That’s not what we fought for, that’s not what the liberation was about.

‘I’m not setting out to make sex less hot, I have no moral judgment. Do what you want! It’s the consent that’s really important.

‘If you’re not sure if you have consent. Don’t do it.’

Looking for support? 

If you want more information about rape, sexual assault or any of the issues in this article you may want to try some of these organizations:

Globally we have also compiled a list of LGBTI friendly organizations you may wish to seek help from.

This article is part of the Gay Star News Chemsex Series. Read more stories, support and see the videos on our chemsex section.

More support articles from the Gay Star News Chemsex series:

What you need to know about the drugs gay men are using to chill out and have sex

What you can do if you think your drug use is problematic

Can sober sex ever actually be sexy?

 


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