Over the last few weeks I have been learning about the disappearance of Lauren Spierer. Two years ago this June 3rd, the Indiana University sophomore vanished after a celebratory evening spent with friends and fellow students.
No one has heard from her since. Cristina Corbin’s report on her disappearance airs this weekend on the Fox News Channel. But first, I want you to consider something more general than this specific incident.
One of several ideas considered by investigators is that Lauren may have been slipped some form of “date rape” drug. The term “date rape” implies an acquaintance between the perpetrator of a rape, and the victim. Sometimes, the crime begins with a woman being drugged. A commonly used drug is Rohypnol, which you might know by one of its nicknames -- "Roofies," "Mexican Valium" and "Rope" are just a few.
So what does this so called “date rape” drug do? It is a sedative that might be legally prescribed by a doctor to treat insomnia.
Its impact on the human body can be dramatic. Like similar drugs -- Valium, Librium and Xanax -- Rohypnol's effects include sedation, muscle relaxation, reduction in anxiety, and amnesia.
It makes a person easy prey and it can prevent her from clearly remembering all or part of an assault. In clichéd language often used with regard to the crime of rape, it turns “he said, she said” into “he said, she can’t remember.”
What part of that sounds like a date?
Mark Twain once wrote “The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” It is with that thought in mind that I want you to consider the phrase “date rape.”
Words matter, and associating the rape of a drugged woman with “dating” is wrong. If a man takes a woman out and slips a drug in her drink in order to make her easy prey, the date ends there and the rape begins.
If a man puts a “Roofie” in his pocket and goes to a bar looking for a woman to rape, how is the drug different from a knife or gun or a length of rope that might also be used to facilitate the crime?
Rape should have no qualifiers. People don’t ask for it, and secretly slipping a drug into a woman’s drink while no one watches is the same as putting a gun to her back and saying, “don’t say a word, just walk out the door calmly.”
Because the purpose and end result are the same. Each scenario creates power (and powerlessness) and results in the same crime.
To paraphrase Mark Twain, the almost-right words aren’t good enough. They are dishonest. The word “date” suggests a willing occasion of companionability, even romance. It has no place aside the word rape.