New Study: Drug Use Affects Rates of Sexual Assault

Jun 9, 2006

Willing or unwilling drug use increases a woman’s risk of sexual assault, and drugs are a factor in many sexual assaults, a new study found. Sixty-two percent of reported sexual assault cases in the study involved drugs and five percent of victims were given Rohypnol, the “date-rape” drug. Research also found that 35 percent of women were likely to have been impaired at the time of their assault.

Drug-facilitated sexual assault (DFSA) includes substances given to victims without their knowledge as well as substances taken voluntarily by victims that can impair their decision making ability. More often DFSA was a result of the victims own drug use, rather than drugging by a perpetrator.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago examined 144 subjects (sexual assault complainants) at clinics in Texas, California, Minnesota and Washington State. Subjects were age 18 to 56, and voluntarily participated in the study by answering a questionnaire about the alleged assault and disclosing any drugs they had taken. The subjects were then tested for about 45 drugs that have been previously detected in sexual assault victims or that can impair judgment. Four in five reported knowing their assailant.

Authors concluded that there is a strong need for toxicological analysis in sexual assault cases, and that nursing staff should be trained to take a truthful drug history. Lead authors of the study are Adam Negrusz, Ph.D., Matthew Juhascik, Ph.D., and R.E. Gaensslen, Ph.D.

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