Drugs a factor in many sexual assaults, study says
WASHINGTON, May 12 (Reuters) Drug use, willful or unwitting, is a factor in many sexual assaults and significantly increases a woman's risk of unwanted sexual contact, according to a study released.
The study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago found that drugs were involved in 62 percent of reported sexual assaults included in the study, and that in most cases the victims had taken the drugs voluntarily.
Five percent of the victims were given so-called ''date-rape'' drugs such as Rohypnol, a tranquilizer 10 times more potent than Valium, the study said yesterday.
Adam Negrusz, lead author of the study, said drug use raises the risk of sexual assault, whether or not alcohol has been used.
''In some cases the substances are taken voluntarily by the victims, impairing their ability to make decisions,'' Negrusz said.
''In other cases the substances are given to the victims without their knowledge, which may decrease their ability to identify a dangerous situation or to resist the perpetrator,'' he said in a statement.
In about 80 percent of sexual assault cases, the victim knows the assailant, he said.
Negrusz said that in the study drug-facilitated sexual assault was more often due to the subject's own drug use, rather than surreptitious drugging by the perpetrator.
The study, funded by the US National Institute of Justice, an agency of the Justice Department, was based on information collected from 144 victims of sexual assault who sought help in clinics in California, Minnesota, Texas and Washington state.
Each clinic collected urine and hair samples from the women ranging in age from 18 to 56 who were also asked to describe the assault and any drugs they were using. They represented black, white and Hispanic ethnic backgrounds.
''The urine and hair specimens were analysed for about 45 drugs that have either been detected in sexual assault victims or whose pharmacology could be exploited for drug-facilitated sexual assaults,'' Negrusz said.
Nearly 62 per cent of the women had at least one of the 45 drugs in their system, the study said.
Among those who voluntarily used a drug, 35 per cent were likely to have been impaired at the time of the sexual assault, according to the research.
''It also demonstrated that sexual assault complainants severely underreport their illegal drug usage,'' he said. ''This could be corrected if the administering nursing staff was better educated on taking a truthful drug history.'' Reuters SI GC0910