By Kathy Donaghy inThe Irish Independent
THE NUMBER of drug-assisted rapes doubled in the space of one year and such attacks are now so widespread that the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre receives one telephone call a week in relation to the problem.
Launching a nationwide poster campaign to raise awareness about drug-assisted rape, Junior Justice Minister Willie O'Dea said the incidence of such rapes was a growing concern.
Figures from Rape Crisis Network Ireland show that 130 people who used their services last year reported being victims of drug-rape twice the number in 2000.
Minister O'Dea, who chairs the National Steering Committee on Violence Against Women, which is spearheading the awareness drive, said the purpose of the campaign was twofold to raise awareness, especially among young women who may not be aware of the risks, and to increase the reporting of such attacks.
He said posters distributed to pubs, nightclubs and colleges nationwide were designed to grab attention by showing a hand reaching over drinks highlighting the risk of drinks being spiked with drugs.
Ingrid Wallace, spokeswoman for the RCNI, said there was no typical scenario whereby a person became the victim of a drug-assisted rape or sexual attack.
She said the experience of women who reported to them was of having no memory of what happened after they left a dinner party or a disco and having feelings of confusion after a night out. She said many women had spoken of feeling extremely drunk after one or two drinks and of not remembering what happened next.
"It really is taking away an individual's right to give informed consent to sexual activity. People don't know what happened, what kind of sexual activity was involved, they don't know how many people were involved and they don't know if they'll ever be able to remember what happened. It is very difficult for someone to come to terms with it," said Ms Wallace.
She added that 52 drugs had been identified as being used in drug-assisted rapes.
The minister said he could "only imagine the trauma of not really knowing if something terrible has happened to you, of trying to piece together the events of a night which you cannot remember, but which may haunt you for a long time to come".
He called on people to report such an incident as early as possible to allow the gardai to investigate it and bring the perpetrator to justice. "People don't tend to report drug rape immediately because they might be confused. By that stage the drug will have left their body and there is no proof. That is why people have to report as early as possible," he said.
The poster campaign is being supported by the Union of Students in Ireland and the vintners' organisations.Posted by paul at September 25, 2002 08:52 PM