Women boycott clubs amid ‘spiking epidemic’ as ‘Girls’ Night In’ campaign gathers pace


Students are planning to boycott nightclubs next week amid demands to take spiking seriously as the ‘Girls’ Night In’ campaign gathers pace.

The nationwide protests are set to take place throughout the week, with more than 30 universities boycotting clubs in a bid to force venues to increase safety measures.

Following reports of spiking by needles in Nottingham, a petition calling for it to be a ‘legal requirement’ for nightclubs to ‘thoroughly’ search customers upon arrival has been signed by more than 130,000 people.

It comes as 25-year-old Kirsty Howells shares a picture from her hospital bed after she was spiked – when victims are drugged without their knowledge either physically with needles or via their drinks – in Swansea one evening.

Ilana El-baz, 20, has also recalled how she was left semi-paralysed on a staircase after returning home from a Bristol nightclub three weeks ago.

The Girls’ Night In campaign will spread across 43 university towns and cities over the next fortnight. 

It comes in response to a reported rise in drinks being ‘spiked’ and a new alarming trend of girls being injected unknowingly with drugs. 

Victims have become violently ill while out and only realised they had been injected when they found ‘pin prick’ marks on their bodies.

Those taking part in the boycott will stay at home on a designated night to raise awareness of the attacks and encourage venues to improve security.

Meanwhile, new figures have emerged showing 15 per cent of females, seven per cent of males and 17 per cent of those identifying as other have had their drink spiked, according to a snap poll by The Alcohol Education Trust.

The survey, which was open for a week from October 12 and had 747 responses, asked: ‘Do you think you have ever had one of your drinks spiked?’, with 94 replying yes and a further 26 saying ‘maybe’. 

Ilana El-baz (pictured above), 20, has recalled how she was left semi-paralysed on a staircase after returning home from a Bristol nightclub three weeks ago. She shared a recording filmed by her boyfriend showing her struggling to get up the stairs with her eyes rolling as her head falls into the railings

Kirsty Howells, 25, shared a picture from her hospital bed after she was spiked – when victims are drugged without their knowledge either physically with needles or via their drinks – in Swansea one evening

Helena Conibear, CEO of The Alcohol Education Trust, told MailOnline: ‘Up until now, we have had extensive verbal evidence of the level of drink spiking and where it is taking place as we work with young people day to day across the UK. 

‘This snap poll of 750 young people confirms all the trends we have been listening to: the shocking fact that one in eight young women have experienced spiking, that it is happening as often at private parties as in the night time economy and that most people do not report spiking at the moment as they worry they will not be believed, are unsure exactly what happened or feel it was too late by the time they realised.’

She added: ‘As 50 per cent of cases where drink spiking was reported weren’t followed up, the lack of reporting is perhaps not surprising. If we are going to tackle drink spiking we ask everyone to please report it to the venue, police or go to A and E. 

‘Try and keep the drink as evidence and ask for a blood or urine test. To anyone thinking it is a joke to spike someone’s drink, can we remind them that it is a serious criminal offence with up to a ten years prison sentence, not to mention the sometimes devastating effect it can have on victims’ lives.’

Emily Bennett, 19, who is one of the boycott leaders at Manchester University, said: ‘Obviously, we’re concerned by the rise of spiking.’

The Liberation and Access Officer at the University of Manchester’s Students’ Union added: ‘People need to feel safe going out and people doing the spikings need to know they can’t, that venues won’t accept it.

‘The number of emails we’ve had from students saying ‘we don’t feel safe’ and don’t feel safe to go out.’

The boycott, which has been gaining momentum on Instagram under the account girlsnightinmanc, is spearheaded by the University of Manchester’s Students’ Union. 

Student Zara Owen, 19, told the BBC that she believes she was spiked through an injection on a night out in Nottingham.

Ms Owen blacked out shortly after arriving at a nightclub and later found a pin prick in her leg.Speaking to Mike Sweeney on BBC Radio Manchester this week, Andy Burnham discussed the issue of drinks being spiked.

On the way home with her partner, Kirsty (left) blacked out and had a seizure before being rushed to A+E for an IV and oxygen. Student Zara Owen (right), 19, told the BBC that she believes she was spiked through an injection on a night out in Nottingham

Where are the ‘Girls Night In’ nightclub boycotts taking place? 

