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  • Ella Ostrowski

A Spiking epidemic: Are venues doing enough to prevent it?

For many people the thought of getting spiked at a club was not a regular anxiety of going clubbing before this year. This is not to say that no one before October had ever been worried about getting spiked. However, the recent increase in spiking or what can be referred to as a spiking epidemic has gained mass media attention and has led to an increased consideration of the importance of safety at clubs.

Specifically, the introduction of a new method of spiking which is by using needles has caused an outbreak of anxiety across the United Kingdom, mainly in university students who are more affected.

Looking at the statistics, since the 23rd of October until the end of October the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) has collected 198 reports of drinking spiking, following an additionally 56 reports of incidents involving a needle. If the threat of being injected with a needle was not enough, recent news has revealed that a number of reported victims of needle injuries have later contracted HIV. This is a result of unsterilised needles meaning that people are at risk of being exposed to HIV. The National Aids Trust has said that this is “extremely rare” however it is still a concern shared by many.

A positive outcome of recent events is that various resources are getting shared across social media to raise awareness about spiking, particularly on Instagram. Useful things to know are that your drink may not taste differently if you have been spiked, however your drink may become cloudy. In addition to this, if you suspect that someone you know has been spiked, you should stay with them and not allow them to go home alone or with anyone you do not know. If their condition deteriorates, you should call an ambulance and inform a bouncer, bar manager or staff at the club that you suspect your friend has been spiked.

Significantly, spiking has led many people to call for change in club and bar security. There is a UK petition to make it a legal requirement for nightclubs to thoroughly search guests on entry which has currently over 171,000 signatures. Therefore, it is clear to see that students are taking this issue seriously as parliament and government reform is something that is now getting discussed as a necessity for the safety of clubs.

On 27th October, there was ‘Girls Night In’ in Nottingham, Bournemouth, Bristol, Cambridge and many more cities which was a boycotting of nightclubs to ensure the spiking outbreaks were taken seriously by clubs and bars nationwide. Other universities are also doing a boycott just on a different day such as Norwich’s ‘Girls Night In’ is planned for the 4th of November. The boycott was launched by a group of students in Edinburgh in response to the rise in spiking. It had the aim of supporting girls who fear getting spiked which was backed up by an independent investigation that was conducted by the BBC. It found that between 2015-19 there were 2,650 reports of drinks being spiked in England and Wales. Out of those, 72 per cent of the spiking victims were women, subsequently demonstrating how women are often the targets of these attacks. Although, this is not to say that men do not get spiked or targeted as well, as many males have come forward on social media to speak about their experiences.

Significantly, this boycott took place on a Wednesday which is known in the UK for being a ‘Sport’s Night’ in many places and is where members of sport teams and societies at different universities attend clubbing events and bars for socials. There were demonstrations in more than 40 university towns and cities united by common frustrated of safety, which illustrates how many people believe this is an important issue that needs tackling. Consequently, the increased pressure on clubs through the boycotting of clubs has meant that multiple venues are now adding more safety measures in case of emergencies to prevent spiking or help with after.

One method includes the ‘Ask for Angela’ scheme, which is a safety initiative that was originally developed by Lincolnshire County Council and was adopted by the Met in 2016 as a localised initiative by its police licensing officers. However, the recent increase of spiking has meant that many venues have reinstated this scheme to help people feel more safe and less vulnerable on nights out. It works by all the staff at venues knowing that if someone asks for Angela, they are in danger or need help. Overall, this code-phrase which works subtly to prevent further danger demonstrates how it is important to work together to combat this issue.

Despite some venues making positive changes to support its visitors, many clubs still are not fully acknowledging the issue. The nationwide movement has definitely made an impact so far and hopefully will continue to keep people interested in the challenging of safety at venues across the United Kingdom.

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