SANTA CRUZ -- Three reports of UC Santa Cruz female students being drugged at off-campus parties in the past week have UCSC and Santa Cruz Police urging caution.
The women reported their drinks may have been spiked with unknown drugs. At least one victim reported she had been sexually assaulted, said UCSC Police Chief Nader Oweis.
Drugged victims can feel unusually intoxicated, and in some cases lose consciousness, according to the police report.
The report urges people who think they may have been drugged to seek medical attention, file a police report and get support.
UCSC offers counseling, health and women's centers with resources for victims of sexual assault or drugging.
These types of cases often go unreported because victims feel guilt or shame, said Caitlin Stinneford, UCSC's sexual violence prevention educator. Drugs used in these types of cases often block memories from being formed, and it's common for people to not know what happened, she said.
"Sometimes not knowing what happened feels worse than knowing," Stinneford said. "There's a lot of shame around it and not knowing."
Victims don't need to know what happened in order to get support. They just need to feel like they need some help, she said. Stinneford said that drugging can happen to anybody, even men, and it's not the victim's fault.
"No matter how cautious we are, something can still happen, and that's nobody's fault," she said.
Stinneford said the stigma around sexual assault keeps people from talking, which can feel isolating for victims.
"My role wouldn't exist on campus if there weren't a need," she said. "Every campus needs people talking about this because unfortunately it happens everywhere."
Stephanie Milton, director of UCSC's Women's Center, said if victims don't feel comfortable talking to the police, they can go to the Student Health Outreach and Promotion center, Counseling and Psychological Services, or the women's center.
She also urged women who wake up feeling sore to go to a hospital and get a rape kit done. It's hard to do, but better safe than sorry, she said.
Milton said education on sexual assault and drugging needs to go further than advising women to watch their drinks.
"We need to be talking about what's going on at these bars and parties that's making perpetrators feel safer, bolder," said Milton. "At some point we need to say, where's the commitment to making Santa Cruz safe for everybody."
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