One-In-Four Rape Victims Drugged
Hundreds of women have been sexually assaulted
after their drinks were
spiked during nights out in Sydney
and Newcastle over the past year.
From pubs in Manly to Coogee, to nightclubs in Oxford St
and bars in
Newcastle, an increasing number of women are
reporting being drugged before
being taken away and raped.
According to Sydney's biggest rape treatment centre, almost one in four
sexual assault victims say they were drugged before the attack. And men
including heterosexual men are just as likely as women to have their drink
spiked and be sexually assaulted, figures reveal.
The proportion of victims reporting they believe they are drugged to the
Royal Prince Alfred's sexual assault service is continuing to rise.
Health experts say it is not enough to educate potential victims on the
dangers they want the perpetrators targeted and exposed.
An advertising campaign aimed at scaring perpetrators will be launched in
pubs and clubs on Sydney's north shore, centering around the entertainment
hotspot of Manly.
The ads, on posters and coasters, state rapists who spike drinks face up to
25 years in jail.
RPA Sexual Assault Unit director Annie Crowe said a typical scenario was
young women going out with friends to pubs and clubs with friends,
remembering talking to men, then losing their memory.
They woke up in a stranger's home, a street or a park, often semi-clothed or
with their clothing disturbed in some way.
They suspected they had been assaulted but could not be sure. In some cases
the victims had been drinking heavily but this was rare.
"More commonly we get reports someone had gone out and had a couple of
drinks and quite suddenly been overwhelmed with a feeling of dizziness," Ms
One victim of drink spiking was Jemma Kennedy, of Newcastle, who had just
two drinks but "woke up battered and bruised" the next morning, unable to
recall eight hours of the night before.
Jemma said she and her friend had left their drinks at the edge of the stage
while they danced at a nightclub. She could not recall leaving the club, but
was found hours later lying in a two-metre-deep drain and was sick for three
'For three days after I couldn't keep any food down or hold a long
conversation," she said.
Ms Crowe said she was unaware whether the problem was increasing or if
victims were more aware of drink spiking.
"It truly is a serious problem," she said.
She said the experience had changed her life.
"I don't go out drinking much any more and if I do, I'm very careful," she
Reports of druggings largely come from people who attend pubs and clubs in
the Sydney CBD, Kings Cross and the Oxford St strip.
The Daily Telegraph has obtained figures from the RPA's sexual assault unit
the largest in NSW which shows that of the 650 victims who received face
to face-to-face treatment at the service, 23.4 per cent believed they were
drugged before the assault.
The proportion was slightly higher for men 24 per cent compared to 22.7 of
female victims who believed they were drugged.
Both the proportion and the overall number of drink spiked assualt victims
had risen steadily from 1998, when the unit treated about 400 sex assault
In 1998, 18 per cent of assault victims (72 in total) reported being
In 1999, it was 16 per cent, in 2000, it was 21 per cent, and in 2001 it was
22 per cent.
In Newcastle, the health workers attached to the NSW Attorney-General's
department conducted a survey late last year of 120 Newcastle TAFE students.
The survey, conducted by Jillian Meyers-Brittain the Hunter Region violence
prevention specialist, showed 55 per cent of women and 45 per cent of men
had either had their drinks spiked or had a friend who had.
The survey showed fewer than one in six victims had reported the incident
and only three out of five took precautions against having something dropped
in their drink.
Ms Meyers-Brittain said an analysis of the COPS system in the Hunter Region
regarding drink spiking gleaned in the majority of reported cases their had
been no subsequent crime.
We believe their would be in intervening factor in most cases preventing
something more sinister from happening, Ms Meyers-Brittain said.
Either the persons partner arrives, or friends or the victim is able to
recognise the problem and get themselves to safety.
North Sydney regional violence prevention specialist Jenny Huxley surveyed
500 adults in pubs and clubs around Manly in 2000 and found 46 per cent said
they knew of someone whose drink had been spiked.
Of the 46 per cent, 74 per cent said a friend had been drugged, and 23 per
cent said they had experienced it themselves.
The proportion of victims were evenly split between men and women, she said.
Some men admitted to spiking their mate's drink as a "joke", she said.
Police in the Eastern suburbs said they had seen a recent increase in the
number of reports of young woman having their drink drugged and spiked.
Waverley Acting Local Area Commander Adam Purcell said there had been up to
10 reports from women claiming to have their drinks spiked in the CBD,
Oxford St, Clovelly and Coogee areas and being taken back to flats in the
But Acting Superintendent Purcell said it was extremely difficult to pin
down the offenders because the victims often had no memory of the night,
and could not lead them back to the flat when they reported it.
Also, victims should report the assault as soon as they can before drugs
leave the system, often within the first 12 hours.
"If they think they've been assaulted, come in straight away, so we do have
some chance to get some evidence," he said.
THE MAIN DRUGS USED
MIDAZOLAM: A benzodiazepine used to produce drowsiness before surgery. It
can cause problems with co-ordination and one's ability to think straight.
Can induce drowsiness for days
ROHYPNOL: Generic name flunitrazepam, is sold legally as a prescription
sleeping pill. Ten times more potent than Valium, which is also used as a
date-rape drug. It combines with alcohol to produce blackouts lasting eight
to 24 hours
GHB (Gamma hydroxybutyrate): Used in the club scene and has also been
associated with sex assualts. Liquid GHB dropped into a drink can cause loss
of consiousness, coma and seizures
KETAMINE: A rapid-acting anaesthetic used on both animals and humans in
medicine is being increasingly abused on the club scene. It produces a
dissociative state in users, numbness, slurred speech and can cause coma
ECSTASY (MDMA): An illegal street drug which produces hallucinogenic
effects. Comes in pill form
BUDDY SYSTEM THE GOLDEN RULE
CINDY James and Michelle Rappaport adhere to a golden rule when out drinking
they look out for each other.
The 25-year-olds drink at bars most weekends and know the threat of someone
spiking their drinks is ever present, but they say they have found ways to
remain safe while still being able to have fun.
The two friends discovered the best way to overcome the fear of being
victims was to play it safe.
And they should know.
Ms James, who lives in Miranda, has had first-hand experience of the
problem, and says she was "slipped a mickey" a few months ago.
She was at a crowded bar in Leichhardt at the time, and was able to get
through the experience with the help of friends.
"I didn't know what was happening but I started feeling dizzy and really out
of it after only half a glass of wine," Ms James told The Daily Telegraph.
"But luckily I was with a group of friends. They took me home straight away
. . . and they looked after me."
Ms James has learned from her mistake.
She is now extra careful whenever she is drinking alcohol in a crowded bar
"If guys buy me a drink, I stand next to them while they're getting it or
take the drink straight from the bartender.
"If I leave my drink sitting somewhere I don't ever come back to it," she
Ms Rappaport said accepting drinks from strangers was dangerous and women
should exercise more caution.
"I think you have to be pretty irresponsible to put yourself in that
"I know that sounds harsh but the fact is you should be looking out for
yourself or make sure you're with friends who are looking out for you," the
Bellevue Hill resident said.
"People should at least be wary of getting drinks from strangers. You never
know what could happen," she said.
Daily Telegraph (10-2-2003)
Kara Lawrence/ Frances O'Shea