ALISON LAI: As ‘silly season’ celebrations step up, keep an eye on your drink and don’t be afraid to report spiking incidents.
EVERYONE has the right to feel safe when they’re spending time celebrating with friends and family.
Yet the recent coverage of Tasmanian woman Mandy Marmion’s terrifying drink spiking ordeal is a chilling reminder that our safety cannot always be guaranteed.
Through sharing her story, Mandy has empowered more Tasmanians to come forward to share their own stories of drink spiking.
They are stories of people enjoying their evening, only to suddenly lose control of their motor functions, to find themselves behaving erratically or even blacking out, despite only having one or two drinks.
Despite the large number of stories being shared, Tasmania Police has said drink-spiking cases are rare.
Yet the lack of cases being presented to Tasmania Police is clearly not reflective of what people are experiencing, and the low numbers are more likely reflective of the uncertainty people face when they are considering whether to report their experience to police.
This uncertainty would range from concerns that the police won’t believe them, that they may somehow be judged or blamed for becoming a victim of drink-spiking, to a lack of confidence that the offender can be found and charged.
For example, there may be a young person who, after having a couple of drinks with their friends during a night out, suddenly finds themselves dizzy, nauseated and unstable on their feet.
Unable to understand why they’re feeling this way after just two drinks, they may be worried that if they can’t explain what has happened, then how could they expect anyone else to believe them?
As a result, rather than report the incident to police or seek medical attention, they go home.
Imagine another person, who during a regular night of drinking finds their friend passes out in the bathroom.
Despite their pleas to their friend to seek medical attention, their friend refuses because they don’t want anyone to know that they had also been taking other drugs that evening.
So in spite of knowing their own bodies, and knowing that the reaction they were having was not normal, their fear of being judged means they get in a taxi and go home.
It may also be the person at a packed bar who leaves their drink on the table beside the dancefloor, who returns to finish their drink only to suddenly start slurring their words and behaving like they’re incredibly intoxicated.
The bouncers at the bar may think that this person has simply overdone it, and asks them to leave.
Their friends get them home safely, and when they wake up the next morning feeling unwell, they don’t report the incident because they have no idea who spiked their drink, or when.
The people in the examples I’m giving make it home safely, but unfortunately there may be others who do not, and like others also do not report their experience to Tasmania Police.
Yet we must, because the people who spike the drinks of others are silent predators and they purposefully work in the shadows to avoid being caught.
Don’t shake it off because you made it home in one piece unharmed.
Tasmanian legislation allows the police to charge someone for spiking someone’s drink if they had the intent to do harm.
Don’t doubt yourself because you’re a bit hazy on the details. Take a friend or family member with you when you speak to police.
If the police don’t know this is happening, they can’t make inquiries to try to identify the people who are doing it, where they’re hanging out and who they are targeting.
It will also mean that they will continue to report that drink-spiking cases are rare, despite the experience of so many in our community being the opposite.
So as we prepare to head into one of the busiest times of year when the risk of drink-spiking will increase, I will finish by sharing some facts.
Drink-spiking can happen at a licensed venue or a private party, and both men and women can be targeted.
Drink-spiking does not always involve illicit drugs, and your drink could be spiked with extra alcohol to increase the speed of intoxication.
If someone offers to buy you a drink and you don’t know them, go to the bar with them so that you’re there when the drink is poured, or if you’re at a party get your own drink.
Don’t share your drinks with other people, and always keep an eye on your drink in the same way that you would keep an eye on your wallet or mobile phone.
Keep an eye on your friends, and look after each other.
Finally, if you believe that you have had your drink spiked, always seek medical attention and report it to Tasmania Police.