Drugging, rape list yet another black eye for Las Vegas resorts

Lu Torres is compiling a list, and trust me, it’s not a list Strip hotels want to be on. It’s a list of places where women believe they were drugged before being raped.

Torres, the executive director of the Rape Crisis Center, has a new form asking rape victims whether they thought it was a drug-facilitated rape and exactly where they were when they were drugged. She started tallying the sites Aug. 7 and has identified nine drug-facilitated rapes in the Las Vegas Valley.

No surprises here. All of the alleged drugging took place in Las Vegas hotels, except for one woman who couldn’t remember where she was assaulted. Six women said they didn’t remember what happened after they were drugged. Because date rape drugs are intended to erase short-term memory, their memory loss is natural.

So far, all of the victims who said they were raped were women between the ages of 20 and 27. The drugging, they alleged, occurred at the Hard Rock (2), Caesars Palace (2), Luxor, Mandalay Bay, Hooters Hotel and Arizona Charlie’s, the only off-Strip site.

Last year, out of 734 rapes reported to the crisis center, 110 involved drugging. So far this year, out of 502 rapes reported to the crisis center, 240 involved date rape drugs. So not only are the number of rapes increasing, but so is the use of date rape drugs, including alcohol.

But until now, no one had compiled a list of exactly where the women were when they suspect they were drugged.

Torres said 80 to 90 rapes a month are reported to the Rape Crisis Center, located on the West Charleston Campus of the College of Southern Nevada. (The hot line is 366-1640.) Because national statistics estimate that only 20 percent of women sexually assaulted report the crime, the real numbers are probably much higher.

Since January 2007, Torres has been compiling a lot of information, but this is the first time the rape victims are asked specifically about where the drugs may have been administered. Was it a pool? A club? A particular bar in a particular casino?

The early numbers show about 20 percent of the victims are from out of town and 80 percent are locals. In other words, these are your daughters, your sisters, your girlfriends and your friends being drugged and raped.

Torres’ main concern is rape, but she said date rape drugs also are being used against men and women to make it easier to rob them. Torres’ husband was slipped a date rape drug at a local golf club, she said, in what he believes was an attempted robbery.

There are many ways a drink can be altered. A pill tucked in someone’s hand can be quickly dropped over someone’s drink. A syringe can be used to drug a water bottle. A “special” bottle may already be drugged. It could be done by a bartender for a customer in anticipation of a big tip.

Torres loves Las Vegas and doesn’t want to see the clubs fail, “but I believe we should all have the right to feel safe in the clubs,” she said. “If the word gets out that Vegas is not a safe place to party, they’re not going to come here.”

Sexual assault is just one of the problems identified this year by the Gaming Control Board as systemic at some, but not all, Las Vegas nightclubs, lounges and topless pools. Regulators are concerned about problems that bring disrepute to Nevada’s gaming industry. Ripping off customers. Prostitution. Dumping customers. Serving minors. Assault. But clearly, rape is the most serious.

Torres hopes to nudge Las Vegas resorts into being more concerned about the problem by shining a light on where drug-related rapes are most prevalent. She plans to present the most up-to-date information at a seminar Sept. 16 sponsored by the Gaming Control Board to discuss with gaming companies some of the problems the board has raised.

“I would like to see the casinos work with us, to be more proactive about partying smart and partying safe,” Torres said.

Maybe some companies will dread the unwelcome publicity enough to take action.

After all, what resort wants to be on a list of Top 10 Places in Las Vegas Where You’re Most Likely to Get Drugged and Raped?

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison.

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