Characterizing Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault Subtypes and Treatment Engagement of Victims at a Hospital-Based Rape Treatment Center

J Interpers Violence. 2017 May;32(10):1524-1542. doi: 10.1177/0886260515589567. Epub 2015 Jun 10.


Variation among existing studies in labeling, defining, identifying, and subtyping cases of suspected drug-facilitated sexual assault (DFSA) poses challenges to integrating research findings for public health purposes. This descriptive study addressed methodological issues of nomenclature and DFSA operational definitions to improve case identification and was designed to distinguish assault subtypes. We studied a 2-year ethnically diverse cohort of 390 patients who presented acutely to an urban rape treatment center (RTC). We abstracted data from RTC medical and mental health records via chart review. Assault incidence rates; engagement into medical, forensic, and mental health services; injury sustained; and weapon use were calculated separately for assault subtypes and compared. DFSA accounted for over half of the total sexual assault (SA) cases. Involuntary DFSA (in which an incapacitating substance was administered to victims without their knowledge or against their will) increased from 25% to 33% of cases over the 2-year period. DFSA victims presented sooner, and more often attended medical follow-up and psychotherapy than non-DFSA victims. Incidence rates indicated increasing risk for young males. These findings indicate that DFSA continues to be a growing and complex phenomenon and suggest that DFSA victims have greater service needs. The field would benefit from innovations to address symptomatology arising from this novel type of trauma and the unique risks and needs of male victims, as well as underscoring the ongoing need for DFSA-specific prevention efforts for both victims and perpetrators.

Keywords: alcohol and drugs; anything related to sexual assault; male victims; prevention; reporting/disclosure; sexual assault.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Crime Victims
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Rape / statistics & numerical data*
  • Research Design
  • Sex Offenses / statistics & numerical data*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications*


  • Illicit Drugs