Rape drugs infiltrate Queen’s

Head of campus security says use of rohypnol is on the rise

Security measures like blue lights have cut down on the number of predators lurking in dark corners, but today people need to watch their drinks.
Security measures like blue lights have cut down on the number of predators lurking in dark corners, but today people need to watch their drinks.

It's been twelve years since students fought back after a student was raped while crossing Kingston field, but sexual violence has not disappeared from Queen's altogether, said Louise Fish, head of campus security.

While services like Walk Home and the blue light security poles have contributed to a relatively safe campus, students need to turn their attention to local bars where the use of rape drugs is increasing at an alarming rate, said Fish.

"This isn't simply an American phenomenon," Fish told the small group of parents and teenagers who gathered at the North Kingston Community Health Centre Thursday evening for a rape-drug information session.

The session was organized by the Sexual Assault Crisis Centre of Kingston (SACCK) as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and was geared towards students entering post-

secondary institutions.

"These drugs are out there," Fish said. "They're in Canada, they're in Kingston, and they're at Queen's."

Since 1998, four sexual assaults have been recorded annually by campus security. Of the four reported in 2000, one assault may have involved a rape drug other than alcohol. There were also two other cases where a rape drug was suspected of being dropped into a drink but no assault took place.

"We don't know if rape drugs were used in those two cases," said Fish, “because the hospital discouraged the tests since no sexual assault had taken place and the results take months to come back."

A total of 149 sexual assaults were reported to the Kingston Police between 1999 and 2000. Rape drugs were suspected in five of the cases.

"When you consider that only one per cent of sexual assaults are ever reported, this number is very high and students, male or female, need to be aware when they're partying that they could be a victim," Fish told the group, citing a recent survey revealing that 35 per cent of university-aged males said they would sexually assault a woman if they could get away with it.

"Rape drugs help them get away with it."

Though alcohol remains the number one date rape drug, the popularity of rohypnol is growing, Fish said. Rohypnol, a tasteless, odourless tablet that dissolves quickly in liquid, is a dangerous sedative when mixed with alcohol. The drug’s effects include: eight to 24 hours of unconsciousness, amnesia, and a depression of the respiratory system.

Rohypnol is not the only drug used to commit sexual assault. Increasing in popularity on North American campuses is gamme hydroxybuterate (GHB), a drug often made in bathtubs with common households ingredients such as drain cleaner and wallpaper paste. In addition, scopolomine, which is generally known as a truth serum, as well as ketamine, ecstacy, and Halcio, have all seen recent use in cases of campus sexual assault, though rohypnol remains the most popular.

After a mother in attendance related that her grandmother in Mexico took rohypnol as a sleeping pill, Fish said that rohypnol's legal availability in Mexico has contributed to its popularity. Its use as a rape drug was seen first in Florida, where widespread parties and anonymity during spring break, when combined with rohypnol, led to increased instances of sexual violence.

"Between 10 and 15 per cent of the young men who use this drug don't think they're doing anything wrong. They think it's manly to overcome a woman or that it's a part of the chase," she said. One of the best ways to prevent date rapes is for parents to admit that these problems do exist in universities. Parents should use communication to battle it head on, Fish said.

Fish said that while many security measures exist on campus to discourage sexual predators from lurking on campus, over 90 per cent of all sexual assaults are performed by someone known to the victim. For crimes like date rape and rohypnol-assisted assault, the security measures must come from the individual, in the form of preventive awareness, she said.

“The best safety tip is to recognize that these drugs are circulating in Kingston," Fish said.

Sexual Assault Stats

  • one in four women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime
  • one in three girls and one in seven boys will be sexually assaulted before they are 18
  • a sexual assault in reported in Canada every 25 minutes
  • 57 per cent of rapes happen on dates
  • 83 per cent of women with disabilities will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime
  • 80-90 per cent of Canadian women will experience sexual harassment in their working lives
  • only 6 per cent of sexual assaults are reported to the police
Statistics provided by the Sexual Assault Crisis Centre of Kingston

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