In the UK, incidents of spiking women in bars and nightclubs have led to a recent boycott by women across the country. Girls Night In is a series of protests in cities and towns to raise awareness about the issue and to urge bars and nightclubs to take greater preventative measures to protect young women.
Spiking is when another drug or more alcohol is added to a person’s drink without them knowing. As a result, victims sometimes become unconscious or can even die. The perpetrator of the spiking may use spiking to later assault them when they are unconscious or less aware of their surroundings and able to fight back. Depending on what the drink was spiked with, it may be impossible to taste or smell the difference after a drink was spiked.
One of the reasons the issue has been raised in the UK is that some spikings have appeared to have occurred by needle injection. According to NBC News, over the past few months, UK police have reported substantial increases in the number of needle injections at bars, nightclubs and house parties in many college towns across the country. Women have reported waking up with no memory of the night and finding bruises from the spiking injections. Pictures of women with bruised arms from these injections have also circulated on social media, raising awareness of this pressing issue. Although most of the reported incidences have been from bars or nightclubs, spiking at house parties has also been seen as a growing problem by police.
As a result, young women and college students have begun the Girls Night In campaign, a boycott of bars and nightclubs in order to advocate for greater protections for women. According to the BBC, a goal of the boycott is to send the message that women won’t support businesses that don’t take steps to ensure their safety.
Although spiking is illegal and has consequences, according to the BBC, many women who have reported these incidents have seen very little action taken by police and nightlife venues. Additionally, since many victims who were spiked experienced memory loss, it is hard to file a report on the situation. Some protections women have been advocating include having instant drink spiking test kits available at bars and for clubs to have bouncers and other staff members better trained in caring for victims as opposed to just removing them from the club.
According to the charity Drinkaware, ways to protect yourself include never leaving a drink unattended, never accepting a drink for a stranger and sticking with a group of friends to watch out for one another. However, even after taking precautions, spiking can still occur. The organization also recommends that if you or a friend has been spiked to alert a staff member at the venue immediately, to call for an ambulance if necessary and to make sure there is a safe way for them to get home.
The issue has contributed to the increased awareness of violence against women in the UK. After the tragic deaths of Sabina Nessa and Sarah Everard, many women are calling for greater protections for women and for cultural changes in how women are treated. A major criticism of advice from police and of the Girl’s Night In campaign is how it places the burden on safety on women and victims. Violence against women has been considered an epidemic in recent months, and activists have criticized legislators and police for their slow or minimal action. Additionally, advocates are hoping to challenge the culture of victim-blaming in these scenarios.
These attacks and the impact they have on young people, specifically college-age students at bars, nightclubs and house parties have been a strong reminder for Hope College students of the impact of violence against women in the community. Similar incidents have occurred on Hope’s campus, not just at bars, but also at dorm and house parties. However, protests such as Girls Night In offer inspiration for positive social change and conversation on the impacts of violence against women.