In late 2003 and 2004, the Ottawa Police Service led Project Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault (Project DFSA) with the generous assistance of several committed community organizations. Funded from the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Public Safety's Front Line Policing Crime Prevention Grant Program, Project DFSA stemmed from a 2003 needs assessment which reinforced the need to raise community awareness on the growing issue of drug facilitated sexual assault (DFSA).
Among other findings, date rape has the lowest reporting rate of all forms of sexual assault, with a low of only 1% of all date rape cases being reported (according to the Ottawa Women's Directorate) to a high of 6% (according to Solicitor General Canada). As problematic, research uncovered a number of factors which limit reporting including the belief that people can do nothing about it; concern about the attitudes of both police and the courts towards sexual assault; fear of subsequent assault by the offender; and fear and shame (according to research conducted by Solicitor General Canada).
Project DFSA was designed to test the effectiveness of enhancing community awareness in respect to key DFSA issues, including such things as what are date rape drugs; what are their effects; how sexual predators utilize chemical drugs to victimize young men and women; what are the first response issues associated with DFSA, and the like. The awareness program was focused on four key groups in our community;
- Students (youth aged 14 to 18), in three high schools. This component featured student-led creative projects (such as dance, art, writing, video and other forms of creative expression) where they interpreted, treated and presented the issue of DFSA to their peers via school assemblies and common area displays.
- Law enforcement patrol officers and other police service personnel from the Ottawa Police Service. This component of our program consisted of a three-hour training program designed specifically for this project, covering such issues as an overview of the rave and all night dance party scene; chemical drugs and their effects; issues related to DFSA investigations; crime scene and Criminal Code of Canada issues; toxicology and testing limitations, etc.
- Front line health care professionals including emergency department nurses, triage personnel and medical doctors, among others. This component of our program also consisted of a three-hour training program.
- Relevant community stakeholders and partners who participated in our regional committee and who took core DFSA program messages and materials back to their organizations as well as to others with whom they have relationships.