Will Women Ever be Safe? Do venues do enough to protect us?

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Autumn 2021

Women have the same rights to go out and have a fun, safe night, as men do… so why can’t they?

We are currently experiencing one of the worst spiking epidemics in recent history, with spiking becoming more tactical than ever before. Since August 21st 2021, there have been 198 reported cases of drink spiking across the UK. This figure is likely to be more, with many more unreported.

Alongside this, there have been 24 reported cases of spiking via injection, an extremely scary phenomenon particularly due to the HIV risk and reuse of needles.

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Girls so commonly get their bags searched – why do we not see similar for men?

So… whose responsibility is it to keep women safe?

Door staff and security must obtain an SIA License, but this isn’t club specific. Security staff are taught with on-the-job training, meaning that there is no industry standard for dealing with issues such as spiking and women’s safety.

Speaking to female security staff, we’ve had a first hand report of male security staffs’ response to spiking. Once confirming a girl is conscious, they will give her a bottle of water and escort her off the premises. Male staff may not realise the danger of this, but only 7% of security staff are female, so the cycle continues.

Source: Pexels

With regards to club owners, whether or not they will admit it, drugs are a massive part of the nightlife economy, despite the many legal implications they hold. More robust searches for drugs would be detrimental to income. As a result, it’s impossible to implement searches for date-rape drugs without threatening the revenue stream.

According to the Licensing Act 2003, both security staff and venue owners should be taking steps to help those who suspect that they have been spiked.

The Act states that the spiking should be reported to the police, and that there should be a ‘chill out’ area for victims to sit safely in. While some venues do have this, it can be few and far between because there is no risk of losing license when cases of spiking are reported on premise.

Source: Pexels

Girl’s Night In

The Girls Night In movement was a nightclub boycott that was result of girls wanting to make a stand against spiking. In total, over 50 universities across the country took part in the movement.

The movement gained a huge amount of traction. For example, 31 societies from the University of Gloucestershire took part in the boycott, in solidarity for the fight against spiking.

On October 27th, 2021, a new club in Cheltenham was due to open. As this was the night of the boycott, the venue postponed their grand opening by a week in solidarity of the movement.

With regards to MooMoo Cheltenham, the town’s main nightclub, the venue released a statement in response to the movement, detailing the new measures that they will be putting in place to try and prevent spiking.

Girl’s Night In demanded change. Our recommendations to venue owners and security staff as a result of this would be:

  • Greater repercussions for abusers
  • Nightclub staff training
  • Thorough entry searches
  • Better support for victims
  • Anti-spiking devices in venues

According to the leader of the Gloucestershire Girls Night In, the response to the university’s boycott has had an encouraging response, and they hope that the movement will put us one step closer to feeling safer on nights out!

Why you should care

The movement has gained so much traction in a short period of time, with the BBC, ITV and Sky talking about it in their news broadcasts.

As well as vast news publications in the UK, news broadcasters across the world have picked up the Girls Night In Story, including ABC and the Washington Post in the USA, plus countless broadcasters across Asia and Oceania. This scope of publicity puts the spotlight of the world on the UK’s venue owners and security staff’s response.

Around 50% of nightclub visitors are women, so to keep profits high it is your responsibility, as club staff, to keep these girls protected.

You may not be spiked yourself, but you have a duty of care as venue staff to be involved in the battle against spiking and preventing situations such as the above. It’s not something that women can do on their own. Will you join the fight?

Have you ever had an experience of spiking that club staff didn’t react well to? What do you think could be done to lessen instances of spiking? Leave a comment below.


Katie says:

More definitely needs to be done by the bar and nightclub industry to deal with this. From personal experience within a University bar, there were issues being raised by bar staff to the management about how we would help to protect those within our nightclub and bar which were at the time met with a very limited response. I’ve since left that job but have seen that they appear to have more in place behind the scenes to help protect those that go there but don’t know the full extent as I’m no longer staff

s1801959 says:

Hi Katie, thank you so much for sharing your response with us. I’m glad to hear that they seem to be doing more to protect people. It seems tol often that issues such as these are brushed off despite their importance, so to hear an example of where steps are being taken shows that venues are moving in the right direction.

