Two incidences of drug-facilitated sexual assault (date rape) in Cape Town have caused human rights agency the Triangle Project to warn club-goers to be wary of drinks offered by strangers. The agency focuses on addressing issues that affect members of the LGBTQI community, their partners and families.
The incidents occurred in Cape Town’s CBD and Parow respectively within two months of one another. Although this is not a major rate increase, it is nevertheless a cause for concern.
“A stranger may strike up a conversation with you and offer you a drink. As the drink is passed to you, the person keeps you engaged while spiking the drink. The bartender may pass you a drink and let you know it is from another patron. This may seem flattering but may be sinister,” Sharon Cox, the Triangle Project’s Health and Support Services Manager, tells IOL.
A study conducted in June this year highlighted drug-facilitated sexual assault as a “well-recognised public health concern”. It revealed that toxicological screening is not currently available in clinical forensic practices in the country.
The study looked at 107 survivors of suspected date rape reported to the Victoria Hospital Forensic Clinic in Cape Town between October 1 2013 and June 30 2016. The blood, urine and hair of the survivors were screened for date rape drugs and their individual medical examinations and details of the incidents were recorded.
Of the 107 cases investigated, 97% were female and between the ages of 18 and 25 years of age. All cases were disclosed to the Victoria Hospital Clinical Forensic Unit within 24 hours of the incident, and 28% of the patients had been victims of previous sexual assault or abuse.
The study reflected that ethanol, methamphetamine, methaqualone and diphenhydramine were the most commonly-used date rape drugs, and were used either alone or in combination with one another. Most of the incidents took place late at night or very early in the morning, and 62% of the victims knew their assailants. Approximately 58% of the attacks took place at the homes of the assailants.
“Two accounts of [drug-facilitated] sexual assault have been reported to us over the past two months. If those are the reported cases, it is highly likely that there are many more that have gone unreported,” Cox says. “People are often afraid to come forward to report these incidents, as often people have been out enjoying themselves and have had drinks. It is important for people to know that going out and having drinks is not a crime, but spiking drinks is.”
Cox adds that many Capetonians will go to clubs more frequently as the festive season approaches and it is better to be prepared when enjoying a night out. “Friends can look out for each other to ensure that others in the group are safe. Do not let that friend leave with a stranger,” she says.
The following signs are possible indicators that someone has consumed a spiked drink:
– lowered inhibitions
– difficulty concentrating or speaking
– loss of balance and finding it hard to move
– visual problems, particularly blurred vision
– memory loss (amnesia), or a “blackout”
– feeling confused or disorientated, particularly if one feels this way after waking from sleep
– paranoia (a feeling of fear or distrust of others)
– hallucinations (seeing, hearing or touching things that aren’t real) or having an “out-of-body” experience
– nausea and vomiting
Ways to help you stay safe when you go out:
– Never leave your drink unattended and keep an eye on your friends’ drinks
– Don’t accept a drink from someone you don’t know
– Consider sticking to bottled drinks and avoiding punch bowls and cocktail jugs
– Don’t give out your address to someone you’ve just met
– If you think your drink has been tampered with, don’t drink it – tell a trusted friend or relative immediately
– Before going out, let someone know where you’re going and what time you expect to be home
– Before you go out for the night, make sure you have a plan for how you’ll get back home
– Avoid taking expensive equipment with you as well as anything else that could be a target for thieves
– If you are travelling abroad, be aware of the local area and know where you can find help