Thousands of Women Victims of Date Rape

Cape Times (South Africa), August 8, 2006 | Go to article overview

Thousands of Women Victims of Date Rape


BYLINE: Deborah Haynes

Smiling politely, a woman in a nightclub clinks glasses with the man who bought her a drink. The next thing she remembers is waking up in bed feeling sick and smelling of aftershave. She had been raped.

Sarah, not her real name, is one of thousands of people in Britain each year who have their drinks spiked with drugs or alcohol while on a night out and are sexually assaulted - often ending up with little memory of the attack.

The 29-year-old from Greater Manchester, northern England, can hazily recall being led to a private area of the nightclub before being raped on a table.

"I did not even know what was happening to me," Sarah said. "I thought I was going to sleep on the table. I was just helpless."

Most victims never report the crime because they mistakenly blame themselves for drinking too much or believe that legal action would be futile.

Those who do go to the police frequently end up disappointed because in Britain, like most countries, rape cases rarely result in a conviction.

There is also the stigma attached to alcohol- or drug-facilitated rape, with some victims saying that police and even doctors insinuate they were partly to blame for what happened because of being drunk.

Less than 20% of the estimated 50 000 women who are raped every year in Britain report the attack, experts say.

Of those allegations, a mere 14% go to trial, where in turn the conviction rate is just 5.6%.

The government, anxious to improve the statistics, has launched awareness campaigns and is studying a range of measures to give victims a better chance of convincing a jury they were raped, with an action plan due out by November.

In the field, police forces are developing their capabilities for handling rape victims, including the unique Sapphire Unit set up by London's Metropolitan Police to investigate rape and other sexual assaults.

The British capital also has The Havens, three centres run by the police and the National Health Service to gather forensic evidence, test people for sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV and offer counselling.

Victims, however, say the overall response system is still woefully flawed.

Some accuse the police of failing to run costly tests on blood and urine samples to establish whether rape drugs were used, preferring to blame alcohol instead.

Others note that only a few cities are equipped with specially trained police officers.

Sarah, a communications professional, was raped 14 months ago during an evening out with workmates. …

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Thousands of Women Victims of Date Rape
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