Metro police say alcohol is No. 1 date rape drug

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Metro Nashville Police Department’s Adult Sex Crime Unit is sounding the alarm about a concerning trend in sexual assault reports.

Lt. Virginia Carrigan is head of the unit.

“We looked at the reports that we were receiving. Some of the factors that seem to be similar were the social setting, where alcohol was involved, where there was some type of memory lapse. But there is a sexual assault, and the victim is trying to think back, or determine what happened,” she said. “Alcohol appears to be the number one date rape drug.”

According to Metro police’s publicly available data, there were more than 500 reports of forcible rape in 2017.

Lt. Carrigan told News 2 the perpetrator is rarely a stranger to the victim.

“Normally you know your perpetrator of sexual assault. It’s usually an acquaintance or someone you’ve met in a social setting,” she said.

Examples of social settings include restaurants, bars, nightclubs or house parties.

“Alcohol lessens your inhibitions, dulls your senses, and often times we make decisions we wouldn’t make if alcohol wasn’t involved,” Lt. Carrigan said.

She emphasized that even with alcohol involved the victim is not to blame.

“Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. No matter what circumstances it happens in. I talked a lot about the role of alcohol, that doesn’t diminish the fact that you were sexually assaulted.”

Lt. Carrigan offered advice on how people should protect themselves from becoming a victim.

“When you’re out in a social setting, it’s best to be in a group setting. It’s best to check in on your friends. When you come together as a group, I would advise you to leave as a group. If you’re going to use a taxi service or ride share service, I think it’s [safer] to travel in a group. And if at any time you feel uncomfortable in your ride home, just know that you can stop the ride and find another safe ride home.”

Lt. Carrigan noted that sexual assault is vastly underreported.

She said whether or not the victim is ready to report the crime, she recommends getting a sexual assault forensic exam within 96 hours of the crime if possible.

For those who are considering coming forward, no matter when the crime happened, she said, “The sex crimes unit is here to help you if you have the courage to come forward and report what happened.”

The Sex Crimes Unit can be reached at 615-862-7540.