Drink spiking is rife - 'Never accept a drink from a stranger or leave your drink unattended'

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Illustration by Getty Images
Illustration by Getty Images
  • This woman was accused of 'pimping out' her friend after she left her intoxicated with a stranger at a club they had gone to together. 
  • "The typical modus operandi used by drink spikers is to distract their victims and add drops, tablets or powder to their drinks," says one expert. 
  • "Keep an eye out for your friends and watch them for any changes in behaviour," advises another. 

A woman shared on TikTok about an unfortunate incident involving her now ex-friend. She was accused of 'pimping out' her friend after she left her at a club they had gone to together. To defend herself, she explained that her friend became intoxicated, and she didn't understand why because they had not had a lot to drink.

The woman left her friend alone as she went outside to chat with her boyfriend, who had come to pick her up. When she returned after a few minutes, she said her friend was drunk and refused to leave, saying she wanted to go with a man who was suddenly next to her. The friend left her there.

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She later found out the friend had left her drink on the table and gone to the restroom. Her friend left with the man. She was allegedly raped and left on the freeway in the early hours. They are not friends anymore because the friend feels betrayed. 

According to the TEARS Foundation, which offers a free, national, survivor-centred service for survivors of rape and sexual abuse, it is more prevalent than we think, especially during the festive season.

Mara Glennie, founder and CEO of the TEARS Foundation, says drink spiking and rape, sexual assault, abuse and violence go hand in hand.

Criminals do this, and no one is safe. It can happen at restaurants, festivals, clubs or even intimate house parties. 

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Peach Piche, founder of Drinkerbell, an organisation that has designed an innovative product to combat drink spiking, says it is not only an alcohol-related problem as water and soft drinks are spiked with Rohypnol and a cocktail of other drugs too. 

"The typical modus operandi used by drink spikers is to distract their victims and add drops, tablets or powder to their drinks. This leaves them at the mercy of criminals who will pounce on them in plain sight, or pretend to be a friend, loved one or good Samaritan, escorting them to a "place of safety". 

Seugnette van Wyngaard, Head of 1st for Women, whose anti-abuse foundation works closely with TEARS, explains that when someone is drugged, they may feel dizzy, nauseous, sleepy, confused, have blurred vision, slurred speech and have trouble getting behind the wheel. 

According to Peach, while there are no official statistics for drink spiking in South Africa, in Australia, reports of drink spiking have increased by almost 50% compared to pre-pandemic numbers. In the UK, one in nine women said they'd been the victim of drink spiking. 

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Here are safety tips for this festive:

Safety in numbers: Go out in pairs or a group, never lose sight of each other and if someone in the group is behaving out of character, rather call it a night and leave together. 

Stranger danger: Never accept a drink from a stranger or leave your drink unattended, unwatched or uncovered. An open or unmonitored glass makes you vulnerable and easy prey. If someone buys you a drink – even someone you know well – make sure that you watch it being poured.

Protect your drink: Using a tool like Drinkerbell and asking a trusted friend to watch your drink when you're away could save your life.

Taste test: It's often hard to tell whether your drink has been spiked, but if it tastes different from what you're used to – sweeter than normal or fizzier, for example – don't drink it. Be especially wary of someone who encourages you to finish your drink quickly.

Wingwoman: Keep an eye out for your friends and guard them against strangers. Look after their drinks and watch them for any changes in behaviour. If you suspect that someone, even someone you don’t know, is being targeted, step in to help them or alert security or the manager of the establishment.

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For assistance, contact TEARS, which prioritises both access and privacy for victims and survivors of sexual assault and GBV. 

  • Dial *134*7355#, and or emergency press 2 and follow the prompts. A first responder will contact you. This service is free, 24/7.
  • Helpline: 010 590 5920 (Standard rates apply)
  • Email address: info@tears.co.za

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