1997-98 Academy Text Supplement
Developments in Targeting Sexual Assault Against Young Victims
Because the overwhelming majority of sexual crimes are committed by intimates and against youth, victim assistance, rape awareness and prevention programs are increasingly targeting grade school and junior high school students. Significantly, the 1994 Violence Against Women
Act provides priority funding for educational programs targeted to middle and junior high school students. For example:
Privacy Rights of Sexual Assault Victims
Privacy remains a critical concern of victims of sexual assault, and a primary factor in non-reporting. Several states have enacted privacy protection laws to prevent the name and address, or other identifying information about rape victims, to be made public. In addition, many law enforcement agencies have adopted policies to exclude such information before the release of police reports to the media.
An emerging issue in the past few years has been the use of legal and illegal drugs by potential rapists who sedate their intended victims without the victim's knowledge or permission. Such drugs are put into non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages in a variety of social settings. Substance-related rapes present severe difficulties for survivors of rape, as well as for those trying to prevent their victimization. Many articles have appeared in the media about the threat and the susceptibility of individuals to this type of victimization.
According to the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the most threatening problem is the emergence of a drug that results "in the inability of the rape survivor to remember the details of what happened as a result of the heavy sedating effect of the drug and/or alcohol heightens the difficulty of gathering information that could help prosecute the offender." (NCASA News, Vol. 6, No. 1, April 1997)
In 1996, Congress passed the Drug-Induced Rape Prevention Act to address the emerging issue of the use of sedating drugs by rapists on their victims. The Act sets forth prison terms of up to 20 years for offenders convicted of using controlled substances with the intent to commit a violent crime, including rape.
According to the April 1997 edition of the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault News, there are new drug testing capabilities available that may help collect evidence in relation to substance abuse cases. Hoffmann-La Roche, a major pharmaceutical company, is offering a free testing service because of its concern that one of its medicines -- Rohypnol (flunitrazepam) --
has been misused. Currently, the medicine is not legally available within the United States, but is available in 80 countries outside the United States for the treatment of severe sleeping disorders.
While many other drugs and alcohol are used to induce potential victims, rape crisis centers, law enforcement officials, and hospital emergency rooms involved in the investigation of sexual assault cases where drug misuse is suspected should call (800) 608-6540 to access this free testing service. The testing is performed by an independent U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-certified forensic toxicology laboratory. According to NCASA, the urine sample is tested for amphetamines, barbiturates, and benzodiazepines, including flunitrazepam, cocaine, marijuana, and opiates. The results of the tests are returned directly to the rape crisis center, law enforcement official, or hospital emergency room and, most importantly, the identity of the victim is kept confidential. (Snyder, D. (1997, April). "Drug Testing for Substance-Related Rape," Vol. 6, No. 1, p.16. NCASA News.)
A National Public Awareness Campaign Against 'Date Rape Drugs'
In August of 1997, Attorney General Janet Reno launched a nationwide public awareness campaign to bring awareness to the dangers of 'date rape drugs'. The public awareness campaign is being conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice in collaboration with the Rape Treatment Center at the Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. In launching the program Attorney General Reno stated:
There has been an alarming increase in sexual assaults involving Rohypnol and GHB, (Gamma-hydroxbutyrate) These are especially serious and sinister crimes. When a rapist uses these drugs to incapacitate the victim, the victim is robbed of her ability to defend herself and to remember what happened.
The Attorney General also stated that when mixed with alcohol, the rape drugs are "as lethal as a gun or a knife."
The campaign, called "Rohypnol and GHB: What You Need to Know" includes brochures, posters, bookmarks, and public service announcements warning about the dangers of these drugs. For example, one poster features a hand dropping two pills into a mug of beer, with the accompanying message: "Now rapists don't have to use force to get what they want." The poster offers this advice: 'Watch your drink, it's your best defense." The bookmarks advise students never to leave drinks unattended in clubs or at parties. It also advises women to not accept a drink from a stranger. ("Reno Launches Drive Against 'Date Rape Drugs', Los Angeles Times, Tuesday, August 12, 1997.)
Throughout the past year, the public awareness materials have been distributed nationwide.
Improving the Quality and Continuity of Services
for Sexual Assault Victims
In 1997, the Office for Victims of Crime awarded a grant to the Sexual Assault Resource Service of the Minneapolis Research Foundation to address the need to improve the quality and continuity of services to victims of sexual assault. Under this project, the Sexual Assault Resource Center is developing a comprehensive training and technical assistance package for crisis responses, advocacy, and mental health services that can promote personal recovery and healing. The program was pilot-tested in the spring of 1998 in Colorado and Minnesota. Throughout 1998 a series of regional training workshops for direct service providers will be conducted. ("Initiatives to Combat Violence Against Women." (1997). Office for Victims of Crime Fact Sheet, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.)