Experts report rise in domestic abuse, sexual assault, among gay men on meth
A small number of New York City gay and AIDS groups are reporting increases in violence associated with crystal meth use among gay and bisexual men.
“We are seeing more domestic violence that is related to methamphetamine,” said Victoria Cruz, coordinator of domestic violence and sexual assaults at the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project (AVP). “There is an increase related to methampheta
Not only has AVP seen more domestic violence cases that involve crystal, the perpetrators who use the drug tend to be more violent.
“What we’re seeing is an increase in the nature of the violence,” said Jeannette Kossuth, a rape and sexual assault counselor at AVP. “It’s becoming more violent.”
Generally, law enforcement and social service agencies across the country report that meth is associated with violent crimes, including domestic violence.
“In relationships where methamphetamine is an issue, the likelihood of violence is greater and the nature of the violence is more extreme,” Kossuth said.
Roughly half of AVP’s caseload is made up of domestic violence cases among gay and lesbian clients.
Sam Orlando, a service care coordinator at the Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center, said that he is aware of two gang-rape cases that involved crystal. One victim is a friend of his, the other a client of the center.
“He was with a couple of people,” Orlando said of the client. “They did some crystal. They went to a party. They did some more crystal. He said he was raped. I don’t know how many guys.”
Orlando said he discusses sexual assault as part of the counseling he does with all center clients, but emphasizes it more with meth clients.
“I stress it a little bit more,” Orlando said.
AVP has not seen any sexual assault cases that involve meth. The agency has handled cases of rohypnol, the so-called “date-rape” drug that is related to valium but far more potent, but reported that now there are more sexual assault cases involving GHB, another illicit drug, taken in liquid or powder form, that induces euphoria.
“I have heard of cases where there are multiple club drugs used,” Kossuth said. “The drug most frequently seen being used to facilitate sexual assault is no longer rohypnol. It’s now GHB.”
In the year that ended last July 30, AVP assisted 77 victims of rape, which the agency defines as penetration of the victim, anally or orally, and 44 sexual assault victims, which does not include penetration.
Men accounted for 65 percent of the rape victims and 53 percent of the sexual assault victims. Women accounted for 35 percent of the rape victims and 45 percent of the sexual assault victims.
The number of rape and domestic violence cases associated with crystal at these two agencies remains small, making it difficult to determine whether violent behavior represents a significant trend among meth users, but there is a clear perception among social service providers that meth and greater violence are linked.
“There is a belief that methamphetamine is more associated with violence, particularly with domestic violence and child abuse,” said Dr. Richard A. Rawson, associate director of the Integrated Substance Abuse Programs at the University of California Los Angeles. “As far as I know there have not been any data yet to confirm that… We’ve looked at the criminal justice data to see if we can find any evidence of meth users perpetrating more violent crimes, but we haven’t found it.”
Rawson explained that the association of meth with child abuse may result from the manufacture of the drug in laboratories at home, in the presence of children and other family members who fall prey to meth users binging on the drug. He added, however, that no data supports the association, but argued that it was reasonable to assume that crystal and violence are related.
“The drug effect with methamphetamine lasts so much longer,” he said. “People go on these long runs with it and they stay up for days at a time. The drug effect and the sleep deprivation affect their judgment.”
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