Bill Cosby Allegations Put Spotlight on Drugs and Lack of Consent

“Date Rape” = Sexual Assault

The flood of sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby puts a spotlight on the simple fact that having sex with someone – including an acquaintance – after giving them drugs or alcohol without their knowledge to deprive them of the ability to consent to sexual activity can constitute rape.

“Date rape” is a term used to describe sexual assault by a friend or an acquaintance and is a shockingly common, though widely under-reported, crime in Canada. According to a Statistics Canada survey, most (69%) of women who have been sexually assaulted were sexually assaulted by men known to them: dates, boyfriends, marital partners, friends, family members, or neighbours.

“Date rape” is a criminal offence with perpetrators charged under Canada’s sexual assault laws. As set forth in Section 265 of the Criminal Code of Canada, sexual assault is any touching of another person without their consent where the touching is of a sexual nature, or where the sexual integrity of the alleged victim is violated.

“Date Rape Drugs” Can Take Away the Ability to Legally Consent

Consent — the voluntary agreement of both parties to engage in sexual activity – can be a determinative factor in deciding whether a sexual assault took place, especially in “date rape” situations. Often, “date rapes” occur when the assailant, without the knowledge of the victim, gives them a drug or other substance designed to lull the victim into a passive, uninhibited state.

The fact that these so-called “date rape drugs” also impair and severely cloud the victim’s consciousness or memory makes it even more difficult for victims to recall and provide details of the assault. This can lead Crown Prosecutors to rely heavily on toxicology reports that demonstrate the presence of an intoxicating substance in the victim’s body at the time of the crime.

Common Date Rape Drugs

Although there are several pharmaceuticals known to impair an individual’s willpower and resistance, some substances have been commonly associated with date rape crimes. Because they create confusion and loss of consciousness in the victim, each of the following substances raise an issue of lack of consent.

  • Alcohol. Unsurprisingly, alcohol is one of the most common date rape substances. It is legal, easy to access, and widely available. Excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to memory loss and blackouts. In a nightclub or bar setting, an accused can encourage a victim to ingest so much alcohol that her judgment is seriously impaired.
  • Gamma hydroxybutyric acid. More commonly known as GHB, this drug is legally prescribed by physicians to treat patients suffering from insomnia. GHB is available in capsules, liquid, and powder. Because it is a sedative, it can create confusion, dizziness, and sleepiness in unsuspecting individuals.
  • Rohypnol. Rohypnol, or “roofies” as they are commonly known, is the drug most people think of when they hear the term “date rate drug.” Some hospitals use rohypnol to relax patients before surgical procedures. In strong doses, it can cause memory loss, which is useful for physicians treating individuals undergoing serious operations.
  • Ketamine. Although ketamine is used more frequently by veterinarians, it is also approved for use as a human sedative and anesthetic. When given in extremely strong doses, ketamine can lead to respiratory distress and even death.

Defenses to a Date Rape Allegation

While no one disputes the traumatic reality and prevalence of sexual assaults and date rape in Canada, it is also true that there are incidents where false sexual assault allegations are made, resulting in ruined relationships, careers, and reputations even if the accused is ultimately exonerated.

In these situations, a skilled criminal defence lawyer can assert a number of defences against the charges, including:

  • Lack of evidence
  • Mistaken identity
  • Revenge accusations, as in the case of a recent breakup or divorce
  • Consent on the part of the victim

Given the consequences of a sexual assault conviction and the complexities of mounting an effective defence, it is essential to consult with an experienced criminal defence lawyer as soon as you are accused of a sexual assault.

Ottawa Criminal Defence Firm Engel & Associates Defends Against Even The Most Complicated Charges

Criminal defence lawyers Bruce Engel and Elena Davies have represented individuals and businesses charged with hundreds of different offences throughout Canada for more than two decades. From the start of a criminal investigation to the close of a trial, we will take a balanced and forceful approach to your defence. We have the experience and know-how to effectively navigate the constantly changing justice system in Canada.

The materials provided on this site are for information purposes only. These materials constitute general information relating to areas of law familiar to our firm lawyers. They do NOT constitute legal advice or other professional advice and you may not rely on the contents of this website as such.

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