The role of voluntary and involuntary drug and alcohol consumption and premorbid mental health factors in drug-facilitated sexual assault

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In order to better understand risk factors associated with drug-facilitated sexual assault (DFSA), this study examined complainant-specific and contextual factors, as well as the toxicological profile of DFSA in Victoria, Australia. Clinical files and toxicological analysis results collected by the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (VIFM) for all cases of alleged DFSA in Victoria that occurred between 1st January 2011 – 31st December 2013 were reviewed. Two hundred and four cases of alleged DFSA were identified; complainants were predominately female (93%), and their median age was 26 years (range = 18–54). Self- reported premorbid depression (21.1%) and drug and alcohol abuse (9.8%) were four and two times higher than 12-month prevalence rates in Australia, respectively. All assailants were male, half were known to the complainant and half of alleged assaults occurred in private residences. Most (93.6%) complainants reported voluntary consumption of psychoactive substances prior to the alleged DFSA. Alcohol was the most commonly self-reported substance consumed (n = 164; 64%) and concomitant use of alcohol, prescription and illicit drugs was also commonly self-reported (24%). There were 14 cases that produced a positive toxicology result where the complainant did not report voluntary consumption, which suggests these drugs may have been used covertly to facilitate sexual assault. The results of this study indicate that Females in their mid-20's who exhibit higher rates of mental health concerns represent a sub-group of the Australian population with increased vulnerability to DFSA, which typically occurs in a familiar setting in the context of voluntary alcohol and other substance use.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)382-391
Number of pages10
JournalForensic Science, Medicine and Pathology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2019


  • sexual violence
  • drug-facilitated sexual assault
  • mental health
  • trauma

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