Adolescents and drug-facilitated sexual assault: a preliminary study


Regrettably, in last years it has been an increase of sexist attitudes and behaviors and, by extension, of using drugs as facilitators of sexual assaults, mainly alcohol or other substances such as the popular “burundanga”. In Spain, there are scarcely any empirical studies that provide reliable data or analyze this issue. The present study has a twofold objective: (1) to provide data on possible uses of drugs as facilitators of sexual assaults by adolescents and young people, and (2) to characterize and to get a better understanding of possible patterns of use and profiles of victims, as well as related variables. This information could translate into more effective preventive efforts.

A selective methodology was used, consisting of a survey of Compulsory secondary education students (upper secondary education: 3rd and 4th year), baccalaureate students, vocational training students and university students from the Northwest region of Spain. For the sample selection, purposive sampling was used. A total of 16 educational centers took part. The final sample consisted of 1,568 students aged between 14 and 24 (M = 16.61 and SD = 2.52; 51.5% females). Data were collected in their own classrooms in small groups (between 20 and 25 individuals) through a self-administered paper-and-pencil questionnaire that each student completed individually. All participants were informed of the purpose of the study, as well as the confidentiality and anonymity of their responses. Participation was totally voluntary.

The results obtained show that 46.8% of participants knew someone who usually buys alcohol or other drugs to someone, as a method of flirting. Moreover, 37.5% of the students reported that someone had ever bought alcohol or other drugs to them, trying to seduce them (71.1% among females, and more than 70% among university students). On the other hand, 7.2% claimed that some alcohol or drugs were ever bought to them by someone with the intention of committing forced sexual acts, and 6.1% of the participants had ever woken up disoriented or with suspicion of having been drugged. Furthermore, 2.9% reported that they were victims of drug-facilitated sexual assault (more than 6% among university students). The victims were mostly women (3 out of 4), and 1 out of 3 were underage. Only 15.4% of the victims went to the emergency department or to a medical service, and only 1 out of 10 reported it to the authorities.

Although this is an exploratory study, the findings reveal that we are facing a very worrying problem that it appears to have been consolidated among the youngsters in such a trivial way. It affects mainly women, has serious consequences, and is not reported to the authorities in 90% of cases. This issue should be focus of specific politics in terms of prevention.


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