Pubdate: Mon, 08 Nov 2004
Source: Richmond News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004, Lower Mainland Publishing Group Inc.
Author: Eve Edmonds
Bookmark: (Women)


Date-rape drugging has more than doubled in the last five years in
Richmond, Vancouver and the North Shore, according to Janet Ericksen,
co-author of a new study that appeared in the Canadian Journal of
Public Health.

And not only are rates rising, the sharpest increase has been among
girls age 15 to 19.

"This used to be seen as a college or university phenomena, but it's
happening among high school kids as well," said Ericksen, a co-author
of the study and a nurse with the sexual assault unit at Vancouver
General Hospital.

The study does not break the rates down to the three specific
municipalities. However, Ericksen notes, "I have no doubt that if it's
on the rise here, it's on the rise there in Richmond."

"The typical scenario," explained Ericksen, "is that someone will
report being in some social situation where they've had one or two
drinks, often alcohol but not always. And from that moment on, they
have no recollection of what happened, until they wake up."

Sometimes they wake up with no clothes on or in a strange bed. Other
times, there's even less evident, just a feeling.

What's consistent, however, is the black out that is inconsistent with
the number of drinks imbibed.

In the case of the 15 to 19-year-old age group, assaults usually
happen at home parties and the victim may be friends with, or at least
know, the assailant.

"It is so hard for these girls to come forward. It's traumatic enough
to be sexually assaulted, but then to think that it was done by a
friend _ makes these women extremely confused, upset and reluctant to
go to the police," said Ericksen.

This may, in part, explain why Richmond RCMP's Cpl. Peter Thiessen
said he is not aware of any increase in cases of drug-induced rapes in

Anita Roberts, the founder of SafeTeen, is convinced it is happening
at an increasing rate in Richmond.

"I hear about it in every school I go into," said Roberts, whose
program dealing with violence and sexuality has been integrated in the
Richmond school district's curriculum. Every Grade 10 female student
goes through a SafeTeen workshop where they learn about the issues -
and Roberts learns from them what's really happening.

Rohypnol is the drug of choice and it's frighteningly easy to get
thanks to pushers (often guys in their 20s) who hang around the
schools, she said.

They eventually find a high school boy who will buy it. That boy, in
turn, sells to others out of his locker.

But while it's prevalent, women are not helpless, Roberts notes. The
best defense is education.

Her presenters, usually hip-looking 20-year-olds, offer tips, telling
women to be aware of their drinks and use a buddy system. But more
importantly, talk about personal empowerment.

"In all the 27 years I've been working in this area of sexual assault,
every woman I've talked to about her situation said they had a 'bad

"We have to teach girls to trust that 'bad feeling' and get themselves

Samantha Kearney a spokeswoman for Rape Relief agrees it's important
to arm women with tips and a sense of empowerment, but we also have to
form a united front and make it clear to men that this is

"There is nothing new here. Men have been using drugs to get access to
women for a long time. We have to call them on it. We have the idea
that it is some lone creep out there, but often these guys aren't
alone. It's up to other men to help stop it, as well as the bar
workers and the police."

Roberts says her program is also offered to boys, although it's not as
popular. She notes that the male code is extremely hard to break.

"These boys will sometimes do things under pressure that they would
never otherwise do. It is more about proving to each other, than it is
about sex."
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