Auguste says:

Really good blog addressing very important issue. As it can be seen, there are so many girls/women being spiked by drinks or injections across UK nightclubs. We need some solutions that go beyond individual behaviour and address male violence and intimidation of women as a systemic issue, especially in the nightclubs. Nice to see some initiatives and actual respond to the problem.

s1801959 says:

Hi Auguste, thank you so much for reading and responding to our blog! I think intimidation of women is an excellent way of wording it – even outside of the context of spiking, it is evident that so many men think this sort of behaviour is okay. I agree that it is wonderful to see that steps are being taken, let’s just hope this continues!

James says:

What an extremely powerful blog highlighting such an important issue, there should be massive priority put on making girls feel safe again on a night out. Even as a lad, I would more than happily queue for longer if it meant that on the door searches could be carried out to make sure nothing was being brought in! What do you think about potentially having specific bars in a club where only girls could order drinks? Just an idea, but again really good job on your blog!

s1801959 says:

Hi James, thank you so much for taking the time to read our blog! It’s great to hear your perspective because it really shows that it’s not just girls trying to fight this issue! I think the idea of having specific bars for girls only is a great idea, after all most venues do have multiple bars available. That’s a brilliant example of one simple solution that really could make the world of difference to women’s safety.

Fiona Williams says:

This is something that we must keep talking about until there is positive change. Keep the conversation going!

s1801959 says:

Hi Fiona, thank you so much for reading our blog! We agree – it’s so important for everyone to talk about this issue and realise it’s extent. We’re starting to hear of some great changes happening already, but we’ve got a long way to go before we see significant differences across all venues.

Steve says:

Just can’t believe men (if you can call them that) can think this is in any way acceptable behaviour. If they have no sense of right and wrong, they don’t belong in society and should be locked up for a very, very long time. Freedom is a privilege. These awful individuals do not deserve it.

s1801959 says:

Hi Steve. Thanks for taking the time to engage with our blog. I think that a particular issue is that we very scarcely hear in the media of any legal comeuppance from spiking, which further encourages the perpetrators to carry on with this crime. Even now, the needle spiking situation is developing to be more of an intimidation tactic, with reports of men using pins to prick women to give them the fear that they’ve been spiked with a needle, in order to put themselves in what they feel is a position of power. It’s an extremely scary scenario.

Daniella Silvera says:

Excellent piece. Very informative. Young women really need to be vigilant when they go out

s1801959 says:

Thank Daniella, we agree that the threat to young women going out is always at the back of their minds.

Zachary Cozier-Silvera says:

highly efficient and necessary to warn young individuals about the dangers of spiking and how this form of substance abuse can both physically and phycological damage people through this cruel act.

s1801959 says:

Thanks Zack for reading, we agree that the threat of spiking and spiking by injection is a real danger to young people everywhere.

Laura Byng says:

Things really need to be done about this. Well done on the blog. 🙂 Very informative.

I am too fearful nowadays to go out because of the rise of needle spiking. It shouldn’t be like this- women should be able to go out without having to worry!

s1801959 says:

Hi Laura, thank you so much for your comment! You’re right – it shouldn’t be like this at all, and venues need to have more of a standard to keep up for keeping us women safe when we’re trying to have a good time! I, like you, am too afraid to go on nights out because of the chances of needle spiking. To make things even worse, there are now reports of people using pins to simulate needle spiking to make people worry that they’ve been spiked, which of course can still lead to medical concerns with regards to HIV and other infections. It’s certainly a scary time to be a woman.

