Spiking drinks is a enormous problem underrepresented by the stats, claims a Peckham woman who has herself been a victim of the horrid crime and who has created an online safe space to share stories.
In February 2020, 23-year-old Mair Howells had her drink spiked in a bar in Peckham. She was left with a split chin, cut wrists, a concussion, and no memory of the night before.
Speaking to her family and friends about the event, Mair realised how commonplace it was for women to experience spiking. Her sister had been spiked two months before in East London, and when Mair went to have her concussion treated, her nurse had also been spiked in the past.
“That’s when I had to ask – how often is this happening?” said Mair.
“I realised how widespread this is, and nothing’s being done about it.
“There’s next to nothing online, so I just thought, why not make a space where people can share information. It’s a safe space for people to tell their stories, and a point of information.”
Mair founded @ivebeenspiked, an online platform for stories of spiking and safety information.
The online forum has since expanded, and now provides posters for clubs and bars across the country with key information about the dangers of spiking and how to spot it.
Now she is also running an online petition for an urgent review into drink spiking, to make testing more available and to increase training and education around drink spiking.
The petition is currently at just under 6,000 signatures, with a target of 7,500.
The availability of testing emerges as a key part of the battle against spiking.
“Right now,” said Mair, “if your drink’s been spiked, you call the police, and they’ll tell you to go to the hospital for a blood test. The hospital will say that they can’t do forensic testing here.
“So, you go back to the police, who say they can’t report the crime without a blood test. By that time, the drugs have probably left your system anyway, and the crime goes unreported.
“The facts and figures for spiking are way higher than we can even imagine because so many crimes are going unreported.
“We need better access to testing. If the problem is that people can’t report it because of the lack of testing, then we need better testing.”
She also argued that awareness and training will be crucial to help deal with spiking.
“If someone’s had their drink spiked, they can’t exactly tell you,” she said. “Everyone needs to be aware of the symptoms of spiking so that they can spot it if it happens to their friends.”
Symptoms listed on @ivebeenspiked posters include nausea, short term memory loss, confusion, hallucinations, and a loss of feeling in the body.
Spiking is a highly traumatic and threatening prospect for women on a night out. Mair stated that the drink that likely led to her own spiking was out of her sight for just a “split-second” while she turned to pass them to her friends.