Five years later, an art student who lost the ability to draw after making peaks feels insecure
A fine arts student who lost the use of her drawing hand for weeks after her drink was spiked said she still felt “vulnerable” during the evenings five years later.
Lancaster University graduate Polly Sutherland was drugged at the age of 19 and said paramedics, doctors and the students’ union were not taking her complaints about the incident seriously.
Miss Sutherland, from Stone in Staffordshire, was at the university’s Sugarhouse, run by the student union, in December 2016 when friends noticed her behaving strangely.
The graduate, who also has type 1 diabetes, said being drugged had forced her to use a cane for about a month because it damaged her blood sugar levels, which can be fatal for people with the disease.
Remembering the night, Miss Sutherland, now 24, said: ‘I don’t remember anything suspicious, or noticing anything.
âIt’s just that, later that night, friends with me noticed that my personality had changed – I looked very differentâ¦ erratic.
“So they took me home, I went to bed, but when I woke up in the morning I had a lot of body weakness and muscle twitching in my arms, legs, really everywhere.”
She continued, âWhen I went to (my GP) they weren’t very helpful.
âI remember being really disappointed, because I went to them and said, ‘From what’s going on, I think I’ve been doped.’
âThey almost raised their eyebrows, almost accusing me of doing drugs, and I was trying to get out of it somehow or make excuses.
“I felt very disappointed with the doctors at that time.”
Miss Sutherland had to apply for time extensions during the final year of her art degree because she was unable to paint or draw as a result of the incident.
She said she reported the incident to the Lancaster University Students’ Union (LUSU), but received little response.
When asked how the incident made her feel, she replied, âVeryâ¦ I don’t want to use the word raped, because it might be too strong.
âBut it’s scary to think of what could have happened.
“I’m lucky to have a lot of friends around me who brought me home when they noticed something was wrong, so I’m very grateful for that, because I don’t know for what purpose this person went out.
âIt made me feel very vulnerable. Even now, when I go out at night, I’m very careful with it now, and it’s in my head all the time. “
The graduate, who is now in her sophomore year of political studies at Keele University, said she joined the Girls Night In movement, which sees students boycotting clubs following reports of incidents of alcohol consumption.
But she said, âWhat bothers me is that with the boycott, it’s up to the girls, again, to stay.
“I think it’s up to us that we’re the ones to stay because it’s happening, it’s our responsibility to make sure we’re not drugged, instead of telling people not to bite people.”
Miss Sutherland said clubs should use CCTV and scan ID cards at the entrance, instead of just checking them with the naked eye, so they have a record of who is present each evening.
In a statement, Lancaster University said: “We are proud that Lancaster is a safe place to study and are upset to learn that one of our students has been assaulted in this manner. The sugar shack is being held. and managed by the Lancaster University Students Union, and we cannot comment on individual incidents.
“However, if any of our students have any safety concerns regarding spikes or any other type of assault, we strongly encourage them to report it to the university and we have created a range of ways to allow our students to do so. We also encourage students to report any such incidents to the police. “
A spokesperson for the student union said, âWe have thoroughly investigated our cases for this period and cannot find any reports of this incident. If the relevant student contacts us with further information, we will of course investigate the matter. All other incident reports at that time were fully investigated and appropriate action taken.
“Anyone found peaking would be reported to the police, reported to the deanery of the university and banned from The Sugarhouse for life.” All peak victims receive immediate first aid from dedicated welfare staff and transported to hospital if needed or requested. “