Although spiking drinks is not a new occurrence, in recent weeks there have been hundreds of cases of spiking, and worse, people being injected with harmful substances when in bars and nightclubs. As a result, girls across the UK, including Leeds, organised an anti-spiking boycott on 27th October called a ‘Girls Night In’, where girls stayed home for the night, hoping to raise awareness about women’s safety. We have interviewed a few girls currently studying at the University of Leeds to understand their experience when out having fun, and to hear their thoughts on the 'Girls Night In' boycott.
What are your opinions on the current situation regarding girls getting spiked and injected in bars and nightclubs?
Honour Okoli: I think it’s absolutely horrible because we are just getting back into the norm of going out again, and it’s sad that woman can’t even have fun on a night out without worrying about things like this.
Kachanda Irwin: Women are always scared and always have to be cautious and careful when they go out to keep themselves safe from men.
Emma Török: I think this is a problem that's always been there and I'm really glad we're finally having a public conversation about it. As women and young girls, we have always been taught coping mechanisms on how to prevent violence from happening to us, like sticking together in groups and never leaving our drinks unattended. But these actions don't address the real causes of spiking: misogyny and men not being held accountable for their actions.
Do you know of anyone that has had one of these experiences or have you yourself experienced spiking or injections?
Kachanda Irwin: While now there is a lot of media attention on the topic, most of the incidents that have happened to people I know started when we were 16 years old. Because of how widespread spiking and other gender-based violence is, it feels like a normal part of life.
Emma Török: We always hear about friends of friends and people on social media being spiked or assaulted on nights out and it's always been clear to me that it's not safe to go out to a club by myself or to walk home alone in the dark.
Amber Bains: 3 weeks ago, I had a friend on my Netball team who had gotten spiked. When she got home, her boyfriend realised she wasn’t acting normal. He took her to hospital and the doctors found the injection mark on her leg from where she had been spiked.
Women have taken action by boycotting bars and nightclubs but do you think this campaign perhaps places much of the responsibility on women? What do you think men's roles are and should be in helping to prevent spiking incidents from happening?
Kachanda Irwin: Men have the primary role to play. I don’t think spiking, sexual assault, domestic abuse or any other gender-based violence will stop or decrease until society starts to dismantle the patriarchy. Gender based violence happens because of a societal view of women as sexual objects that men can do what they want with. You just have to listen to music to see how deeply ingrained the idea of male ownership of the female body is. I don’t think anything will change unless an active effort is made by everyone to unlearn patriarchal values.
Amber Bains: Individually, men can begin by holding themselves and their friends accountable. If they know friends who partake in this behaviour, they should stop them, inform them, report them.
Emma Török: Men need to do the work of unlearning the stereotypes we all grow up with, educate themselves on the reality of violence against women and call each other out on their problematic behaviour.
Honour Okoli: It shouldn’t just be us girls organising boycotts that spread awareness of these issues, men should be doing just as much as us or more. I don’t want to say that men should be looking out for women, because we shouldn’t need to be looked after, everyone just has to educate themselves. Men need to actively speak up and educate themselves instead of being quiet and passive.
What do you think bars and nightclubs, or any institution can do to prevent spiking incidents from occurring? Have you personally done anything to help tackle the issue?
Amber Bains: Bars and nightclubs can have metal detectors and do more security checks, but at the end of the day, someone can easily bring in a needle. What can be done is staff and bouncers need to be better trained to look out for spiked behaviour and have better precautions when it does happen.
Kachanda Irwin: The problem is so much bigger than one nightclub. The institution most responsible for preventing these incidents is the state. They’re the only authority that has the power and resources to make big change. The change that needs to happen must be on the societal level through education, not just individual.
Emma Török: We need to have more women in positions of power, whether that's a manager of a nightclub, a city councilperson or an MP. I think we also need to incorporate more learning about gender as early as primary school, so that the next generation can do better than us. I stayed at home on the night of the boycott and tried to share as much of the Girls Night In campaign as I could on my social media.
Honour Okoli: Entertainment businesses could have a little room where people who seem like they’ve been drugged or are going in and out of consciousness can rest and be tested for any traces of date rape drugs. This would provide a safe space and prevent people, especially girls, being put into even more danger when they’re kicked out the club for being “too drunk”.
These four young women speak for many other women who have been victims of spiking and injections in bars and nightclubs. As they've argued, these incidents have been happening for a long time, but the difference is that now the media is discussing them and more light is being shed on these cases. But what more can be done and what part can you play in combatting spiking?
Andreia is our Society & Politics Editor and a third year student studying BA French & Politics at the University of Leeds. She is currently on a year abroad in Toulouse, France. She is pursuing a career in government and policy and is interested in foreign languages and cultures, pop culture and politics. Her Instagram handle is @_.adcb._.
Denia is our Lifestyle & Travel Editor and a third year student studying BA French & Arabic at the University of Leeds. She is pursuing a career in international relations and diplomacy and is interested in foreign languages and cultures and filmmaking. Her Instagram handle is @denia_beidaoui.