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UNLAWFUL ADMINISTERING OF SUBSTANCES

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Often when we think of rape we picture a stranger jumping out of the woods or dark alley and attacking their victim. In reality, about half of the time when a survivor reports a rape it is by someone they know or someone they consider to be a friend or family member.


This is one of the reasons, among others, why sexual assaults are so under-reported and why survivors might tell someone else, but often not the police. Another reason is that a large number of such crimes are committed during or after one or both parties have enjoyed alcohol.
Reporting such cases comes with its own interrogation and stigma for the victim.


To make matters even worse, some perpetrators use substances, both legally and illegally obtained, to get victims to remove a person’s sense of danger and inhibitions, with the intention of having sex with them.


Assault


This is commonly known as ‘date rape’ and it’s the focus of today’s discussion.
Date rape drugs are most commonly used to sexually assault a person, although others might be ‘spiked’ before becoming the victim of theft or assault.
The most well-known of these substances is Rohypnol (hence the slang ‘to roofie’), a tranquiliser about 10 times more potent than Valium.


Rohypnol and others like it often have no colour, smell, or taste and are easily added to drinks without the victim’s knowledge.
These drugs usually cause a person to become helpless – unable to move or to protect themselves from being hurt. Contrary to popular perception, they do not make a person sexually aroused but merely incapacitated. Another reason these substances are used is that they may affect memory and especially fail to detail recollection, again leading to victims doubting their own memory of what happened.


As we know by now, according to the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence (SODV) Act, rape is a serious offence and can result in a perpetrator serving up to 25 years in prison. We also know that someone who cannot freely give consent, for whatever reason, does not consent. Similarly, administering a substance without the consent of an individual is unlawful.

The SODV Act defines this offence in Section 29, which reads:
l     Any person who intentionally administers a substance to or causes a substance to be taken by another;
l     Knowing that that person does not consent and;
l     With the intention of stupefying or overpowering that other person, so as to enable himself or any person to engage in a sexual activity with the first mentioned other person.


Being separate offences, in a date rape case a judge may deliver a separate verdict on the sexual assault and the administering of a substance, and, if found guilty, may then decide whether the sentences are to be served concurrently, or consecutively (in serious cases). Should a judge choose the latter, the Act details that the perpetrator of such a crime could see their sentence extended by an additional 20 years.


At Kwakha Indvodza, we applaud such strong measures, because date rape is a pre-meditated and serious crime, which ensures that victims are incapable of defence.


Though more common in large cities in South Africa and elsewhere, date rape must be a terrifying, dehumanising experience and deserves full prosecution from the law.


It’s hard to know whether a party, club, or concert you plan to go to will be dangerous. After all, if we did a thorough risk assessment of everywhere we ever went, we’d never leave the house.


Also, nobody but the perpetrator can ever truly prevent an assault. However, while it is not a potential victim’s responsibility, there are few very simple steps we can all take to eliminate the opportunity for someone to administer a substance, especially on a night out.


Tampered


These include; never accepting an open drink, or a drink that could have been tampered with, placing a coaster over your drink when it’s placed on the table and ensuring that a friend knows where you are, and where you are going.
Lastly, if you feel suddenly out of control or unexpectedly and inexplicably intoxicated, tell someone, like a waiter or bar staff and make a plan to be accompanied home by a neutral party.


The SODV Act has done an excellent job in considering all factors that may lead to the unfortunate result of rape.
The law is proving to be holistic and broad in its efforts to protect human rights. As Eswatini citizens we need to appreciate the enactment of the law and abide by its rules for a violent-free country.

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