Woman who needed walking stick after being spiked says she 'wasn't taken seriously'

·3-min read
Photo credit: ArtistGNDphotography - Getty Images
Photo credit: ArtistGNDphotography - Getty Images

A 24-year-old woman has claimed she "wasn't taken seriously" after being spiked on a night out when she was 19. Polly Sutherland, who has type 1 diabetes, was studying art at Lancaster University when the alleged incident happened.

She'd been on a night out at the The Sugarhouse in Lancaster in December 2016 when her friends noticed something was wrong. "I don’t remember anything suspicious happening, or noticing anything happening," she told the Metro, "It was just, later in the night, friends with me noticed that my personality changed – I seemed very different… erratic."

Polly continued: "So they took me home, I went to bed, but when I woke up in the morning I had a lot of bodily weakness and twitches in my arms, legs, all over really." But, when the student went to her GP to seek help after the alleged incident, she says "they weren’t very helpful."

"I remember feeling really disappointed, because I went to them saying 'From what’s going on, I think I’ve been spiked'," she explained, "They almost raised their eyebrows, almost accusing me of taking drugs, and I was trying to get out of it somehow or making excuses. I felt very let down by the doctors at that point."

For the next month, Polly was forced to use a walking stick, as her blood sugar levels had been damaged, which can be fatal for people with diabetes. She was also left unable to paint or draw, and had to apply for extensions in her final year of her degree. But, when she reported the incident to the Student Union, Polly said she received little response.

Speaking about how the incident has affected her in the long-term, the student revealed its taken a toll on her mental health. "I don’t want to use the word violated, because maybe that’s too strong. But it’s scary to think what could have happened," she said, "It made me feel very vulnerable. Even now, when I go on nights out, I’m very cautious of it now, and it’s in the back of my mind all the time."

Recently, Polly joined the Girls Night In movement, which sees women up and down the country boycotting clubs following the recent rise in club spikings. But, she admitted she's frustrated that the situation has come to this. "The thing that bothers me is that, with the boycotting, the onus is on girls, again, to stay in," she pointed out, "I think the fact that we are the ones that have to stay in because this is happening is putting it on us, it’s our responsibility to make sure we don’t get spiked, instead of telling people not to spike people."

To make clubs safer for women, Polly suggests venues use better quality CCTV, as well as scanning ID cards on entry, so there's a record of who attended each night.

In a statement in response to Polly's claim, the University of Lancaster said: "We pride ourselves on Lancaster being a safe place to study and are distressed to hear about any of our students being assaulted in this way. The Sugarhouse is owned and managed by Lancaster University Students’ Union, and we cannot comment on individual incidents."

It continued, "However, if any of our students have safety concerns in relation to spiking, or any other kind of assaults, then we would strongly encourage them to report them to the university and we have created a range of ways to enable our students to do so. We would also encourage students to report any such incidents to the police.

A spokesperson for the Student Union also said: "We have thoroughly investigated our records for this period and we can find no report of this incident. If the student concerned contacts us with further information we will, of course, look into the matter. All other reports of incidents at that time were thoroughly investigated and appropriate action was taken."

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