The spiking pandemic of the UK has haunted the happy return of bars and clubs over the past few months. The result of having a two-year hiatus from UK nightlife is that clubs are full of 18, 19 and 20-year olds who have all never been ‘out out’ before. This is the largest cohort of newbies that UK nightlife has ever seen, and such a combination of excitement and inexperience has created the perfect pool of vulnerable targets. But here lies the problem. Within seconds of starting this discussion, we start to wonder who and why someone is targeted rather than focus on the people who use these clubs and bars as their hunting ground. I didn’t even realise how much of a hypocrite I was until I started writing this article. The problem shouldn’t be that we are overexcited and naïve when heading out on a Friday night but rather what is being done to stop spiking happening in the first place. Victim blaming has become as widely as accepted in UK culture as the knowledge you could get spiked on a night out. We are all told to be careful, to look out for ourselves and our friends however when it comes down to it protection from this kind of attack seems futile.
Police have reported that since the lifting of restrictions spiking has become a ‘real concern’ for them and public safety. To put this into context, in 2018 the UK recorded a 108% increase in the number of spiking victims since 2015 with over 2,000 reported incidents. The numbers are suspected to have doubled in recent years and given that the majority of cases are never reported as drugs often used like Rohypnol, Diazepam and LSD trigger memory loss; the numbers would be staggering. Memory blackouts often contribute to the reason so many cases go unreported as it means victims are left feeling like they have no real story to provide or evidence to support it. While this is a big problem for both police and victims it is the unnerving familiarity that has grown around hearing these stories that protect the perpetrators and prevent victims coming forward. The news that a few people were spiked at your local club last night has become a social norm across the country. We have become accustomed to the idea that this happens and will continue to happen unless victims protect themselves.
We have all been told a hundred times: Don’t drink before. Definitely don’t drink there. Don’t leave the group. Don’t wear a low top. Don’t wear a short skirt. Don’t dance provocatively and whatever you do – don’t be friendly and smile at a stranger. Then you’ll be safe. Probably. Unless they decide to skip the whole spiking stage and go straight to injecting you in the back while dancing. If you haven’t heard that’s all the rage these days.
Reports of people being spiked through injection whilst at events have been circulating across the country. This new technique leaves club-goers more vulnerable than ever. Forget your precautionary spiking wrist bands or nail polish. Suddenly all the traditional do’s and don’ts have become completely worthless because even if you don’t buy a drink, don’t drink before and don’t speak to a stranger, you are vulnerable to this kind of attack. Reports of girls waking up the morning after a night out with no recollection of the evening and small red marks on their backs have blown up on social media. Leaving the public more nervous than ever. Please note that if anyone finds themselves in a similar position, they should visit a hospital straight away and receive a Hepatitis B jab as spiking by injection adds a new threat of contracting diseases (including HIV) transmitted through the needle.
More so than ever it seems like the spikers have all the control. Having had my drink spiked on a night out I can tell you the importance of friends recognising the symptoms. They are your last line of defence in a situation like this. My friends and the ambulance team were phenomenal, and thanks to them, I got home that night. At least that’s what I’ve been told. The reality is I had no idea I had even been put in a situation where they were required to be so responsible – or that an ambulance had even been called – I woke up completely clueless. I’ve had the story recounted to me a thousand times and honestly, I still don’t know how I feel about the whole event. I do however know how I felt when I was asked “what were you wearing?” or patronisingly told, “that’s why you should never buy a drink at a club”. People naturally have so many questions when something like this happens, but the most frustrating thing is that you can’t answer them. Saying “I don’t know” repeatedly is not only belittling but it also adds to the realisation that you have learnt nothing to protect yourself from this happening again. All you gain from the experience is the knowledge that you should be worried each time you dress up and drink.
Women have been made to feel like they should have eyes in the back of their heads. The only thing we can really do to protect ourselves is to learn about reaction rather than precaution when it comes to spiking. This doesn’t feel like much protection, but it means the difference between a possible black-out or assault which is apparently the choice we have these days. Having friends treat the ‘drunk girl’ outside the club as a vulnerable spiking victim rather than the ‘annoying drunk’ who over-did it is key to keeping them safe. Meanwhile more has to be done by authorities to stop those responsible for these attacks (and no, that’s not the drunk girl in a short skirt). CCTV needs to be accessible to suspected victims and staff in venues need to be fully vetted and trained in how to protect their customers. If spikers are developing new ways to perpetrate their victims, then surely, time should be spent on developing the ways we can protect ourselves.
Spiking is not a new phenomenon, but it needs to finally be expelled from our clubbing culture. Because, honestly, we are all bored with feeling scared on a night out.