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*******Trigger alert - Drink spiking at University ******************

(33 Posts)
Threedragonsten Wed 08-Aug-18 21:46:49

I'm writing this for parents, so they can warn their daughters about the very real risk of drink spiking before they head to university.

My DD had her drink spiked at a university bar in the first year after a university extracurricular activity. Later, she was raped by the self-same student who she had asked to hold her drink while she left for a few minutes.

This event has been traumatic, and I don't want anyone else to go through this. I have looked at what happened with my DD and tried to understand how it could have been prevented.

She gave her drink to someone she trusted while they were standing together with her friends in a group. The advice is to not leave your drink unattended however in this case the person she 'trusted' was the person that assaulted her.

Her group did not intervene to ensure her safety, not realising that she had had her drink spiked although she was behaving in a much more uncoordinated way to her normal self. It is likely, they assumed she had drunk more than normal. My DD herself was not aware of feeling odd or any other symptom. Her memory is non-existent from about 15 minutes after consuming that drink until the next morning. Therefore, it is so crucial that other people in the group can pick up on signs that a person has had their drink spiked. For example: some signs would be: Loss of balance and of coordination, slurred speech, unusual mannerisms and facial expressions etc. Unfortunately, the reality is, the group will have had a few drinks themselves and are not watching out. It is likely that the perpetrator will isolate the victim away from the social group, quite soon after the drink spiking to prevent them from noticing anything is amiss.

Whilst you might think drink spiking would be perpetrated by someone outside your friendship group this did not. You might assume that the perpetrator would feel that they had too much at stake within their community and with their future life ahead of them and this would deter them from taking this massive risk, but when you think of it, we already know most rapes are committed by people known to the victim so it is more likely that drink spiking would be done by someone known to the victim and their friends.

The student that did this knew many of my DD's friends, raises money for charity, appeared to have caring views about the structure of society, has a paid position of responsibility with a voluntary organisation, was very likeable and had the demeanour of someone completely trustworthy.

Your DDs will be in similar social situations and they will find it almost impossible to believe that someone they feel is trustworthy, would spike their drink.

My DD did not get warned about the risks of drink spiking in the Fresher's program of events that was offered at the start of the last academic year so this year I asked the university welfare officer what they would be imparting to 2018-2019 students in the batch of Fresher's week workshops they normally offer. I was disappointed to find out, they would not be covering it, but they are working on including it the year after. In any case, it is unlikely they would warn our DDs that they cannot trust people in their own social circle. It's hardly in the fun-loving spirit to the start of university life.

You may well be curious in knowing how the university itself has treated the perpetrator.
Well, despite there being a pending police investigation, the university has not excluded him from participating in the extracurricular activity which he excels at and so he continues to have free access to different groups and residential trips.

The university does not keep a record of allegations of drink spiking/rape, so a perpetrator could do this again and again and they would take no action unless they were charged by CPS. Unfortunately, this is not a likely situation; it was recently reported that the CPS only press charges in 5% of rape allegations. Bearing in mind, how few victims will even report this crime, the chance of achieving legal justice is very, very tiny.

I have since heard of 5 other recent drink spiking incidents/rapes on university campuses and am left wondering: just exactly how common is this? The universities don't keep track of this to warn students and hardly anyone reports it. I suppose these aren't statistics to be proud of. No-one wants to be first in that league table.

I have looked for resources about drink spiking that I think would be helpful to show your DDS:

Here are two examples of YouTube videos that show how easy it is to have your drink spiked.

Here is some further information about drink spiking:

The safest way to protect yourself is by having a lid on your drink, being vigilant and never leaving your drink unattended nor with anyone else to look after. You can buy anti spiking stoppers for bottles.

Young women must be especially vigilant to protect themselves and in particular from people they believe they can trust. They don't realise but they are at significant risk.

Look out for symptoms of drink spiking in your friends, on nights out, if you see them, intervene, get them to a place of safety and don't leave them alone.

