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Police are finally set to undergo spiking training - but what else is being done to protect us on a night out?

silhouette of a woman with afro hair drinking and in the background are blurred red and yellow lights
EYNTK about the Spike ReportGetty Images

Over the past few years, we've all become increasingly aware of the spiking landscape. Not only in terms of the number of incidents being recorded, but also the - shall we say 'creative' - methods of spiking developed by its perpetrators.

In 2021, perhaps the most frightening technique began to emerge: spiking by injection. During this time, hundreds of images of bruises and puncture marks shared by victims made their way across social media, as case after case spilled out into the mainstream news.

Yet, just 0.25% of reported spiking incidents result in a charge and no law specifically designed to tackle spiking is actually in place (although convictions could be secured by other means and in December 2023, the government announced it has plans to modernise the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 to better cover spiking). This is all set to a backdrop of the YouGov national poll that found 11% of women believe they've been spiked vs 6% of men. A previous FOI uncovered that 74% of spiking victims are women.

What is being done to prevent spiking in the UK?

Whilst all door staff will now have to receive training in relation to spiking (as per a new set of measures announced by the government in December of last year), the Met Police's website still reads "it's almost impossible to inject drugs into someone's body without them noticing" and "injecting an amount that would cause a victim to be affected by it would take a lot more than a quick jab" [before caveating that this doesn't mean needle spiking does not take place].

Given we've all heard anecdotes of, or perhaps even sadly experienced firsthand, nights out ending in disaster due to spiking – be it via a substance in a drink, laced vape or injection – it's both encouraging and disappointing that all police forces in the UK are now at last set to receive training.

This comes at a time when a new report [from The Times] highlights how utterly disjointed the care victims presently receive is, sharing tales of being bounced between the police and hospitals which do not have the capacity to test to see which drugs are in a person's system, thereby rendering the case void of evidence. As per The Times, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine also said "it's not the role of the emergency department to be collecting and securing forensic samples".

In light of these figures, many advocates for spiking awareness have been taking matters into their own hands in a bid to make the nighttime economy a safer place for all. Della Claydon and Elysia O'Neill, founders of The Egalitarian (an online publication creating a fairer society through community-led, data-driven projects) are prime examples of this.

They created the Spike Report in 2021 in response to the pandemic of injection spikings across the country at that time. This was after the realisation that no one knew where, when and how spikings were occurring (including the police and local authorities due to a lack of reporting).

Cosmopolitan UK spoke with Della Claydon about the Spike Report, including what it actually is, and why it was set up. Plus, whether they're noticing any spiking trends and advice on how to spot the signs.

What is the Spike Report?

The Spike Report is a publicly viewable spiking incident database where everyone can see where, when and how spikings are happening.

"It’s to be used by our community to stay informed about which areas and venues are experiencing spiking so we can make informed decisions about where we go out," says Claydon.

Data on the identities of victims is then collected, plus the ratings of police and venue responses. Which according to Claydon, shows "significant negligence from all agents in the process of reporting a spiking."

84% of people strongly agree that they would be in a better place to report any incidents of sexual violence or spiking to the police if the venue helped them deal with the situation in the moment

Why did they set the Spike Report up?

Claydon and O'Neill set up the Spike Report to inform their Safe Place Project - a community-led, victim-focussed initiative that trains and certifies pubs, bars, clubs, events companies and festivals on how to identify, prevent and respond to spiking, sexual violence, domestic violence and hate crimes in the night-time economy.

Claydon reveals that alongside data from their Spike Report, they use annual survey responses on peoples’ experiences of nights out. Plus, conduct regular social media polls to keep in touch with their community and ensure they're always informed of recent trends.

Are they noticing any trends at the moment?

Speaking of, many people will be aware that there's been another new form of spiking doing the rounds recently, after a woman was spiked by vape at the Isle of Wight festival.

"Our newest concern is spiking via vape," says Claydon. "On a night out and in social circles, it’s so common to pass vapes around and share them with everyone."

While Claydon admits that the statistics on this are currently low, she outlines that it's a new offence, so many may be victims right now without realising that it’s a crime.

"We have a report of a vape spiking where someone gave out their vape and someone took it to the toilet - and it was laced with something," Claydon warns, before revealing they had another report of a male being offered a vape in a smoking area, taking it and being informed it had DMT in it. She also detailed further reports where vape spiking resulted in sexual assault.

Despite this spiking method being a major concern, Claydon reveals that, currently, 25% of their Spike Reports are by injection, and 70% are through drink tampering.

How to spot the signs and protect yourself

"There is no rule book for perpetrator behaviours, but spotting the signs of a spiker or harasser is really useful in acknowledging there’s a problem," says Claydon.

"Perpetrators may act in groups or alone. Look out for people being overly aware of their surroundings, following people around, jumping from group to group or outwardly displaying disrespectful behaviours towards certain marginalised groups."

While people might think that intervention needs to cause a scene, The Egalitarian say this is not the case.

"If you feel comfortable doing so, of course we can call out bad behaviour and tell the perpetrator that they’re doing wrong. This is what we call an overt intervention technique," says Claydon.

A covert intervention technique - their alternative method - is where you can approach the victim and ask them if they’re okay. "Or, we can ask them to help us find our phone or show us where the toilets are. This means we can remove the victim from the situation without getting involved in it directly."

What festivals are they working with?

For those who have been spiked, attending big events like festivals can be pretty daunting. Especially when - according to Spike Report analysis - 85% of people who have been spiked and informed the venue said that their incident was not investigated or looked into.

However, this festival season, The Egalitarian has partnered with some of the biggest in the biz to prevent incidents of spiking, sexual violence and other forms of inappropriate behaviours from happening on-site.

Most recently, they attended El Dorado festival and worked with their senior leadership team to discuss any previous experiences they’ve had, and what they can do to improve the safety not only of their customers but their staff backstage as well.

They focused on the vulnerable hotspots that could potentially cause problems at events to ensure they had the right procedures and techniques so that suppliers, customers and artists are as safe as they can be.

Only 23% of people who had been spiked and informed the venue at the time rated their response as good to very good

"We will also be working at Leeds festival," says Claydon. "We will be partnering with SSAFE, a mental health society from the University of Leeds to deliver a 'Check-in & Chill' tent."

The aim will be to provide support on mental health as well as sexual violence and spiking.

Bottom line? "Victims are disempowered and disbelieved - our Spike Report is a tool to empower victims that people are listening to them."

If you've been impacted by spiking and want to anonymously record the details, you can find The Spike report here. It's really easy to report a case - all you need to do is fill out the form with a few of your personal details (they won't be revealed or published) and describe the incident.

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