Shantelle says:

Im a post graduate in event management but i worked and continue to in the security industry. I can say spiking is looked at differently in each venue. Some venues are more strict with searching whilst others are more relaxed. I know the venues where we work everyone is searched; bags, pockets and pat downs on males and females. I think spiking is something all venues need to consider and look at. The venues we work with have medics and every person who is unwell or has said they are spiked are taken to the medics and seen to. Every venue is different and every venue will need to consider and deal with spiking how they see fit. However we have found searching all and having medics on site does make women feel safer at the venue

s1801959 says:

Hi Shantelle. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and reply to the blog. I agree, from my experience some venues are a lot more strict whilst others seem to not have any precautions at all. It’s great to hear that the venues you work with have search and medic precautions in place. I’m sure if the spiking epidemic continues to worsen, these will be the sort of venues that people gravitate to for safety and this will surely help to cause a push in precautions in the less favourable venues too. Let’s hope other venues start to take the steps that yours do to keep women feeling safe and enjoying their nights out!

Will says:

This is a Very resonating issue currently. Highlighting this is extremely important and this blog has furthered my understanding of a severe issue. Greater preventative measures need to be put in place.

s1801959 says:

Hi there Will, thanks for taking the time to read through our blog. I’m glad to hear that we’ve given you some more information on the issue. As we obviously agree, more measures need to be put in place. Simple things such as the recommendations that we have suggested could help to make a massive difference in the nightlife industry, it’s just a shame that so many venues don’t see this.

Georgie says:

I think this a great blog really highlights the issues we are currently facing. What I do think is a good campaign is Ask Angela, however I have recently seen a bar/ club advertising that they do this on their front bar and on social media, do you think think they should be doing this as spikers can immediately know that they are asking for help.

s1801959 says:

Hi Georgie, thanks for your comment. You raise a great point and it is, in fact, something that the group discussed when we first decided on this subject for the blog. I certainly think that advertising the Ask for Angela scheme should be a discrete act. As you say, spikers will instantly know that someone is asking for help, and in some cases this may also lead to them turning violent. It’s a scary concept. Would you say that advertising Ask for Angela should be isolated to areas that only women can see, for example on the doors of ladies toilets?

Matt says:

This is definitely a problem that needs sorting in. Girls Night In delivered a really strong message to the nightclubs. Hopefully now they will understand the seriousness of this.

s1801959 says:

Hi Matt. Thank you very much for your comment. Many nightclubs and similar venues have published statements since the Girls Night In movement, outlining their plans to have stricter measures to ensure women’s safety. I certainly think that venues who continue to not put any safety measures in place will become less favourable to women. With this, there is the risk of losing half of their customers due to their lack of precautions, so we can hope that they follow some of the recommendations outlined within the movement.

Kelvin Farmer says:

Very interesting to read how true on some parts
As a former doorman , its common sense to know that if a man or female is looking like there spiked or drunk then you walk them to safety and call for those street partols who come and help you out to take them to safety or hospital
More searching on the main doors body searching will help and doing standard 10/15 minutes walking through the premises going to there toilets checking them will help better safety

s1801959 says:

Hi Kelvin. We really appreciate your standpoint as a former doorman, so thank you so much for commenting. It’s good to know that you would help take a person in distress to someone for professional help – thank you for taking that responsibility in your role, it really does help to make a difference to a night out to know that there is that element of protection from staff. I definitely agree with your proposals, and have heard from people that a lot of drug incidences originate in toilets, so more regular checks could definitely make an improvement to safety and make venues safer.

Sarah Herve says:

I was spiked in a nightclub 11 years ago, and back then it was brushed under the carpet by the nightclub, and deemed that that type of thing doesn’t happen in our club
I think going forward everyone should be searched going into a club it shouldn’t be left to just women’s bags
Beer mats with testing strips etc should be made more available

s1801959 says:

Hi Sarah, thank you for sharing your experience with us. As much as it was 11 years ago, I’m sure that it’s still a distressing thing to think about. It seems too often that people are in your situation and their fears are brushed under the carpet, and this is exactly the reason why so many people got involved in the Girls Night In boycott! We definitely agree that it shouldn’t just be women’s bags being searched, and we know that people who really want to will sneak contraband into venues in any way that they can. We really hope that the movement and it’s vast publicity around the world will make a huge difference to the nightlife scene.

