#DontLookAway: Why drug-rape perpetrators go unpunished

December 2, 2018 7:04 am

Date-rape drugs are slipped into drinks and later victims can’t recall what happened. Picture: Etienne Creux/ African News Agency/(ANA)

Cape Town – Drug-facilitated rape is one of the most violating of abuse crimes yet many perpetrators go unpunished.
This was one of the startling facts highlighted as the country observes the 16 Days of Activism campaign focusing on violence against women and children.

Rape Crisis director Kathleen Dey said often in rape incidents involving the use of drugs, the rapist “steals” the survivor’s memory of events in addition to committing a sexual violation, making it difficult to lay a charge with the police.

No definitive statistics of drug-facilitated rape were immediately available. Collating such information was difficult because one of the drugs often used, Rohypnol, which is a powerful sedative, passes out of the bloodstream quickly and many survivors were unaware they had to have medical tests fast for it to be detected.

“Date-rape survivors are very reluctant to come forward as they cannot recall much of what happened to them.

“This makes them feel very traumatised and fragile when speaking about it. This is one of the more violating types of rape.”

Dey said drug-facilitated rape could happen in public entertainment spaces, but recently there had been cases of it happening in homes.

Dey said the most frequently used drug was methamphetamine (known as tik) as it made the victim helpless and was addictive, so a victim could become dependent on the rapist for a supply of the drug.

She said tik was often used in gang-related rape, regarded as an initiation rite. The survivor would then become part of the gang even though this was never her intention.

Activist and researcher Lisa Vetten said in drug-related rape cases it was easy for the accused to claim consensual agreement, making it difficult to secure a conviction.

Vetten said that in theory access to drugs such as Rohypnol should be tightened, but it had become available on the black market through smuggling, robberies and corruption.

“If the government is serious about fighting violence against women and children, then it should allocate more money to organisations doing great work on the issue. Let it proves its commitment in next year’s budget allocation,” she said.

Rape Crisis runs a helpline for counselling or advice and is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. After contacting the organisation on 021 447 9762, complainants can be linked to a range of referral partners.

Weekend Argus

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