WASHINGTON (AP) _ The past three years of Joy Diliello's life have been haunted by what she thought was a simple act of hospitality: the offer of a soft drink from a trusted friend, she told a Senate panel Tuesday.
The drink apparently was spiked with Rohypnol, a powerful tranquilizer better known as the "date-rape drug." Within 15 minutes, she was so dizzy she asked whether she could lie down on his couch for a minute.
The next thing she knew it was morning of the next day, and she was lying naked in his bed, the victim of a rape she only dimly remembered, she told the Foreign Relations subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere and Peace Corps.
"He turned toward me and said he'd waited five years for this," said Diliello of Jackson, Tenn. "So this was not something that just happened. This was planned."
Diliello, who became pregnant as a result of the assault, called Rohypnol a chemical weapon.
"I don't see it as having any use at all," she told the senators. "It's a weapon and anybody can get a hold of it."
Several lawmakers in the House and the Senate, including subcommittee Chairman Sen. Paul Coverdell, R-Ga., have introduced bills proposing more severe penalties for the use of Rohypnol, which is illegal in the United States, and a number of other drugs used to facilitate sexual assault.
They have become more popular in recent years, especially among teen-agers who mistakenly believe the drug is harmless, said Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., who also testified at the hearing.
A bill introduced by Biden would put Rohypnol and similar drugs in the same category as heroin, marijuana and LSD, a step endorsed by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
At low doses, Rohypnol can cause drowsiness, dizziness, incoordination, memory loss and stomach upset, said Terrance Woodworth, a DEA deputy director of diversion control. At higher doses, it can cause comas, respiratory depression and death, he said.
The drug is smuggled into the United States from other countries, where it is used to treat sleeplessness, anxiety, convulsions and muscle tension, Woodworth said.
Lisa Celestin, 35, who said she was raped by the same man who attacked Diliello, compared the effects of the drug to being anesthetized.
"This knocks you out for 20 hours," she said. "He could have sawed me in half and I wouldn't have known the difference."
Celestin, a mother of three living in Florida, said she was drugged at a nightclub while out with a female friend.
"He slipped it in my drink and in a matter of minutes _ I was still sitting on the stool _ I was completely out," she said. "I don't know how we got back to my house. ... I did come to for a bit, 45 seconds to a minute, while he was raping me."
Three years after the attack, Celestin still has nightmares and is undergoing therapy.
"This ruined the last three years of my life," she said.
The man eventually pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault last year. He had boasted to friends of attacking as many as 20 women, said David Robshaw, a Broward County, Fla., deputy sheriff.
In many cases, however, authorities can't prosecute because victims remember only a few details of their assaults, he said.