Archive for January, 2011

What to Do If You’re Drugged

Juliet kidnaps Serena from a costume party on “Gossip Girl.” Photo: The CW.

I’ve received several emails asking how Juliet drugged Serena on “Gossip Girl.” The latest came last week, even though that “Gossip Girl” episode was over two months ago.

Some were from GG fans who were just curious. Others made me a little uneasy. As a neuroscience student, I will say that the way Juliet did it on “Gossip Girl” was pretty much impossible. It was pure television make-believe.*

Especially in view of some of the emails, however, I think you should know what to do if you suspect you’ve been given a date rape drug.

By the way, even guys can be victims. Predators sometimes use “date rape” drugs to rob people or harm them in other ways besides rape.

You Can Do Things

You might believe that if you’ve been drugged, there’s nothing you can do to protect yourself. That’s not necessarily true. If you’re still aware and in control of yourself, you can increase your chances of escaping safely.

And let’s keep things in perspective. It probably will never happen to you. You shouldn’t be afraid to go out and have fun. But it’s also good to be careful and be prepared.

It can happen at a club or a party. You leave your drink for a minute and then come back. Or someone brings you a drink. Fifteen or twenty minutes later, you start to feel weird. Some of the warning signs are:

  • You feel really tired or dizzy.
  • Your body feels numb, like it’s not there.
  • You feel emotionally detached like everything is a dream.
  • You feel very drunk, a lot more than you’d expect from the amount you drank.
  • You hear things with an echo like they’re far away.
  • You have trouble talking, standing, or walking.
  • You have trouble remembering things.

Someone put a date rape drug in your drink. It might be a guy you’re with, but often, it’s someone else. He’ll be watching you to see when the drug takes effect. When he thinks you’re disoriented and vulnerable, he’ll move in on you. He wants it to look like you just had too much to drink.

Prevention is Best

Of course, the safest thing is not to get drugged in the first place. To prevent it:

  • It’s common sense to use the buddy system when you go to a party or club. Go with friends so you can look out for each other.
  • Don’t leave your drink unwatched on the table or bar. It only takes a second for someone to drop something into it.
  • If a guy you’ve just met wants to get you a drink, go with him and watch while he gets it and gives it to you. Obviously, keep it casual. I admit that I’ve never done this, and it was stupid of me not to do it. From now on, I will.
  • Drink from bottles or cans when it’s an option. If you open them yourself, it’s even better.
  • If a drink tastes funny, don’t drink it. But don’t depend on being able to taste a drug.

If You Think You’ve Been Drugged

If you think you’ve been drugged, don’t wait until you’re sure. Then it might be too late. Here are some things to do:

  • Get to your friends or someone you can trust. Ask them to call 911 and take you to the hospital. Even if you can’t talk, they will see that you’re sick and that something is wrong. This is your best option, because your friends can protect you and the hospital can test you for date-rape drugs.
  • Call 911.
  • Scream “Did you put something in my drink?” Cry, vomit, make as much of a scene as you can. The guy who drugged you wants to get you out quietly. If you attract attention, he’s more likely to stay away from you.

If You Are a Victim

If you wake up in the morning feeling groggy, sick, and you can’t remember what you did, you might have been a victim. Date rape drugs interfere with your memory** of what happened and they disappear from your body within 24 hours. Don’t wait until you feel better. Go straight to the Health Center or the hospital to get tested.

And don’t spend a single second blaming yourself for what happened. You were the victim of a crime, just like a robbery or a shooting. Some lowlife used the most despicable and cowardly way there is to hurt you. Get help and, if possible, make sure that the lowlife goes to prison.

And remember: Prevention is best! Don’t be brave. Be careful.

* It also makes me uneasy that people think TV dramas are a source of valid medical information. But that’s a whole different blog post.

** More accurately, they block the formation of long-term memories.

Copyright 2011 by Rinth de Shadley.


I Was Berlusconi’s Love Toy

Silvio Berlusconi. Photo: Stefano Rellandini/Reuters.


And you were what?!

Silvio Berlusconi is the Prime Minister of Italy.

I was only kidding about the love toy part.

Lately, Berlusconi has been denounced because he seems to jump into bed with anything that’s female, even if it’s a minor. But in spite of his piggish and possibly illegal behavior, more than half of the Italian population still supports him. What’s going on?

What’s going on is that a lot of people still haven’t caught up with the 21st century. That doesn’t make them bad people, but it does mean that they might support bad things.

Besides being prime minister, Berlusconi owns about half of the television stations and news media in Italy. According to Chiara Volpato, a professor of social psychology at the University of Milan in Italy, that enables him to reinforce sexist viewpoints:

In Berlusconi’s media, women and minors are denigrated to a “decorative” role. This representation cements women’s subordinate position in Italian society.

