Crime in a pill only a myth, say researchers

December 11, 2000

In a study of two Ontario university campuses, researchers found there have been no rape charges involving drinks laced with "club drugs". The University of Toronto researchers are questioning why universities continue to make these drugs a major focus of their student safety programs.

"There is so much focus on date rape drugs because the media and the Internet are constantly looking for new risks that are newsworthy," says criminology professor Mariana Valverde of her research, published in the November issue of the journal Economy and Society. "This detracts attention from the real problems that can lead to date rape such as sexual assaults involving alcohol." She believes that education practitioners are being influenced by the media's emphasis on "club drugs" and are using this information to educate students on its dangers without doing any fact checking.

Valverde and PhD student Dawn Moore spoke with university health and safety officers and gathered information from Canadian university Web sites and online newspapers about the perceived risks associated with date rape drugs and how they inform students of these risks. They found that almost all of the information warned students of the perceived dangers -- yet according to sexual assault police squads in Toronto and university campus police, there has not been one conviction of date rape resulting from "club drugs" such as Ecstasy and Rohypnol.

Paying more attention to the actual crime being committed rather than waging a war on drugs is essential says Valverde. "If a man wants to rape a woman, he will use any means that are available," she says. Valverde argues that more resources should be spent examining actual experiences of women and using this information to develop more effective safety programs.
CONTACT: Professor Marianna Valverde, Centre of Criminology, 978-6438 x 229, or Sue Toye, U of T Public Affairs, 978-0260,

University of Toronto

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