It always feels pretty fabulous to teach, to work with young people, to learn from them. Today, I am especially proud to learn from the bright-eyed students that I see each week. Here’s the story:
A few Fridays ago, I was chatting with a few of my students before class started. I am not sure what brought us to the topic, but one of the young women in my class, Erin, brought up the fact that she had recently visited a local restaurant/bar and discovered that they had a drink on the menu called the Roofie Bomb. For the unitiated, Roofies are also often called date rape drugs. It is any number of drugs known to have a sedative, hypnotic, disscoiative, and/or amnesiac effect and may be added to a drink without the victim’s knowledge to make the perpetuation of an assault easier.
This announcement came the week that our readings for class had included this grim statistic: more than half of sexual assaults involve alcohol or drugs. And so this news Erin shared was especially appalling– to think that some business was making light of something so serious with a quip on their menu was just a bit too much. I couldn’t get the drink off my mind and so I told Erin that I wanted to encourage her to use her voice and if she was willing to write a letter to the headquarters about it, I’d give her extra credit. Erin’s spunky as all get out. She’d write that letter with or without me making a comment about it so I wasn’t surprised that she took me up on the offer, saying:
I think silence is extremely damaging to our society. People don’t speak out on things we know are wrong because we don’t want to be “bitches” or speak out against a crowd, but in the end you have to decide if you want to be a follower or a leader. I want to be a leader and if being a “bitch” and speaking out is how I have to create change, I’m willing to do that for the greater good of our society and future. I don’t want my children to face what I face today and I think change starts within institutions and language. A “Roofie Bomb” might sound innocent, but what is it saying about our views on rape and date rape? It’s making it a joke and taking away from the seriousness of the crime… even the little things we say and joke about have HUGE implications for our society. I’m glad to hear at least someone was bothered by it other than me. That means just by me making an offhanded statement, I changed or influenced one person; if everyone did that imagine how many people could be reached!
You are knowingly promoting rape and date rape drugs. Is that really the image you want your establishment to have? You are normalizing something that greatly affects our society every day. A “roofie bomb” might sound innocent, but what is it really saying about your views on rape and date rape? Rape is not a joke, but your drink is making it one and downplaying the seriousness of the issue. Your choice of language, as small as it may be, has HUGE implications for our society.
I ask you as a human and as my sister or brother to remove the drink from your menu… I may be one person, but as a college student I have a huge network and I will not go silently. I will continue to express my disgust to anyone who will listen. Please, make the right choice.
Today, Erin emailed me to say that she had received a response from the owner of this restaurant. Here is part of that response:
I received your email this morning and would like to express my heartfelt apologies for any insult suffered as a result of the drink titled “Roofie Bomb” in our drink menu. I do understand how a drink named such arouses many negative connotations none of which we wish to condone nor be associated with promoting.
I am both embarrassed and ashamed that we overlooked this obvious misstep in our drink menu and have begun every effort to rectify the situation as quickly as possible. I have already instructed my staff to remove all of our drink menus from the tables and bar area so that we may amend them and to prevent any further insult to any of our patrons. I hope you understand that it was not our intention to seem insensitive to or belittle rape in any fashion. This name was not created by us, although the fault does lie with us for printing it and for that I am very sorry.