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December 8 2006

Dodgy Awareness-raising Campaigns and News Media Gullibility
Media Release

There has been alarming news in the last couple of days, Brian Robinson notes.

One News reported the Taranaki "Safer" Centre saying that seven women reported being drugged and raped in the region last weekend.  Newstalk ZB reported a "spate of drug rapes" and said "a New Plymouth rape crisis centre is warning young women to beware". The Taranaki Daily News reported that seven women "tell of drug rape horror" and that there has been an "apparent spate of drug-induced sex attacks."  Stuff reported "A string of drug rape incidents surfaced in Taranaki over the weekend".

The reports were indeed horrifying. They had the desired effect. The Taranaki Daily News reported that "Young New Plymouth women are shocked and frightened for their safety in bars"  The reports got worse. Safer Centre Lorraine Jans speculated and was faithfully reported saying that "It was possible the seven [women] were only the tip of the iceberg" and then "It was possible a gang of men could be behind the attacks."

Thanks to the police, the Taranaki Daily News has provided a little balance.  We have been told only one of the alleged victims has complained to police. Detective Senior Sergeant Grant Coward said that while the Hawera CIB is currently investigating an alleged rape from last weekend, it is too early to say if it was drug rape.  In other words there is a possibility that there may have been a drug rape.

The news media should consider some deeper investigation into what appears to be yet another scare story from Lorraine Jans of the Safer Centre.  A good place to start would be Spiked OnLine  for an analysis from Josie Appleton.

Appleton's article "Drink-spiking: a morality tale for our times" predates the New Zealand drug rape hysteria of the last couple of days.

Appleton reminds us that "Drink-spiking awareness campaigns have become an established part of the pre-Christmas period. Its normally around early December that police forces, student unions and campaign organisations start to warn revellers about the poisons that others could be slipping into their festive drinks"  The article covers the transformation of drug rape "from urban myth to official fact" and concludes with excellent advice "We will certainly have to stay vigilant about dodgy awareness-raising campaigns this Christmas."   Our news media could well heed that advice.; "Seeking justice for Peter Ellis and other victims, both past and present, of the New Zealand sex abuse moral panic"