As a result, the World Economic Forum’s 2010 report ranked Italy 74th in equality of women.

There’s a reason that I’ll never be anyone’s “decoration.” It’s not just that I have self-respect: that’s an effect, not the cause. The cause is that my society gives me freedom, rights, opportunities, and a status (mostly) equal to men. Women haven’t always had those things.

Let’s review human history. Up until fairly recently, societies were organized mainly by violence. People who were physically strongest, most aggressive, and most driven to dominate others were the ones who ended up running things. Unsurprisingly, they were mostly men. Not all men are like that, but more men are than women.

Violence still plays a role, let’s not have any illusions about that. But as civilization has developed, violence has gradually become less important than thinking, negotiation, and cooperation.

Men can throw a spear farther than we can. They can outrun us and overpower us physically. But when cooperation replaces violence, women become just as powerful as men, though in different ways. In general, we’re better at cooperation. We don’t care as much about “dominating” others. We just want to make sure that everyone is included and taken care of.

When civilization advances to that point, the old stereotypes and social roles begin to break down. Women are no longer forced into the roles of servant and plaything for men.

Berlusconi and other defenders of the old order are fighting to stop that evolution. But in the long run, they can’t succeed. Nobody wants to go back to living in caves: for one thing, you can’t get cell phone reception there.

Copyright 2011 by Rinth de Shadley.

Slightly Sad in Shadley

I was feeling happy earlier this evening, but now I’m a little depressed.

Maybe it’s hitting me that this is my last semester in Shadley. I’ve got exciting classes this spring, and one of them looks difficult. Those are the ones that make you stretch, grow, learn, and achieve things that you never thought you could do.

But I’m thinking, after May, that’s it. No more coffee at the Dirty. No more Skinner Green. No more Blanchard. Most of all, no more seeing my friends and teachers every day. I’ll miss that. They’re part of who I am. So is Shadley. Always will be.

I’ll come back for reunions and events of course, but I’ll also be busy with graduate education and life. Shadley will have to fit into that schedule.

Wait a second. That was all true earlier this evening when I felt happy. And I know from some of my neuroscience and psychology classes that highs alternate with lows. The reason I feel low now is that I was emotionally high before. I mean, I’m still sad that I’ll be leaving Shadley after graduation, but that’s not the important thing right now. Even the Bible says it:

Don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34)

The important thing right now is to enjoy this semester and make the most of it. To study. To spend time with my friends. To let my professors know how much I appreciate all the things they’ve taught me and how much they’ve encouraged me. To walk around campus and make a memory picture that I can take with me wherever I go.

I feel better now. This is going to be a great semester.

Copyright 2011 by Rinth de Shadley.

How Dr. King Changed the World

Dr. Martin Luther King. Photo: Francis Miller/LIFE.

Most of us know Dr. Martin Luther King only from books and videos. We know he was a great man and an inspirational leader.

But we might not know just how big a change he helped make in our society.

Today, people of all races go to school side by side. We work and live together. Our movies and music are racially diverse. We read books by Jane Austen and Ama Ata Aidoo. We might date someone of our own race or another race; it’s not even an issue. Even the idea of race, for which people have engaged in so much hatred and bloodshed, is now almost a relic of a bygone age. Except in some medical situations*, race just isn’t a useful concept.

Things weren’t always like that. When our parents were growing up, society was a lot different. The extent of the difference shows how much Dr. King achieved.

In The Words of Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. King’s widow describes the bigotry and mistreatment that people endured because of their race:

In 1954, the United States Supreme Court ruled that separate educational facilities for black and white children were unequal and unconstitutional. Further court decisions requiring school integration produced violent reactions in the South … All public facilities continued to be forcibly segregated. High taxes at the voting polling places prevented most blacks from being able to cast their ballots.

In Montgomery, some of the most degrading facets of segregation were the rules of the Montgomery City Bus Lines. Blacks were required to sit and stand at the rear of the buses, even if there were empty seats in the front section, which was reserved for whites. Furthermore, blacks had to pay their fares at the front of the bus, get off and walk to the rear to reboard through the back door.

All that because of someone’s skin color? Were those people crazy? Well, I guess that I shouldn’t judge. I’m just happy we don’t have insulting and hateful racial discrimination like that anymore. And it’s because of Dr. King’s fight for justice.

It wasn’t just his fight, of course. Dr. King led the movement, but thousands of people, black, white, Christian, Jewish, atheist, of every color and nationality and religion, followed him and fought beside him. To them, and to him, we owe the fact that we’ve grown up in a better, more rational, more compassionate, more equal society than the one only a few decades ago. It’s far from perfect, because racism and injustice still exist. But we’ve made great progress.

