• SafetyAwareness_JoySmith_CMYK-1.jpg?fit=500%2C500
    Joy Smith, UCC nursing student, was found nearly lifeless in her totaled car in a remote location. Photo provided by Joy Smith

I Am UCC: UCC student survived being drugged at public event and abducted

in Campus Life/I am UCC by

UCC nursing student Joy Smith was working with a group of volunteers at a wine tasting event four years ago in Portland, Oregon, when she allowed her cup to be out of sight for several minutes. She didn’t consider that doing this was unsafe. Seven hours later, in a remote location, the police found Smith’s near lifeless body in her totaled car. The next morning, she woke up in a strange hospital with no recollection of what happened.

Smith had been drugged.

counseling staff
Counseling staff: Danielle Haskett, Lindsay Murphey, Tony Dicenzo, Kindall Baker, Mandie Pritchard Sheri Rokus / The Mainstream

In 2013, as a newly divorced 32-year-old single mother, Smith frequently volunteered at events in the Portland area. A new chapter of her life was beginning, and she felt confident and invincible. At that time she was attending Mt. Hood Community College and was a leader in student government. Smith had signed herself up to volunteer at a local wine and music festival. The opportunity to assist at the festival seemed innocent and wholesome, so she didn’t tell anyone about her plans. Smith didn’t see any harm that could come of this.

But she was not careful enough.

Having a buddy system in place could have changed the course of Smith’s evening that night and her sense of security for years to come. In 2013, Smith’s sister lived a mile away from her, but Smith hadn’t told her sister, or any of her close friends where she was going that day or when she would return home. If Smith would have had a safety plan in place, her sister could have called the police when she didn’t come home. Instead, no one suspected that her life was in grave danger.

“There is something very unsettling about having a black hole of time where I had no control over my mind or body. It created utter, inner chaos because I lost a piece of myself that I can’t ever get back,” Smith said.

Smith understands that transitioning into young adulthood can be difficult, but she would like college students who want to be independent to consider the safety of their actions.

“We are naive and think we’re invincible, but it’s not true. This crime happened four years ago and I still have no memory of what happened,” Smith said. If Smith could go back in time, she says she would have made different decisions.

Smith’s experience reflects staggering U.S. crime statistics: “Violent crimes don’t just happen to women. Rape is the most common violent crime on American college campuses. One in four college women will be the victim of sexual assault during her academic career. Three percent of college men report surviving rape or attempted rape as a child or an adult,” according to the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.

College campus crimes have influenced Title IX legislation aimed at gender equality and safety. Lynn Johnson is UCC’s Title IX coordinator. She can inform survivors of their options without mandating legal reporting. In other words, it is the survivor’s decision whether or not he or she presses charges. Johnson supports survivors in a caring and secure environment. “This is a safe place for survivors to come,” said Johnson. She helps educate students regarding their options and can help them set up a plan to promote healing.

Johnson is also the director of the Human Resources Department, and her office is in the Student Center, the first office on the right. She can be contacted at 541-440-7690. Johnson’s contact information is also on the fliers inside of the bathroom stalls on campus at UCC.

Another resource for survivors is the Battered Person’s Advocacy. The Roseburg organization helps survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault with emergency safe shelter, emergency transportation, help with restraining orders, emergency food and clothing, support groups and sexual assault and rape services. For free and confidential services, call 541-673-7867. Toll free number is 800-464-6543. Advocates are on call 24 hours a day and can meet a survivor at a hospital, clinic, or safe meeting place.

According to website Facty Health, the following symptoms can signal depression: enduring sadness, self-loathing attitude, loss of interest in all activities, irritability and isolation, anxiety, loss of energy, disturbed sleep patterns, change in appetite and body weight, reckless behavior and suicidal tendencies. College students are often balancing many high stress activities. When depressive symptoms are present for more than two weeks its important to talk about what’s going on.

safety awareness
Lynn Johnson, UCC’s Title IV coordinator
Sheri Rokus / The Mainstream

At UCC, three licensed therapists are willing to assist students for free. They provide support and therapy to students that helps with their individual challenges. They listen and help with all the issues faced by college students, not just abuse. Many students are still dealing with the aftermath of the October 1 shooting and need a safe place to talk. To schedule an appointment, students can call 541-440-7900. Their office also contracts with a 24-hour help line run by Compass Behavioral Health. Students can call 800-866-9780 any time to speak with a licensed therapist. Without insurance, a typical counseling session like these would cost between $100 to $150 per hour. Currently, these valuable campus resources are underutilized.

Smith is a survivor who has moved forward with her life. As a Ford Foundation Scholar, she will graduate this year with her R.N. from UCC’s nursing program and a goal to become a nurse practitioner. As one of her coping skills, she chooses a positive word each year to focus on. This year her word is “become.” Smith has incorporated art therapy into her healing by painting her word mantra on a canvas and displaying it in her home.

Smith attributes her ability to move on to her faith in God and support from family and friends which she says was central to her healing. Smith has also had professional counseling and uses music and hiking to aid in her recovery.

Fortunately, Smith doesn’t have any lifelong physical impairments, but others often do. According to counselors, survivors often deal with the emotional impact of their traumatic experiences throughout their lives.

Another key factor for Smith in moving forward has been forgiving herself. She acknowledges that we all make mistakes. “My healing has come from taking responsibility, being accountable, learning from it and never making the same mistake again,” said Smith.

Today, Smith always has a buddy system in place and suggests others do likewise, especially when visiting bars or public events.

“We are naive and think we’re invincible but it’s not true. This crime happened four years ago and I still have no memory of what happened” —Joy Smith, UCC nursing student

Revised February 26th 2017 – updated phone number.