Thousands of people want greater action to prevent drink spiking by mandating awareness training for nightclub staff.
As drink spiking incidents surge in NSW, thousands of people are petitioning for bar staff to be better trained to deal with the problem.
A petition by not-for-profit organisation What Were You Wearing Australia is calling for mandatory trauma- informed training about drink spiking and sexual violence for all security and bar staff in NSW nightclubs.
What Were You Wearing needs 20,000 signatures before the petition is put forward to the NSW Legislative Assembly. Nearly 15,000 NSW residents have signed the petition.
"We want to amend the responsible serving of alcohol [RSA guidelines]. We want to have a whole section for drink spiking and then a whole section on sexual violence awareness," What Were You Wearing founder Sarah Williams said.
All staff who work in licensed premises must complete RSA training.
Seventy per cent of drink spiking reported to NSW Police in 2022 occurred in licensed premises, according to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOSCAR).
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The petition also calls for educational resources and posters for people visiting nightclubs.
"People need to know what the signs and symptoms are and what to look out for," Ms Williams said.
"You need to know what to do if it happens to you because if you don't know it is life-threatening."
Ms Williams said she had her drink spiked in October 2022.
"I felt this immense pain in my stomach, this stabbing pain, and I couldn't stand up," she said.
She rushed to the bathroom of a nightclub where she said her symptoms began to get progressively worse.
"I couldn't stop vomiting. I was like just lying on the ground and I couldn't see out of my eyes," she said.
While falling in and out of consciousness, she said she managed to message her friend a few letters, 'help'.
"I wasn't the same for many days after. I was really sick and unwell about a week after and it just brings a whole lot of mental and psychological issues."
She hasn't forgotten the reaction of the venue staff.
"This is the only thing I specifically remember was them saying 'once you finish vomiting, you need to get up and you get out straight away'," Ms Williams said.
"I was not okay, like an ambulance should have been called for me straight away."
The number of drink or food spiking reported to NSW Police has increased by 86% from 118 incidents in 2018 to 219 incidents reported in 2022
The local government area of Sydney has the highest reported incidents, followed by Newcastle, and then Wollongong.
"I think it's clear the low volume of incidents that are reported to police does suggest that there is reasonable volume in the community of people who don't come forward," executive director at BOSCAR, Jackie Fitzgerald said.
Ms Fitzgerald said that one factor of possible low reporting could be the legal action rate.
"If you look at the legal action rate or how many incidents that are reported to police actually result in a prosecution and it's very small around one per cent," she said.
In 2021, 1.3 per cent of drink or food spiking incidents reported to NSW police resulted in criminal proceedings within 30 days, according to BOSCAR.
"I just knew that there was not going to be enough evidence," she said.
"I didn't want to put myself through re-traumatisation, so I just sort out counselling."
The mayor of Bathurst, a city in the Central Tablelands of NSW, said he was in favour of drink spiking awareness training within the RSA training.
"I really concur with the RSA because it should be be part of your RSA training that you've got to be aware of the drink spiking and then to the consumer there should be awareness," Bathurst mayor Rob Taylor said.
Mr Taylor is also the president of Bathurst Liquor Accord, a voluntary organisation of local industry-based partnerships, that work with communities to provide solutions to liquor-related problems.
He said many late night traders ensure their RSA bar and security staff are aware of drink spiking and direct them "to be vigilant of anything that is suspicious, to report it".
If you believe your drink has been spiked, NSW Police recommends that you ask someone you trust to help you get to a safe place, call an ambulance or go to your nearest emergency department if you are feeling unwell.
It also advises that you can ask your doctor to test for the presence of drugs which can be traced up to 24 hours later.
Warning signs by NSW Police that your drink may have been spiked:
- feeling dizzy or faint
- feeling ill or sleepy
- passing out
- feeling drunk even if though you've consumed little alcohol
- waking up feeling uncomfortable or confused, with memory blanks about the night before.
ACM contacted the Australian Hotel Association for comment.
- Support is available for those who may be distressed. Phone Lifeline 13 11 14; Men's Referral Service 1300 776 491; Kids Helpline 1800 551 800; beyondblue 1300 224 636; 1800-RESPECT 1800 737 732.