As incidents of drink spiking increase, so does victim blaming. Here we highlight a need for change and share the campaigns doing just that
It happened to me at University, on a night out celebrating a friend’s birthday. After ordering my first drink at the bar and a visit to the ladies, my memories of the night come back in disembodied flashes. There’s a flash of me bouncing off of people like a pinball machine, a flash of me smoking (I don’t smoke) and a flash of me being thrown out of the club by a bouncer.
The next flash is me on the floor, in the middle of a road near my home - the contents of my bag strewn across the wet concrete as I tried to find my keys. A group of people then approached me, and thankfully - it was my housemates, on their way home from a night out at a different club. They scooped me and my belongings up and took me home, asking “What have you taken?”. The next day, after being violently ill, I tried to piece together what happened. I could only come to one conclusion - my drink had been spiked.
My story could have ended so very differently and every time I hear stories about spiking, I shudder at that realisation. Since pandemic restrictions have eased, reports of drink spiking have made the news, including incidents at universities and those where perpetrators are injecting their victims.
This tweet from writer Lucy Ward highlights the very real fear young women are dealing with every time they go on a night out. From wearing denim jackets to make it harder for people to inject, to the normalised selling of drink spiking prevention scrunchies, the responsibility is seemingly weighted on the victims.
Following an increase in spiking incidents at Durham University the student wellbeing Twitter account shared a campaign with the wording “Don’t get spiked”. Igniting rage amongst followers, the account has since deleted the tweet. Instead, many are calling for a campaign geared towards perpetrators - #DoNotSpike.
Drink spiking is often done without the victim realising and to insinuate that it’s the victim’s responsibility to not get spiked is, honestly, ludacris. “I had my drink spiked in a bar in a really sneaky way.” Happiful writer Kat Wheeler tells me.
“He bumped into me, spilling my drink, and to apologise poured his own drink into my cup. It felt weird, but at the time I couldn't conceive someone would go to those lengths to spike me right under my nose! I couldn't shift that feeling though and didn't drink it, but my friend did and got really ill. Luckily, she was fine after a few hours and we were home by then, but it was scary when we realised what happened.”
Petitions have begun popping up in an attempt to make authorities and those in power to make a change. One petition is asking the Government to make it a legal requirement to thoroughly search guests at nightclubs before entry. Another, created by Mair Howells who founded the #ivebeenspiked campaign, is also asking the government to do more.
“The government should require bars, clubs and pubs to take greater precautions in order to prevent it, increase education around spiking and the laws surrounding it, make testing more available, and put in place arrangements to provide after care for those who have been spiked.”
In an attempt to put pressure on venues to make a change, students are being encouraged to boycott popular clubs. A group of students in Edinburgh created Girls Night In, an Instagram page dedicated to sharing stories of drink spiking to raise awareness. Growing in numbers, there are now Girls Night In accounts across the UK and all are calling for boycotts on the week commencing 25 November.
My spiking experience happened more than a decade ago, and things have only gotten worse with more and more disturbing methods being used. Something has got to change.
How you can help:
- sign petitions calling for change
- write to your MP
- join the national boycott
- learn more about signs of spiking (and share with your friends)
Ultimately we need to shift the weight back onto the perpetrators, and while not specifically about spiking, it has been refreshing to see a new campaign from Police Scotland encouraging men to not be ‘that guy’.
Here’s hoping more follow suit so we can tackle the root of the problem and not the devastating consequences.
If you've been affected by the themes discussed here and need someone to talk to, you can connect with a therapist using Counselling Directory. You're not alone.