Thousands boycott clubs to demand action against spiking and sexual harassment

Two women talking while holding drinking glasses
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On 27 October, thousands of young people boycotted their local clubs, bars and pubs and took to the streets to demand action on spiking and sexual harassment. The protest came as a response to the recent rise in drink spiking cases, as well as new allegations of spiking via injections.

Rise in spiking incidents

According to the the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), people reported nearly 200 drink spiking incidents to UK police in September and October. Spiking typically refers to the surreptitious addition of a drug to someone’s drink which can leave the victim incapacitated and unable to remember what’s happened. This method is often used to facilitate sexual assault. But this figure also includes 24 allegations of perpetrators using “some form of injection” to incapacitate victims. According to police, young women were disproportionately represented in reported cases. In response to what has been labelled a “spiking epidemic“, young women have spoken out about their experiences of gender-based violence.

Responding to the proliferation of unhelpful social media posts encouraging women to ‘stay safe’, campaign group Cheer Up Luv shared:

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National Union of Students president Larissa Kennedy shared:

Fear-mongering and misinformation

The limited research on the practice of spiking via injection has left plenty of space for fear-mongering and misinformation. gal-dem‘s political editor Moya Lothian-McLean tweeted:

Looking to “cut through the noise” regarding the rise in spiking incidents, Vice reporter Sophia Smith Galer shared:

Emergency medicine consultant and founder of the Welsh Emerging Drugs & Identification of Novel Substances (WEDINOS) David Caldicott told Vice: “The idea that a clubber would do this to a fellow clubber seems highly unlikely”. He added that the phenomenon “has not been adequately investigated” to reach firm conclusions.

We have also seen a rise in misinformation around the allegations of spiking via needles and the contraction of HIV. Highlighting the harm this could cause, Ellie Redpath said:

 

Seeking to clear up misinformation on this front, the National Aids Trust shared:

A nationwide ‘night in’

Sparked by recent social media conversations about the prevalence of spiking, young people in university cities up and down the country took part in a ‘night in‘ on 27 October. Thousands boycotted clubs and other night time venues, and took to the streets to raise awareness and demand action on drink spiking and sexual harassment.

Some have argued that protesting in this way encourages women to retreat rather than claiming space. But given the boycott resulted in clubs not being able to open, it proved to be an effective protest tactic. Sharing images from the boycott in Oxford, Oxford Students’ Union tweeted:

Local politicians voiced their support for the campaign, and others attended protests in cities across the UK. Sharing images of campaigners and their banners at the Manchester protest – which mayor Andy Burnham attended – the Guardian‘s north of England editor Helen Pidd tweeted:

Manchester councillor Jade Doswell also shared:

Expressing her support for the campaign, Labour MP for Nottingham East Nadia Whittome tweeted:

 

Next steps

Campaigners have launched a petition calling on the government to introduce a law making it a legal requirement for nightclubs to search guests on entry to venues. However, some have raised concerns that increased security and surveillance on nights out would disproportionately impact marginalised people. Summarising the potential consequences, one Bristolian shared:

Another Twitter user added:

The University of Warwick’s Anti-Sexism Society has expressed its commitment to seeking alternative ways to keep everyone safe in venues:

Campaigners are also urging venues to implement anti-spiking measures including “drink protection devices”, accessible medical centres, and safe ways to get home. Further protests are due to take place in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff and London. So far, the campaign has sparked meaningful conversations about the safety of people of marginalised genders in public spaces, and has prompted politicians to take the issue seriously.

Featured image via Michael Discenza /Unsplash

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  • Show Comments
    1. So true that the focus shouldn’t be on women to “keep safe”, but on men who do it. It is about exposing toxic masculinity face on, telling young men that if they decide to spike a drink in order to get laid, they’re dick heads and losers.

    2. I’ve read dozens of articles about ‘spiking’ incidents; not a single one states that a ‘spiking’ drug was actually found in laboratory tests of samples from the affected person.
      To quote a recent German study (https://drugscouts.de/de/suche?search_api_views_fulltext=3%2042%20130), where there are also numerous reports of ‘drink spiking and ‘spiking by injection’, in the examined cases, no ketamin, GHB or rohypnolopiate were found in the blood tests of those who reported being ‘spiked’, instead codeine, morphine, amphetamine, MDMA, cocaine and in particular alcohol.
      Another study (https://europepmc.org/article/med/17251610) comes to similar conclusions. 15 years ago I remember advice from the Susy Lamplugh Trust for women to beware rather of what was in their drink (i.e. alcohol) rather than what might be put into it. Re-publishing tweets is not journalism and is no substitute for the investigative work required to inform young women whether they are actually in danger from ‘spiking’ or whether danger perhaps lies elsewhere. Get off the band wagon, do some hard work (research) and produce a piece of journalism. You would be doing young women and men a service.

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