October 25

Exeter

October 26

Durham

October 27

Southampton

Belfast

Bournemouth

Nottingham

Brighton

Bristol

October 28

Swansea

Edinburgh

Stirling

Aberdeen

Newcastle

November 3

Leeds 

He said: ‘It’s just completely off the scale. This thing is about again women and girl’s safety, you know, I’ve said before Mike, my daughters tell me some of the things that happen when they’re on nights out and it’s just it’s ridiculous.

‘We thankfully, I’ve checked with GMP, haven’t had many reports of this. Although there were some in the Fallowfield area at the time when the students were coming back to university.

‘There was about five reports of drinks being spiked and we have looked into that.’

In Swansea, Ms Howells was out enjoying a drink earlier this month when she was spiked with an unknown substance that left her unconscious. 

She said she was ‘very shaken’ and now ‘anxious’ to go out drinking again any time soon.

She said: ‘It’s one of those things where you think it’s never going to happen to you or someone you know, but it can happen to anyone.’

Uplands is usually seen as a ‘quieter’ alternative to Wind Street, but as Kirsty’s ordeal shows, such incidents can happen anywhere.

Recalling the night, she said: ‘I didn’t drink much that night, maybe four drinks in total and I felt completely fine. I can remember everything up until around 12:30am, and everything after that is completely blank.’ 

She was found ‘laying face down’ on a table outside the bar, completely unresponsive.

‘Bouncers rang my partner who came to pick me up. I’m really grateful for that, because I have no idea what might have happened had they not helped me.’

On the way home with her partner, Kirsty blacked out and had a seizure before being rushed to A+E for an IV and oxygen.

She said: ‘I remember seeing my partner and hugging him. I got into the car and then I completely blacked out again. 

‘My partner said that we were halfway home and I started having a seizure, my body was all tense, my eyes were rolled back and my tongue was in the back of my throat making it difficult for me to breathe so he took me to the hospital.

‘The staff there were amazing and they put me on an IV drip and oxygen to help me breathe, and they made sure I was well enough before leaving, which I’m really grateful for.’

While she was at the hospital, Kirsty said the doctor told her that she was the fourth person they’d seen hospitalised in the past two weeks.

Kirsty said police and hospital staff were quick to help and offer advice, and they made her aware of a help point that was located in The Strand, just behind Wind Street, that gives out drink testing strips, sober-up lollies and general first aid. 

Mair Howells was 22 when she went on a night out in Peckham, South London which quickly turned into a nightmare

Sarah Buckle, 19, who is studying in Nottingham, said she discovered she had likely been spiked via a needle to the back of her hand while out in a nightclub

She later shared a post on Facebook advising other people to use the service when needed, which has been shared thousands of times since. 

The help point is run jointly by South Wales Police and St Johns Ambulance service and is designed to provide emergency care to those who need it, allowing them to get home safely and reducing pressure on A&E.

Nightclubs such as Sin City have also taken action over the issue by ordering 12,500 ‘StopTopps’ anti-spiking lids, as well as implementing a policy that allows those who think their drink might have been spiked to get a replacement for free in the absence of comprehensive drinks testing.

Ms El-baz (pictured), who was spiked in a Bristol nightclub

Other clubs such as the Bunkhouse music venue have taken similar measures, with more expected to follow suit.

But widespread and national calls have been made for the root cause of the issue to be tackled, rather than women being forced to take steps to protect themselves. With spiking cases on the rise, nightclubs in Wales are also being boycotted to protest drink spiking and call for increased safety measures across venues.

The planned protests follow Ms El-baz, from Richmond, Surrey, sharing a recording filmed by her boyfriend showing her struggling to get up the stairs with her eyes rolling as her head falls into the railings. 

The University of Bristol undergraduate gave the BBC permission to broadcast the clip to highlight the dangers of spiking.

The third-year student said she believes she was spiked by a fellow clubber who approached her and asked her to dance.

She added: ‘The moment I told him I was with my boyfriend he left me completely.  An hour later I went back home and it hit and I was completely paralysed.’

Ms El-baz, who is studying management with innovation, said she had been ‘lucky I was with my friends’.

Calling on clubs to do more to prevent spiking, she said clubs should put lids on drinks – as with takeaway coffee cups – to reduce the risk of them being tampered with. ‘The fact they don’t is shocking,’ she added.

