lifestyle

It took me years to realise I was spiked and sexually assaulted


The truth is that it’s not on you to stop your drink from getting spiked – it’s on the perpetrator alone (Picture: Getty)

I walked into the New Year’s Eve houseparty long before midnight, with that sort of mumbling shyness that comes when you only know two people there and want to go under the radar, while secretly hoping someone will think you’re cool and mysterious and fall in love within minutes.

I was handed a drink by a man I didn’t know, who’d been passed it by another man, and another, in a chain in a crowded living room.

I remember taking a glug, still standing by the side of a sofa.

Then nothing, a chunk of time completely gone, until my friend burst into a bedroom and saw me unconscious, a man on top of me, my bra undone but top still on, jeans unzipped.

I threw up. A lot. All over the party host’s bed, all over my hair, then passed back out again while my friend shooed away the guy who had left angry lovebites across my chest and neck.

When I woke up hours later, I threw up more, then fainted in the bathroom. Thankfully, I hadn’t locked the door – someone heard me hit the ground and came in to help.

I went home and stayed in bed all day, sleeping off the hangover and nursing the absolute shame that lingered long after the headache disappeared.

It took years for me to acknowledge that that night, I’d been sexually assaulted. It took me more years to recognise that I was likely spiked, too.

When it happened, we were a long way away from the #MeToo moment, even from those years when celebs were asked in interviews if they were feminists and we talked about consent in terms of cups of tea.

I didn’t describe the man who kissed me, undid my bra, put his hand in my underwear, and did whatever else happened while I was passed out, as someone who had sexually assaulted me. I said he was ‘a bit creepy’. I couldn’t figure out why my stomach sank when he texted me two days later.

More than a decade later, I’m at least moving away from that self-blame (Picture: Ellen Scott)

I don’t think I’d even heard about spiking at that point. It certainly wasn’t something we learned about in school in amongst the sex education lessons that mostly involved watching childbirth videos or drug awareness lessons that warned if we ever did ecstacy, we’d die and our parents would be devastated.

I didn’t question why I couldn’t remember anything after that first sip of a drink I hadn’t seen poured. I blamed myself, shaking my head at the way I must have drunk too much.

There was one word that kept coming up, rather than spiking or assault: embarrassment.

How embarrassing that I’d been so out of it. How embarrassing that I’d hooked up with someone I didn’t even want to talk to two days on. How embarrassing to have bruises on my hips and vomit stains on my favourite top.

That embarrassment stopped me from asking anyone what had happened between the moment I arrived and when I came to, hours after the midnight countdown.

I’ll never know exactly what went down. But more than a decade later, I’m at least moving away from that self-blame.

It’s education and the increased conversation around spiking – bringing awareness of the signs and how it happens – that has made me recognise that I might have been a victim, whether the spiking came in the form of a drug slipped into my cup or the punch containing far more alcohol than I thought (which, yes, is still a form of spiking – the most common type, in fact).

This is why it’s so vital that we keep talking about spiking. We need to get to a point where everyone knows the signs of spiking – not just in themselves but in other people, so they know to get involved and help someone struggling – and knows what to do when it happens.

It’s tempting to look back on that night in my teens and ask why I accepted a drink from someone I didn’t know, or wish I’d just brought my own spirit and mixer in a bottle. It’s depressing that these days, I’ve learned to be much more cautious, keeping a close eye on any drink that’s made for me.

The truth is that it’s not on you to stop your drink from getting spiked – it’s on the perpetrator alone.

But while we wait to find a way to stop people spiking others, we have to do our best to protect ourselves and each other. That, to me, will come from awareness, so anyone who has been spiked will know that’s what happened, rather than blaming themselves or assuming they just got too drunk. And from education, so others can recognise the signs that someone isn’t OK, and be empowered to step in and help.

Metro.co.uk has partnered up with the Global Drug Survey to promote honest conversations about the ‘good, the bad and the ugly’ of drug use. Click here to take part anonymously in this year’s survey.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing jess.austin@metro.co.uk

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