INDIANAPOLIS — It started with a post on social media.
"I saw someone on Twitter talking about an experience they had in one of our local bars. I sent them a private message. That led me to connecting with several people who all had similar stories, leading to people who were my constituents," Councillor Kristin Jones said.
While Jones didn't describe in detail what those experiences were, they all revolved around women in different bars in Fountain Square and Fletcher Place, feeling like or knowing they were sexual assault victims. The assaults happening after the women were too intoxicated to give consent.
"All of these incidents went unreported. Many of them felt like it happened, it was over and there was nothing that could be done. That didn't sit well with me," Councillor Jones said. That's why Jones hosted a community conversation Monday night, inviting service industry workers to hear from experts on drug-facilitated sexual assault. Those experts included Katie Melnick, a Deputy Prosecutor & Supervisor of Special Victim’s Unit with the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office; Barb Bachmeier, a Forensic Nurse/Nurse Attorney, and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner at IU Health Methodist Center of Hope; Craig McCartt, Deputy Chief of Criminal Investigations with IMPD.
MORE INFO | DRUG-FACILITATED SEXUAL ASSAULT
Some of the big takeaways those experts presented revolved around the most used drug in drug-facilitated sexual assaults: alcohol. Many times, they said, the alcohol is voluntarily drank. After a person becomes intoxicated is when a predator will swoop in, often under the guise of hitting on them, providing them more drinks, or offering them assistance out of the bar. Those experts said that's when bartenders, security guards, etc. should step in.
"Bartenders and restaurants owners are kind of on the front lines of a lot of these issues and we want to make sure we're educated and we're in the know," Sharon Rickson, a bartender in Fountain Square, said. Rickson hopes those in the community see the commitment bar and restaurant employees are making to customer safety and comfort
"Its unfortunate people are coming forward with these experiences but the good thing to come out of this is the awareness. We can work to actively change and be a better supportive network and support our community members a little bit better," Rickson added.
The experts also said, roofies, commonly called date-rape drugs, aren't often used because they're not readily available in the United States.
Councillor Jones says she chose to invite service industry workers to Monday night's conversation on drug-facilitated sexual assault to create awareness and make people feel safe to go out as they please.
"Our bar owners and restaurants have been through so much because of COVID and I want our community to keep patronizing them and feel safe," Jones said.
The service industry workers at Monday's meeting say customer safety is a top priority. They're working on a plan to get out to all businesses in their neighborhoods that will create a uniform way of helping people who are in dangerous situations.