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This week in Tortoise – Spiking: An injection of fear

This week in Tortoise – Spiking: An injection of fear

This week’s Slow Newscast – Spiking: an injection of fear – is an investigation into a misplaced panic.

Patricia Clarke, a Tortoise reporter, set out to examine the wave of terrifying stories last autumn about spiking in nightclubs – not men slipping drugs into drinks, but using needles to spike and sedate their victims. Reports of these assaults spread fast; soon every young woman seemed to have heard of a case; spiking seemed widespread, frightening and close. 

But, as Patricia’s deliberate and careful reporting shows, the fear outran the facts. We found no proven case of needle spiking in the UK; the evidence suggests it did not happen. What was real was the fear – the depth of fear amongst young women on campus of sexual violence that made the reports of spiking so plausible. (You can read Tortoise’s file reporting into #CampusJustice here – it started at a ThinkIn more than two years ago where a member gave an account of a college’s failure to deal with a sexual assault). 

If this week’s ThinkIns touch a nerve, theyre supposed to:

  • Have we got bored of climate? Join us in the newsroom tonight at 6.30pm London time as we examine the signs of Net Zero fatigue. 
  • Tomorrow evening at 6.30pm in our newsroom: Richard Ratcliffe – husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – and Sherry Izadi and Aryan Ashoori – wife and son of Anoosheh Ashoori, respectively – join us for a ThinkIn: has Britain prolonged the crisis for hostages in Iran? (If you haven’t already, do listen to Nazanin – my colleague Ceri Thomas’ series about that debt and its role in Nazanin’s plight on BBC Sounds.
  • On Wednesday at 6.30pm, it’s our weekly Open News meeting. The story I want to discuss is about corruption; what’s yours?
  • On Thursday, we will kick off our third newsroom ThinkIn of the week at 6.30pm: Does the men’s rights movement have a point?

Then, of course, theres what the week throws us. It looks likely to be busy; I hope that, whether in person or online, reading the Sensemaker or listening to our podcasts, you’ll join us in trying to make sense of it. 

Have a very good week.


James Harding
Editor & co-founder