It’s been a little while! Hope everyone is okay! I wanted to come on here to talk a little bit about the issue of spiking which has been a huge topic on social media but sadly doesn’t really seem to have hit the mainstream media yet. I know this can be a sensitive issue for many so please take the time to look after yourself and proceed reading with caution!
On the 27th and 28th October, there was a boycott of nightclubs organised by GirlsNightIn in response to the recent increase in spikings. It surprised me how quickly this become a nationwide movement, this is both powerful and saddening to see indicating the extent to which this is unfortunately a problem.
The initiative came to fruition after the recent increase in spikings following universities returning. However, it has become especially concerning as there have been multiple reports that students are being spiked with needles. This adds the risk of contracting HIV – a girl in Nottingham has reportedly contracted HIV already. This, as I am sure many of you will relate to, is a very real fear for anyone going out, but especially women (who are often, but now always the target). It seems absurd to me that the risk of contracting a chronic virus now exists when going out to have a good time with friends. You may have seen the advice now circulating on social media on what to do if you think you might have contracted HIV. It seems so crazy it seems almost incomprehensible. This issue has become even creepier in the last few days following reports of women being spiked with a needle and left with notes saying “welcome to the HIV club” or had rings put on their fingers with the text “cry baby” engraved in it.
The most sickening aspect of this issue for me, apart from the obvious safety concerns, is that the needle spiking seems to be normalising “normal” spiking (AKA without a needle and with a pill). That suddenly doesn’t seem as terrifying now when the risk of contracting HIV now exists.
It has without a doubt put me, as well as many other women, off clubbing for the time being, at the very least in the clubs where the cases are most concerning. This is saddening in itself – it feels like yet another curb on women’s freedoms that is just accepted to some extent for us to keep ourselves safe. Just like we accept that walking at home in the dark on our own is a dangerous idea. At the same time, it has highlighted to me how lucky I am that I am not a first-year student in this current climate. At least I know that if I did decide to go clubbing, I have friends who know me well, I can trust, and have my back.
Nightclubs and bars have to some extent been supportive of implementing further measures to keep guests safe to differing extents. But I have also seen nightclubs that have questioned the legitimacy of the claims laid against them that spikings have occurred at their venue. There are reports emerging of bouncers at some clubs laughing at women who have been spiked rather than providing them with some help. It is still mindboggling to me that people, including some nightclubs would question the legitimacy of these claims. What motive would anyone have to lie or make these up? Those coming forward are not gaining anything by doing this, other than raising awareness of the extent of the issue. Hopefully, the boycott this week will also add further pressure and once again highlight the depth of this issue to the nightclubs. However, from a cynical perspective, as much as a nationwide boycott will be powerful and is a sign of hope, I question to what extent it will have an impact. At the end of the day, sadly the main concern of the clubs is making money, especially after the pandemic and one night in from women around the country will make little difference to their overall profits. There has therefore also been advice circulating that one should email the clubs and flood their inboxes to further highlight the issue to them.
It is however empowering to see more and more women coming forward and sharing their experiences in the post #metoo era especially following the death of Sarah Everard. I question therefore whether there is an actual increase in spiking this year or whether there are just more women feeling empowered enough to talk about this issue. It has certainly always been an issue for many women at universities including mine! So heartbreakingly, for many women this issue is not new, but it is powerful to see more women finally feeling strong enough to use their voice.
However, whilst nightclubs taking further measures are good preventative measure, they are generally not the perpetrators of the spiking. The only way for this issue to be truly tackled, like so many other women’s safety issues, is through a systemic cultural and societal change regarding men’s behaviour. This is achieved, I believe through education and conversation. It is an issue that all men need to be involved in, as much as all men are not perpetrators of violence against women, there are enough men for safety to be a very real and daily concern for women. So, in an ideal world one would hope that all men would look themselves in the mirror and ask themselves what they can do to better support women. Whilst not the only indicator of the level of support of men for women surrounding this issue, it has been uplifting to see more men sharing their support for women on this issue of spiking on social media. We can only desperately cling to the hope that things will change in the short term in terms of measures taking by clubs but in the long term that there will be a definitive cultural change in society regarding issues of women’s safety.
This post has been heavy, I promise my next one won’t be as full on! I know that social media can be intense at the moment so please remember to take breaks from it and switch off from reading about these issues to look after yourself. If you know of anyone who has been affected by the recent events and would like help… GINA is here and has many resources available!
Look after yourselves!
Lots of love and hugs as ever!
Your GINA sister xoxoxxo