By Charlotte King
In light of a number of students claiming to have had their drinks spiked in Cardiff University Students’ Union, it’s time to question whether people are being spiked on campus and how can students ensure they remain safe when on a night out in the city?
Drink spiking is when somebody deliberately puts drugs or alcohol in someone else’s drink without their knowledge or consent. In some cases, drinks are spiked with intent to harm an individual, be it to assault or rape them, for example.
Over the past year, various students have alleged that their drinks were spiked during YOLO and Juice club nights in the Students’ Union. Gair Rhydd has spoken to these individuals to find out more about their experiences.
One student, Alex*, stated that one evening last year, they decided to attend a Students’ Union club night on a whim, having two drinks before leaving the house. They arrived at the Union, had two more drinks and “just blacked out.”
They then reported that their friend had to help them walk home, after which they began to moan in pain and vomit continually. Their friend was concerned about how “out of character” they were acting so phoned an ambulance. Alex claims that the paramedic refused to believe they had been spiked and they were taken to A&E for a brief check-up then sent home.
Alex stated that this experience made them “wary” of drinks, especially when in a new place. They believe that the Union “need to be more vigilant” and should stop “[throwing] people out” who could be in a vulnerable position if it is to be a safe space for students to go out partying.
Gair Rhydd also spoke to Charlie*, another student who believes they were spiked on a YOLO club night earlier this academic year. Charlie told Gair Rhydd that they drank two glasses of wine before heading to YOLO and then proceeded to drink four VKs in the nightclub, after which they “can’t remember a single thing” included who they spoke to or where they went.
Charlie continued, saying that this blackout continued into the morning after and later in the day, their body “went into complete shutdown mode, leaving me in hospital for a couple of hours.” They stated that this experience deterred them from wanting to attend Students’ Union club nights which they too feel should be “one of the safest clubs for students”.
Both Alex and Charlie told Gair Rhydd that they encourage students to contact a doctor if they believe they may have been spiked and never been afraid to let someone in a higher position know you feel vulnerable, for example, a security guard.
In response to these comments, a Students’ Union spokesperson said, “At present, any student that reports to security with suspected drinks spiking is supported by the on-site paramedic team where they are monitored until able to return home. Students are then encouraged to follow up with further medical advice to confirm if the spiking occurred and are advised to report the incident to the police.
We have previously not been in a position to confirm any spiking allegations but are looking into the feasibility of onsite testing kits at events.
Whilst we don’t comment on specific incidents, we will happily meet with anyone who has felt that their treatment has not been to the above standard.”
Gair Rhydd also spoke to the Students’ Union to enquire whether the Union believes it has a problem with drink spiking during club nights. In response, a spokesperson for the Union said, “The safety of students and guests attending our events is of paramount importance…[and] we invest in many welfare and safety initiatives to ensure students have a fantastic time.
“The Students’ Union enforces a strict behaviour and entrance policy and for major events, this includes displaying messages on banners that outlines the zero-tolerance stance.”
The Union elaborated further to say that “Whilst there have been no confirmed incidences of spiking within venues, we would encourage any student that witnesses concerning behaviour report immediately to security and remain vigilant when consuming alcohol.”
There are multiple initiatives organised by institutions across the city to ensure students stay safe when our partying at night. One such initiative is the Student Safety Bus Partnership, a scheme organised by South Wales Police in conjunction with Cardiff University and Student Volunteering Cardiff. The Safety Bus is a vehicle which runs on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings to ensure those who are in “vulnerable positions” around Cardiff get home safely from a night out.
Cardiff University has also recently launched a new application called SafeZone in further efforts to ensure students stay safe on and off campus. This app works by allowing students to send their location to the university’s Security Services team and then enables one to message security through providing students with three options: first aid assistance, emergy assistance or non-emergency assistance.
Speaking about the new app, a Cardiff University spokesperson told Gair Rhydd, “The SafeZone app is just one of the many ways that we encourage students to think about their safety”, emphasising that other universities across the UK are already using the application.
Additionally, Gair Rhydd has been told that students can collect a “free personal attack alarm” from Security Services.
The Students’ Union also runs a number of initiatives to keep students safe on club nights in the Union and beyond, Gair Rhydd has been informed. These include the Safe Taxi Scheme, a partnership between the Union and Dragon Taxis which allows Cardiff University students to use a taxi to get home and then pay the fare within the next few days in the Students’ Union.
Two other programmes coordinated by the Students’ Union are the Student Safety Walk and Drinkaware Crew. The Student Safety Walk is another project in partnership with South Wales Police which sees volunteers sitting in and around the Union to provide security and advice to individuals who feel uncomfortable making it home alone. As for the Drinkaware Crew, this scheme has seen the Students’ Union training student staff members to work on Union club nights and provide support to those who need it.
Sadly, it’s not always easy or possible for individuals to protect themselves from being spiked. PC Mike Neate, the Community Safety Student Liaison Officer, acknowledges that whilst drink spiking is “extremely rare”, it is easy for students to “let [their] guard down” when partying and encourages students to stay safe by “[avoiding] drinks you haven’t seen being poured, never [leaving] drinks unattended, [staying] with friends and parranging] transport home in advance.”
The NHS encourages people to stay alert on nights out and look out for particular symptoms, including difficulty concentrating or speaking; memory loss; confusion or disorientation; and paranoia, and promotes that people never leave their drinks unattended nor do they accept drinks from strangers, and stick to bottled drinks that they can cap easily.
Whilst drink spiking is cited as being a rare occurrence, there are students who believe they have had their drinks spiked on Students’ Union club nights and it does not hurt to keep yourself safe. Ultimately, a spokesperson for Cardiff University told Gair Rhydd that “The wellbeing of our students is a priority.”
*Names have been changed.