Opinion

Girls Night In: Drink spiking is just the tip of the iceberg for the UK's misogyny problem

Girls Night In co-founder Joscelin Story says the recent rise in drink spiking is part of a deeper problem.

Two women hold wine glasses wearing glamourous dresses

Drink spiking has doubled in the UK in the last three years. Image: Inga Seliverstova/Flickr

Drink spiking in the UK is on the rise. Reports have doubled in the last three years, according to a recent investigation, and The National Police Chiefs Council has said there were almost 200 confirmed reports of drink spiking in September and October alone this year. 

A majority of these victims are young women who, for too long, have been expected to be the sole arbiter of their own safety. Girls who are just looking for a night out are told to cover their drinks and not take their eyes off of their friends. In the event that someone is spiked, shame is often the first emotion. Many feel they failed in their duty to protect themselves.

Girls Night In is a nationwide movement started by university students, a grassroots response to this epidemic of spiking in bars and clubs across the country. The hospitality and entertainment sector, police and policy makers must take urgent action to protect victims of spiking from harm and bring perpetrators to justice. The campaign is boycotting club nights and creating a safe space for women to share their stories. We need to shift the narrative from victim-shaming to perpetrator-blaming and call spiking out for what it really is: assault.

The lack of action to protect women has allowed spiking to become a normalised part of clubbing culture. But girls have had enough. We understand the irony of calling for women to stay home from a movement that promotes female empowerment and the freedom to party safely. But the reality seems to be that, until businesses see a potential loss in revenue, the issue of women’s safety will not be taken seriously. Profit over people is the status quo and we can’t allow that to continue. 

There’s arguably a wider national issue surrounding attitudes towards women. Recent reports of spiking by injection are an alarming development that should trigger national action. So far, despite numerous reports and photographic evidence which appears to back up the claims of injection spiking sent to Girls Night In Instagram pages across the country, only two arrests have been made in Nottingham in connection to needle spiking. 

That many women feel they can come out and anonymously share their experiences with us is a positive, but it has highlighted that many feel hesitant to go to the police. Injecting women with dangerous and illegal sedatives should be taken as seriously under the eyes of the law as any other form of assault. 

Joscelin Story started Girls Night In with her fellow University of Leeds students to raise awareness. Image: Joscelin Story

Young women across the country are trying to rationalise the reason behind these attacks, and the lack of action taken to protect them. It’s difficult to fathom. For many, it points to a wider issue of misogyny in this country. Sexual intentions are often assumed to be the main reason for spiking, but many victims who have shared their experiences with us at Girls Night In didn’t report any sexual assault. Perhaps this new wave is instead a power trip for individuals to take away a woman’s ability to walk and talk. Perhaps we’ll never know. Despite growing awareness surrounding spiking and efforts made by groups to introduce solutions such as protective drink covers; perpetrators have come up with new ways to exert their power. We as young women are looking for answers as to why there seems to be a small section of society that want to assault us.

This recent surge in spikings compounds a year living in the shadow of misogyny and violence against women and girls. The tragic murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa pushed the issue into the headlines and women are still having to push for the right to feel safe in public. Is spiking just the tip of the iceberg of a wider national problem? Is there a deep-rooted issue of misogyny in our society? 

The mistreatment of women has been allowed to spiral for too long. The issue runs from everyday catcalling and casual sexism to the string of accusations levied at police for their mishandling of crimes against women, whether committed by the general public, their own number, or prominent public figures.

Girls are rightfully angry, and the situation feels as though it is reaching boiling point. Spiking seems to be an easy crime to get away with. It is difficult to prove and many women feel a sense of shame that deters them from pursuing legal action. 

Rather than expecting girls to clean up the mess caused by their abusers, the country needs to start educating boys more and operating a zero-tolerance policy on casual misogyny.  

Perpetrators of assault have continuously escaped justice and women should not continue to feel guilty or ashamed when they are the victims. Society has taught young women that it is their responsibility to look out for themselves rather than the responsibility of men to treat them as equals. Our institutions and legislation must do more to protect women from dangerous individuals.

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