Spiked

This article’s author wishes to remain anonymous. Names and locations have been omitted in order to protect their identity.


My drink was spiked just after I turned 18. Looking back now, the spiking signalled both the start of my adult life, and my awareness of how being a woman meant being a target.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


I was away with friends when it happened. The trip had been in our calendar for months – the big post-A-Level trip – the trip that symbolised our final liberation from school, exams, parental rules and restrictions. There had been plenty of discussion about where to go – Ibiza, Magaluf, Zante – but having grown up in a secluded rural village, our parents’ preference was for somewhere a little smaller, a little safer. So, we ended up in rural Portugal, the kind of sleepy Portuguese town that, though popular with tourists, was known for its quiet safety. It was the kind of place free of real trouble: there was no “strip”, and the bars were small and traditional, filled with a healthy mix of locals and tourists alike. It was quaint, peaceful even.


The spiking happened on the third night of our trip. It was my friend’s birthday, and we had a table booked at one of the more established bars in town. On arriving, we ordered cocktails, our second of the night, and stood chatting and dancing awkwardly around a circular, slightly stained, off-white plastic bar table. Being slight, I drank my cocktail slowly. I had never felt the need to guzzle drink and I knew that 3 cocktails would take me to that happy place of care-free ease, where, though your tongue may be a little looser, you still aren’t slurring your words, and you remain fully aware of what you’re saying and why you’re saying it.


I knew something was wrong when, half-way through my third cocktail, instead of feeling buoyed by the warm buzz of tipsiness, the room started to spin, slowly at first and then in fast whirring circles. Staggering slightly, I began tugging at a friend’s arm, asking her to accompany me outside for some fresh air. Then the night blacks out.

From that point onwards, I can only remember things in blurry, broken parts: lolling woozy and nauseous on a kerbside – being in a taxi – wandering through the cool marble lobby of a hotel – sitting on some grass – and then – regaining consciousness in a hotel room that wasn’t mine.


The interim minutes and hours between these loose memories remain blank for me. I remember nothing.


I do remember waking up and being pushed out of a room. I also remember that the push was rough enough to cause me to fall and bruise my leg badly. I remember too that, after falling, I managed to somehow call my parents back in the UK, panicking.


I am not articulate enough to describe the fear I know they felt on receiving that call. Following the spiking, none of us wished to dwell on it. In fact, for a family who talk about everything and anything, it’s strange that we never did speak all that much about what happened that night. I know for my part, I refused to talk about it out of fear and shame. I was scared about remembering something I didn’t want to remember. I was also ashamed. A strange response to have, considering it was hardly my fault. Even though, on a rational level, I knew I wasn’t to blame, I still felt embarrassed that it was my drink that had been spiked. Perhaps, I had, in my naivety, made myself an easy target. Had I worn a dress that was a bit too short? Had I looked away from my drink a second too long? Had I not accompanied my friend to the bar to order our drinks?


But, on writing this article, I found that a small part of me wanted to talk to my parents about what they remember from that night. They were understandably, terrified, and at the same time, desperately confused. According to them, I wasn’t speaking sense, and they could only glean small bits of information from me. Apparently, I was certain I was in the right hotel, but I was upset and furious that I wasn’t being let into my room. Security then arrived and escorted me to the lobby before speaking to my friend’s parents who confirmed I was at the wrong hotel. I was then put in a taxi that took me back to the right hotel where my friend’s mum took me to bed. The next morning, I was on a plane home, still in my clothes from the night before.


Though the physical symptoms: nausea, severe headaches and dizziness wore off within a few days, I experienced a knotty social anxiety for months after the spiking incident. I avoided alcohol, left events early and (for a previously care-free and gregarious person) I was alarmed at how difficult I found it to relax in social situations.

We will never know what happened in the blank periods that night. We know that I was missing for approximately an hour, and we know I ended up at the wrong hotel. And, even though it will always feel scary to never know more than that, at least I was lucky enough to get back to the right hotel that night.


Even now, years later, writing this piece has been uncomfortable. The incident still feels weirdly embarrassing to me, a feeling I know is shared by numerous people who have suffered a drink spiking. Nevertheless, in light of the current endemic of needle spiking in the UK, I thought it was important to share my experience. Spiking is never just a one-night thing, its effects are lasting and it’s important that we continue to share our stories in order to raise awareness that this issue is real and needs to be taken seriously.


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Cases of needle spiking in bars and clubs across the UK are currently soaring. Spiking in all senses is unforgiveable, but needle spiking exposes victims to increased risk of blood infections, namely HIV and Hepatitis C. This story is just one of many, and as evidenced here, spiking is traumatising and has lasting physical and mental effects on all victims. Anybody can be the target of a drink spiking, however, statistically women are more vulnerable to attack.


This week, across the UK, the Girls Night In campaign will be boycotting nightclubs. Please show your support for your local campaign by following them on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.


A link to the Edinburgh and London based Instagram campaigns can be found below:


For Edinburgh


For London


Please also sign the Government Petition to make it a legal requirement for clubs to thoroughly search guests on entry.


Change starts with you.


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