Whilst, women are the main victims of drink spiking, men can also be targeted. So, it is worth warning your sons and asking them to be vigilant to it.

Notevilstepmother Wed 08-Aug-18 21:50:21

When I was young we used to take our drinks with us to the ladies. I knows it’s eww but better than being spiked.

It happened to a couple of people I know, but fortunately neither was attacked due to luck more than anything.

Notevilstepmother Wed 08-Aug-18 21:51:48

1 male one female.

AlexaShutUp Wed 08-Aug-18 22:04:53

flowers I'm so very sorry about what happened to your daughter. Sadly, this is not uncommon. Sexual violence in universities is a major issue, and it needs to be addressed.

Some universities and/or student unions are taking courageous steps to try to confront and tackle this problem. Efforts are being made to alert students to the dangers and to facilitate the reporting process for any incidents. Some other institutions, frankly, are burying their heads in the sand and trying to pretend that they don't have a problem. It doesn't look good in the glossy prospectus....

My dd is a few years off university age yet, but I will certainly be talking to her about these issues when the time comes. I hope that your daughter is able to access the support that she needs to work through what happened.

Needmoresleep Thu 09-Aug-18 08:48:27

Thank you OP. I am very sorry to hear particularly about your daughter's experience, but also the lack of University response, either to the incident or to helping ensure that it does not happen again.

There is a very dark side to the "fun" of being a student. This event
rocked my DDs campus during freshers week. And whilst I understand that the perpetrator(s) were promply expelled, it did not stop the University pushing ahead with their plans to get rid of on-site wardens. DD picked up a number of similar stories via the grapevine and knows one girl who was discovered outside her flat, in freezing weather, incoherent and covered in vomit and with no idea of how she got there or of what had happened to her.

Friends with daughters elsewhere report similar experiences and my google of "thetab spiked" brought up a raft of stories from Loughborough, Belfast, Cambridge, indeed just about anywhere.


Threedragonsten Thu 09-Aug-18 11:24:12

Thank you for your replies. I appreciate it.
We want our children to make the most of the opportunities they are offered when they go to university and be happy. It's incredibly sad when this happens.

Nagaram Thu 09-Aug-18 11:44:29

I am copying your post to my daughter (in sixth form).
So sorry for your daughter and your family.

Threedragonsten Thu 09-Aug-18 13:02:52

I would be interested to know, if legally the pepetrator cannot be excluded, otherwise I think the university is displaying a culture of acceptance towards this behaviour.

Theworldisfullofgs Thu 09-Aug-18 13:05:55

Thank you for sharing this. I will talk to my daughter who is about to go into the sixth form.
I hope your daughter is ok.

LadyLance Thu 09-Aug-18 13:23:34

I am really sorry this happened to your daughter. It's a horrible thing to have happen. I had my drink spiked once as a teenager. Luckily, I was with trustworthy friends and when I suddenly collapsed after only having a few drinks, they made sure I got home OK.

Although drink spiking with drugs does happen, another, perhaps more common problem, is men trying to encourage/cause women to drink more alcohol than they are used to in order to lower their inhibitions and/or pass out. There are lots of ways they can do this, such as offering to go to the bar for drinks and getting doubles rather than singles, adding extra alcohol to drinks (more common at flat parties), buying very alcoholic cocktails, encouraging people to down drinks (so they drink faster and more) and so on. They do this as a deliberate tactic, and it's more subtle/insidious than drink-spiking.

It's a good idea to keep track of what you're drinking (some people make a tally e.g. with eyeliner in a place that can't be seen). You should be wary of letting someone go to the bar on your behalf or buying you drinks that you don't see getting made. Obviously, never leave a drink unattended.

The problem is, especially at the start of first year, lots of students get too drunk, and their new friends don't know them well enough to tell if behaviour is out of character and may not want to miss out by looking after the one who they may think has just got "too drunk". In Fresher's week especially, it's not uncommon to get separated from your new friends, and it's easy for someone to end up drunk and confused and alone.

