SOUTH PORTLAND — There have been several reports of suspected druggings of women at southern Maine bars in the last few weeks. I witnessed one such incident, in Portland, and assisted in getting medical care for the apparent victim. I’m sharing what I learned from my involvement and from talking with the woman I assisted, with the hope it will motivate others to assist and advocate for the next victim.

There are many details to this particular incident, but below are the most relevant to what I learned.

When I saw the woman at a nearby table, she appeared unconscious with no one seeming to do anything about it. Shocked, I inquired and immediately got a security guard’s attention. It took asking the security guard four times, over the course of about 15 to 20 minutes, to get him to call 911.

What I learned: I should have immediately called 911 myself. Often, when we do not want to get involved, that is more than likely the most important time to do so. Trust your instincts. Because of the fast-acting agents in the so-called “date-rape” drugs added to drinks, the sooner you get blood or vomit samples, the better the chance of identifying the drugs and, more importantly, of getting the victim appropriate medical attention more quickly. Twenty minutes can make a difference.

• Two women and a man whom the apparent victim did not know had approached her and bought her the assumed-to-have-been spiked drink.

What I learned: It is a misconception that it is always a sole man committing this type of crime. Women, men and even staff members of an establishment can work together to identify and influence a victim or assist in the drugging process. Many men are also victims of this crime.

When the woman I assisted went back to the bar and asked for surveillance video, she was told there was only one camera running that night and they could not provide any.

What I learned: Act immediately to obtain evidence. Earlier in the evening I had seen a monitor screen displaying video from at least six surveillance cameras. I’m not sure why the woman was told that only one was recording. More importantly, neither I, nor the security guards or others who helped, asked to check the surveillance videos immediately after the incident to possibly identify the perpetrators – a big miss, looking back.

I later gave a statement to the Portland Police Department, as did the woman I assisted. During my verbal statement, I was asked to sign a blank police statement form and was told that the officer would write in my statement for me later. I declined and asked to review what the officer wrote from my verbal statement. It was inaccurate. I was then given the opportunity to write my statement myself before signing it.

What I learned: Never sign a blank police statement form. I contacted acting Police Chief Vern Malloch about my surprise and concern at this practice. He was very responsive, emphasizing that this is not department policy and saying that he will apply corrective measures to keep this from happening again. I mention this to encourage others to support victims by providing police statements when applicable and to never sign a blank police statement form.

My biggest lesson of all is the importance of taking action. It’s good that recent events have encouraged the public and local police departments to pay more attention to this issue. We must advocate for each other, actively assisting anyone who may appear unusually distressed in any environment. Don’t wait for anyone else to call 911 – just call; push the establishment to get the surveillance videos immediately; stay with the person and advocate for their safety and rights if they are unable to do so; and, if it is possible, go to the hospital with them and advocate for proper care and testing. In short, if you see something, do something.