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Rape guard coasters emerge on bar tops

March 27, 2019

With one of Teton County’s busiest winter weekends came the re-emergence of date rape drug prevention coasters on bar tops around town.

Teton County Victim Services handed out 2,200 of the drink coasters last week, a subtle way to remind barflies to keep an eye on their beverages. The World Championship Snowmobile Hill Climb is one of the busiest weekends every year, and heavy drinking tends to go along with the event, bartenders said.

“I’ve never seen someone get drugged,” Million Dollar Cowboy bartender A.W. Sikes said. “But we can’t be everywhere at once, which is another reason we have these out.”

The cardboard coasters feature a photo of a fruity cocktail and read, “What’s in your glass?” Directions on the coaster explain to put a drop of your drink where it reads “test.”

“The way they are designed they will test for GHB and ketamines,” Director of Victim Services Tracey Trefren said. “There are two spots on each one so you can test two different drinks.”

If the circle turns dark blue, the technology has detected drugs.

“We hope it’s raising awareness,” Trefren said. “Maybe it will make someone think, ‘Have I left my drink unattended?’”

Trefren said she doesn’t expect every bar customer to use the coasters, but she believes that if they start a conversation about safety they’re serving a purpose.

“It’s something both men and women need to be aware of,” she said. “It’s not just women who can be sexually assaulted.”

Last week a man called Jackson police after he thought he’d been drugged at the Silver Dollar Bar.

“He said he had only taken a few sips and then woke up at home,” Jackson police Lt. Roger Schultz said. “He said he goes there a lot but doesn’t get drunk. He only has one or two beers.”

The man was with friends but said he only had the one drink before he started feeling extremely intoxicated.

Two separate sexual assault reports last week also have police wondering if the victims were drugged.

The use of “date rape” drugs has been implicated in an increasing number of cases of sexual violence, according to the World Health Organization.

A WHO study showed the most commonly used date-rape drugs are flunitrazepam, also known as Rohypnol, and other benzodiazepines, ketamine, cocaine, methamphetamine and GHB, formally known as gamma hydroxybutyrate.

The drugs combined with alcohol often make victims unaware of an assault and unable to remember anything.

Most bartenders are trained to observe behaviors of customers.

“We always keep an eye on the drinks on the bar and we do our best to make sure no one is putting anything in anyone’s drinks,” Sikes said. “Or if I see someone’s attitude or demeanor change really quickly over one drink I am going to watch them closely and talk to our management about getting them home safe.”

Bouncers and door staffers at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar are also tasked with keeping an eye on patrons.

But crowds keep growing. The Cowboy, a popular nighttime spot for tourists and locals, recently had its second busiest night in the bar’s 82-year history, Sikes said.

Sikes said he’s seen customers use the date rape drug detection coasters, but it’s usually as a joke.

“People will use them as a gag and be like, ‘Ha ha, no one put any drugs in my drink,’” he said.

But even as a joke, Trefren said the coasters are getting people talking about the possibility of drugged drinks.

“It starts that conversation,” she said.

Victim Services provided the coasters to Local, Silver Dollar, Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, Pinky G’s, Sidewinders, The Virginian, Eleanor’s, The Rose, Cutty’s, StillWest, Hole Bowl and The Bird. This is the fourth year the organization has provided them during hill climb weekend.

There are extra coasters available for free to anyone at Town Hall, 150 E. Pearl Ave.