So it's also a good idea to teach your daughters to look out for others. It's not fun, but if you see someone who's alone and looks very drunk, it's really important to be sympathetic and try to get them to a place of safety. Think of it as paying it forward- it might be them next time.

Threedragonsten Thu 09-Aug-18 13:58:39

Ladylance, that is excellent advice about alcohol often being used to spike drinks and it is very true that early on in the first year it is harder to know normal behaviour and thus recognise if someone has had their drink spiked or if they have just had too much to drink.
It is a good idea to make arrangements in advance about how you will get back to their hall of residence so people know they are travelling back together as in a large group it's easy to get separated and this is something a drink spiker will use to their advantage.

ChocChunk Thu 09-Aug-18 14:17:42

In the same(ish) vein, can I add a warning about ‘initiation ceremonies’.
In his first year at university DS joined a team. They told him they’d be having a welcome night out to meet his team mates. He paid towards this night out, plus gym membership and membership of this team.
He was asked by the captain of this team to meet at a house before the welcome night out with a bottle and making sure he had an all day travel ticket (so he could get home if he spent all his money). DS turned up at this house and it all went tits up from there.
He was bound, gagged and forced to drink fish guts and various bottles of alcohol. He wasn’t allowed to speak at all - clearly he was massively out of his depth and totally not expecting this. Once the ‘initiation’ was finished they went into town where he was given drink after drink, pouring down his throat.

Fair enough you might say, he went along and teenagers drink and he should have had the wherewithal to say enough is enough and leave.

However he fell over, hitting his head on the kerb. He was knocked unconscious and at this point, the rest of the team decided they didn’t want to be involved with this at all. They used his thumb to unlock his phone while he was unconscious, texted his girlfriend to say he was lying in the street and left. The police luckily found him later.

I received a late night phone call asking if I was name’s mum. The police said he’d been taken to hospital, not suffering with alcohol, but hypothermia because he’d lain unconscious in the street on a cold October evening. We went to the hospital to see him being taken into a&e- the paramedic said to me ‘we don’t usually see them this flat’ which terrifies me. He was pale yellow, waxy and completely unresponsive. I thought he was going to die.

Please please please let your sons and daughters know this goes on, in both male and female teams. It is frowned on at the university but in practice nothing ever happens.

Threedragonsten Thu 09-Aug-18 15:03:45

ChocChunk I am so so sorry to hear about that and I can imagine how frightened you were for your son's welfare.
Even sending the girlfriend a text could be interpreted as a joke and mean she would not take any action.

Threedragonsten Thu 09-Aug-18 15:14:33

ChocChunk it sounds like universities should warn their students about Initiation ceremonies at Freshers week.

ChocChunk Thu 09-Aug-18 15:35:17

Yes totally agree Threedragonsten. But they don’t because, along with drink spiking, it undermines the ‘fun’ side of the experience that they need to promote. It strikes me that they publicly denounce this behaviour but in practice are less keen to investigate when such things happen. Again, DS in his first year had a friend who was spiked and allegedly raped and the university were keen to gloss over this and move on.

Threedragonsten Thu 09-Aug-18 16:12:12

I honestly think that the reason they don't take action is to protect their own reputations. Although, in the bristol example needmoresleep posted, the authorities did issue a warning, however this may be that it became common knowledge and they had to.
My DD's university final response was that they were committed to 'safeguarding students' meanwhile they were unwilling to answer the question of why they couldn't exclude the alledged attacker from the extracurricular activity. When I asked them to escalate this to a higher authority who could explain why, they stopped answering my emails.

ChocChunk Thu 09-Aug-18 16:41:51

That’s awful. The universities have a duty of care in my opinion, however they hope no one takes it further.

I hope your DD is ok and can move on as much as she possibly can.

Needmoresleep Thu 09-Aug-18 17:56:10

"the authorities did issue a warning"

It reads as if the warning was from the hall warden to his residents. Plus him telling other wardens.

