On the rise:

In recent months, the UK has seen an increase in allegations of spiking. Figures from October 2021 suggest that up to 200 reports were made over a two-month period. In response to this, people around the nation began campaigning for stricter club search rules, and safer environments to enjoy nights out.

The term ‘date-rape’ drugs was coined by American journalist and feminist Susan Brownmiller in her book Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape back in the 1980s. Since then, it has become a term frequently used to define any drug given to a person, which leaves them vulnerable to sexual assaults. The victim is usually unaware that they have taken such a drug and quickly become incapacitated. The most common ‘date rape’ drug in the UK is Rohypnol.

The Issues:
One of the many issues relating to accusations of ‘date rape’ spiking is that the influence of alcohol, combined with the speed at which such drugs can leave the body make it difficult to prove the presence of Rohypnol for certain.

There have been several cases where people have had an adverse reaction to excess alcohol, or recreational drugs, which led them to display symptoms similar to that of spiking. Whilst this remains a concern, and still leaves people vulnerable to sexual assault, it is a reaction that stems from the individuals own behaviour, which would not leave anyone else liable in the eyes of the law.

Additionally, a lot of cases that do get reported, are reported too late, either the next day or days later. The issue with this is that the drugs of this nature usually leave the victims’ bloodstream and body very quickly, meaning that tangible forensic evidence is usually lost. Allegations run the risk of being the one person’s word against another, the victim against the person they are accusing.

Rohypnol remains a relatively difficult substance to get hold of and, as of yet, there has been no clear rise in its accessibility on the market. Whilst the number of reports are steadily increasing, the amount of people being caught in possession of these drugs is yet to match that pace in a corresponding way.

How to protect yourself and others:
The most important way to protect yourself, and others around you, from being a victim or accused of such a crime is to know the signs. Here are some steps we can all take:
• Be aware of the ways in which people usually get spiked;
• Try to avoid accepting drinks from strangers, or buying drinks for strangers without their consent and knowledge; and
• Know the symptoms often displayed by people who have been spiked. If someone you are out with begins to act strangely, advise they get checked sooner rather than later and ensure they are taken safely home. Failure to confirm any drugs in a victim’s bloodstream could result in them blaming someone unjustly for a crime that hasn’t occurred. The more tangible evidence, the better it is for both parties.

Be vigilant and break the stereotypes. Both men and women can be victims and perpetrators of date-rape and spiking. Try to visit locations with strict search on the door policies. This will protect you from being a victim and decrease the risk of someone falsely accusing you. Bars and clubs should be a safe place for all users, so aim to visit places that protect their customers.

By Abigail Dudeney

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