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My drink was spiked. The subsequent day the questions started… | College students

December 10, 2022
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Sometimes a painful event from your past comes back to haunt you. All it needs is a trigger. So it was with a jolt that I came across the #IAmJada news story last month.

Jada, 16, launched the hashtag after finding graphic photos of herself on Twitter – they'd been taken at a party after her drink was spiked. She remembers nothing after accepting a glass of punch.

Jada would have been justified in expecting sympathy from her peers. Instead, they sided with the boy at her school who posted the photos online.

He encouraged his Twitter followers to mimic Jada's positions in his pictures and #jadapose was used over a million times in a week.

Now Jada has fought back. Her retaliatory hashtag gained support from the actor Jada Pinkett Smith and there is a police investigation underway.

Jada may have gained revenge, but I can imagine how bittersweet it must feel. Her experience showed that we live in a victim-blaming society.

And I should know. Because, during my first term at university, I believe my drink was spiked at a bar.

I remember very little from the night, but I was with good friends who, after spotting a guy following me around the dancefloor and seeing me acting strangely, took me home.

Unfortunately, my real ordeal began the morning after.

News of the spiking spread quickly and soon people began to ask questions. Some were kind, asking me how I was, but others took a different tack.

"What time was this?" "Were you dancing by yourself?" "How much had you drunk?" Rather than asking about my would-be attacker, the focus was on me and my own conduct. The way I saw it, having escaped a sexual assault, I hadn't expected a verbal one.

There is a culture of victim-blaming in a society that teaches girls not to get raped, rather than teaching boys not to rape. A poster from the Home Office and NHS, part of a campaign called Know Your Limits, depicts a drunken girl beneath the slogan "one in three reported rapes happens when the victim has been drinking". It still shouts its message from many NHS walls.

An Oxford student, Jack May, has started an online petition to remove the poster, branding it "a blatant and appalling case of victim-blaming by our own government, putting the onus on the victim rather than the perpetrator".

The government estimates that 85,000 women are raped every year, but that only around 15% of these incidents are ever reported to the police.

The same seems to be true of reports of drink spiking. I contacted the Devon and Cornwall police department – which polices Exeter, where I attend university – for official statistics on spiking. Between August 2013 and July 2014, there were 65 reports of spiking in the whole area.

While many of us know of someone whose drink has been spiked or who has been assaulted, these official figures remain relatively low.

I regret now that I didn't file a report on my own experience. I reasoned with myself that, because I'd got home safely at the end of the night, the police had weren't likely to be interested

I'd shown classic symptoms of having had my drink spiked – including amnesia, visual problems, nausea, unconsciousness and lowered inhibitions – but I didn't know what the guy looked like.

These were poor excuses, however. In truth, I was embarrassed and worried that I would face the full glare of public scrutiny. My drinking, dressing and sexual habits would be laid bare. Reporting the event was a hassle and risked mortification. Why subject myself to it?

Now I realise how stupid this reasoning was. The potential discomfort I could have encountered is nothing in comparison to the shame I feel knowing that this man is still out there, and that the next time he strikes, he may succeed.

Although there is little I could have told the police, that shouldn't have stopped me – and it shouldn't stop others.

We must change society's depictions of sexual victims. There is no jailbait, there are no girls asking for it – only a culture that would rather condemn short skirts than face a serious conversation about sexual consent.

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