‘IF YOU’VE GONE TO A PARTY AND HAD TWO DRINKS AND THEN BLACKED OUT AND THAT’S NOT NORMAL… THERE WAS POTENTIALLY A SPIKE IN THAT DRINK’
VERNON - While reports of people being drugged at local bars remain unconfirmed by authorities, one club owner says he has seen it happen at least once in the past year and admits it’s an unfortunate reality in the industry.
Saverio Loria, the owner and operator of Status Nightclub in Vernon, says roughly six months ago, two separate women came to him with complaints that they saw a man putting something in people’s drinks.
“I took the guy aside. I said I’ve had two separate complaints,” Loria says, noting the man ‘didn’t look creepy’ or ‘like the type to take advantage.’
“I said this is a legitimate complaint I have to take seriously. We dealt with it immediately.”
While the man denied having done anything, Loria kicked him out and hasn’t seen him since. He says no one at the club was in medical distress or feeling unwell. The police were not called.
“That was six months ago and that was the first and only one,” Loria, who has run the business for about a year-and-a-half, says.
He is not aware of any cases in recent weeks.
The club does its best to be proactive and minimize the risk of drinks being spiked, Loria says, including having door staff and waitresses keep an eye out for it. But, they can’t see everything and he says it’s always a good idea to watch over your own drink.
“It’s an issue, whether in Kelowna, Vancouver, or here, that has existed for a while and does exist,” he says.
He asks patrons to let him know right away if they see it happening, and encourages people to get a medical check and speak with police if they believe they were drugged.
"Don't let it go, because you're giving that person, whoever did it, the opportunity to think they can do it again, and maybe cause more harm,” Loria says.
NO OFFICIAL REPORTS
In Vernon, reports have surfaced on social media sounding the alarm over possible druggings at local establishments. One group, the controversial Soldiers of Odin, claims to have heard of a few cases from a ‘recent show’, and a separate case involving a young woman who ‘never made it out conscious.’ The group declined an interview and said the victims of the alleged druggings, and the establishments, wished to remain anonymous. iNFOnews.ca has become aware of other social media posts suggesting ‘many people’ were drugged on a specific night but have been unable to speak directly with the sources of the information. iNFOnews.ca has also received multiple, unconfirmed reports about drinks being spiked in Kelowna in recent years, although police have said they received no official reports.
Over the past five years, the Vernon RCMP detachment has not received a single report of people’s drinks being spiked.
Interior Health Authority shows there are no known cases of women coming to Vernon Jubilee Hospital in the past month who suspected or reported that they were drugged.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean drink drugging hasn’t happened in the city before.
Brooke McLardy, community program manager with the Vernon Women’s Transition House Society, says incidents of this nature are likely under-reported in general, especially if they involve a sexual assault.
“We know sexual assault is highly under-reported across the board, no matter if it’s a stranger assault, or someone known to the person. When there’s a drug involved, that bumps the statistics up even higher, I think, because we’ve got people that doubt themselves,” McLardy says. “They don’t know what happened. They may have physical signs that something happened and a vague memory of people, places and things, but not a full recognition of what happens. For them, that becomes a huge barrier to making a report.”
While she hasn’t been made aware of any recent cases, she has heard of people being drugged in the region in the past. But victims often don’t report through official channels due to self doubt and embarrassment.
“There’s lots of shame, and shaming, of people who come forward saying they’ve been sexually assaulted. You see others who have been shamed in court. It doesn’t make it a very positive environment to want to report your own assault,” she says.
Even if victims aren’t ready to make a police report, there are other options available.
Individuals, including men or boys, can contact the Transition House, or visit Vernon Jubilee Hospital, which has a nurse practitioner specifically trained to handle assault cases. There, victims are offered prescriptions to reduce the risk of contracting a sexual transmitted disease or getting pregnant. Staff are also trained to collect and store physical evidence.
“Reporting to police is a really personal choice. Someone has to be ready to make that step, and they need to know there are other options to get assistance,” McLardy says.
Even if there are no physical signs of sexual assault, or you don’t remember being assaulted but have suffered a black out, McLardy says it’s a good idea to get checked out.
“Anyone who has experienced an event where they can’t remember what’s happened to them, that could indicate being drugged in some manner. So, even if there wasn’t a physical assault, there’s still an impairment so medical attention would be recommended. The tip I think of is if you’ve gone to a party and had two drinks and then blacked out and that’s not normal, that would indicate there was potentially a spike in that drink and medical attention would be a good idea,” she says.
McLardy recommends having a plan for getting home before you go out, and sticking to it even if you meet someone.
“Travel in groups. Travel with people you trust,” she says.
Watch the bartender make your drink, and if your beverage comes in a can, make sure you see it being opened, she says.
The RCMP echoes those tips.
“Stick together and keep an eye on your friends when you're out. Cover your drink — if you are drinking from a bottle, just put your thumb over the top. This will prevent anyone from sneaking something in,” Const. Jocelyn Noseworthy says.
She suggests staying with your drink and keeping an eye on it at all times, as well as never accepting a drink from a stranger or taking an unattended drinking from someone else.
“I can't answer the question of whether it's under-reported, but I strongly encourage people to report any instance where they believe they have been given a substance without their consent,” Noseworthy says.
People can contact the Vernon RCMP at 250-545-7171 or remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
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