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Tainted Love: a story of spiking

Tainted Love: a story of spiking

By: Fiona Milton

Drinks. Drugs. Sex. Some guys use one to get the other, and not always with consent. A story of spiking…

Victim. It’s a powerful word, all encompassing. It covers a multitude of sins. It takes a confident young woman and transforms her into something different. I’m a victim, apparently, but I get confused over what I’m a victim of. A victim of date rape drugs? A victim of a university drinks spiking culture? Of my own taste for alcohol? One man’s intended victim, or the victim of something deeper, a societal canker.

Some people tell me that the modern dating scene isn’t any different from decades past. Swiping left or right on hundreds of faces in minutes? It’s just a blown-up, heightened version of what’s always been the case: some people are more fuckable than others. When someone grinds on you in a club, it takes less than five seconds to decide whether to grind right back, or else pull a face at your mates before slinking off. Take that, translate it into a digital format, and you have apps like Tinder and Grindr.

But just as the dating scenes of ages past had their downsides – arranged marriage, being dragged by the hair by a club-wielding caveman – there’s a darker side to modern romance. For those with sinister motives, apps like Tinder are the perfect hunting ground. Last year, Grindr serial killer Stephen Port was convicted of murdering four men, whom he met through the app and then date rape drugged. And more generally, whilst swiping left might separate the wheat from the chaff, it also creates a sense of disposability. Reduced to a single pouting picture and a one-line bio – Sam, 22, 6ft tall mummy’s boy – we are all one-dimensional creatures with great contour lines (depending on the filter) and who are, ultimately, interchangeable.

Perhaps it’s this sense that people are somehow disposable, swipeable, that’s fostering a rise in sexual assault. According to the latest UK government stats, the number of sexual offences recorded by the police is up by 21% compared with the previous year.

Meeting potential partners is easier than ever now. But for some, like Stephen Port, and like the man who spiked me, it’s apparently not easy enough.

I was spiked when I was 19, during my first year of university. I was fresh-faced, away from home for the first time. I was relatively inexperienced with men, with drinking, with clubbing, with most things. I was trusting and smiley.

The night began as any other: pre-drinks in someone’s tiny student room, decked out with fairy lights, IKEA cushions and empty VKs. We headed to a club, packed with most of the city’s student population. We ordered shots, we got drunk, we danced (not necessarily in that order).

Then things get hazy. I have a memory, blurred and smudged like a Polaroid, of a sweet, raspberry-coloured drink. Then dark, nothing. Then waking up in bed in my student room. A friend was asleep on my bedroom floor, fully clothed and lying under my duffel coat. Why is he here, I thought, before noticing the bucket next to my bed. I assumed I’d drunk too much, and that the friend was there to ensure I didn’t choke on my own vomit. My face flushed with embarrassment. When my friend woke, however, he told me a different story.

I had gone to the bar alone and come back changed. I was spaced out, eyes glazed. The friends I was with also noticed a man following me around the club’s dance floor. Something was wrong. They decided that someone should take me home. My male friend began half walking, half carrying me through town, towards our student halls. He heard someone behind us, and turned round to see a man, the same man who’d been tailing me in the club, running towards us. Then the man tried to grab me.

My friend shoved me out of the way, before aiming a punch at the man. The two of them grappled, as I lay on the pavement, oblivious. The thought of me then, passive, drugged, vulnerable, makes me feel physically ill. I picture myself, crumpled, an inane smile on my face, as my friend and a shadowy figure slug it out. I picture it so often it feels like a memory.

The next morning I discovered that the spiking – my victimhood – was common knowledge. Some asked me how I was feeling. Others asked me what I’d been wearing. What kind of Tinder picture, what one-line bio, had I presented to the world that night. Had I been wearing shorts, or a low-cut top, or make-up? Well then, no wonder. “Spiking victim, 19, she didn’t mean to but she asked for it.”

Victim. It’s a powerful word. But while I still think about that night, of my robbed memories, it’s the morning-after that haunts me. Apparently I presented the wrong profile picture to the world that night; and it was my fault a man had tried to swipe right.

I think of that trusting, smiley teenage girl. What kind of advice can I offer to other, smiley young things? The ones who haven’t taken a long drag, a lung-full, of shame? It will all sound so bitingly bitter. Jaded. I was – like so many others were, are, will be – so naïve. There’s no space for naivety in today’s hook-up culture.