You may have seen reports in the news recently about needle spiking. Reports like this can cause worry, especially as the needle spiking coverage has come at a time when violence against women and girls is being regularly reported by the media.

Drink spiking is something that we have been aware of for a long time. But needle spiking – where an offender injects the victim with a substance using a needle – seems to be something new, and on the increase.

Around three quarters of spiking victims are women, but men can be targeted too.

Like with much of the dialogue around violence prevention, the onus seems to be on the victim: personal safety advice, tips on staying safe and advice about how victims can avoid things like spiking and assaults are often a substantial part of the reporting.

However, this kind of language can make it seem like victims are at fault – and even to blame – if they are spiked because it implies they didn’t do enough to prevent it.

While personal safety is always important and to be encouraged, if someone is assaulted or spiked they are not to blame. It doesn’t matter where they were or how much they had to drink. It is never acceptable to spike someone’s drink or inject someone with an unknown substance. The only person to blame is the person who has done the spiking.

Information about spiking

As Christmas is approaching, and people may be out enjoying the New Year festivities, you might know someone who is anxious about the media reports of spiking and needle spiking. You may also be anxious yourself.

Here are some links you may find helpful:

Spiking and the law

Spiking is a serious crime. Administering (giving) a substance – such as drugs or alcohol – to a person without their knowledge or consent is against the law, even if they are unharmed.

Spiking someone with the intention of making that person vulnerable to sexual activity, or overpowering them in to sexual activity, is a serious offence. It can result in a punishment of up to 10 years in prison (under Section 61 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003).

Giving someone a substance via injection without their consent would also be a physical assault. (If a robbery, physical assault or sexual assault has taken place, these crimes would carry further charges and a longer sentence.)

What can you do if you think you’ve been spiked?

If you think you (or a friend) may have been spiked – either by drink or needle – here are some tips that could help:

  • If you feel unwell, sick or drunk, seek help from someone you trust: a friend, member of staff at the venue or the management.
  • Ask a trusted friend to get you out of the venue as soon as possible. Get them to take you home, or to hospital if you are very unwell. Or you could ask a friend or family member to collect you.
  • Don’t go anywhere with a stranger or someone you don’t trust.
  • Once you are safe at home, ask a trusted person to stay with you until the effects wear off.
  • Call an ambulance if you start to deteriorate.
  • Report the incident to the police if you feel able to.
  • If you need medical attention, seek advice from your GP or call 111 for advice.
  • If you suspect you may have been sexually assaulted, you can contact a sexual assault referral centre (SARC) for specialist medical attention and sexual violence support. Find your nearest SARC on the NHS website (if you’re in England) or NHS 111 Wales website (if you’re in Wales).
  • It might be a good idea for you or a friend who was with you to record any details of what happened. Even if you’re not considering reporting it right now, you may want to report it later on. For example, the date, time and venue where it happened, names of any of the people involved such as venue staff. And note down any symptoms you experienced, or that others witnessed you experiencing.

If you want to talk, you can contact us at Victim Support any time – day or night. You can call our 24-hour Supportline on 08 08 16 89 111, or message us via our live chat service.

Ellen Hall, Victim Support service design and quality project manager