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Study: Most sexual assaults involve drugs

May 11, 2006

FROM STNG WIRE REPORTS

Almost 62 percent of sexual assaults were found to be drug facilitated, and almost 5 percent of the victims were given classic “date-rape” drugs, according to a new study at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

An estimated 100,000 sexual assaults are committed in the United States each year, and the FBI says that number could be three times higher if all cases were reported, Adam Negrusz, associate professor of forensic sciences in the UIC College of Pharmacy said in a release from UIC.

Negrusz, lead author of the study, said individuals who use drugs, with or without alcohol, are thought to be at a significantly higher risk for sexual assault.

"In some cases the substances are taken voluntarily by the victims, impairing their ability to make decisions," Negrusz said in the release. "In other cases the substances are given to the victims without their knowledge, which may decrease their ability to identify a dangerous situation or to resist the perpetrator."

In about 80 percent of the cases, the victim knows the assailant, he said, "while only 20 percent of sexual assaults are opportunistic."

The study, funded by the National Institute of Justice, collected data from 144 subjects who sought help in clinics in Texas, California, Minnesota and Washington state, according to the release. Urine and hair specimens were analyzed for about 45 drugs that have either been detected in sexual assault victims or whose pharmacology could be exploited for drug-facilitated sexual assaults, Negrusz said in the release.

Two types of drug-facilitated sexual assault were identified: presumed surreptitious drugging, or willful drug use by the subject.

According to Negrusz, 61.8 percent of the subjects were found to have at least one of the 45 analyzed drugs in their system; 4.9 percent tested positive for the classic date-rape drugs, and 4.2 percent had been drugged without their knowledge.

When the subject's voluntary drug use was queried, 35.4 percent were likely to have been impaired at the time of the sexual assault, the release said.

"This study demonstrated the need for toxicological analysis in sexual assault cases," Negrusz said, noting the high percentage of subjects who tested positive for drugs. "It also demonstrated that sexual assault complainants severely under-report their illegal drug usage."

The study also confirmed that drug-facilitated sexual assault is more often due to the subject's own drug use, he said, rather than surreptitious drugging by the perpetrator.