One Year Ago Today: GirlsNightIn…Are We There Yet?

Isabelle Kennedy-Grimes

One year on from the spiking ‘pandemic’, students of Nottingham have been spurred to assess the progress (or lack thereof) demonstrated by club and bar-owners in their efforts to prevent and sufficiently handle cases of spiking. Isabelle Kennedy-Grimes delves into the effectiveness of current club and bar policies, and the further action these venues could take to prevent incidences of spiking. 

At the start of this month, ClubSafeCollective responded to Crisis’ serial-killer Halloween theme; they posted a plea on their Instagram for the company to retract the theme and ‘listen like you pledged to do last year’. The organisation reminds Nottingham’s most popular student venue of the claims they made this time last year, that ‘[students’] safety is our number one priority’. Looking at this post from Rock City’s Instagram, I have found that their only new initiatives to prevent spiking were to ‘increase the volume of entry searches’ and provide bottle stoppers ‘on request’. Otherwise, their initiatives are limited to providing advice of what to do if you have been spiked. In other words, they did not deem it important enough to search all property entering the venue, nor did they think it necessary to provide bottle-stoppers for all drinks.

This in itself is dangerous because it means spiking is becoming normalised and even a half-expected occurrence

Despite being a less-prominent discussion point on social media – in comparison to a year ago – spiking in Nottingham is still very much an issue. If anything, it has become so common that my friends and myself are not actually surprised when we hear of someone we know being spiked. This in itself is dangerous because it means spiking is becoming normalised and even a half-expected occurrence on a night out. Social media activism is a powerful tool and an effective way to raise awareness. Unfortunately, though, its influence ends there. It is, first and foremost, the responsibility of club and bar-owners to take preventative action. Although I can appreciate increased frequency of bag searches and the option of bottle-stoppers – measures which a number of venues, including Ocean Nightclub, have taken – I do believe that more can be done.

Recently, I was buying a drink in Cucamara. My friend alerted me that a guy had reached to get two straws from the bar area and put them in our drinks. At first, I didn’t think anything of it because, after all, he had taken them from the bar. She then insisted that he had taken the straws and turned away first, and then placed them in our drinks. We told the bartender and he immediately threw the drinks away and made us new ones. I would also like to acknowledge the fact that the bouncer that night was also very cooperative; he dedicated himself to finding the guy who had tried to spike us and banned him from future entry to Cucamara. Nonetheless, despite the venue’s adequate responses to the situation, we were  lucky. Had my friend not seen this man’s actions, we would have been in a lot of danger that night, it being just the two of us.

I was pleasantly surprised when bartenders took the initiative to put bottle-stoppers and straws into my VKs

Only very simple measures are required to prevent this nuanced kind of spiking and can be carried out by any venue. On a recent visit to Oz Bar, I was pleasantly surprised when bartenders took the initiative to put bottle-stoppers and straws into my VKs, without me having to request it. I would urge all club and bar-owners to implement a policy, whereby straws and either bottle-stoppers or drink sleeves are placed on/into all drinks, regardless of whether it is in a bottle or a cup, and regardless of the customer’s gender.

With regards to spiking-by-injection, I appreciate that this is a more difficult method to prevent. However, I would argue that entry searches for clubs are nowhere near sufficient. The most thorough one I have encountered this year was conducted by bouncers at the Waterfront. They checked every pocket of bags, as well as patting people down. The regulatory glance in bags which is carried out at most other venues is extremely inadequate for preventing syringes from being brought into clubs, especially considering that it is a crime more frequently committed by men who tend not to carry bags into clubs.

Club and bar-owners are certainly in the most able position to prevent spiking 

During the spiking ‘pandemic’ last year – which is very much still existent today – the CEO of the Alcohol Education Trust, Helena Conibear spoke on ITV’s This Morning about said issue. She stated that ‘our main issue is that it’s not reported enough’; she goes onto reveal that, of cases which were reported, only 50% of these were taken further by the authorities. I know from being a student myself that young people generally neglect reporting cases of spiking to the police, in fear of being disbelieved or their experiences being undermined.

Ultimately, I would like to emphasise that club and bar-owners are certainly in the most able position to prevent spiking by taking measures which I have discussed above. In addition to this, I would like to see more initiatives being taken by the Nottinghamshire police, to change the way in which young perpetrators view spiking and to legitimise it in young minds as a crime punishable by law.

Isabelle Kennedy-Grimes

Featured image courtesy of Ross Sneddon via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

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