Warning over `date rape' drug as women attacked

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The Independent Online
DOCTORS YESTERDAY issued a warning to women in Merseyside after a spate of alleged rapes in which women reported having their drinks drugged before being assaulted.

About 12 women have reported being raped in Liverpool in the past few months, with a least four saying their drinks were "spiked". Three of the women, who are aged between 16 and 25, said they were assaulted after going into a "trance" while out drinking with friends during the Maybank holiday.

In one case a woman said she woke up in a field to find a man sexually assaulting her. In another a woman said she began to lose her memory after one and a half glasses of wine.

Health workers fear many more women were assaulted but are afraid to forward.

There is growing concern about the use by sex attackers of so-called "date rape" drugs, such as Rohypnol and GHB. These tranquillisers and anaesthetics, which are odourless and colourless, leave victims semi- conscious for several hours and with little memory of their experiences.

The Royal Liverpool University Hospital and Liverpool Brook Advisory Services, the organisations that have dealt with all the alleged rape victims, said in a statement: "This new wave of assaults, including rape, seems to arise when drinks are left unattended, often only briefly. It is possible that some kind of chemical substance is added to the drink which causes the victim to become unaware of what she is doing."

Medical staff warned "students who may be celebrating end of term to be particularly on the alert".

Dr Peter Carey, consultant in genito-urinary medicine at the Royal, said: "We have seen about a dozen women in recent weeks. It is a new phenomenon for us and I feel that the women who have come for help so far may be the tip of the iceberg.

"Generally, this appears to be happening to girls or women who report being unable to remember events after having a drink. Eventually they `wake up' from this state of unawareness having no recollection of what has happened to them. In some cases they have found used condoms nearby or there is some indication that a sexual assault has occurred."

In future the hospital will ask all alleged rape victims whether they believe they were drugged while drinking.

None of the women who sought help at the hospital contacted the police to make a complaint. Dr Carey said this was "fairly typical". "They fear their names are going to be made public and they will subjected to embarrassing questions if they go to court."

Andrea Roberts, one of five health advisers at the hospital, has dealt with four women who said they were raped after their drinks were spiked. She believes the full scale of the problem is only just emerging.

"Three girls came in on the same day," she said. "They had all gone out with girlfriends for a drink at a bar or club. One girl said she was on her second glass of wine, but never remembers finishing it."

In another incident a woman said she does not even remember leaving a pub, but awoke in a field being assaulted by a man. She kicked him and ran off.

Merseyside Police appealed yesterday for all victims to contact them and pledged that all women would be dealt with sensitively and confidentially.

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