night club

Spiking: an age-old threat with no end in sight

A young woman from the UK shares her experiences surrounding spiking

Safety and crimeCurrent eventsSocial Issues
By VoiceBox ·

Aubrey (not her real name)

A young writer from the UK

Spiking: an age-old threat with no end in sight

Spiking is a fear instilled in us from a young age. As you grow up, you hear tales of spiking from your relatives & family friends; tales spanning decades and generational differences, but nonetheless, tales with darkness at its core. Turning 18 (or 21 if you’re in the US) should be an exciting time. It’s a step closer to adulthood, to the sophistication and maturity so many of us dream of as awkward teens. But becoming old enough to visit bars or nightclubs is somewhat daunting. I remember preparing for my first time going ‘out-out’. My mother worried the whole day, reminding me to watch my drink what seemed like every 5 minutes, even though I wasn’t heading out until 10pm. She recounted her one and only experience in a nightclub back in her early 20s. She had been spiked and ended up in hospital. To this day she’s not sure how, as she went out with a group of friends, and there was always someone watching the table, but unfortunately, if people intend to spike you, they always seem to find a way. Something I learned from experience.

Despite my mother’s reluctance for me to hit the town, I went on my merry way, and thus, began years of watching my drink. A rather irritating necessity while you’re trying to dance with your girlfriends; only made more aggravating when a quick scan of the room reveals men don’t seem too bothered about keeping an eye on theirs. But no matter how iron-clad my grip has been over the years; I’ve still been spiked. In the 6 years since I turned 18, I’ve had two confirmed spiking incidents. There were others, my friends and I are convinced, due to being incredibly unwell after one drink - left with no memory of the night before.

Not that a confirmed case means much, unfortunately. It really means a brief visit to the hospital, and, in my experience, no follow-up action from the venue nor law enforcement. It appears spiking isn’t taken as seriously as it should be. Sure, if people are caught, they’ll probably get arrested, but it’s incredibly difficult to catch these people. Spiking can happen in seconds. It can be incredibly smooth. It’s often rehearsed, and predators are known to work in groups to get away with it. It’s such a sophisticated crime that women have had to go above and beyond to guarantee their safety. Not the venues, nor law enforcement, but women. Inventions such as ‘drink spiking prevent scrunchies’ and ‘SipChips’ are becoming increasingly common, and while they may provide us peace of mind, it’s just not enough. 

Spiking via injection made headlines in 2021, and for myself and my friends, that was the final straw. We cancelled our plans in the hype of it and are still incredibly cautious when we go out. Honestly, it’s not the same anymore and we’d much rather stay at home. After years of watching our drinks, to go out (in a planned long-sleeved top) only to return home to check our clothing for needle entry-points, is just disheartening. Is it worth it? A friend of a friend was a victim of this new method, and they were hospitalised. It’s scary. It’s terrifying to think; even if we adapt to protect ourselves, purchasing these anti-spiking products, there will always be a way to harm us. These perpetrators will do anything to get away with it, and once there are deterrents for needle-spiking, another method of intoxication will be introduced. 

Spiking needs to be taken much more seriously. In society, in venues, and within law enforcement. This should not be a growing pain for women around the world. This should not be expected, and any stigma surrounding spiking must be eradicated. 

I don’t know the solution, but I do know that I’ll keep watching my friends’ drinks and wearing long-sleeved clothing for the foreseeable. That’s if I even go out.

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