Wednesday, October 28, 2009


"Rape drugs make it relatively easy for rapists to gain control of their victims. Perpetrators do not have to overcome any form of resistance. They do not have to use physical force. They do not have to threaten to harm the victim to get compliance. Nor do they have to be concerned about a victim's screams attracting attention. The drugs they administer immobilize and silence the victim. (National Institute of Justice Journal, 2000)"

In July 2007, the Department of Justice released the results of a national study that looked at the prevalence of drug-facilitated and incapacitated sexual assault and forcible rape. The results were astonishing and deplorable. Estimates have found that nearly 673,000 women in colleges were raped. From the 673,000, 160,000 women experienced drug-facilitated sexual assault. And more than 200,000 women were incapacitated. The major issue with drug-facilitated-sexual-assault is that many victims have no idea whether they were drugged. In order to take legal recourse, the individual must present themselves at a hospital where they can screen for drugs. However, the window period is very short for most of these drugs leave the body, and once they leave the body, evidence cannot be collected for the purpose of taking legal recourse.

The problem that exists in cases of drug-facilitated sexual assault or where the victim is incapacitated is many victims may not recognize that they have been raped. Even if they know they were forced, the fact that either they were under the influence of drugs or their assailant was means for them the lines of accountability may get blurry. For example recently there was a case where a young-college aged woman stated she had went to a party and a guy asked to hook up with her. She said no to him, and then he lured her into a room by begging her to help him with an emergency. She did so and he raped her. She wasn't really clear whether it was rape or not because the assailant had been drunk. In this case the victim was not incapacitated or under the influence of drugs but the assailant was and he used that to his advantage telling her that at parties it is normal for people to have sex. While she knew that something was wrong, it was difficult for her to label it rape.

Such hesitancy to frame it as rape as well as to blame one-self for what happened has translated into low rates of reporting. For example for sexual assault cases for women in colleges, the reporting rate is 12%. The number is ever smaller for victims of drug-facilitated sexual assault who report. Some of the reasons why college-aged women do not take action against the perpetrator include not wanting their peers and social-support systems to know about the rape, the fear of retaliation, the uncertainty about whether a crime actually occurred, and the victim may not be sure whether the crime was serious enough to report. Again within drug-facilitated sexual assault cases, most victims know their perpetrators.

From the perspective of perpetrators, Abbey, Parkhhill, Clinton-Sherrod, Zawacki (2007), in their study compared men who committed sexual assaults found that on the contrary to what social views may think, perpetrators usually pick the victims and then isolate them from their friends or social circle. The perpetrators will often come off as if they are rescuing the victim by offering an incapacitated individual(drunk, high, or passed out) to what they will convey to the victim as a safe place. Perpetrators will use the fact that the victim was intoxicated to convince them their assault was consensual or normal, and that is how things are. This is even if the victim remembers. An overwhelming majority of these perpetrators are repeat offenders who have targeted multiple victims. Therefore contrary to what society may think when perpetrators who commit such assaults do it because they are incapacitated is misleading and is another place for perpetrators to have the space to commit rapes and violate others without having to worry about the consequences. It is important to mention that while the statistics in the national study focused on college-aged women, men are also victims of drug facilitated sexual assaulted.

However we can stand firm and work to prevent such incidents from occurring. We can be more attentive when we are out in social gatherings, at parties, in clubs, and bars. We can educate men and women about the devestating crime the drug facilitated sexual assault is and the physical as well as psychological scars that victims will suffer from. On the most basic level we can start by changing our own attitudes towards drug-facilitated-sexual assault where we usually place the blame on the victim rather than giving them the social support, which can be instrumental in the recovery process.

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