‘I was spiked by a needle on a university night out — clubs need to do more to protect young women’

·5-min read
‘I was spiked by a needle on a university night out — clubs need to do more to protect young women’

My reason for joining this week’s and last week’s nightclub boycotts is personal. Two Saturdays ago, I was on a night out with some coursemates and I was spiked - or at least, I assume I was.

We were at a club in Bristol and I don’t remember the spiking happening - I was drinking quite a bit, but I stopped drinking at 10.30pm yet continued to feel increasingly drunk throughout the night. Luckily I didn’t pass out but I never sobered up, which is unusual for me.

I woke up the next morning feeling dizzy, shaky and sick. My friend knocked my arm and I had that bruised-muscle feeling you have after having an injection - it felt like I’d been punched. We looked at my arm and saw a bruise and a puncture mark on my upper left bicep - the spot where you’d normally have an injection - and after all the stories of injection spiking over recent weeks, including friends-of-friends, we put two-and-two together. It was frightening: you never think it’ll happen to you - then it does.

I was sick shortly after seeing the mark, so we called 111 and they told me to go to A&E. All kinds of things were racing through my mind as I sat there in the waiting room alone. Did it happen one of the times I went to the bathroom by myself? Should I have gone with a friend? What if I hadn’t made it home? What if someone had taken advantage?

Unfortunately the staff in A&E couldn't do much for me because of how long it had been since the night out. They also don't have facilities for forensic blood testing, so they told me they were sorry it had happened but they couldn’t do anything for me.

Women can’t even go to club without worrying. What have we done to deserve this?

It was disappointing, but I also didn’t know if I was being dramatic because I wasn’t even 100 per cent sure I’d been spiked. That’s one of the worst parts of this whole thing: I don’t even remember it happening. I’d been wearing a sleeveless vest so my arm was exposed - surely I’d remember if someone pricked it? I almost feel guilty for calling myself a victim - it feels wrong saying something happened when you don’t even remember it.

Despite not remembering the spiking itself, I did report the incident to police. They said they won’t be able to do much, but they will contact the club and ask for CCTV. It was dark with lots of people around so I don’t have high hopes that they’ll find any evidence, but at least it’ll make police and authorities more aware of the issue. It’s the numbers that make this term’s spiking epidemic so scary.

 (Megan Mackenzie-Shearan)
(Megan Mackenzie-Shearan)

My friends have been amazing - I was lucky they were with me on the night and we’ve all agreed we won’t go the bathroom by ourselves anymore - but the whole incident has left me feeling anxious and scared. Almost a week later, my arm still feels bruised and painful, and I definitely feel less confident going out.

I only started university in September and it was my first proper clubbing experience. I’d been being careful on nights out after all these stories - this was one of the few nights I let loose and decided to enjoy it. Now, I feel anxious and angry.

I’ll still go clubbing this term because I’m determined not to let these people ruin something I enjoy, but I’ll definitely be more cautious about how much I drink. I shouldn’t have to, but I don’t feel comfortable getting too drunk now because I don’t know what’s going to happen. I definitely won’t go to the bathroom alone, either, though I won’t change my clothing - I don’t know if it would make a difference anyway, I’ve heard of people getting injected through their jeans.

I’ve heard of people getting injected through their jeans

It’s upsetting because this whole thing feels gendered. It can happen to anyone, but it’s clear from the evidence it’s happening to girls more than boys. I think about this a lot and have struggled to wrap my head around it over the last six months since Sarah Everard’s murder - as a woman, we just want to be able to live our lives and not feel in danger if we walk home. Now, we can’t even go to club without worrying about these things. What have we done to deserve this?

Last week, my friend and I took part in the national nightclub boycott and stayed in at his flat, because I do think it’s the responsibility of clubs to tackle this problem. When you're in the building, you’re in their care. They need to have people patrolling the club, free covers for drinks, more thorough searches... Yes, it's sad we feel they have to do these things, but the steps do need to be taken because people clearly can’t be trusted to behave themselves. We have to prioritise safety.

Megan Mackenzie-Shearan, 19, is a first year studying law at Bristol University

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