On Monday October 26, a nationwide boycott of nightclubs and bars began in response to the recent rise in drink spiking, also known as the 'Girls Night In' campaign. Recent events, including the tragic murders of Sarah Everardand noopener noreferrer} and seeming lack of fucks given by establishments, brings us here.
I am taking part in the boycott because of my own experiences with spiking. In July 2020, just after the first lockdown - the first day that bars and restaurants reopened - I experienced something that will alter my behaviour forever. I didn’t leave the restaurant in an Uber like a normal 24-year-old woman who had one too many wines with dinner, but an ambulance. This is not the first time I had been spiked, and I wouldn’t bet my house that it will be my last. But I feel compelled to share my story, not for sympathy but to encourage other women to speak out and reflect on the seriousness of this crime. The more of us that come forward, the harder it is for us to be ignored.
My friends found me, passed out in a toilet cubicle, in an uncompromising position, after bumping my head on the toilet, barely breathing with my eyes rolling into the back of my head, and no one could understand how this had happened. Naturally I prided myself on being able to handle my alcohol and knowing my limit, so why was that day different?
When paramedics arrived, my best friend of 8 years, who is a doctor, with knowledge of my entire medical history, had to plead that I was taken to hospital and not just dropped off home like someone who had sought to waste valuable NHS time and money. Don’t get me wrong, the NHS is a magical organisation - one that I am proud to say my younger brother works for and the one that saved my mums life on numerous occasions while she battled with cancer - but in this case, I cannot fathom how I was dismissed. When you’re feeling vulnerable it is only natural to turn to the public services put in place to protect you. But why is it, when a female is left in a vulnerable position, at no fault of her own, she is dismissed for being irresponsible?
When I was discharged from hospital, barely able to walk out of the ward without the help of a nurse to hold me up. I was discharged without papers and have no memory of treatment received or what happened to me. Fortunately, one of my friends was able to take me home and spend the night at my flat with me, just so I felt safe. Had she not been with me I don’t know how I would have coped through the night.
I remember feeling mortified when I called up the hospital to find out they detected something in my blood stream, causing unconsciousness (something which is connected to the date rape drug also known as GHB – which I found via my own research). But they refused to test me for the actual drug because I did not request it, I was informed that had I wanted to be tested, I should’ve gone to the police station. I remember this feeling of being let down, as well as a huge sense of shame that I lost my inhabitations. But I was barely able to tell a junior doctor my own name, how could I possibly know what to do?
Drinkaware.co.uk gives ‘advice’ on how to avoid drink spiking, but very little advice on what to do if you have been a victim of spiking. Why is there no national advice or standard procedure when an incident like this happens? Why are victims of spiking left to fend for themselves and treated like common criminals? In 2018, figures obtained through Freedom of Information requests to police showed that in years 2014 to 2017 spiking had increased by 108%, and we must remember that these figures only include those who were able to report it. We have allowed such heinous crimes to continue so much that they have now graduated from a little drug in my drink to numerous reports of young women being injected on nights out.
Having to think about how much pain this experience has caused me and my relationship with my friends and my family is heart-breaking. I would be lying if I didn’t say I had to stop to cry numerous times just to get through writing this piece. I wished this was one of those times that I was alone in my experience, but ignorance is not bliss. How big does the number have to get before we see action?