Drug rape over-hyped, says report

// 16 November 2006

A study by the Association of Chief Police Officers claiming that drug rapes are not as common as thought has provoked a storm of controversy.

The study assessed 120 cases of sexual assault – of which police initially thought 12 were drug related. On further investigation, none were linked to Rohypnol. Instead, the study says, 119 of the victims “admitted” they had been drinking alcohol and 48% had been drinking and taking recreational drugs.

Ignoring for a moment the ridiculously small sample size (which is actually 12 not 120 when it comes to the role played by “rape drugs”), the media presentation of this report is yet another example of the blame shifting from the criminal to the victim.

At least the government spokesperson quoted by the BBC has it right: “Rape is never the victim’s fault.”

The report has stirred up a hornets nest. On the one hand, Ann Widdecombe and her rape-apologist ilk have used it as an opportunity to argue that women who drink are asking to be attacked:

I have been saying for a very long time that drink is putting women in danger and I’ve also been saying for a very long time women have to take responsibility for themselves.

Meanwhile, Julie Bindel launched a blistering attack on the reporting of the report in today’s Guardian.

Research published today, in which no link to the date-rape drug Rohypnol was found in 120 cases (but in which many of the women had been drinking) just goes to show that the idea that men are ever responsible for rendering women unconscious is ludicrous. Indeed, it is women who are getting themselves drunk, and therefore are wholly responsible for getting themselves raped (but not as in “real rape”, so it does not count).

But does the report prove anything? No says one blogger , pointing out that Rohypnol is notoriously difficult to detect unless blood tests are taken within hours of taking it.

Tests showed traces of alcohol in only 63 – a little over half. If this same margin of error is applied to the ‘date rape’ drugs, then it could easily be assumed that it may have occurred in perhaps 24 cases (20%) rather than the 10% found.

The report is also making a big deal in the role of alcohol, saying a number of victims had blood-alcohol levels of two to three times the drink-drive limit. This limit is fairly low, and depending on a person’s physical build, metabolism, regularity of drinking, and possible prescription drug interaction – one drink could put the person over the legal drink-drive limit (especially women who generally have less body mass). So a ‘two to three times over the drink-drive limit’ could equate to two to three drinks that evening, but in all probability, between three to five (but also factor in the number of hours). Yet the report makes these women sound like drunken floozies who were ‘asking’ to be raped. This report looks like more justification to go on the victim-blaming band wagon.

At the same time, a rape victim has managed to win a hefty compensation package, after convincing a civil court she was attacked although the rapist later died and there were “no witnesses”, as the Guardian says.

Again with the dodgy reporting – emphasizing the lack of witnesses as though we live in Pakistan, where women have to produce a slew of male witnesses in order to prove rape. None the less, at least the system may compensate rape victim for their suffering, even if the chance of seeing the rapist behind bars is small and rapidly diminishing.

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