It’s Not Just Happening in Clubs: Safety and Spiking in Bristol

TWSS’s Senior Editor, Kim, shares a recent experience of spiking in Bristol. Content warning: spiking.

Last week my flatmate turned 21. To celebrate she wanted her favourite people together in our favourite bar, a quiet little place we discovered in second year. We’re pretty much regulars there, so comfortable and confident that we will have the best time with cheesy tunes and horrendously strong drinks, because every time we go, we do. 

It was a classic night. We were dancing and some of us were far too drunk… some of us even had a tactical chunder in the bathroom. 

It was early when we left, not yet midnight. We’d broken off into clusters, some of us popping into the off licence on Park Street before heading back to ours to continue the party. The night was still young, of course. 

It was probably another two hours before we would make it home. I’d made it back before everyone else, unaware that they’d all stopped outside Clifton Down Sainsburys because my flatmate, Meg, had started throwing up and was now unable to move. I rang my friend, whose birthday it was, and she told me that Meg thought she had been spiked. 

I panicked and ran to where about six of them were huddled. She was on the floor sobbing into our friend. She couldn’t feel her legs, she said the world was upside down and she couldn’t lift her head. She also kept repeating how she had only had two drinks. In the bar all our drinks were dispersed on various tables around which we were standing and circulating. 

We all know the rules, us girls. Don’t let anyone buy you a drink without going to the bar with them, don’t leave your drink unattended, don’t walk home alone. We know these rules on nights out, they’re almost subconscious acts we take to keep ourselves safe. But this bar – our bar – we saw as a safe space. This mostly empty family-friendly bar, attended by a member of staff we sort of knew, where we’d always been comfortable setting down our drinks among friends and going for a dance. 

Towards the end of the night a group of men on a stag do came in and stood by the bar for quite some time. None of us took much notice, too busy enjoying our own company. We can’t be sure what happened, we’ve only managed to piece together an idea from what we know and remember. But we knew that Meg wasn’t that drunk when we left. She was determined not to get drunk so she could make it to her 9am. Yet half an hour later she had collapsed on the pavement. 

We’d rang 999, but it became clear that an ambulance wasn’t going to turn up. At this point we didn’t know the safest option. We checked Meg for injection marks on her body – she had none. She kept saying how scared she was and that she didn’t know what was happening. 

We needed to get her home; the ambulance wasn’t coming. She couldn’t lift her head; she couldn’t move her legs. In the end, four of the boys had to carry her. We made sure to take her glasses off her face and keep them safe. We struggled home, but luckily, we weren’t far at all. We carried her up the stairs to our flat and tucked her up in bed, taking off her makeup and getting her changed into pyjamas. 

I slept next to her that night, making sure she wasn’t alone. We got her back safe, and as she was with us the whole time, we can be sure that she wasn’t taken advantage of. However scared she felt, she wasn’t on her own. There were so many of us there, each of us taking on our own roles in this crisis, however inadequate we may have felt. 

I don’t think I’ll get the picture out of my head of her lying there, repeating how scared she was and how she had only had two drinks. I can’t imagine how it must be for her. Even with the knowledge that she was safe, she was not in control of her own body.

Art by Cerys Gadsden

I had already begun writing this article earlier that day. Meg had shown me the Instagram @girlsnightinbristol and we had read up some more on the recent cases of students being spiked via injection in Bristol and beyond. I had wanted to write this piece to raise some awareness, offer my thoughts and draw attention to concerns around women’s safety on nights out. 

I had it planned out: I was going to write about clubs and the precautions we take to keep ourselves and our friends safe. I was going to include some statistics, demonstrating the severity of the issue. But that all seemed futile after what happened to my friend. I’d never been with someone when they had been spiked, nor had I had any real exposure to the aftermath and consequences. I’d never lived it like we did that night. 

I debated even writing the piece at all, feeling so overwhelmed, shocked, and hurt by what had happened to Meg when she was in the company of us all. 

I wrote this not to scaremonger or dramatize events, but rather to contribute to raising awareness. We weren’t in a club, we weren’t out late, nor were we a small group of drunk girls by ourselves looking vulnerable to outsiders. We were in a large group, in the company of about five guys, in a half empty bar, midweek and it wasn’t even midnight yet. Most importantly though, we thought we were safe. 

We can’t be sure 100% what happened, but it is most likely that something was slipped into Meg’s drink without any of us realising. With these things, it’s always someone we know of, someone we sort of know, or someone we’ve heard about. It’s always a niggling fear at the back of so many of our minds when we go to a club or when we walk home in the dark. 

Every time we open our social media, we’re seeing all these statistics and tips and information online. We’re seeing petitions and campaigns. Everyone is talking about it, and honestly, it’s about time because something has got to change. We as students deserve to enjoy a night out, whether in a club, bar, party, or pub, without worrying we might lose control of our bodies through no fault of our own. It is no longer enough to preach, ‘stay safe’. 

This past week, these issues have been brought to light with the help of campaigns such as Not on My Campus UK and Girls Night In. 

Girls Night In is a nationwide campaign which was started by Edinburgh student Martha Williams and Bristol medic intercalating in Edinburgh, Milly Seaford. This inspired the Bristol-based Instagram account, @girlsnightinbristol to raise awareness about the cases of spiking here. GNI Bristol have been in contact with nightclubs and UOB/UWE clubs to try and enact measures to make night outs safer. As well as taking this more ‘legislative’ approach, GNI Bristol plans to hold events and “create a community for any victim of spiking to feel safe in”. 

The Girls Night In campaign to boycott all clubs will take place on Wednesday 27th October. In light of this, we at TWSS will be holding our own ‘Girls Night In’ along with the Intersectional Feminist Society at The Hope and Anchor and we welcome anyone who wants to come to come to a safe, wholesome social with board games, chill drinks, and the chance to create some art. 

Girls, guys, and non-binary friends, as the days are getting darker and as we approach Halloween, be extra vigilant and take extra care of your friends. Let us all have a night in on Wednesday, and let us all continue to look after each other, raising awareness and helping to create change in whatever way we can. 

This piece was written with the consent of my friend Meg, who wants to share her story.

Written by Kim Singh-Sall (Senior Editor)

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