Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault

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.

Our helpline number for counselling or advice is 0214479762 and is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and through contacting us we can also link you to our wide range of referral partners as needed, or go here for more.

By Paula Vermue

Paula Vermue is an Anthropology student from the Netherlands, who is currently doing research in Cape Town for her research master’s thesis. She joined the Rape Crisis team on the 1st of September 2018

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Helpline & Emergency Numbers

We have put together a list of referral numbers, including national Thuthuzela Care Center’s and national emergency numbers should you wish to contact them. Although it is the festive season, the listed organisations are always here for you and those is need of support. The lists can be found below or downloaded for your disposal.

This is a list of all the Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCCs) in the Country.  Not all TCC’s operate in the same way as Heideveld and Karl Bremer in that not all of them have counsellors on 24/7 shifts.   When in doubt about where to refer someone to, i.e., you can’t find an appropriate referral in the rest of the referral file, you can put the client in touch with the TCC in their area and they should be able to give the client an appropriate referral.

Remember, if you can’t speak to anyone, speak to us.

DOWNLOAD / VIEW PDF’s HERE:

National TCC Referrals

Helpline Numbers 

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How to talk about rape

 

Rape and violence against women is endemic in South Africa, but it is a thorny subject matter. How do we bring this discussion to the foreground in South Africa, what are the words we use and where do we start? 

Words matter. They matter because they are carriers not only of information, but carriers of feelings. When they land, words have the power to heal, revive, restore and educate but they also have an enormous power to debilitate and to trigger. But words are our thoughts, and without them we cannot speak, so how do we use them when we speak about rape? A violent scourge plaguing South Africa, encompassing noun, is not the heart of the very word [rape], triggering in itself?

One of the reasons mainstream media has come under scrutiny for reporting on sexual assaults against women is because they find themselves completely at a loss for sensitivity when it comes to reportage. So what do they do? They stop reporting on the incidents instead. Here’s what happens when issues stop appearing in the news – or better, appear less: Society stops talking about it, the discussion disappears into the shadow, voices are silenced, and communities suffer alone, by themselves.

Kathleen Dey, Director of Rape Crisis South Africa says, “Stories about rape form only about 1% of all media coverage. We need editorial commitment to increasing the volume of reporting without creating moral or compassion fatigue, so we need to be creative about how we produce content and messaging”.

Media needs to be at the forefront of taking on the responsibility about influencing society to have these conversations. Societies should be faced with stories that reflect sexual assault in a truthful, careful manner because a lot of culture in society is shaped by storytellers and one of the ways rape culture can cease to exist is by creating a space that is safer for women, girls and all survivors of sexual assault and one that is more threatening to rapists. But if we don’t talk about it, no one gets that message.

Dey also highlights the importance of engaging with communities, “We need to strengthen communication with communities affected by rape using multiple languages and platforms. We need to tell real stories about the lived experience of rape survivors being conscious of whose stories are told, who tells them, where they are told and how. We need these voices and messages to be amplified”.

 

“Journalists and other communications professionals need gender and diversity training so that they can speak to these issues in a more powerful way. Feminism has so much to teach us about how we tell stories and we need to have more discussion and debate at various levels on what this could be,” she continues.

The media is a mirror to society and society is a mirror to the media. So goes the old adage, but there is no time better than the present to take that very mirror and hold it up to those in government and make them face the scourge as well. The South African government has had its own anti-sexual-violence messaging tainted for too long by its very members committing a couple of heinous crimes which are not always adequately addressed. When the government fails, it also fails its people.

Dey says, “Government is a key audience. We need political will for addressing sexual violence now more than ever. Media can get to government… We need to challenge rape culture and explore ways of building a culture of respect for consent whatever context we are aiming to change through our engagements. We need to actively support women’s leadership”. That last portion begs special mention: Support women’s leadership.

Newsrooms, government offices and even police stations are rife with the imbalances of powers. Misogyny will always favour the powerful and silence the ones who have been sexually abused, sexually assaulted, raped etc. Up until the 1970s in some countries, women weren’t even allowed to testify in their own rape cases – she was considered not to be a reliable source of her own rape. Biblically, rape is referred to as a theft of property, not of the woman but of the father or husband. The men who “own” the women, and now, centuries after the great book we find ourselves in a position where far too few stories of women by women exist in order to bring about any real change.

Dey says, “There are few messages challenging patriarchy and challenging myths and stereotypes about rape.”

According to the Director of Rape Crisis, the media only report on about 1% of sexual assault stories. “There is a lack of a comprehensive messaging strategy on rape and sexual violence with key messages at the heart of each piece coming through without any degree of clarity.”

But while we work on our words, let’s make one thing clear: The discussion on rape needs to be made institutional in a way that brings about real change.

Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a South African columnist, disruptor of the peace and the author of ‘Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a brown woman in a white South Africa’. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @sage_of_absurd