Content warning: sexual assault
We’re very worried to hear more and more accounts of drink spiking in London and across the UK. The increase in cases appears to be targeting people in nightclubs and bars, but it’s also happening at house parties. Typically, drink spiking is when drugs (or alcohol) are added to your drink, but recently, there have been new reports of spiking by injection.
Drink spiking is an illegal offence in the UK and can lead to up to 10 years in prison, or an even higher term if it is used to commit other offences like sexual assault or robbery.
This news is incredibly disturbing, especially as for many students this may be the first time going out following months of lockdowns and restrictions. And we believe that you should be able to enjoy yourself without the fear of drink spiking. Whilst venues and the Police should work together to create a safer environment for everyone, there are some practical things you can do to stay safe on nights out:
- Keep an eye on your drink, at all times.
- Be aware of what you’re consuming and never take a drink that hasn’t been prepared in front of you. Don’t accept drinks from others.
- If your drink doesn’t taste right, don’t finish it. If your drink tastes stronger than it should, it may have been spiked using alcohol.
- If someone appears too over-friendly and is eager to buy you to drink, be extra cautious.
- If you are feeling harassed ALWAYS alert venue staff – use the Ask Angela code to do this discreetly. Ask Angela has been active in our bars for several years but is now being rolled out across London. If you ask venue staff to speak to Angela, they’ll know you’re asking for help.
- Always tell friends where you are going. If you meet new people and are going to go somewhere else, tell your friends.
- Keep an eye out for each other. If your friends appear drunker than you’d expect, dizzier or are slurring their words, make sure they’re ok and stick together.
It is never the fault of the victim if your drink is spiked. It is simply unacceptable that we still have to adjust our behaviour to stay safe, and we want venues to continue to take this issue seriously and create a safe environment for everybody.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve listened to student leaders from our clubs and societies and heard testimony from individual students. After listening to what you wanted to see change in our venues, we've developed a number of new initiatives that will be rolled out over the coming days and weeks. We're committed to running the safest venues in London. These venues are your venues, they're here to help you make the most of your time at UCL, and we'll make sure always feel comfortable, safe and at home when you're with us.
How to spot if your drink has been spiked?
It’s also useful to familiarise yourself with the symptoms of drink spiking so you can act quickly if it happens to you or someone around you:
- Lowered inhibitions
- Loss of balance
- Visual problems
- Memory loss
The effects of being spiked might take time to appear. The effect of drink spiking depends on the substance used, what your drink has been mixed with, the dose, your size and weight and how much alcohol you have already consumed.
What to do if your drink has been spiked?
It only takes a few minutes, 15 – 30 minutes, to feel the effects of a spiked drink. If your drink has been spiked, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to smell, see or taste any difference but if you feel off, or more drunk than you should be then get help straight away from venue staff or by calling an ambulance. This is a serious crime and should be reported to the police.
How to help a friend who you think has been spiked:
If your friend is showing any of the signs described above there are a few things you can do to help.
- Tell a bar manager, bouncer or member of staff at the venue.
- Stay with them and keep talking to them.
- Call an ambulance if their condition deteriorates.
- Don’t let them go home on their own. Book a licensed taxi using an app such as Uber.
- Don’t let them leave the venue with someone you don’t know or trust
If you’re in one of our bars, please seek help from bar staff immediately. You will be taken to a safe place for proper help and this might also help us identify the person who has spiked your drink.
What to do if you've been assaulted
If you feel comfortable doing so, report the assault to the police and book an appointment with your GP. One of the effects of date rape drugs can be amnesia, or loss of memory. That means it’s possible that you won’t be sure if you’ve been assaulted.
If you have been sexually assaulted it is important to remember that it wasn't your fault. Sexual violence is a crime, no matter who commits it or where it happens. There is support available for you confidentially at UCL. Please reach out to us or UCL, who will be able to advise you on what to do next, and support you through it.
What to do if you know someone who is spiking drinks
Drink spiking is rarely done alone. Spiking someone's drink with a drug takes time to plan and organise, and will have involved several people. You may have heard a plan being made to spike someone, it may have been shared casually in a private group chat. ALWAYS report this. It is a crime to spike someone and planning to commit a crime (conspiracy to commit a crime) is a criminal act.
Spiking is not just limited to injecting or using drugs. Drink spiking also includes making someone's drink stronger using alcohol without their consent. Buying someone a double shot when they asked for a single is a form of drink spiking.
You can report this to UCL via the Crime prevention and personal safety advisor, directly to the police, or directly to the venue staff if you are at an event.
Support services and reporting
Crime prevention and personal safety advisor
The crime prevention and personal safety advisor is a part of the UCL security team who can provide both staff and students with advice and guidance if you have faced any criminal incidents like assault, theft, fraud or scams, domestic abuse or violence, online or in-person hate crime, online harassment or other digitally-facilitated abuse like spyware, stalking, etc.
Darren Watts is UCL's crime prevention and personal safety advisor and can be contacted directly by email ([email protected]) or by requesting crime prevention and personal safety advisor when you report with 'report with contact details' option on Report and Support.