What is spiking?
‘Spiking’ is when someone puts alcohol or drugs into another person’s drink or their body without their knowledge and/or consent.
There are several reasons why someone might decide to ‘spike’ another person with alcohol or drugs. It might be as a ‘prank’ or a ‘joke’, or to make it easier for them to commit a crime or form of violence or sexual violence against them, including:
- rape, sexual assault or sexual abuse (all forms of sexual violence)
- non-sexual physical assault
Whatever the motive, spiking is never funny. It can make a person extremely vulnerable and ill, and have a lasting impact on their life and wellbeing.
Spiking someone in order to rape, sexually assault or sexually abuse them is a serious crime – no matter whether any rape, sexual assault or sexual abuse took place. It carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison in England and Wales.
If the perpetrator also committed sexual violence against the person they spiked, they will face additional sentences.
It doesn’t matter what a victim or survivor was wearing or doing before the spiking took place. It also doesn’t matter if they were drinking or ‘on’ drugs – or what quantities of alcohol or drugs they had chosen to consume beforehand.
Please know: at Rape Crisis, we take every person’s experience of being spiked seriously.
What is ‘date rape’?
So-called ‘date rape’ is when someone rapes, sexually assaults or sexually abuses someone after spiking them. It is also sometimes referred to as ‘drug or alcohol-facilitated sexual assault’.
The term ‘date rape’ refers to the fact that some perpetrators spike their victims while on dates with them or after meeting them on nights out.
BUT, spiking and sexual violence can also be committed by a stranger or someone known to the victim in another way. For example:
- an ex-partner
- someone they used to date
- an acquaintance (someone they only know a little bit)
- a friend
- a colleague
- a family member
How are people spiked?
The most common way that people are spiked is by someone adding alcohol to their non-alcoholic drink, or extra alcohol to their alcoholic one, without their knowledge and/or consent (more on consent below).
However, drugs (legal or illegal) can also be added to drinks or put in someone’s body in another way, such as:
- Giving someone a drug but telling them it is a different dosage or a different drug altogether – for example, a drug that is commonly prescribed or sold as medicine.
- Injecting it into them with a syringe.
Please know that these are just two examples of other ways that people might be spiked with drugs – it is not a full list.
Someone can be spiked with any type of drug, including:
Illegal drugs that are commonly taken on nights out or at parties – for example, Ecstasy (also known as ‘MD’, ‘MDMA’, ‘Pills’, ‘Mandy’ or ‘Molly’), Ketamine, GBL or LSD. These are sometimes known as ‘party drugs’ or ‘club drugs’.
Drugs that have become known for their use by people who commit spiking in order to rape, sexually assault or sexually abuse someone – for example, Rohypnol, GHB or GBL. These are commonly known as ‘date rape drugs’. However, people often also take these drugs out of choice, including on nights out or at parties.
Prescription medicines, such as sedatives, tranquilisers and opiates – for example, Valium or Xanax.
‘Date rape drugs’
These drugs are sometimes used by people who want to commit a form of sexual violence for several reasons:
- They can make people become physically weak, feel ‘out-of-control’ or pass out.
- They can be odourless, colourless and tasteless – so it can be hard to know if your drink has been spiked with them.
- They leave the body within a short amount of time, making them hard to detect.
- They can cause memory loss – so the victim or survivor might not remember exactly what happened to them or who the perpetrator was.
What happens when someone is spiked?
The effect on the victim or survivor will depend on several factors:
- What they were spiked with.
- How much they were spiked with.
- If they had already consumed alcohol or taken drugs and how much they consumed.
- Their size and weight.
As we’ve seen, so-called ‘date rape drugs’ can make someone weak, feel ‘out-of-control’ or pass out.
However, all alcohol and drugs can have this effect, depending on the factors listed above.
Other symptoms of spiking include:
- feeling or being sick
- feeling ‘strange’ or drunker than expected
- feeling confused or disorientated
- feeling sleepy
- blurred or slowed vision, or trouble seeing properly
- loss of balance or coordination
- having trouble communicating
- having hallucinations
- acting strangely or out of character
These symptoms might start to come into effect within 15 minutes, depending on what a person has been spiked with. Symptoms can last for several hours.
How can you help someone if you think they’ve been spiked?
It can be difficult to know what to do if you think someone’s been spiked. Especially if they are refusing help or won’t listen to you or cooperate.
If their symptoms seem serious and you think they need urgent medical attention, call 999 to speak to emergency services.
Other things you can do to help include:
- Try not to let them drink alcohol or take drugs.
- Try not to let them go home with someone you don’t know or trust.
- If you don’t know them or don’t know them well, try finding their friends or the people they were with.
- If you’re at a pub, bar, club or any other venue, tell staff who work there.
What is consent?
Consenting to something means agreeing to it by choice and having both the freedom and capacity to make that choice.
Someone cannot consent to being given alcohol or drugs, or to taking them, if:
- They don’t know it’s being put into their drink or into their body by some other means.
- They are pressured, manipulated, tricked or scared into it.
It is not consent if someone consented to taking one type of drug but were instead given another. It is also not consent if they consented to drinking one type of alcohol but were instead given another. Or if they consented to a certain quantity of alcohol but were instead given more.
Consenting to sexual activity
As we’ve seen above, spiking can be used as a way of making it easier to commit a form of sexual violence against another person.
Consenting to any kind of sexual activity also means agreeing to it by choice and having both the freedom and capacity to make that choice.
Spiking someone with alcohol or drugs takes away their freedom and capacity to make a choice about agreeing to sexual activity.
Get help and support
Everyone responds differently to spiking and sexual violence – so whatever someone feels is a valid response. But for lots of people, it can have a long-lasting impact on their feelings and wellbeing.
If you have experienced spiking and/or sexual violence of any kind – whether it was recently or a long time ago – Rape Crisis is here for you. We will listen to you and believe you.