Content warning: details of spiking.
In recent weeks, the spiking of Durham students has hit the news for its sheer scale, prompting a ‘Durham night in’ and an outcry from students. Most cases go unreported, particularly in instances where the individual manages to get home safely. The movement has occurred in tandem with larger national calls for action against spiking and a particular rise in injection type spiking. Though no official reports have been made of any individual believing to have been spiked through injection within Durham, unofficial reports suggest that around 160 students had been spiked through other means. (This was the case when the article was written. Since then and prior to the publication of the article, official reports have been made of injection type spiking in the Durham area).
Within this article, we will focus more on the shadow casualties of spiking incidents. These are the individuals, whether this means friends, family or any other bystanders, that observe the effects of a spiking incident. These individuals can often be left afraid, helpless, and unsure of what to do to help those being spiked.
I wanted to draw notice to this issue, largely through a recounting of a spiking incident that happened to two of my housemates a few weeks ago.
For the matter of safety, the individual’s names and any other identifying factors have been removed in order to keep their anonymity.
A little over a week ago, two of my housemates went out to a couple of clubs and, very quickly, one of them was likely spiked (Housemate 1). She became unresponsive and was removed from the club with my second housemate (Housemate 2), by the bouncers. The next three hours sounds almost nightmarish.
“Looking after [Housemate 1] was scary; the bouncer safely escorted us out but then we were unable to get through to any taxis so they just left us in the centre of town. Then, as her condition deteriorated I was unable to take her in a taxi or walk her so I felt quite helpless. It is quite a scary position to be in when you’re stuck in the middle of town because you feel very vulnerable.”
Even nearly two weeks on, the sheer desperation felt by Housemate 2 is palpable, “When other people started stopping that was slightly comforting but waiting hours for the ambulance was terrifying because there was nothing I could do.”
“Quite a lot of people walking past would stop and ask if we were okay and if there was anything they can do which I really appreciated, even if they just carried on walking it is nice to know how many people are looking out for each other. A few people stopped and sat down for a while and helped by trying to get through to the taxis or ambulance and then waited until it arrived, even though most of them didn’t know us. It is very selfless of them and does actually make a huge difference emotionally knowing how many people are there for you.”
The emotional effects of these events are only hinted at here, and a larger widespread support network needs to be established for both those who have been spiked and friends and family of the individuals who are often left emotionally distraught.
“I feel like the ‘Durham Night In’ is a good idea in theory.”
The support and concern of the general public highlight the solidarity of the Durham community. This solidarity has been important for the planned boycotts of Durham nightclubs in recent days. I asked Housemate 2 about their opinion on the boycott.
“Because it’s a Tuesday it is easy for people to stay in because for many people, staying in on a Tuesday night will seem natural rather than a conscious decision. It would be more impactful on a Friday or Saturday but then that’s probably less likely to happen. Maybe a boycott just isn’t the answer. Rather than just avoiding clubs for one night, there needs to be a sustainable long term change to ensure the safety of people and this needs to be done by the venues themselves and the wider industry rather than just those going to clubs.”
I also asked them about their opinion on Durham University’s response to the matter.
“The larger Durham response hasn’t been great. Obviously, there was the problematic social media post which led to accusations of victim-blaming.” The post to which Housemate 2 is referring is the #dontgetspiked post by Durham University Student Wellbeing social media accounts. To many, the posts seemed to put the onus on the victims rather than the attackers. The post has since been removed.
A lot of the response in the article has been from Housemate 2, so I also wanted to briefly hear Housemate 1’s response to the boycott.
“The event itself is raising so much awareness for the issue, which is so important.”
When asked about their opinion on the Durham Night In, Housemate 1, like Housemate 2, recognised that more needed to be done but felt more positive, overall on the impact of the boycott.
“It seems like a good thing to me but it should possibly be the full week or a night that would have more of an impact on the clubs.”
I wanted to finish the article by expressing how people can help others, especially friends, that they think have been spiked.
Drinkaware gives this guidance:
– Tell a bar manager, bouncer or member of staff
– Stay with them and keep talking to them
– Call an ambulance if their condition deteriorates
– Don’t let them go home on their own
– Don’t let them leave with someone you don’t know or trust
– Don’t let them drink more alcohol-this could lead to more serious problems.
For more guidance, visit here.
Featured image: “alcohol” on the Bubble Photography & Illustration Drive.