In recent years, drug facilitated rape (date rape) has become a more prominent cause of
concern in public discourse. Drink spiking has become synonymous with sexual assault, drug
rape and date rape. The typical scenario of drink spiking involves a public space such as a bar, a club, a restaurant, a shebeen or a date setting. It could however also happen in more private settings, such as the home. The perpetrator targets a victim, by secretly spiking his or her drink with a drug. The drug used is often Rohypnol, but also Tik. When the victim becomes incapacitated, the perpetrator could abuse the victim’s vulnerable situation by sexually assaulting, raping and robbing him or her. Tik serves not only to render a victim helpless but also addicted and dependent on the rapist for drug supply thereafter even after he is convicted and jailed.
Date rape survivors are often very reluctant to come forward as they cannot recall much of what happened to them and this makes them feel very fragile when speaking about it, because it makes them feel very traumatised. This really is one of the more violating types of rape because in a sense the rapist “steals” the survivor’s memory of events in addition to perpetrating sexual violation. It is therefore difficult to say how prevalent drink spiking and drug facilitated rape is in Cape Town, as many survivors feel ashamed to report at their cases at the police, as they can’t exactly recall what had happened.
With the festive season approaching, many Capetonians, South Africans and tourists will go out more frequently and find themselves in social settings where drink spiking and sexual assault could happen. It is therefore important to be aware of this issue and to take care of yourselves and your friends when going out. Ways to protect yourself and your peers from drink spiking is to never leave your drink unattended and keep an eye on your friend’s drinks, don’t accept a drink from strangers you do not trust, try to choose bottled drinks that you could open yourself or you can see the bartender opening it. Furthermore, make sure to always surround yourself with people you trust and who would recognise that something is wrong when you lose control over your own body. It is also important to have a plan how to get home, before you go out and that the friends you are with know how you will get home safely.
However, I personally think this is very important, I am not writing this with the intention to scare women and other possible victims of drug facilitated sexual assault or to restrain them from enjoying their drinks, dates, or nights out. It is unfair to expect from women that they must adjust their habits to safely enjoy a space that is supposed to be enjoying, while perpetrators are not being addressed. This blog is written simply to explain what drug-facilitated rape is and how you can protect yourself. This should never create space for victim blaming. Rape and sexual assault is never the fault of the survivor. It is always the perpetrator to be blamed. Therefore, we must also address perpetrators and peers of perpetrators. If you see or know someone becoming a perpetrator of drug- facilitated sexual assault, please call out on this person, or report this to the police. Let’s all collectively, create a safe, sexual assault free festive season.
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By Paula Vermue