The past week has unearthed the rising and ever-frightening risk of being drugged to the media. The concept of losing your physical (and potentially mental) capacities involuntarily through someone lacing your drink is uncomfortable. But this is worse. We are taught to cover our drinks, never leave them unattended, always watch the bartender pour it. But what happens when lacing turns into injecting? What happens when we can’t cover all of our skin? What happens then? Girls are scared.
So far, cases of spiking via injections in Nottingham, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Liverpool are under investigation. These all occurred in night clubs. There is debate among professionals regarding the likelihood that these girls were actually injected with a substance, due to the fact that the needle would most likely have been painful on entry. However, the cases are being dealt with seriously, we are told. The girls all have very similar accounts of the night. The female victims all recall a scratching sensation on their skin at the point of the needle’s supposed entry. Then, blackout. The next thing they remember is waking up.
Girls are scared.
Students have rallied together in solidarity against this epidemic. Two girls from University of Edinburgh founded Girls Night In, a page that was initially created to incite traction around the issue of spiking and to encourage the sharing of related stories. Since the spiking this week, the page has accumulated 3.5K followers and provoked a nationwide University boycott of clubs. This is not in retaliation against clubs, but rather to rally clubs together to take the matter seriously, as well as the police. An example of a positive reaction is Bristol’s Lizard Lounge, who have vowed to put up signs about spiking, what to do if spiked, and the consequences of spiking, as well as considering buying drinks covers as a preventative measure. Tektu in Birmingham have been quick to order 1500 plastic cups with lids, too. Round of applause. Girls Night In, if adopted by enough Universities, will certainly have a lasting impact on clubs. University students are one of very few cohorts with the capacity and rigour to make such an impact in such a short time. When clubs see that students are capable of a national boycott, they will have no choice but to do better. When clubs realise that students have the determination to do it again if not listened to, they will have no choice but to do their best.
Circulating are suggestions to clubs on how to do just this. Bouncers and staff must have had training on how to help a victim of spiking. They must also be able to spot the signs of assault. Bouncers and staff must, at the forefront of their responsibilities, work to keep women safe. This means walking them to their friend or calling them a cab, not kicking them to the curb. Bouncers should, in every instance, remove the assaulter not the victim. Throwing the victim out puts them in a more vulnerable position. Bouncers should keep a record of any assaulter and report them to the correct channel for the offence. Ask Angela, or a venue’s tailored version, must be in all bathrooms. Preventative posters explaining the legal repercussions of spiking someone should be in all bathrooms. CCTV footage should be thoroughly screened on report of an assault. Bags and persons should be rigorously searched on entry to the club. All clubs should have a complaint form on their website with an option to report a spiking at the venue. Venue should increase staff on nights where spiking is unusually high. Sober Marshalls should be positioned throughout the club to help in the case of spiking or situations where spiking looks likely. This is not an exhaustive list. This is only what students have come up with this week.
The moral here is not a happy one. The moral is that we have to be more vigilant than ever. If you do go out, stay aware, look after your friends, and know the signs (below). In this same breath, I’d like to add that we should still all have fun. Such a heavy article can leave you feeling disheartened at all of the atrocious happenings, but as long as you have fun safely there is nothing stopping you! Don’t let the assaulters win. If Girls Night In appeals to you, and I hope it does, join them in their boycott in your city. If you have suggestions about what bouncers could be doing better, share them on your platform.
The more voices the better.