The Daily Gamecock

Column: Five Point druggings are reality, community awareness can help prevention

Students, bar employees and community members need to be aware of the reality of patrons being illegally drugged and need to take precautions to prevent dangerous situations.

In a three month period earlier this year, approximately 300 USC students self-reported they were drugged while at a bar in Columbia, according to a recent survey by USC self-defense professor Shannon Henry. Some even said they woke up in a place they didn’t recognize, WIS reported.

Students can be led into a false sense of security when they go out to a familiar place, such as Five Points. However, even if you are going out to a bar district that is popular and nearby to campus, you are not guaranteed safety.

A study by Suzanne C. Swan, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology, found that women were more likely to be victims of being illegally drugged. Women were much more likely to mention sex or sexual assault as a motive behind being drugged, while men were more likely to mention the motive was having fun, the study found.

Statistically, college-aged women are particularly vulnerable to being drugged and targeted by predators.

At USC, more than 50% of the student body is female. It's important these women and our greater community know the reality of illegal druggings.

Swan's study found that out of more than 6,000 students among three universities, 462 students (7.8%) reported 539 incidents in which they said they were drugged, and 83 (1.4%) said they had drugged someone. 

Some lawmakers have suggested stricter laws regarding how much alcohol can be sold at bars and laws to limit underage drinking. Some have ruled that certain alcohols must be priced a certain way and mixed drinks cannot contain some ingredients, such as energy drinks.

These stricter laws have caused some bars to close or have their liquor licenses revoked, with the intention to keep patrons safer. Many believe changing the environment is a key to lowering druggings. 

Bartenders can help ensure drinks aren’t susceptible to spiking by pouring out unattended drinks or by using equipment, such as "Smart Straws," to detect drugged beverages. Bar employees can be cognizant of signs of druggings and have protocols in place to keep patrons safe. Being aware of the signs of a drugged individual is important, and having a plan to contact authorities and keep the patron in a safe place away from harm is best.

Bars are responsible for customer safety and should make it a priority. Patrons should also be informed of these signs. If your drink seems stronger than it should be, you feel dizzy or woozy or there is an odd taste or smell in your drink, you might have been drugged.

If you choose to explore the Five Points bar scene this year, keep an eye out for not only yourself but those around you. We are all a part of the USC community and should be just as concerned about our safety as our peers'. Especially if you are a female student, stay vigilant, and if you see someone looking confused, throwing up or having difficulty breathing, speak up and help.

These incidents don't exist in a vacuum.

The best way to prevent drink-spiking in Five Points is for our community to come together to keep others safe. Illegal druggings aren't just a scary myth — they are very real and could harm you or a loved one.

If you do believe you have been drugged and/or assaulted, you can contact local authorities at 803-777-4215 and the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.