Going out partying forms a substantial part of university life for a majority of students, with most nights out ending relatively harmlessly, albeit with a sore head the next morning. Unfortunately however, the world of pubs, clubs and alcohol does hold a dark and dangerous side, which although exists mainly as scary stories, for some becomes a startling reality.
Over your time in Southampton, it is doubtless that you will hear tale of at least one incident of drink spiking; whether it be a friend, a friend of a friend, or just a rumour. Personally, I have heard tale of a few incidents of drink spiking; only less than a handful of stories, but still enough to make you sit up and listen. Difficult to prove, and still partly shrouded by taboo, the statistics surrounding drink spiking incidents remain vague and largely unempirical. Are we really facing a real danger of drink spiking, or is it an invented and exaggerated excuse for otherwise lowered inhibitions?
Drink spiking is, and has for generations been one of the risks associated with having a ‘good night out’, taking place when someone adds a substance (such as drugs or alcohol) to your drink undetected. This is likely to affect your behaviour, and the NHS cites the four main motives of drink spiking as: for amusement, to be malicious, to carry out a theft, and to commit a sexual assault or rape.
Having recently heard of an incident, I contacted Hampshire police, asking whether Southampton really is facing a drink spiking epidemic. Reassuringly and a little surprisingly, the Crime Prevention Advisor I spoke to informed me that..
Recorded incidents of drink spiking are few and far between, and actual evidence even rarer.
Though this fact seems comforting at first, we really need to ask ourselves whether it really is representative of the bigger picture: statistics from the charity ‘Roofie‘ suggest that:
Only 10-15% of those attacked reported it to the police.
Furthermore, over half of those who did report their attack to the police felt their treatment was poor. This is not to suggest that Hampshire police are failing us in Southampton, but perhaps the reality of drink spiking rests in a little more obscurity than official stats can shed light on.
On the other hand, it could equally be the case that these stories become distorted and exaggerated over time. It is commonplace that scandalous stories become more outrageous as they dissipate through Chinese whispers, especially with something this hard to prove; in order to gain conclusive evidence…
Police need to take blood and urine samples within 72 hours of the drug being taken.
Even more difficult perhaps, is to locate a suspect from a crowded and confused club.
The lack of evidence surrounding this seemingly frequent phenomenon does partly justify why there are those who believe that a lot of reported incidents stem from lowered awareness and displacement of anxieties. Surely following a horrific incident- possibly sexual assault- it seems easier for the mind to believe it has been deliberately and maliciously made vulnerable, rather than accepting that the effects of alcohol alone can lead to compromised and dangerous situations.
Although judgement on the true prevalence of drink spiking is still far away, it is still vital that everyone treat it as a real threat, and should always take into account official Police Safety advice:
- Never leave your drink unattended, and only accept drinks which you have seen being poured at the bar.
- Avoid walking alone when intoxicated.
- Avoid going in unlit or secluded areas unless you have to you.
- When walking at night, don’t use headphones or your phone for Facebook or Twitter.
- Consider carrying a personal attack alarm and be prepared to use it if you consider yourself vulnerable.
- Let someone know the route you intend to take and your expected time of arrival.
- Walk with a friend.
- If a student, consider pre-booking a taxi, SUSU now have agreement with Radio Taxi, or use the Safety Bus
- Stay with your friends and make sure everyone in the group stays safe and gets home.
- Avoid pre-loading with alcohol before you go out, alcohol will make you vulnerable
- Use your common sense and instincts, be aware of your surroundings and avoid situations that may put you at risk