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Wilfrid Laurier University Leaf
October 31, 2014

Canadian Excellence

New study looks at best practices in drug-facilitated sexual assaults



A 2004 study by Margaret J. McGregor et al. found that since 1999 there has been a "marked and sustained increase" of drug-facilitated sexual assaults (DFSA).

According to Dr. Kristin Trotter, assistant professor in the Faculty of Social Work and private practitioner, there is substantial research on trauma and its treatment, but when it comes to working with DFSA there are a lot of gaps in terms of best practices. "Victims of drug-facilitated sexual assaults often remember very little about the assault. They may have flashes of memory or vague, fragmented images or physical evidence such as bruised thighs, but little that feels real and tangible. As therapists, how do we work with these clients?"

Researchers Dr. Kristin Trotter and Dr. Eliana Suarez have designed a study they hope will provide some answers on how to best treat DFSA. Still in the pilot phase, the researchers are looking for women who were, or suspect they were, sexually assaulted while drugged or incapacitated. The hope is that by talking to these individuals and exploring their experiences information can be gathered on how to facilitate people healing from this particular form of sexual trauma and assault.

A recent study of seven Ontario hospital-based sexual assault treatment centres found that 20.9% of victims met the criteria for suspected DFSA. "That's a lot of people and we do not have information on best practices for treating them," said Kristin. It's likely that this number is actually much higher since many incidents of DFSA go unreported. The most common sexual assault drug is alcohol, leading many women to feel ashamed and blame themselves for the assault. Many victims also don't seek treatment because they assume that if they can't remember the details of the assault, it won't affect them. That's simply not true, says Kristin. "Our bodies hold the memories. Our bodies know what has happened."

For more information on this study contact Dr. Kristin Trotter at 519-884-0710 ext. 5263 or ktrotter@wlu.ca.