However as part of Bristol's welfare "improvements" wardens are no more, so any warning would have to be issued at a University level. I wonder what their policy is.

Needmoresleep Thu 09-Aug-18 18:12:45

And the incident happened at a University Hall event on University premises. Which means that the University has a greater responsibility as promoter of the event, beyond any responsibility they have to warn students about problems they may encounter in, say, a city-centre Club.

Skiiltan Thu 09-Aug-18 22:48:48

I honestly think that the reason they don't take action is to protect their own reputations. Although, in the bristol example needmoresleep posted, the authorities did issue a warning, however this may be that it became common knowledge and they had to.

I suspect the reason they don't take action is the fear of being taken to court by the excluded student(s). If someone has been date-raped under the influence of flunitrazepam it's very easy for a lawyer to argue that the drug causes anterograde amnesia and therefore the (alleged) victim's recollection of events is unreliable and the university's action in excluding the (alleged) perpetrator is unlawful. The probability of the perpetrator winning his case - after dragging the victim's name through the mud in court - is very high. I'm afraid that's the world we live in: universities are perpetually being threatened with legal action by past & current students, unsuccessful applicants, etc.

Threedragonsten Thu 09-Aug-18 23:20:19

Thanks skiiltan,
I wonder why they just didn't tell me this when I asked instead of ignoring me.
Needmoresleep, why did they get rid of the wardens?

TonTonMacoute Sat 11-Aug-18 14:04:44

I’m so sorry to hear about your DD, Threedragonsten, and your DS ChocChunk.

I have signed out of MN for several months, but I have come back on to add my voice to your warning of how things can go badly wrong.

My DS ended up in trouble after he drank a spiked drink that was aimed at his girlfriend during freshers week. He ended up being suspended, and his girlfriend was later sexually assaulted by the student we believed was responsible.

The university authorities have been absolutely useless in how they have dealt with both incidents, the only thing they are interested in is keeping it out of the papers and preserving their reputation.

A female friend of his also had her drink spiked at another university. She was found collapsed in the street and an ambulance was called. At first everyone pooh poohed her claim, but blood tests taken at the hospital showed that she had been spiked.

Please, please warn your DCs to be so careful, and to be cautious in trusting new friends.

Xenia Sat 11-Aug-18 14:25:40

Dreadful. I graduated a teetotal virging with law prizes and had a great time in choirs and the ilke and no one spiked my drinks and I went to bed early most nights.

Mind you none of my lot have taken my advice of not going out and not drinking at university so far! However it is growing - lots of teenagers for religious and other reasons don't go out and don't drink and but even if people do they should not have drinks spiked. People who do it need to be prosecuted as they are the ones to blame.

I am so sorry to hear about the experiences of those on this thread. It is really horrible.

Threedragonsten Sat 11-Aug-18 20:22:17

TonTonMacoute that is an awful experience and I am very sorry. Your sad story is a reminder that even couples out together have to be as careful as anyone else which again isn't what you would expect.
The fact of the matter, is perpetrators are not likely to be the stranger in the nightclub bar but part of their social group.
I possibly think that as many in 1 in 30-50 female students are affected. I imagine most of the time they tell no-one.
With this rate of occurrence, I think the universities have a responsibility to have workshops on it in freshers week also warning students about it prior to arrival. But they would never want to do this as they would feel it would sully their reputation.
Needmoresleep it sounds like the Bristol wardens cared about their student welfare. However, I wonder if they made that warning knowing they were losing their jobs and so could afford to take the step that they did. What do you think? It appears that standard university policy is 'Smile and Wave'

bevelino Sun 12-Aug-18 09:16:11

OP thank you for your post; and I will be talking to my two dds about drink spiking. Both girls hoping to go to Bristol (exam results permitting). They heard all about the drink spiking episode at Wills Hall (Bristol University) during freshers week last year so at least have an awareness.

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