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Are your drinks being spiked?

“I don’t remember much, but I remember the moment I started to feel like I had no control.” These are the words of Nina*, who alleges that she had a drink spiked in the Copper Rooms on campus around a year ago, alongside her friend. When a first aider came to their assistance, she remembers him “grabbing” the two girls in a “rather aggressive manner,” and escorting them to the staircase by the emergency exit. “He didn’t come back to check on us once, until another first aider came and told our friend who was with us to take us home”, Nina alleged, saying that she was left feeling “extremely disappointed”.

I don’t remember much, but I remember the moment I started to feel like I had no control.

– Nina

A similar situation was experienced by another female Warwick University student who alleges that she was spiked in Smack, one of the most popular nightclubs in Leamington. She claims that the club’s bouncers kicked her out for “being too drunk”, but after a visit to A&E, she was informed she had in fact, had her drink spiked. Her friend, who contacted The Boar about the incident, stated: “Bouncers need to care more for the welfare of their customers, and this should not be neglected.”

In a survey conducted by The Boar, 57.1% of 91 students allege that they had had a drink spiked, or knew somebody who had had a drink spiked, while on Warwick campus. Additionally, 58.2% of students alleged that they had been spiked, or that they knew someone who had been, whilst out in the local area – on nights out in Leamington Spa and Coventry, for example. 67% of respondents were female.

57.1% of 91 students allege that they had had a drink spiked, or knew somebody who had had a drink spiked, while on Warwick campus.

Warwick University has made efforts to ensure the safety of its students when it comes to alcohol. For example, in 2016, the Student’s Union released a 2.5-minute-long video on drink spiking, which provided viewers with advice and warning signs for students, to prevent drink spiking. Additionally, in 2018, the SU launched a “Going Out, Staying Safe” campaign, which provided “a series of recommendations to tackle issues affecting student safety on nights out”. Campus Security and First Aiders are all trained and expected to deal with such situations.

SU President Ben Newsham described student safety as the “number one priority in our venues”.

Responding to The Boar Feature’s survey results, he described the figures as “much higher than the handful of suspected incidents reported over the last few years”

“If any students do experience this in our venues, we would encourage them to let a member of staff know as soon as possible so that we can ensure it is dealt with as a matter of urgency and that appropriate support is given”.

He also pointed out that the Student Union has “never received a complaint about a First Aider.”

A bartender working at Terrace Bar, who has asked to remain anonymous, told The Boar that “as bar staff, we aren’t specifically trained to deal with occurrences like this, but as far as I’m aware, some of the stewards are, and if we were suspicious that something like that [spiking] had happened we would report it to a team leader, steward or door staff immediately.” He concluded by saying “while we are not specifically trained to deal with such occurrences as spiking, we are of course aware that such horrible things happen and are always prepared and ready to look out for it and talk to a senior member of staff.”

Responding to The Boar’s request for comment, the university said that any instances of drink spiking on campus “would result in a disciplinary investigation and process”.

“Drink spiking can result in a maximum of 10 years in prison for anyone who’s found guilty” the university said. In regards to off campus incidents, they commented, “Warwick district council and police clearly enforce and campaign on this already.”

After a week, the survey of 84 students had found that 40.8% of those spiked claimed to have been spiked at Smack, with a further 16.9% claiming the same at Neon – two of the most popular clubs in Leamington Spa. Contacting the university for a second time with these statistics The Boar asked the university if it lobbied external venues, frequented by Warwick students, to ensure their safety. In response, the university said that it had “nothing to add”.

According to the survey, spiking incidents have been reported in all the major clubs frequented by Warwick students. Smack was the biggest culprit, with 43.4% of affected students alleging that they had been spiked there. One participant said that they thought that “part of the problem in clubs like Smack is that drinks are pre-made and left open at the bar, leaving them free to be spiked”. They also noted that “Smack is a very busy club, making it more difficult to keep an eye on your drinks and making it easier for people who are spiking drinks to go unnoticed.” The survey also found that The Copper Rooms, the club on campus, was the venue with the second highest number of spiking incidents, with 34.2% of participants alleging that they had had their drinks spiked there. The survey also showed that 18.4% alleged that they had been spiked at Neon, along with 14.5% at Kasbah, 11.8% in Assembly, 10.5% in bars and pubs on Warwick campus, 2.6% in Kelsey’s and 5.3% in other bars and pubs in the surrounding area.

43.4% of affected students alleged that they had been spiked at Smack. An additional 34.2% of participants alleged that they had had their drinks spiked at The Copper Rooms, on campus.

Drink spiking is a widespread issue in the UK. The BBC reported that over 2600 cases of drink spiking have been reported in England and Wales since 2015, and the investigation also found that 72% of the victims were female. An additional 137 incidents have been recorded in Scotland and 53 in Northern Ireland.

The BBC reported that over 2600 cases of drink spiking have been reported in England and Wales since 2015.

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation has defined drinks spiking as: “When a person deliberately adds alcohol or another drug to a drink without the knowledge of the person who will be drinking it.” The foundation adds that drink spiking can be a “prank”, but is also used as a method to “assault, rob or rape someone”. Substances used to spike drinks are referred to as ‘date rape’ drugs, which could include tranquilizers such as Valium and Rohypnol or Ketamine. It is unclear what the most common drugs Warwick University students have been victims to, but one respondent stated that they “had a seizure and ended up in hospital after being spiked with MDMA”.

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation says that drink spiking can be a “prank”, but is also used as a method to “assault, rob or rape someone”.

In Lincolnshire a scheme has been launched which provides bar staff at pubs and bars with drink-spike testing kits, to prevent drink spiking in venues. The test is as simple as taking a swab of the drink and receiving instant results. Bath Spa University also provided their freshers with testing kits in their welcome packages to ensure the safety of their students. With the apparent rise in drink spiking in the UK, and the vulnerability it puts people at, in particular females, several campaigns have been launched to make drink testing kits more available in venues.

It appears that drink spiking is a problem at Warwick. Both on campus, and in the local area, The Boar’s survey, and interviews conducted with those who have been affected, demonstrate that this is an issue of deep concern for many. It is now up to the university to take further action both on campus and external venues to ensure the safety of Warwick students.

*Names have been changed

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