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Spiked: Something Has to Change

When doing everything 'right' isn't even enough. A personal account by Alicia Jenkins.

The news over the past week has been dominated by the discussion about drink spiking. Several events where women were injected with drugs at bars in Nottingham, Manchester, Liverpool and other locations in the UK. have ensured that spiking is one of the most talked about topics of the week. This combined with the success of groups like ‘Girlsnightin’ who launched the proposed club boycott on the 28th October, has meant that you could barely tune into the news this week without hearing testimonies of women who have been spiked.

At this point, you may be thinking, what can we do? The short answer to that is: I don’t know. The only thing that I know for certain was that on January 18th 2020, I was spiked.

I was going out with my friends on that day. I had two drinks before we went out and then another two at the first bar we went to. After that I can’t really remember anything in detail. Talking to my friends, I managed to gather that we walked on to another bar in Brick Lane, at which point I went and got myself a glass of water, sat down, had a conversation with my friend and put my head on the table saying I felt tired and sleepy. The next thing I can remember is my friend Anna holding my hair away from my face. My stomach is sore because I’ve been sick so many times. I can’t stand. I feel a small tile on the floor that’s been broken. My friends, who never left my side, took me outside and ordered an Uber. Another brief flash from this time: I’m trying to lift my head to see who’s talking while I’m collapsed on the street outside the bar. I can’t seem to move it off my chest. None of my limbs are responding. A friend carries me into the taxi.

I woke up the next day at home in my bed. At first I was completely confused, I have no idea where I am or what has happened. I think I must have gotten really drunk, but can’t remember anything about the night. It’s like the slate has been wiped clean. I check the time on my phone and put it down again. It feels like two hours or more has passed but when I check it again, it has been under a minute. Disorientated, I head downstairs to the kitchen to see my friends. I still to this day don’t remember who I spoke to or what about, that memory was stolen as well. However, I realise that something very wrong has happened. The next thing I can remember I’m at my university library on the phone to 111.

I tell them I think I’ve been spiked.

The woman speaking to me from 111 is kind, caring and seems genuinely concerned for me. She tells me that I’ve done the right thing by calling. She tells me her son was spiked last year and tells me how sorry she is. She tells me I have two options: go to A&E but they might not test me if I don’t think a sexual assault has occurred, or, I can make an appointment with my GP for the next day. I was confused and disorientated. The thought of going to sit in A&E, alone, having to try to explain myself to people I didn’t know was too overwhelming, so I chose the latter. I put the phone down and call my mum.

Reflecting on this now, the genuine empathy showed by this person who didn’t know me was so comforting. I was scared and 19 years old in a big city. I felt so vulnerable and then I felt angry for feeling vulnerable. Someone assaulted me. Someone assaulted me and didn’t think twice about it.

This incident in itself was traumatic. It’s hard to really put into words how you feel when this kind of thing happens. For weeks afterwards I found myself desperately trying to put the pieces back together. I looked at men on the street and wondered whether they’d been the one to slip something into my drink. The next time I went out for a drink with my friends, I burst into tears in the toilet. I felt so overwhelmingly unsafe and vulnerable.

However, these feelings were not just caused by the fact someone had assaulted me. They were also directly influenced by the way I was treated by supposed ‘professionals’. While the woman from 111 might have been caring and sympathetic, the blatant victim-blaming I suffered at the hands of my campus GP arguably hurt me more than the incident itself.

The next day when I received the call from him he was curt and condescending he told me he couldn’t ‘diagnose me over the phone’. (I had asked for an in-person appointment but was told that I would be spoken to on the phone first.) He chastised me for not going to A&E, while I tried to explain the options I had been told by 111 he cut me off stating “do you think you’ve been sexually assaulted?” I was terrified. His words made the situation so much more ‘real’ because the truth was I didn’t know. I think I got home safely and my friends had said they hadn’t left my side, but I couldn’t remember anything. His clear annoyance and lack of patience with me left me feeling small and worthless.

I was scared. I was 19 and I felt so far away from home. I wanted medical advice and someone to tell me what to do. I needed help. This was my campus GP. He is a doctor who specialises in providing medical advice for the students. Surely he must understand this problem?

I was crying, sitting outside of my university library. I felt like my world was collapsing. At which point he said:

Do you know how many girls I have in my office claiming that they’ve been spiked. The truth is most of you just don’t know your limits.

I felt my stomach drop.

He eventually told me that my symptoms did align pretty much identically with those of people who have been spiked with Rohypnol; a date rape drug. He said that the drugs were probably out of my system by now. I asked what I should do. He flippantly told me that unless I thought I had been sexually assaulted, the police wouldn’t do anything, it was pointless going to them. I thanked him for the conversation and hung up.

My medical record to this day says: ‘acute alcohol intoxication’. It doesn’t mention anything about me getting spiked, although he reluctantly agreed that was what probably had happened. I was looking at it this week and felt nothing but pure rage.

A screenshot of my medical records showing the doctor's description of 'Acute alcohol intoxication'.

This is the reason why I have chosen to candidly talk about my experiences. Because I did everything ‘right’ so to say. I followed all the advice given to me. I covered my drinks, never left my drink unattended, stayed with my friends all night. In the midst of the assault, I even went to get a glass of water to mitigate the effects of what I must have thought was alcohol. Even after this event occurred I did exactly what I was told. I got in touch with medical professionals and followed their advice. However, I was still subject to victim-blaming.

It’s not enough to simply do as we’re told anymore. It’s not helping. People are being spiked, getting seriously ill, being made to feel unsafe and following the ‘rules’ doesn’t protect us. I went to people in authority positions when it happened to me, to be simply turned away as another ‘drunk girl who didn’t know her limits’. Someone to be ignored.

This is why I am cynical about some of the proposals presented by these movements and petitions. Drink lids are good at making it more difficult to spike people, but it will still happen. Calling for clubs to enact more measures to protect people is correct, but people also get spiked outside of club environments. We also cannot rely on 'increased security' it will protect some women but increase the likelihood of discrimination against other marginalised groups.

Ultimately, I don’t know the solution to this issue. The current attention is good at raising awareness but I think more conversations and analysis needs to be had about how we actually institute long-lasting change. All I am aware of is that right now the advice is failing everyone.

However, despite everything that happened, I know that it was not my fault.

Me a month after the incident, feeling a lot happier.


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