Spiked- Men and Women
bars know by
now never to
leave their drink unattended, to
keep an eye on it even when it
is sitting within reach.
Allowing a stranger to buy
you a drink is no longer a flirty
possibility and now it seems
even friends are not always the
safe haven many women - and
men - might think.
When most people think of
drink-spiking they imagine a
stranger in a bar slipping stupefying drugs into the beverage
of an unsuspecting woman.
However, it is more often carried out by someone who knows
the victim. About two-thirds of
drink-spiking is done by friends,
or acquaintances such as a
neighbour or fellow student.
Occasionally, men also are
made victims of dodgy drinks.
And drink-spiking is not
always done with drugs such as
Rohypnol or the animal anaesthetic Ketamine. It also can
happen with sneaky doses of
alcohol poured into any beverage, even coffee.
Sexual assault counsellors
said news of women drugged in
pubs and drug-spiked cigarettes grabbed people's attention, but there was a potential
- and too often ignored - danger
closer to home.
"What's happened is that
people have got the impression
that drink-spiking, is a secret
tablet in a bar by a stranger
and, in fact, no, that's not the
case," says Vanessa Swan, director of Yarrow Place Rape
and Sexual Assault Service. "A
major substance used in drinkspiking is alcohol, not a tablet
- someone plying someone with
drink and then raping them,
and that's most likely to occur
in a home or private location."
What is often not reported is
that men also are victims of
drink-spiking, in as many as one
in every five cases. They wake
to find they have been victims
of sexual assault, robbery or,
often, a bad joke.
Australian Centre for the
Study of Sexual Assault co-
ordinator Dr Melanie Heenan
says many men would not even
realise they were at risk.
"Because this issue has been
pitched as a form of stranger
rape... the community perception is that all drink-spiking is
about sexual assault," she says.
"It is much more likely to be
a woman who is drink-spiked
but there are a range of crimes
that occur. It is not about
strangers, it is probably someone in your range of acquaintances, in your social network or
at the same party, even for men,
and even for robbery or theft."
Men's Information and Support Centre executive director
Greg Moore says he knows of
men who have been doped in
the name of a practical joke.
Researchers have found
drinks may be spiked as a
prank, slipping a drug or extra
shot of alcohol into a drink to
see how a person will act or how
long it takes them to pass out.
It may come as a shock for
someone who gives a friend a
double shot rather than a single
or gives a teetotaller a vodka-
laced drink to be told this is
potentially dangerous, even
criminal, behaviour. The victim,
however, is vulnerable to assault or a possible car accident.
"Our society tends to look at
women as victims and men as
perpetrators ... but it happens
to both of us," Mr Moore says.
Commentators are critical of
tne limited public awareness
campaigns, which have focused
on women in bars. Groups such
as the YWCA are calling for
more to be done to target men
and women as both potential
victims and perpetrators.
"The 'watch your drinks'
campaigns have not been found
to be very effective and they put
all the guilt and responsibility
on to the potential victims:
'You didn't watch your drink
close enough'," Ms Swan says.
"We should be putting the
responsibility on perpetrators,
saying this is not acceptable."
AN Australian Institute of
Criminology report last
year estimated 3000 to 4000
incidents of drink-spiking happened in the first six months of
2003, The AIC's National Project on Drink-Spiking also
found the majority of cases
were never reported to police.
Of those incidents reported,
one-third involved sexual assault. In half of those cases the
drinks were laced at licensed
venues and the rest of the time
in places such as the victim's or
perpetrator's home or at university campuses.
Robbery was a motive in another 5 per cent of cases, and
abduction and assault also figured in a few cases.
However, more than half did
not involve any "additional victimisation". Either nothing else
happened (random or "prank
spiking"), or the victim did not
remember what had happened.
Drink-tampering is a difficult
issue for police and, while other
states are moving on the issue,
drink-spiking is not actually a
crime in South Australia.
At the moment, police can
only act on the associated
crimes: sexual assault, theft,
assault, supplying a prohibited
substance, and so on- Penalties
range from two years' jail for
administering a prohibited substance to life for the two-
pronged charge of administering a stupefying substance with
intent to commit a crime.
Usually, victims suspect they
have been drugged because
they experience unusual symptoms including memory loss,
nausea, dizziness, vomiting and
Police say they cannot quantify how many drink-spiking offences occur in SA every year.
Most complaints have no crime
associated with them. often because the victim cannot remember enough of what happened for
police to act.
There is also the embarrassment factor. People who may
have had their drink spiked and
wallet stolen may be too
ashamed to voice their suspicions to police. However.
police want to be told - even if
there is no chance of prosecuting the crime - so officers are
at least aware of whether any
serial offenders are striking.
The advice from police to
anyone who suspects their
drink has been spiked is to:
TELL friends, who should not
leave you alone.
SEEK medical help. Request
a toxicology test.
REPORT it to police, no matter how flimsy your recollection.
The advice goes for men too,
who may get complacent about
their own potential risk.
Adelaide Advertiser (10-3-2005)