Nearly a fifth of male sexual assault victims felt ‘spiked’ beforehand - study

New research shows 24% increase in men attending sexual assault treatment units in Republic

Nearly a fifth of men who attended sexual assault treatment units said they believed they had been spiked prior to the incident, according to a new study by Irish medics.

The study found the number of men attending sexual assault treatment units (SATUs) in the State increased by 24 per cent over a recent six-year period. The research examined 381 cases where men attended any of the six treatment units nationwide between 2017 and 2022.

The study said in nine out of 10 cases, men reported being sexually assaulted by another man. In 30 per cent of cases the perpetrator was reported to be a stranger, 10 per cent were friends and another 36 per cent were acquaintances.

During the period examined, male victims made up 7 per cent of all patients attending SATUs, which are predominately based in hospitals. The average age of men presenting to the units was 28.


In 18.6 per cent of cases men who attended the treatment units reported being concerned they had been victims of a “drug facilitated sexual assault”, which one of the researchers said was commonly known as “spiking”.

The study compared its findings with previous research examining nearly 5,000 cases where women attended SATUs during the six-year period.

It said in 13.9 per cent of cases, men reported being assaulted by multiple perpetrators, which was twice as high as the proportion of female victims. Men were “significantly” more likely to be assaulted in the home of their perpetrator, while women were more likely to be assaulted in their own homes, the research stated.

Just under a quarter of the male victims who attended the units reported having been injured during their assault. Less than two-thirds of men who attended SATUs said they had reported the sexual assault to the Garda. In 26 per cent of cases, men who attended the treatment units were students.

Some 60 per cent of male victims reported having consumed alcohol in the 24 hours before the assault, while 20 per cent said they had taken illicit drugs during the same period.

The study said people in positions of authority – such as a manager, guard, prison officer or teacher – were more likely to be the perpetrator of the reported sexual assault than in cases involving women.

Dr Daniel Kane, one of the study’s authors and a forensic examiner in the Rotunda Hospital sexual assault treatment unit, said the research was believed to be the second-largest study of male attendances at SATUs worldwide.

The study, published in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine on Tuesday, examined male attendances at SATUs between the start of 2017 and the end of 2022.

The authors said the findings showed there were “significant differences” in the circumstances behind sexual assaults of male and female victims. A better understanding of these factors would help “tailor” appropriate treatment and services to male victims of assault, they wrote.

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Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times