Ms El-baz spoke out as female students across the country said they would boycott clubs from today in protest at the number of girls being stabbed with drugged needles on nights out. 

Last night, hospitality chiefs responded by promising clubs would ‘redouble efforts’ to keep women safe.

Ms El-baz said she believes she was spiked by a fellow clubber who approached her and asked her to dance

Yesterday, Nottinghamshire Police said it was investigating 15 reports of alleged injection spikings made this month.

And West Midlands Police said it had received one report where the circumstances ‘appear to match the description of someone being spiked by injection’.

Several other women claim they have been spiked in Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Liverpool.

The drugs, which are believed to be sedatives, make victims more vulnerable to assault and police admitted earlier this week that there was probably a ‘sexual motive’ to the attacks.

A number of injection victims have already come forward, including Leah Wolstenholme, 18.

Student Leah Wolstenholme, 18, said she suddenly fell ill on a night out before waking up to find a pin-prick mark in her arm

Yesterday her mother, Karen, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that the Nottingham Trent student became ‘disorientated’ and ‘sick’ while out in the city and later discovered a red pin-prick mark on her wrist.

Describing it as ‘that dreaded call for a parent’, she added: ‘[She] wasn’t Leah. She wasn’t talking any sense and was just scared really.

‘It was a surprise to her. She had heard of this happening before but she didn’t think that it would happen to her. It was just really scary. It was a very scary moment.’

Molly Robinson, 19, also claimed that she was spiked at a flat party only a day after moving to university. She told BBC Breakfast: ‘I have no memory of the night whatsoever which is quite a terrifying and daunting experience in itself. I remember making dinner very early on in the evening and then it cuts to the morning after and that’s it.’

After becoming separated from her friends, she said they found her ‘completely unintelligible and passed out’ about an hour later.

‘My friends said the state I was in when they last saw me and the state I was in when they found me was completely incomparable and completely inconsistent to the very little alcohol I’d consumed earlier on in the evening,’ she said.

The next morning, Miss Robinson said she felt ‘very fragile’ and ‘physically unwell’, adding: ‘I was shaking a considerable amount and I felt lots of different mental emotions.

‘I was very embarrassed – that was my first initial reaction. It was people I just met and the second day of meeting them they see me in that state. Not knowing what was happening in those hours I was missing is a very scary idea.’

But Miss Robinson said she did not report what happened as she was still ‘working through that in my mind’.

The boycotts over the next week will take place in cities including Oxford, Cambridge and York as well as in Manchester, Exeter and Bristol. Edinburgh, Durham and Nottingham have also said they will be joining the campaign.

Molly Robinson, 19, also claimed that she was spiked at a flat party only a day after moving to university. She told BBC Breakfast: ‘I have no memory of the night whatsoever which is quite a terrifying and daunting experience in itself. I remember making dinner very early on in the evening and then it cuts to the morning after and that’s it’

The Not On My Campus UK group, which is helping to coordinate the boycotts, said: ‘We must recognise spiking is not an incident that occurs just during freshers’ weeks and then disappears until next year.

‘It impacts students throughout the year, and we need to be working collaboratively, especially in partnership, to help promote a safer nightlife for all.’

Second year Bristol student Olivia Raymond told the university’s newspaper she would take part, adding: ‘I feel like there is a constant threat to my friends and I, and that we can never fully relax and enjoy nights out.’

Another Bristol student Lottie Adams said: ‘Stories of being spiked have wrongly become part of the normalised discourse surrounding club culture. Hopefully this campaign will change that.’

Last night, Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, which represents bars and clubs, condemned the spikings as ‘despicable and cowardly behaviour’.

She added: ‘[It] is totally unacceptable and those who perpetrate it have no place in our venues. We will work with authorities to find relevant solutions and expect the police to take appropriate action.

‘Hospitality venues already have stringent measures in place to keep guests and staff safe but will redouble their efforts.’

Student union venues also announced responses, with random bag searches, safety patrols and testing of unattended drinks to be introduced at St Andrews.

Glasgow University’s student bodies have also promised tighter security and increased surveillance at their venues.

Police officers in plain clothes are also likely to be deployed in nightclubs across the country, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s Sarah Crew told MPs earlier this week.



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