Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Spiking has taken away my feeling of safety – why is it my responsibility to get it back?

I’ve never been one for going out. Call me old-fashioned, or just plain boring, but I have never been able to truly understand its appeal, always having favoured a Saturday night in with a Netflix sitcom and the occasional glass of rosé over an evening of clubbing. Perhaps it’s a result of having spent most of my adult life in a pandemic, the first lockdown being announced only a few months after my eighteenth birthday, or perhaps it is simply because I always have, and probably always will be, a massive homebody.

The responsibility to protect ourselves from those with ill intent has once again fallen upon our shoulders.

In spite of this, the weeks leading up to the start of term were spent telling myself that I was going to change this; those Saturday nights can get a little repetitive after a while, you see, and as much as I wish I could say otherwise, I very easily succumb to the fear of missing out. So serious about this, I spent an unsightly amount on ‘going out clothes’ and tickets for Freshers events in preparation, convinced they were a worthwhile investment as I would, as explained to my mum, “never be in!”

Now I wish I hadn’t wasted my money. I can count on one hand the amount of times I have been on a night out since starting Warwick, but unlike before, when it was simply a case of preferring to stay in, this all down to the fact that I do not feel safe when I go out.

At the time of writing this article, almost two weeks have passed since the nationwide boycotting of bars and nightclubs across the UK, planned and executed in an attempt to force action against the recent rise in spiking cases. The public response has been enormous and, for the most part, widely positive, however I cannot shake the feeling that some regard its targeting of women as being that of a new phenomenon, isolated and unprecedented in its nature.

The spiking of drinks is a part of a wider issue of gendered violence and misogyny that continues to plague this country. Shockwaves were made over the summer with the devastating murders of Sabina Nessa and Sarah Everard, bringing to light the ever-present threat that is posed to many women on a daily basis.

However, despite countless calls for government intervention and legislative action to aid the protection of the women of this country, the responsibility to protect ourselves from those with ill intent has once again fallen upon our shoulders.

That isn’t to say that there has been a complete lack of response to the current crisis of drink spiking. Slug and Lettuce, a popular UK bar chain, now offers free ‘Stoptopp’ covers to guests concerned with the safety of their drinks, an action that has been seen in countless other pubs, clubs and bars across the country. Closer to home, Warwick SU has recently published their action plan to combat drink spiking which includes measures of increasing door staff across all SU venues and ensuring that all event attendees know who the designated welfare team are – a step in the right direction, indeed, but I cannot help but wonder: is this enough?

I cannot help but wonder: is this enough?

To reiterate my previous comment, drink spiking is but one element of an institutionalised issue much bigger than itself. If we are to truly tackle it, the structures that allow this to happen in the first place need to be challenged. Universally, women are taught that they are entirely accountable for their own safety, a narrative of victim-blaming being perpetuated within society at large, foregoing the condemnation of those committing harassment and assault in favour of questioning the actions of those afflicted: ‘What were you wearing?’ ‘How much did you have to drink?’ ‘Are you sure you weren’t leading him on?’ And whilst all this happens, excuses are routinely made for the actions of men, the sentiment of ‘boys will be boys’ that we hear so commonly as children echoed in the defence of those whose wrongdoings are far more severe than that of simply pulling pigtails in the playground whilst vilifying the ones they have affected.

Legislative action needs to be taken if we are to see any real change. It is not enough for security measures to be left to the discretion of individual clubs; protecting guests from potential spiking and assault should become a legal requirement if they are to continue to operate. Alongside this, more needs to be done to challenge the problematic behaviours that can be linked to unacceptable acts such as drink spiking. Displays of toxic masculinity should be confronted head-on at an early age, not dismissed as being ‘banter’ that will eventually be grown out of. It is only with the dismantling of this patriarchal system that true safety of women will be achieved, but considering the magnitude of this request, this is something that could take years, even decades to achieve.

In the meantime, I shall don the dresses that have been collecting dust in the closet and accept a cover for my drink at the bar, adopting all the measures I can to keep myself safe, longing for a time when this will no longer be necessary.

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