Once again, women around the UK are fearing for their safety in public spaces after a rise in cases reported to police of being spiked by injections on nights out.
“It’s gone from zero to 100,” says Martha Williams, a third-year university student from Edinburgh and creator of the Girls Night In Edinburgh Instagram account, which has sparked a nationwide campaign.
“Everyone I know is just terrified to go out.”
Students going back to university are warning each other of the potential risk of drinks being spiked and are joining together to boycott nightclubs.
Groups from more than 30 universities including Edinburgh, Bristol, and Leeds are hoping the boycott will highlight to clubs and bars that more needs to be done to prevent spiking.
Williams said: “One of my flatmates got spiked and then it seemed like it was happening left right and centre.
“On Instagram, every morning after a big night out you’d wake up and see everyone reposting stories about how they’ve been spiked the night before.”
She says nightclubs have been doing “absolutely nothing” so far and they need to take the issue seriously so students can feel safe when they go out.
“Bouncers and security guards are the people that you want to turn to when you feel like you’re in danger or need help but they’ve given us no reason to trust them.”
She’s written an open letter to all nightclubs in Edinburgh with suggestions people have been sending her. They include more thorough entry checks, having high definition CCTV, see-through cups, and training staff in drug misuse.
“The point of the boycott isn’t to take away from the club’s revenue or business, it’s for the greater community and to encourage reform and change.”
Larissa Kennedy, the president of the National Union of Students, says it’s “disgusting” to see what’s happening to women on nights out.
“My rage, love and solidarity goes out to all those who have been impacted by these violent acts, and all other women and marginalised folks who experience sexual violence on our campuses and in our communities.”
How to spot the signs of a spiked drink
As more and more people are raising awareness of what’s happening on social media, it’s important to know what actions people can take if they find themselves or a friend in a potentially dangerous situation.
Not everyone will feel the effects of a spiked drink or injection in the same way, according to Drinkaware, a charity that shares resources about the dangers around alcohol.
Some signs to look out for include
Feeling nauseous and/or vomiting
Loss of balance
Loss of inhibitions and/or confusion
If you’re with a friend and think they might have been spiked, there are a few things you can do to help.
Stay with them and continue to talk to them.
Tell a bouncer or bar manager.
Don’t let them go home on their own or with someone you don’t trust.
Try to stop them from having any more alcohol.
Call an ambulance if their condition deteriorates.
Andrea Simon, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, which works on women’s safety projects, doesn’t want victims to hold all the responsibility of preventing spiking incidents.
“This is yet another example of the exhausting safety work that women have to do every day to keep ourselves safe. But being vigilant will not prevent us from being targeted and assaulted.
“To tackle drink spiking and all forms of violence against women, we need to see a focus on perpetrators’ actions and interventions to prevent them from harming women in the first place.”
Williams would like to see the government bring in stricter regulations over nightclubs and improve the policing efforts for victims of spiking incidents.
A government spokesperson said:, “We have asked for an update from the police on this and would encourage anyone to report this behaviour to the police.”
You can see more advice from Drink Aware here.
Help and support:
- Victim Support - Visit victimsupport.org.uk or call 0808 168 9111 Sexual Abuse Referral Centres - Find a SARC
- Rape Crisis - Visit rapecrisis.org.uk or call 0808 802 9999 The Rape and Abuse Line - Visit rapeandabuseline.co.uk or call 0808 800 0123 (answered by women) or 0808 800 0122 (answered by men).