A young drink-spiking victim hospitalised after a potentially deadly dose of GHB says the incident has changed her life.
Felicity Ramsay hasn't really spoken of what occurred at a venue in Wangaratta's main street in September 2018.
It's been too traumatic.
The now 20-year-old has tried to put the incident to the back of her mind, such was the stress she experienced.
"I was struggling to breathe," Ms Ramsay recalled.
"I was going into respiratory distress.
"They couldn't lift my temperature up to normal levels and I was violently vomiting."
She had no idea her drink had been dosed with the high-risk drug, which can kill those who ingest only a few millilitres.
Ms Ramsay is opening up about her experience to warn others of the danger, and bring sense to those who are involved in the offending.
Her night had started out ordinarily enough.
Ms Ramsay isn't a big drinker and doesn't take drugs, but she had been keen to catch up with some friends after returning to her home town.
She had no idea what was happening as the drug began to make her ill and impact her motor skills.
The details of what occurred next are blurred by the drug.
Her mother, Katrina, recalls receiving a call and attending hospital about 3am.
"It's horrendous," she said.
"You feel very powerless as a parent.
"Felicity was about to go to Bali on a pilates retreat and I'd been warning her about drink spiking over there.
"I had no idea it could take place at home, in our own small town, and also that it could happen so easily."
N OTHER NEWS:
Felicity also assumed the practice was confined to big cities or festivals, or when people were reckless.
"I wasn't taking any risks that night, just catching up with people in my home town," she said.
"Even when you feel like you're being safe, it's just never enough.
"But I feel like we shouldn't be so scared.
"I'm petrified now and that's just so sad.
"Those nights are for catching up with people and enjoying a safe experience, and that's just not possible for me now.
"I haven't gone out anywhere since."
The then-18-year-old was sick for days.
A test following the incident found the GHB in her system.
Police became involved and reviewed security camera footage from the venue, but Ms Ramsay said nothing conclusive was found.
In a way, she's glad the case didn't go to court.
She was able to keep it a private experience, limiting rumours and conjecture.
"Now I just want people to be aware," she said.
Her mother shared her thoughts in a social media post this week - in a type of open letter to the community - which has been shared hundreds of times.
"I can only imagine the quantity that our daughter must have ingested, since GHB was still detected in a urine sample, approximately eight hours later," she wrote.
"Worst of all, it affects the memory so victims are unable to reliably remember the events.
"Inevitably, the consequence is that our young people remain silent, confused and too frightened to come forward to report any crime that may or may not have occurred."
The drug, even when taken by people willingly, has been linked to deaths in the region.
A toddler narrowly avoided death or serious injury after accidentally taking the drug at a home in Schubach Street, East Albury, in October 2016.
The four-year-old drank a small amount of the drug from a drink bottle, which led to a 30-year-old man being arrested and charged.
Albury woman Cassandra Harper died three days after taking the drug at an Olive Street house party in January 2010.
Felicity said drink spikers probably had no idea of their impact.
"The street it happened on, I couldn't drive on it for months," she said.
"It really left a massive mark on me.
"I had to take another route.
"I think the people doing this need to understand just how big what they're doing is.
"It's actually quite serious.
"It starts with health issues.
"I've come through that, but there's also psychological stuff, traumatic stress.
"I don't think they have any concept of what that's like."
Ms Ramsay and her partner have changed their behaviour since the ordeal.
He had been waiting for her to come home on the night.
Ms Ramsay messaged to say she was only 10 minutes away, but still hadn't returned after an hour-and-a-half.
"He saw me so close to death," she said.
"He was really worried and he's been really impacted by the whole thing.
"We have massive anxieties about drinking.
"We've only had alcohol in our house, or at a private house party or gathering with close friends."
The mother of another suspected drink-spiking victim, which allegedly occurred in Albury in recent weeks, says police are investigating the matter.
The incident left her daughter in intensive care.
"I just hope they catch the person who did it before it happens to someone else's daughter," said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous.
She said her daughter stopped breathing multiple times.
"It's just ridiculous," she said.
"Our daughter won't be going out for a long time.
"Our daughter really should be able to walk freely, any woman should be."
Statistics show four out five drink-spiking victims are female, and Victorian police warn that there has been an increase in the dangerous practice in recent years.
About half of victims are under 24, and about 20 to 30 per cent who report the matters to police say they have been sexually assaulted.
People are urged to tell someone where they are going, never accept drinks from strangers, never leave drinks unattended, and to make sure people see the drinks being poured or opened.
"If a person is a victim of a spiked drink, they are vulnerable to sexual assault, robbery and other harmful actions," a Victoria Police spokesman said.
NSW Police have similar warnings for those who suspect their drink has been spiked.
Despite the ordeal, Felicity counts herself lucky in many ways.
"It's very scary to have that choice taken away from you," she said.
"It could have been a lot worse."