If there is one thing that many people enjoy doing, it is going out.

Whether we are catching up with old friends, making new ones or just want to smile, we should be able to do all of this while feeling safe.

For many people, particularly girls, this is not a given. Recently, reports of people being spiked by injection are being investigated by police in Wales. This week alone, Dyfed-Powys and South Wales police forces have confirmed they have investigated spiking by injection cases.

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In the House of Commons, Home Secretary Priti Patel has asked police for an update after a number of cases of women reporting being spiked by needles. The Night Time Industry Association (NTIA) said it had seen a rise in drink-spiking throughout the UK over recent weeks.

I and too many of my friends have a spiking story, often more than one. While spiking by injection is in the news at the moment, drink spiking happens all too often.

Most of the time, cases are brought to our police forces, then quickly and quietly dismissed. This is a crime where a lot of the blame tends to be thrust on to the victim, especially if the victim is a young woman. This ties into the patriarchal mentality that is used often when it comes to crimes where the woman is the victim.

The National Wales: To spike a drink means to put alcohol or drugs into someone’s drink without their knowledge or permission. Photo: PATo spike a drink means to put alcohol or drugs into someone’s drink without their knowledge or permission. Photo: PA

If it does happen, spiking tests are not readily available, hospitals have long waits and if you have the courage to take it to the police, your case can often be written off. I have watched friends lose themselves over being a victim of this vile crime.

This isn’t just an issue in our big cities. It isn’t something that only happens to young women. This is a crime that can happen to anyone anywhere. From rural Wales to our capital city, people have had these experiences and most never get justice.

It could be one night, but that night will sit with you for years. You find yourself racking your brain for what you could have done to stay safer, how to avoid being spiked and how you can move forward.

I am glad to see certain venues being proactive in instating safety measures, such as bag checks, spiking testing and the use of drink covers. What we need now is to bring the issue front and centre, and reinforce the fact that spiking, in any form, is a crime.

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The Sexual Offences Act 2003 states it is an offence to administer a substance to a person with intent to overpower that person to enable sexual activity with them. The offence is punishable by up to ten years’ imprisonment, meaning slipping alcohol or drugs into someone’s drink is against the law, even if the drink is not consumed or the person is not harmed. The same would be true of needle spiking which would also be a physical assault.

What can we push for?

Firstly, test strips need to be free and widely available at venues. Bottle stoppers and cup covers must also be provided at venues free of charge.

Bag checks are essential to make sure that nothing gets into venues that shouldn't. Venues must make sure that every bag is checked rigorously.

Venue staff must continue to patrol the area to make sure that they do not witness drink-spiking occuring. As the drink-spiking problem gets worse, training on the issue needs to go further. There are so many ways in which drink spiking can happen, so it is crucial that all venue staff can identify the signs of a spiked drink and have appropriate knowledge on response, prevention and treatment.

Finally, there must be greater repercussions given to drink spikers than they currently are now. Victims of drink spiking must be given more support by the police. CCTV should cover the entirety of bars and must be a good enough quality to identify faces for prosecution. There should also be greater treatment and prevention policies for drink spiking must be in place at all levels of government.

A boycott of clubs as well as demonstrations will be taking place across Wales this week and coming up to Halloween weekend. This is not a one off, with many vowing not to go out until proper measures are taken by venues and the police on this crime.

While spiking is illegal, victims are gaslit and seldom believed. I hope to see our elected politicians at all levels talking about this here in Wales, taking a stand and fighting for safe nights out for all.

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