Drug rape happens to women, men and children in New Zealand. Drug rape occurs when a person is drugged using certain types of sedatives, tranquillisers and antihistamines and then sexually assaulted. A person cannot consent to sexual activity when under the influence of these drugs. Sexual activity without consent is against the law.
These drugs are primarily administered by either injection, nasal insufflation (snorting) or (more commonly) oral ingestion (where the drugs are taken orally, most often where the assailant spikes the drink of the victim).
Drug rape and narcotics
Sometimes the sedatives may be mixed with recreational drugs (eg ecstasy) or may be voluntarily used by the victim to moderate the feelings associated with coming off a high. Sedatives can be combined with narcotics such as cocaine, amphetamines, heroine and methadone to enhance/alter their effects. The effect of the sedative when used in conjunction with narcotics can vary greatly depending on the narcotic, the time lapsed since narcotics were absorbed into the blood stream, and the amount of sedative absorbed.
Where does drugging occur?
While it is easy to assume that drugging only occurs in bars and night clubs, in New Zealand, drugging has occurred in a wide variety of places including workplaces, nightclubs/bars, gang headquarters, parties, and in the victim’s or perpetrator’s home.
Assumptions based on cases to date
- Drug rapes are premeditated in that perpetrators carry the drugs with them
- Perpetrators can work alone or with others
- The victim is often seen acting drunk (whether s/he has or has not been drinking alcohol) and being escorted ‘home’ by one or more people who may or may not be known to the victim.
Information about drug rape
- After ingestion, these drugs take effect within 15-30 minutes and usually induce a black out period of between 6-12 hours.
- These drugs can be legal or illegal.
- The effect of the drug is often magnified when combined with alcohol.
- The drugs are metabolised and excreted from the body by urine over time.
- Retrograde amnesia (not remembering a period of time that has passed) is a common symptom of many of these drugs.
- Victims of drug rape may wake up feeling dizzy and disoriented or clear headed and fresh (different sedatives have different after effects).
- Occasionally the victim experiences flashbacks, or a brief memory of some part of the rape and may recall being unable to move.
- Some victims cannot recall anything and may wake up naked and/or with tenderness indicative of sexual activity.
- Bruising and tenderness can be recorded as evidence in a forensic medical exam.
- Victims may feel that as they do not know what has happened, they cannot access help or report the crime. While the lack of memory may discourage a victim to report the crime, NZ police have indicated that the presence of such drugs in a victim’s blood is admissible as evidence in a rape case if chain of custody of the urine and blood samples is maintained.
Testing for drugs
Most of these drugs remain in the body for 48-72 hours after the victim regains consciousness (this time period varies drug to drug). Testing kits are available from the Police along with sexual assault medical examination kits.
If a victim does not want to report the rape to the police s/he may still access a blood test through her/his GP. The GP may have access to basic testing facilities at the local hospital or can send the specimen to ESR. It is recommended that a DSAC (Doctor for Sexual Abuse Care) trained doctor or Police surgeon in your area is contacted for advice as soon as possible.
In some cases the Police have been known to approve that the victim’s own GP take the blood and hold it overnight while the victim decides whether or not s/he wishes to make a statement to the Police. In these cases it is vital that the Police be consulted as soon as possible.
For more information about drugged sexual assault and how to stay safe see the Rape Prevention Education pamphlet Drug Rape on the resources page.