Boston Herald

Date rape fears spike

Lawmaker wants hospitals to have test kits on hand

- By Chris Van Buskirk cvanbuskir­k@bostonhera­ld. com

Madeline LeBlanc, a UMass Lowell student who lives in Pembroke, said she believes her drink was spiked in August 2018.

“I was brought to the hospital where I was treated like a dumb, drunk teenage girl,” LeBlanc told a group of lawmakers on Tuesday. “They didn’t have any testing available to test me for date rape drugs. So since then, I have lived with not knowing if and what was placed into my drink that night.”

And during her first week in college in September 2019, LeBlanc said she was raped.

“I do believe that my drink was spiked by the monster who raped me, but I will never have proof because again, testing was not available, even with the rape kit,” she said. “There has been a lot of unknown with both of these traumatic events. I wonder what drugs were put into my drink and were they different drugs both times? I wonder how many people they have done this too.”

LeBlanc said she supports legislatio­n from state Sen. Paul Feeney that would require hospitals across the state to provide upon the request of a patient kits to test for the presence of drugs commonly used to spike drinks.

Feeney said the bill allows anyone to get tested at a hospital if they believe someone spiked their drink, a policy push that the Foxborough Democrat said is necessary to combat an “alarming” rise in drinkspiki­ng cases.

“Time and time again, we’ve seen warnings from law enforcemen­t officials to use the buddy system, cover your drink, make sure you’re not handing your drink over to anybody else, you’re leaving it unattended,” he said at a legislativ­e hearing Tuesday afternoon. “Yet, reports of these incidents persist.”

The bill earmarks money from the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Trust Fund to fund the developmen­t and implementa­tion of testing standards for patient-reported involuntar­y consumptio­n of drugs commonly used for drug-facilitate­d sexual assault, regardless if sexual assault occurred.

Money would also be used to establish a “traumabase­d empathy training program” for nurses examining patients who have reported the involuntar­y consumptio­n of drugs.

The proposal also requires the Department of Public Health to set up a “date rape drug response and interventi­on task force” to study how to best collect data on confirmed incidents of drink spiking.

Feeney said he heard from two Boston-area hospitals that changed their testing protocols after he filed his bill.

“I’m glad that they did that. But again, we shouldn’t have a patchwork of care for people that are expecting to get tested when they show up,” he said. “I’m happy those hospitals adapted but I think it’s important … that we do this across Massachuse­tts.”

The Boston Police Department received 116 reports of drink spiking last year and police issued an alert on the topic in lateApril 2023, urging people to make sure their drink is served directly from a bartender or server.

“Don’t allow people you don’t know or trust to order drinks and deliver them to you,” the department said in a statement.

Boston City Councilor Gabriela Coletta said many people who shared their drink-spiking stories with her have outlined how responsibl­e they were, how they only had one or two drinks, but how quickly their night changed for the worse without a reasonable explanatio­n.

“When they sought support from police or hospitals, they felt like there wasn’t sufficient resources, support or testing mechanisms in place,” Coletta said at the State House.

And Coletta said she also had a close call in college while at a nightclub.

The city councilor said she was hugging a friend with an empty plastic cup in her hand when she felt the weight of what seemed like a quarter drop inside of the cup. She said she looked down to see a “large white pill that would have made me sick had my cup not been empty at that moment.”

“But it was a surreal experience that I never fully recovered from,” she said.

Feeney is also the author of a successful amendment to the Senate’s fiscal 2024 budget that authorizes the bulk purchase of drink spiking test kits, which would be handed out to bars, restaurant­s, and other nightlife establishm­ents in Massachuse­tts.

LeBlanc said the person she suspected of spiking her drink in August 2018 was wearing an olive green shirt. The man who raped her in 2019, she said, wore a blue shirt.

“I wonder if the guy wearing an olive green shirt would have been held accountabl­e by the law for his heinous actions had there been testing available for date rape drugs,” she said. “I wonder if the guy wearing a blue shirt who took advantage of my body, left my neck stiff, bruising on my upper arm, my stomach scratched, my vagina sore and a life full of trauma would have been held accountabl­e by the law for his heinous actions had there been testing available.”

 ?? BARNSTABLE POLICE PHOTO ?? Law enforcemen­t in the Boston-area have been sounding the alarm about numerous people reporting they were roofied at local bars.
BARNSTABLE POLICE PHOTO Law enforcemen­t in the Boston-area have been sounding the alarm about numerous people reporting they were roofied at local bars.

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