Spiked in Bristol: Man still suffering flashbacks after being 'drugged by a friend'

Harry was walking home from a house party during his time at university when the night took a sinister turn Credit: ITV News West Country

Drink spiking is not a new phenomenon - in Bristol or any other city - but as a society, we still haven’t cracked how to stamp it out for good.

One woman who has felt the effects of this is Simone White, from Bradley Stoke, who ended up unable to walk or speak while out for brunch with a friend.

Five weeks on, she still can’t drive due to the lasting effects of a drug she believes was used to spike her drink.

Aged 43, Simone believed she was safe from a crime that predominantly affects women between the ages of 18 and 35, according to data from Avon and Somerset Police.

Drink spiking can leave an indelible mark on all its victims - as Harry (not his real name) can confirm.

Harry did his best to repress his memories of that night. Credit: ITV News West Country

He was walking home from a house party during his time at university when the night took a sinister turn.

Even five years on, he becomes emotional when speaking about it.

Harry said: “A tiny part of me still doesn’t know what happened. One night I went to a friend’s house party and I was trying to keep it chilled and not have a crazy blackout night.

“I had some wine with me, but it was way too rich so I didn’t finish it. I was taking it very easy, I was very lucid.

“I decided to leave the party and there was a guy there who was a friend of a friend. Looking back on it, there was always something a bit off about him.

“We were friendly, but not close friends, and we were walking home that night.

“We were standing at this lookout spot, looking over the city, sharing a beer and having a cigarette there.”

That’s the last full memory Harry has of the night. Everything after that point is “blurry”, he explained.

“I remember stumbling around and trying to walk home and this guy, well, he didn’t seem to want to help me get home.

“I remember falling a little bit and then suddenly being very angry about him behind me.

“Then I remember getting up and pulling my trousers up and that’s all the series of events that I can link together.

“I don’t know to what degree anything happened but I woke up the next day feeling a bit sore. I had cuts all down my legs and I had no idea how I blacked out.”

Drink spiking can leave an indelible mark on all its victims Credit: ITV News West Country

At first, Harry tried telling himself that nothing had happened to him, and he went a year and a half without speaking about the incident to anyone else.

He said didn't report it to the police because "saying it out loud" would mean accepting what had happened to him.

“I got in the shower and, like a typical repressed man, I said to myself ‘no, it didn’t happen’.

“It was only when I saw him again, and he gave me a look of pure disgust, that it affirmed for me that something had gone on, because he was never like that before with me," he said.

It wasn’t until 2021 - over a year after the night Harry believes he was spiked - that he opened up about what happened.

“My friend said she wasn’t going out because there was a protest against drink spiking that meant all the girls were staying in.

“The mention of spiking just brought it all back up. It just triggered something in me and I started having a panic attack.

“I started seeing it in my head. Even now, I still feel my mind start to go and I feel a little bit uneasy.”

By that time, drinking alcohol had also started causing Harry to have flashbacks. When his friend Amy asked him why seemed so panicked, and Harry finally told her everything.

“I just didn’t want it to have happened at the start. I just wanted to carry on as normal because as soon as you accept something like that you have to deal with it,” he said.

Later, after Harry discussed the incident with another of his friends, he found out a bit more about the man he believes spiked him.

“They were like ‘oh I’m really sad to hear this’, but they weren’t surprised. They believed that he was capable of that.

“Finding out a bit about him afterwards, I think he’d been around a lot of rough situations himself and I think he had experience with drugs like GHB.

“That’s when the realisation sunk in that something really had happened. It also made me wonder if I could trust myself because I wondered if I’d got involved in it.”

Harry has struggled to trust men after his experience Credit: ITV News West Country

Harry added that, even now, he struggles to let his guard down around other men.

“I felt a lot of male guilt around it, because I had trauma that was caused by a man, but I was still attracted to men, and I was a man myself. You project a lot of what someone has done to you onto yourself.

“I remember going along to a vigil for Sarah Everard and there was just this circle of women shouting ‘f*** men, f*** men’.

“Being on the outside, I just wanted to talk about how I was feeling, but I felt like I couldn’t.”

Harry has been in therapy for a few years and said he had a “breakthrough” last autumn that helped him feel comfortable dating again.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this report, there is help available to you. Visit the Stamp Out Spiking charity for support, resources and guidance. If you believe you have been a victim of crime, contact your local police force to report it.

He said: “It’s still fresh for me, this recovery and this change. I can definitely get triggered a bit still. I felt a wall go up and it took me a while to take it down.

“It still has an effect on me, I’m not able to explore that side of my sexuality as much as I’d like.

“I will always warn people if I hear of someone being predatory but I have to be careful not to project my own trauma onto other people.”

In 2022-23, Avon and Somerset Police received 600 reports of spiking. Around 75% of victims were female and people aged 18-39 were mostly likely to be targeted.

Around 82% of victims don’t know who has spiked them, and around 21% of victims are from the LGBT community.

The force says it will always take reports of drink spiking seriously.

"We know it can be scary to report, but we are here to help you", a spokesperson said.

"We will listen to you, and we will take you seriously."

Avon and Somerset Police's online guidance on what to do if you think you have been spiked can be found here.