Wednesday 27th of October marked the national boycott of nightclubs and other venues organized by the ‘Girls Night In’ campaign in response to increased reports of instances of spiking up and down the country.
Over September and October, the National Police Chief’s Council received 198 confirmed cases of drink spiking. Yet, the sinister spiking epidemic has seen the insidious method of injection spiking become increasingly prevalent. There have been 24 cases of confirmed injection spiking across the country, with many more individual news stories shared on social media. Whilst spiking has always been a concern in nightclubs and bars, especially for women who are victims in 83% of cases, the rise of attacks in tandem with the new method of injection spiking has resulted in a cultural boiling point, and a subsequent retaliation.
Normally, Wednesday nights see students lining up and down Park End street, sports teams dressed up to celebrate matches they played earlier that day, groups of friends ready to let off steam after finishing this week’s essay, excited chatter and laughter resounding through the streets as they queue to get in. But on only the third sports night back this term, the doors of Atik were firmly shut, and any laughter was replaced by yelling, anger, and demonstration.
The Oxford Student Union is alongside universities across the country in the boycott, with Girls Night In social media pages sharing information on how to respond in the event of an attack. Their open letter in support of the campaign directly acknowledges the ‘deep and pervasive threat’ of spiking which has inspired such anxiety amongst students. They specifically challenge local establishments on their safety and response measures in regard to spiking, questioning:
– ‘Do your staff receive training or information on spiking, helping to prevent spiking, or helping those who have been spiked?’
– ‘What is your current policy on supporting, believing and taking seriously someone who you think may have been spiked?’
– ‘What is your policy on identifying and responding to those suspected on spiking others?’
‘Big Night In’ Oxford are demanding local establishments to implement prevention measures, such as active bystander training for all staff, welfare officers who can provide anti-spiking measures and a clearly communicated zero tolerance policy on spiking with a procedure for reporting and support for victims of spiking. Such measures are basic, and essential, for clubs and bars to be seen as a safe place for women, and necessary for the return of campaigners to these establishments at all.
This campaign has not fallen in deaf ears within Oxford. The closure of Atik to demonstrate its continued commitment to guest safety was a grand statement in itself. They have promised to make anti-spiking devices widely available and all staff will continue to search all visitors and will wear body cams.
As ‘Girls Night In’ unfolded, students gathered at the Oxford Student Union, making signs calling for clubs to ‘Protect Women. Stop Spiking.’ Another poignantly reading ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’; college wide JCR events were testament to the spirit of the night, with students of all genders unitiing in protest. From 10pm onwards, ‘It Happens Here’ Co-Chairs Timea Icliffe and Tasha Lovel spoke on behalf of the Student Union’s anti-sexual violence campaign, in hopes that the night might produce ‘real, tangible change.’
Also in attendance was Student Union President Anvee Bhutani and Shaista Aziz, Labour councillor for Oxford City Council. Echoing signs held up by the crowd, both calling for consistent support of the movement. Commenting on Twitter, Bhutani reaffirmed the message of the night: ‘Women deserve better and we are demanding better.’
The evening of the 27th displayed not only a commitment to change across colleges, genders and ages, but the importance of taking an active role in making Oxford, and ultimately countrywide, nightlife, a safe place for women. Such calls are likely to continue until Girls Night In gives way to spike-free nights out.
Correction: This article has been edited to correct the names of the It Happenes Here co-chairs