CJ says:

As ex bar staff, I think that more door searches and security should be in every bar. Why do only woman get searched, what about blokes, why do they get to waltz in unchallenged? Also security and bar staff should be trained in how to deal with someone who may have been spiked to ensure they get home safely.
I’ve seen that some clubs offer anti spiking covers, but you have to ask and pay for them. Given how often it happens, I think that all clubs should do covers as standard for free.
Personal opinion, if anyone gets caught spiking, it should be an automatic jail sentence.

s1801959 says:

Hi CJ. It’s really great to hear your perspective as former bar staff, so thank you so much for taking the time to share. I certainly agree that there should be proper training on this for bar and security staff. Is this something that you received in your position? I’ve heard about people having to pay for anti spiking devices – I believe that this happened in a pub in Dundee, and it was so strongly contended that it received coverage in mass media. These really should be given for free. We definitely feel that there should be some form of sentence for people committing this crime in order to put a punishment to the crime to try and prevent people doing this.

Andrea says:

Excellent blog, venues have a duty of care to all their customers and should be doing more to ensure the safety of women. Thank you for highlighting this important issue

s1801959 says:

Hi Andrea. We’re glad to have highlighted such an important issue, thank you for reading! Duty of care seems to be a prominent issue in many other industries, often with robust risk assessments taking place. Sadly, this appears to not be the case with the nightlife industry and it is at the detriment of women. All venues really need to develop their duty of care to their guests in order to make it safer.

Ian says:

Very interesting and quite worrying article, i have two daughters at university and i am often quite shocked by some of the things they have experienced or witnessed on nights out. There seem to be some societal issues with the behaviour/attitude of SOME boys which i think needs addressing from an early age, with lessons in respect and equality. As for the nightclubs, sadly i think it would be difficult to stop anyone who was determined to bring drugs (of any kind) into a club. Though perhaps the door staff could have training to help identify where there may be suspicious circumstances when Women are leaving clubs with anyone. What they should not do is eject lone females who are incapacitated in any way on to the street to fend for themselves, as once happened to one if my daughters.

s1801959 says:

Hi Ian, thank you very much for your comment. I can imagine that hearing about these sorts of issues with daughters at uni must be very concerning. I think that you’re completely right about addressing these issues at a young age – if boys are taught to respect that they’re equal to women and not higher up than them in society then maybe they will respect the boundary of their safety on a night out. It is a completely scary concept knowing that there is the risk of being asked to leave a nightclub alone, particularly because you never know who could be waiting around the corner to prey on someone vulnerable. Thankfully, in areas local to Gloucestershire, there are support teams in the area to try and lend a hand to anyone walking around alone in the early hours of the morning.

S says:

Great blog post!

s1801959 says:

Hi there. Thank you for reading our blog and for your comment – we are glad to have shared some key information on the topic, and hope that it can play a part in the change that has to be made within the industry.

Julie Farr says:

As an events planner, this is a subject area that I believe must be taken extremely seriously. If you are involved in events, you have the ability to potentially have input into making changes. This blog highlights key considerations and also some lesser known issues such as spiking by injection which is a shocker! What also surprised me is that if a female is conscious she is given water and then escorted off the premises – really?? Talk about irresponsible. Great contemporary issue to cover! The only constructive criticism I would offer on the blog itself is I felt it was a bit lengthy and lacked focus – but that’s me being super picky

s1801959 says:

Hi Julie. Thank you for reading our blog and for your comments and feedback. We agree that, working in events, managers should be able to put their own policies in place to protect their guests, even if the venue itself doesn’t see the need. It really is true that girls will be escorted off the premises and it’s truly terrifying – we’ve had it ourselves where we’ve been asked to leave on a night out and have found ourselves walking around in the dark by ourselves or trying to get home alone – we all know the risks behind that! It’s a truly terrifying thing and we hope that this blog has helped to flag our concerns to people who may not have understood them previously!

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