Let me share a few of Dr. King’s ideas:

  • “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”
  • “Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve … You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
  • “As long as there is poverty in the world, I can never be rich, even if I have a billion dollars.”
  • “We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.”

I really like that last one: “We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.”

Even those of us who live today, Dr. King, who live in the kinder society you helped create: even we remember you, honor you, and thank you for what you did.

* Some diseases such as high blood pressure are more common in certain races. Some drugs are more effective or less effective depending on a patient’s race.

Copyright 2011 by Rinth de Shadley.

Does Internet Bullying Outweigh Privacy?

Anonymously yours; or in my case, pseudonymously yours.

“Rinth” isn’t my real name, but it is my real nickname. “Shadley” is where I go to school, at least until I graduate in May. Don’t bother looking for it on a map: that’s a nickname, too. So “Rinth de Shadley” is my blogging name.

Using a nom de blog lets me write things that I might not write under my real name. I can write about political, moral, and religious issues without worrying that someone will bring them up in a job interview 10 years from now.

I can write frankly about things that have happened to me, such as surviving child sexual abuse, getting hypnotized on YouTube*, or getting much too drunk at a UMass party last year.

And I can write more or less safely, with minimum risk that some crazy Internet stalker will use my name to track me down and hurt me.

It’s not as if nobody knows who Rinth de Shadley is. A few other bloggers know. A couple family members know, though only one of them, thank goodness, reads the blog. Some of my close friends at school know, and one of my professors knows.

But even that many people knowing the secret can be a problem. I’ve kept silent about a couple of issues because my views might have gotten me me in trouble with my friends. So anonymity does have its advantages.

But it also has disadvantages. One of my uncles sent me an article from The New York Times about “Anonymity and the Dark Side of the Internet.”

The basic idea seems to be that some people abuse anonymity to spread false information, vicious rumors, and propaganda. According to Martha Nussbaum, a professor of law and philosophy at the University of Chicago, it

allows Internet bloggers “to create for themselves a shame-free zone in which they can inflict shame on others.” The power of the bloggers, she continues, “depends on their ability to insulate their Internet selves from responsibility in the real world, while ensuring real-world consequences” for those they injure.

There’s no denying her point. That kind of vicious behavior does occur. Anonymity also brings out the worst in some Internet users, letting them bully and harass people with little fear of being held accountable.

In a way, it touches on one of the oldest debates in philosophy: Is fear of punishment all that keeps us from doing bad things?

I would say it depends on the person. Some people are kind and good. If they do something anonymously, they express those qualities. Some other people are so mean or mixed up that, when there’s no fear of punishment or exposure, they just can’t hold themselves back. They attack, lie, bully, and spread vicious rumors.

So the real question is, what do you do in a situation like that? If you ban anonymity, you’re preventing a lot of bad, but also a lot of good.

Dr. Nussbaum is the editor of a new book called The Offensive Internet that focuses on the bad aspects. Most of the contributors to her book seem to believe in prohibiting or restricting Internet anonymity.

I realize that you can make a good argument for either side of the debate.

But as a semi-anonymous blogger who tries to write about good and useful topics, I’m in favor of being able to do it with a nom de blog. I would hate to give that up, and I hope that my readers would agree: both the ones who know my real name and the ones who don’t. 🙂

* I thought that the story of how I got hypnotized on YouTube had important information about Internet safety. However, I deleted it because it was getting too much pervy attention.

Copyright 2011 by Rinth de Shadley.

Busy with J-Term

Sorry that I haven’t blogged lately, but I’m back at school and busy with J-Term.

During January, we get to take classes that normally wouldn’t take, explore new ideas, and take day trips with our friends.

Tomorrow afternoon, I’ve got a class. Then a little dancing and Senior Pub Night. And this weekend it’s off to New York.

I hope that you’re having a great J-Term, too!

Geeking Out on New Year’s Morning

Do you know what my first thought was when I woke up on New Year’s morning 2011? Almost before I even opened my eyes?

“OMG. I graduate this year!”

Dread and sorrow about leaving behind the familiar, supportive environment of Shadley. Worry about losing touch with all my friends.

But also excitement about new things I will experience. About the important things I will learn. And thankfulness that I’m continuing my education instead of jumping immediately into a very scary job market.

It was a nice New Year’s Eve but not like last year. No party. Just stayed home with the family and watched the celebrations on TV. Ironically, now that it’s legal for me to drink alcohol, I didn’t have any last night. Just some herbal tea. And some cookies.

For all my friends, readers, family, and loved ones, this will be our best year yet.

Happy New Year! 🙂