October 20, 2021 - 1:00pm

Up and down the country, university students are reporting a terrifying new phenomenon: spiking by injection. Students from Glasgow, Dundee, Leeds, Durham and Nottingham have all reported similar experiences happening to them on a night out: feeling a sharp scratch, discovering a pin prick, blacking out and even being taken to hospital. So far one man in Nottingham has been arrested for possession of drugs “with intention to injure and aggrieve” and two other men have been arrested in Bristol after a video circulated on social media of a woman being spiked.

Spiking has been on the rise over recent years; according to a Freedom of Information request there has been a 108% increase in the number of police reports that include both the words ‘drink’, ‘spiking’ or ‘lacing’ since 2015. Although there were more than 2600 reported incidents in England and Wales between 2015 and 2019, it’s difficult to tell the full scale of the problem. Many victims cannot remember what happened, or do not report it for fear they will not be believed or will somehow be blamed.

It’s easy to see why. Over the past couple of weeks there have been five cases of spiking at University College, Durham, and five at Hild and Bede College. The university has responded by launching a campaign with the slogan “Don’t Get Spiked”, prefacing the ad with a (since deleted) tweet that said, “Drink Spiking is dangerous and something that you can prevent from happening to you and your friends.”

Understandably, many students have accused the university of victim-blaming, citing it is as yet another example of emphasising how women need to protect themselves from danger, rather than focusing on those who are dangerous. Women are already hyper-vigilant in many aspects of their behaviour; there are currently stories circulating on social media of female students even wearing denim jackets to stop themselves from being injected.

Students have responded with a nationwide Girls Night In Campaign, which plans to boycott nightclubs and bars in over 30 towns and cities on the 27th of October. The aims of this boycott varies; Girls Night In Bristol said that “ideally our end goal is to change the class of date rape drugs from class C so there are more consequences for offenders,” while others are hoping for more stringent entry searches. A recent petition to make thorough searches a legal requirement for nightclubs has already gained over 122,000 signatures.

It’s easy to be cynical about the efficacy of this campaign; young women not attending clubs on one Wednesday is hardly going to be a devastating blow to the industry. However, in some respects clubs seem to be listening to student pressure; Woo Cambridge is offering to cover students’ drinks with cling film if asked, and Pryzm in Nottingham said that they planned to make anti-spiking bottle stoppers, protective drink covers and drug-testing kits freely available.

However, I can’t help but feel that the campaign could be even more effective with a slightly different approach. Firstly, the name excludes men, who we need to collaborate with if we want to effect real change and stop it from just being a “woman’s problem.” Secondly, it once again puts the onus on women to remove themselves from dangerous situations and modify their behaviour; women shouldn’t have to stay at home to reduce their risk of violence. The boycott is a worthy attempt to raise attention to this issue, but hopefully it will be more than just a symbolic gesture.

Kristina Murkett is a freelance writer and English teacher.