‘The onus of these crimes does not fall on women’: Welsh minister speaks out in spiking debate
A Welsh Government minister has said the focus on stopping spiking incidents must fall on the perpetrators rather than women.
A debate was held on the issue in the Senedd this afternoon amid rising reports of women either having alcohol or drugs deliberately added to their drinks without their knowledge or being injected with needles.
Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt said the government’s aim was to ensure people who commit such crimes are dealt with, rather than the impetus being on women to change their behaviour.
She also called on men to call out abusive behaviour by their friends.
She said: “First and foremost let me be clear that it is not for women to modify their behaviour, it is for abusers to change theirs.
“The onus of these crimes does not fall on the women. It falls squarely on those men who commit them.
“Secondly, to those who know the perpetrators. If you know or see a person that is carrying out these crimes you have a moral duty to report them as soon as it is safe to do so.
“We all have a duty in our communities to call out inappropriate behaviours and offer support, where it is safe to do so.
“This includes men being empowered to engage with other men and boys to call out abusive and sexist behaviour among their friends, colleagues and communities to promote a culture of equality and respect.”
The debate was called by the Welsh Conservatives after Clwyd West MS Darren Millar asked the Welsh Government to take urgent action over spiking.
His proposals included providing bottle stoppers and drinks covers free of charge at night time venues and improving security, including checks on pockets, bags, jackets and coats.
He also suggested staff should be trained on how to spot and deal with spiking incidents, with enhanced CCTV in venues to assist with evidence to secure the prosecution of those responsible.
Aberconwy MS Janet Finch-Saunders also spoke out on the issue, describing the discussion as “important and timely”.
She highlighted research from StopTopps, which makes drink-protectors to deter spiking, which was conducted earlier this year.
It showed 38% of respondents to its survey had been a victim of drink spiking at least once but 98% didn’t report the crime to police.
On a local level, in North Wales, police have received 22 reports of spiking so far in 2021 leading to only one arrest. In 2020, there were 18 reports and zero arrests.
Ms Finch-Saunders said: “As a community leader, a woman and a mother, spiking is a modern phenomenon that strikes at the very core of concerns about safeguarding the well-being of our loved ones and other young women when they are out and enjoying our hospitality venues.
“With the aim to incapacitate someone enough to rob or assault them, with victims disorientated to the point of nausea, hallucinations, amnesia and unconsciousness, this is a diabolical and such a cowardly act by a minority of individuals that is now threatening the safety of our young people and the viability of our excellent night-time industry operators.
“Another shockingly scary activity is that of injections used on others.
“Whilst the data suggests that drink spiking is far more prevalent than spiking with a needle, the compounding of spiking concerns with those regarding the spread of hepatitis B and C has led many young women now to have to take to wearing denim jackets as a means of preventing or slowing the effects of an injection.”
The MS said it was difficult to assess whether spiking by needle had become a national trend due to a lack of data.
She therefore urged to the Welsh Government to undertake a rapid review to find out the true number of needle spiking incidents in Wales and to explore ways that venues can take more preventative measures.
Conservative MS for the Vale of Clwyd, Gareth Davies, said: “Sadly, far too many attacks, whether it’s men or women, either go unreported or fail to result in any prosecutions at all. In my policing area in north Wales, there were only 18 reports and zero arrests last year.
“We have to get the message out to victims of this insidious crime that it’s okay to report spiking, it is a crime, and you shouldn’t be embarrassed to report it.”
Discussing the action the government was taking to address the issue of spiking, Jane Hutt said: “We understand the genuine concern of women and young girls around their safety, particularly in the night time economy setting.
“That’s why we’re strengthening our Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (VAWDASV) Strategy to include a focus on violence and harassment against women in the street and workplace as well as the home.
“At its heart, the revised strategy recognises VAWDASV is a societal issue that requires a societal response.
“Tackling male violence, gender inequality and misogyny require action at both ends of the spectrum; we must support survivors and we must hold perpetrators to account but we must also create genuine behaviour change.
“This is how we will combat the insidious and pervasive negative attitudes towards women that can manifest in acts like spiking.”
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