Celebration season is upon us with Christmas parties and festive gatherings galore, however, these merry festivities come with an increased risk of falling victim to spiked drinks.
Spiking has dominated headlines this year with hundreds of reports made over the past couple of months. It has also taken on a new, even more sinister form this year— spiking via needle injection.
While we shouldn’t let this damper our season’s gatherings, we should still be sure to keep our guards up and remain alert and informed.
Bee Goldsmith, author of Diary of a Date Rape, and a victim of spiking herself, offers her best advice on how to stay safe this winter.
Goldsmith wrote her book after being spiked by someone she was dating, who she thought she could trust - proving spiking isn’t always perpetrated by strangers. She says: “he was basically the last person I would expect to spike my drink…I was just shocked and utterly heartbroken.”
She used her experience to educate others of the dangers of spiking as well as steps one could take to prevent it. When it comes to spiking prevention, awareness is key.
“I think the less vulnerable people look, the better. So, staying in groups, not leaving drinks on their own and being aware of people around your group,” Goldsmith says.
She also recommends using StopTopps, which are foil stickers you can stick over your drink so they cannot be spiked.
Resources like these are helpful but Goldsmith believes that the government should also step up and take some action.
“There needs to be adequate criminal repercussions for spiking and they need to crack down on this,” she says. “Spiking doesn’t just ruin one weekend, its effects live on.”
In terms of what to do if you find yourself in a situation when you think you’ve been spiked, Goldsmith says that going to the bar and “Asking for Angela” is a great first step. “Ask for Angela is something someone can say to bar staff if they feel they’re in danger,” she says.
Bar staff can then take the appropriate actions such as calling an ambulance or taxi home. She also highlights the importance of going to the hospital quickly if you suspect you’ve been spiked, as spiking drugs can leave the body relatively quickly (about 16–72 hours). “You can tell them you think you’ve been spiked and they can take blood and urine tests to confirm this and give you any necessary help,” she explains.
Keep in mind that alcohol is the most used substance for spiking, but other common date rape drugs are: GBL (Gamma- butyrolactone) and Rohypnol (also known as a roofie). Sexual assault referral centres all over the country also test for all date rape drugs.
“If you think one of your friends has been spiked, stay with them and try to stay together as a group, in case someone else in your party has also been spiked. Speak to the management of wherever you are and report any incidences to the police,” Goldsmith says.
While we should aim to be vigilant, Goldsmith emphasises that we shouldn’t be put off by going on nights out for fear of being spiked.
She says: “We can’t stop doing what we want to do for fear of something going wrong, however I think awareness of the spiking issue means that we do have to take steps to minimise our vulnerability to it.”