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Just one drink after work..and the next thing I woke up bitten, battered and brutally raped; INVESTIGATES GROWING MENACE OF THE DATE RAPE DRUGS.

Byline: LUCY LAWRENCE, TAMZIN LEWIS and GRAHAM JOHNSON

KIM Shannon was just 16 and like most teenagers was delighted to land a part-time job to boost her pocket money. The two men who employed her to clean their restaurant seemed completely safe...sweet even.

But that first day in her new job would change Kim's life for ever. She was plied with vodka, drugged until she passed out, raped, battered, bitten - and then dumped in the street.

Kim, now 18, recalls: "One of the men offered me a lift home after work and said, 'We'll have a few drinks and then go'.

"Soon I was feeling quite dizzy and thought I was getting drunk. This was my last memory. Next thing I remember is being back with my friend where they had dropped me off. I didn't know what was going on.

"But I knew something had happened because my trousers were on back to front and my bra was undone."

Kim now knows she was a victim of drug rape - one of the country's fastest-growing crimes.

Shocking new figures show that reported cases soared by 64 per cent last year - with more than 2,000 women claiming they were sexually abused after their drinks were spiked.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg. It is estimated that only one in 10 rapes is reported. And only seven men have ever been convicted of drug-assisted rape.

In Kim's case, the Crown Office in Scotland told her on her 17th birthday that there was not enough evidence to take the two men responsible to court.

She reacted by taking an overdose of paracetemol - but was discovered by her mum, Donna, who rushed her to hospital.

Kim said: "Then the Crown Office admitted they had made a mistake and the case went ahead."

Bahar Ali, 36, of Maryhill, Glasgow, and Stephen Singh, 26, of Govanhill, Glasgow, were convicted of rape under the Scottish law of clandestine injury and Ali was also found guilty of another sex act. He was jailed for five years and Singh for four.

Unlike in Scotland and Northern Ireland, there is no clandestine injury offence under English law. It makes it an offence to have intercourse with a woman when she is in no state to give or withhold consent such as when she is asleep or unconscious.

Kim said: "If this law applied to the rest of the UK it could help cut the percentage of women this is happening to."

Although reports of drug rape have been increasing year-on-year for the last 10 years, the police and the law are still severely ill-equipped to deal with it.

Rapists carefully choose drugs that leave little or no trace in the victim's body. Any signs there are disappear within hours, and police do not have the forensic testing equipment to deal with it.

Like Kim, many victims have little or no memory of what went on. But one of the first things they will be told by rape counsellors, police and lawyers is that the effect of the drugs is to cause them to lose their inhibitions and act in ways they wouldn't normally dream of.

These women, trying to cope with the normal feelings of disgust and guilt associated with rape, also have to grapple with the knowledge that they co-operated with their attacker.

But there are now some signs that the police are beginning to understand the problem.

The Metropolitan Police force has introduced Early Evidence Kits so all police stations can take samples for drug testing from victims, giving it no time to disappear from the victim's system. They are also putting pressure on pubs and clubs to stock special beer mats or cocktail stirrers that change colour when they come into contact with alcohol contaminated by a date rape drug.

Detective Chief Inspector Richard Walton said: "From our perspective, the problem is that if someone makes an allegation of being drugged, the only way to prove it is forensic.

"In many cases by the time the offence is reported the drugs have already left the system."

The crime is made more difficult to detect because 19 different drugs are so far believed to have been used in drug-assisted rape.

The most famous is Rohypnol, a Class-C drug 10 times more powerful than Valium. It was first identified as being used in drug rape in America.

Over here, other tranquillisers such as Valium are more commonly used or GHB (liquid ecstasy) which can be made with a simple chemistry set.

A Sunday Mirror investigation showed that these drugs are widely available. Rohypnol is illegal without a private prescription and banned on the NHS.

Despite this it is still often used by clubbers to help them "come down" after a night on Ecstasy or cocaine. And dozens of drug dealers around London's Soho offered "Roeys" or "blues" - their street names - to our undercover reporter.

The drug sells for pounds 1 a tablet on the street. But inside pubs and clubs - because management are cracking down on dealers selling date-rape drugs - the price goes up to pounds 10 or pounds 15 per pill and you have to buy a strip of up to 15.

Some dealers claim its availability has gone down since it became associated with rapes.

A Glaswegian pusher called Rushy said: "It's not cheap when you get it inside (a club) because it's risky. I can't get into the clubs because the doormen know me.

"I get away with selling Ecstasy and powders but if they catch you selling Rohypnol or Valium you're in trouble because of date-rape. It drives the tourists and girls away."

On the internet we found numerous pharmacists from Mexico and South America willing to sell it by mail order without a prescription.

Despite also being illegal, GHB - also known as Heaven, Easy Lay and Blue Juice - is on sale for just pounds 15 a bottle in sex shops across the country.

It is a powerful aphrodisiac which also amplifies the effects of alcohol or drugs. When combined with drink the colourless, odourless liquid can knock victims unconscious in 10 minutes. It has been linked to four deaths in the UK.

Women's rights campaigner Baroness Helena Kennedy QC said: "I really think serious consideration should be given to changing the law in England and that judges in England should be stricter about which elements of a victim's history should be allowed to be brought up in court.

"As soon as you mention alcohol or drugs being used voluntarily it makes the chances of securing a conviction for drug-assisted rape very, very small."

Detective Chief Inspector Peter Sturman of the Drug Rape Foundation added: "We have to raise awareness in the legal system that these women are not going to present themselves as typical rape victims.

"In some cases they will be on CCTV seemingly willingly leaving pubs or clubs with their attackers - the defence will use that to help their case.

"We have to get it through that they are not willing - they are acting under the influence of some very powerful drugs."

COMMENT: Page 14

lucy.lawrence@mgn.co.ukDRUGS USED TO SPIKE DRINKSROHYPNOL Used for anxiety, sleep disturbances and in anaesthesia. Colourless, odourless and when added to alcohol it gets rid of inhibition and causes amnesia (effect lasts up to 24 hours). The pills emit a blue dye if dissolved and a metallic taste in the drink. Street Names: Roofies, Rope, Ruffies, R2, Ruffles, Forget-pill.

GHB Odourless, colourless, liquid depressant. Gives a feeling of relaxation, tranquillity, sensuality, and loss of inhibitions (especially for women). Combined with alcohol, the effects can last up to 30 hours. Street Names: Liquid Ecstasy, Liquid X, Scoop, Easy Lay.

KETAMINE Powerful anaesthetic, causes hallucinations, amnesia and dissociation. Street names: K, Special K, Vitamin K, Ket.

BENZODIAZEPINES These tranquillisers are used to treat anxiety, tension and insomnia. Can induce clumsiness, drowsiness, dizziness and confusion. Mixed with alcohol or other drugs, can increase the sedative effect.

BARBITURATES Used as a sedative and relaxant. Induce drowsiness and dizziness. Mixed with alcohol, they can be fatal.BEER MAT THAT COULD SAVE YOUTO detect signs of date-rape drugs, SureScreen Diagnostics have devised a beer mat which, when in contact with a drink containing substances, will change colour. And you can get one FREE.

The Intelligent Beer Mat tackles the danger of drugs being inserted into drinks. If you'd like one, send an SAE to: Sunday Mirror Intelligent Beer Mat Offer, 1 Prime Parkway, Prime Enterprise Park, Derby, DE1 3QB, to arrive by next Saturday, June 15. For more details of the Intelligent Beer Mat call 01332 365 318.

CAPTION(S):

VICTIM: Kim was drug raped at 16
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 9, 2002
Words:1451
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