Rise in ‘needle spiking’ puts women in Britain on high alert

LONDON — Britain is increasingly feeling like a hostile place for women.

There have been multiple reports of “needle spiking” — which involves an injection being administered to someone without their knowledge or consent, usually in a nightclub or bar setting — as opposed to the more commonly known method of contaminating alcoholic drinks.

Zara Owen, a 19-year-old student in Nottingham, central England, said she woke up after clubbing with a “sharp, agonizing pain in my leg” and “almost zero recollection” of the night before. After walking with a limp the rest of the day she wrote social media ,, before realizing she was being “spiked” by the needle through her pants.

Thankfully, she added, her friends — who had noticed her behaving strangely — helped her to return safely home.

“The fact that this form of spiking is happening is horrifying, with the memory loss it brought me,” Owen told The Washington Post. “What is supposed to be a fun night leads us to almost fear the unknown.”

The Nottinghamshire police said this week that it had received a total of 15 reports of alleged spiking with a sharp object since Oct. 2, with the majority of reports made by women, in venues across the popular university town. Two men were arrested on suspicion of conspiring to administer poison with the intent to injure. annoy, or aggrieve.” The police also added ..

Cases have also been reported elsewhere in Britain, mostly among college students, in Glasgow, Exeter and Birmingham.

The reported needle-spiking incidents come after two high-profile murders of women on the streets, which have left Britain stunned. The overall number of reported needle-spiking incidents remains far below the number of drink-spiking incidents thought to occur, and the incidents not yet been linked to other crimes such as rape or theft, but police chiefs have been asked to urgently assess how widespread the attacks are around the country, while the home secretary has also expressed concern.

“We need to make sure that we earn back the trust and confidence particularly of women and girls. And that takes an approach that isn’t just the police’s problem, but all of our problem… I think misogyny should be a hate crime, and we’re lobbying the government to make sure that harassment in a public place is a criminal offense.” (Washington Post Live)

In September, a U.K. watchdog called violence against women “an epidemic” and said authorities should treat it with as much urgency as fighting terrorism. It stated that an average of three women are killed each day in the United Kingdom by men.

The reports of needle spiking were “deeply worrying” said Melissa Green, general secretary of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes. The Post reported that the cases again “remind us that public spaces aren’t truly safe for women.”

Police have also been criticized for their approach — including their advice to women, following the death of Everard, to shout or wave down a bus if they encounter a lone police officer they do not trust — which some said continued to place the onus on women.

“The W.I. The W.I. does not believe that women should be educated or change their behaviour to keep themselves safe. Green stated that “What is really needed is action by the entire society.”

The needle-spiking cases have also prompted a public petition urging politicians to enact tougher laws to search guests on arrival to nightclubs. As of Saturday, it had garnered more than 165,000 signatories, which will trigger the British parliament to consider the petition for a debate.

Meanwhile, from Wales to Birmingham, female students across the United Kingdom are hosting a “Girls Night In” public campaign over the next two weeks to boycott nightclubs and draw attention to the issue of needle spiking and women’s safety.

Owen told The Post that she would “like to see more change in nightclubs,” including better searches before people enter.

Meanwhile Nia Gallagher, 20, has been using her TikTok platform — where she has almost 300,000 followers, to spread awareness about spiking incidents and personal safety.

Gallagher said she had her drink spiked when she was 18, after she left her drink briefly unattended while out in a Dublin nightclub. She said that the spiking caused her to become severely ill for more than a week. However, her memory was intact and she managed to make it home safely.

“I let my guard down and that’s why it happened to me,” she told The Post, adding that news of the latest attacks was “really upsetting.”

“A lot of people turned 18 over lockdown so it’s their first time going to nightclubs … so I just wanted to warn people,” she said.

It’s unclear what exact drugs are being administered in the syringes. Shirin Lakhani is a former cosmetic physician and anesthetist. She said that needles as well as prescription drugs such as painkillers and opium-based medications, can be easily obtained online. Assailants will need little to no knowledge about how to inject the drug under the skin.

“Needles have gotten really fine now and you can get needles as fine as hairs, so it’s possible not to notice, especially in a club environment with the noise,” she told The Post.

Lakhani said images on social media suggested the attackers were targeting hands in particular, with bruises taking some time to manifest.

“It’s appalling that we have to look after ourselves in this way,” said the doctor and mother of two girls. “It’s another way to carry out misogynistic attacks.”

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