Jenna was in a club when she realised she'd been 'needle spiked'.

This post discusses sexual assault

When the needle jabbed Jenna’s* leg, she didn’t even notice. She wasn’t on high alert, why should she be? 

At 21 years old, she was enjoying a night out, just like any other. 

"I was out with my friends, I didn't think I needed to be on constant alert for my safety," she says. 

Jenna was wearing white pants that night, a decision that may have saved her from a serious assault.

“I realised (I had been needle spiked) in the bathroom when I saw my white pants had some blood on them.”

Credit: BBC.

Upon closer inspection, Jenner discovered a prick mark on her thigh. 

“I am lucky I noticed (while I was in the bathroom), before the symptoms came on too heavily,” she says. 

“Within 10 minutes I was in and out of consciousness, vomiting non stop.”

Fortunately, this all happened in the bathroom, where she was found by bar staff. 

“They kicked me out because I was vomiting and assumed I was too drunk. Luckily I had friends with me to take me home and ensure I was okay. But I've worried every day since that if I didn't have them, more could've happened to me". 


The following morning, her memory was blurred. 

Needle spiking has been gaining traction over recent years, with numbers rising in England and other European countries. Recently several Australian women reported being spiked while on overseas holidays, prompting the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to update its travel advice to include needle spiking. 

But Australia is not immune. It’s happening here too, with advocacy groups urging people to be aware, particularly as the party and festival season approaches. 

Mamamia spoke with Sarah Williams from What Were You Wearing, a community organisation fighting to end sexual violence, to find out exactly what needle spiking is all about. 

What is needle spiking? 

Needle spiking is the use of a needle to inject an unsuspecting person with drugs, usually for the purpose of debilitating them to enforce power. 

“The main needle spots are the thigh and upper arm (biceps),” says Williams. 

It is believed the drugs used for needle spiking are the same as those used to spike drinks, such as Rohypnol (roofie) or Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GHB), often referred to as date-rape drugs.

“Sometimes the victim won't even feel it happen, but will notice a bruise and prick mark, sometimes even blood.”

How common is it? 

“Unfortunately needle spiking isn't decreasing, with What Were You Wearing receiving stories every month of victims that have faced this crime,” says Williams. 

“Spiking in general is becoming increasingly more common, especially coming into festival and party season.”


What are the signs and symptoms of needing spiking? 

The severity of symptoms depend on the type and quantity of the drug used and the amount of alcohol consumed by the victim, but may include: blurred vision, confusion after waking up, difficulty breathing, dizziness, feeling more drunk than usual, loss of balance and memory, vomiting, amnesia, to name a few. 

“The issue is a lot of these signs are similar to being too drunk, which is why it is so commonly not worried about,” says Williams. 

“However, it's extremely dangerous because security are kicking these victims out because they think they’re are too drunk, which allows the perpetrators to catch them out of the venue, which is usually where the sexual assault occurs.”

What should you do if you suspect needle spiking? 

If you suspect needle spiking has occurred, you should stay inside the venue, and remain with someone safe or near venue management. Let someone know as soon as possible. 

If your symptoms get worse, call 000. 

“It is important to be checked by a medical professional because spiking affects everyone differently depending on their specific characteristic,” says Williams. 

You should also report your experience to the police, especially if you suspect you have been assaulted. 

How does needle spiking impact victims? 

“Needle spiking affects victims profoundly, making it hard for them to trust others, continue to go out with friends, and live a social life,” says Williams. 

Depending on the physical impact of the drugs, and any assaults that occur as a result, victims may experience  serious mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder.  


What’s being done about it and is it enough?

According to Williams, the answer is no. 

“There has been no research into needle or drink spiking since 2004. This means that we haven't had any data in nearly a decade and this demonstrates how little care there is for this issue,” she says. 

In July, What Were You Wearing successfully campaigned for an amendment to the NSW Responsible Service of Alcohol requirements, to include mandatory spiking training. 

"This means bar staff, venue management and security will now be equipped with the right training to ensure they know how to prevent and respond to spiking incidents," says Williams. 

The changes put spiking back into the spotlight, with hundreds of people signing up to What Were You Wearing's Spiking Awareness training. 

“We need more venues to enrol in this training, or have our poster visible in their venue to help prevent and respond to this crime," she says. 

What Were You Wearing provides Australia's only sexual assault service that attends music festivals. To contact the organisation visit their website here

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.  

*name has been changed.

Feature image: Getty.