By Andra Jackson, Jane Rocca, July 1 2002
Sex assault agency sounds alarm
An alarming increase in claims of sexual assault linked
to drink spiking has been reported in Victoria.
The Centre Against Sexual Assault says it received 82
reports alleging that spiked drinks were used to facilitate
sexual assault in the four months to May this year.
Last year, the same number of reports were made to
the centre and its crisis line over a six-month period.
Most victims were aged 16 to 35, with the youngest
aged 15, the centre said. Places where drink spiking
most commonly occurred were licensed premises, particularly
in the city, and private parties.
"It is not uncommon for the victims to wake up
half naked on the footpath or in a hotel room,"
the centre's counsellor, Jenna Tuke, said.The centre
and police would not reveal what drugs were being used,
saying they feared precipitating more assaults. The
centre's manager, Marg Darcy, said of those victims
of violent sexual assualt about half appeared to have
been spiked with alcohol alone.
But according to Ms Darcy, it is often difficult to
verify drink spiking because it takes time for victims
to piece together what has happened to them before they
report the attack. This delay makes the drug screening
unreliable, she said.
David Wells, an associate professor at the Victorian
Institute of Forensic Medicine, which conducts the tests,
said high levels of some drugs could be cleared quite
rapidly from a person's system.
But evidence of drugs could often stay up to 48 hours
and be established by a urine test.
The sexual crimes squad's Detective Senior Sergeant
Chris O'Connor said that just because medical results
don't prove toxicity doesn't mean a drug wasn't used,
and allegations of drink spiking remain "relatively
Sergeant Steve Jones, of the police's Drugs and Alcohol
Policy Unit, said reports to the sexual assault centre
prompted the State Government's Keep An Eye Out campaign,
being run in Melbourne and Bendigo, to make people aware
of the crime.
The Victorian Law Enforcement Drug Fund is financing
the placement of posters in public areas warning of
Sergeant Jones said drugs could also be slipped into
non-alcoholic drinks such as water or hot chocolate.
The so-called hot chocolate rapist, who was never caught,
is believed to have assaulted more than 20 women. He
offered lifts to women leaving nightclubs and bars early
in the morning, then stopped at a store for hot drinks,
which he laced with a sedative.
Overseas research suggests the best preventive action
is "if you have a drink, don't place it down in
a place that is not secure", Sergeant Jones said.