On Oct. 20, 2021 in Nottingham, England, women were found in a popular area for nightlife. There have been alarming reports that women were injected with syringes in crowded bars and nightclubs. This is a form of "spiking" someone's drinks. (Mary Turner/The New York Times).
NOTTINGHAM, England Lizzie Wilson was standing with three of her friends in a packed nightclub Monday night when she felt something in her back. It felt like she'd been pinched by a needle. She was unable to stand for ten minutes.
Wilson, 18, claimed that she heard of young women getting injected with syringes in crowded clubs. She immediately believed she was another victim. She was disoriented and unable to feel her legs for hours after her friends rushed her into the hospital.
Wilson, a Nottingham student, stated that no one should have to go through this. Wilson was a student in her first year at college in Nottingham, central England. The worst thing about it is that I couldn't control everything.
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Britain has been witness to a disturbing rise in violence against women for more than a decade. High-profile murders and abductions have sparked a national discussion, prompted protests, increased scrutiny of police and prompted deeper investigation into the misogynistic culture that is often the root cause of this violence.
There are alarming reports of women injecting themselves with syringes in nightclubs and pubs. This is a form of spiking in which drugs are dropped into a person's drink. It is a crime that often targets females. There are 12 instances of needle spiking in Nottinghamshire, and there are many police forces investigating. Similar reports are being investigated by police in Scotland.
Police stated in a statement that some people who reported being spiked experienced effects similar to Wilson's account.
While the majority of victims are female students, some young men claim they have also been victimized. Police in Nottinghamshire say that no other crimes, such as sexual assault, were linked to the reports of being injectable. There have also been no arrests for injecting someone. Authorities say they are increasing patrols and working closely with local hospitals and universities to investigate.
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This school year was meant to be a new beginning after pandemic restrictions shut down campuses and nightlife for months. Many students view raucous nights out as a rite-of-passage.
These stories and the fear surrounding them spread quickly, and young women called for a boycott and started a petition asking for clubs to require people to be searched before they allow them in. Many women find it horrifying that someone could use a syringe to harm them at nightclubs.
Sue Fish, former chief of Nottinghamshire Police and a long-standing advocate for women's rights, stated that if I thought I couldn't be shocked anymore, or if the behavior could get lower, this is a new depth.
Drinks laced with drugs are a problem that has been a concern for years. A BBC 2019 investigation found that there have been more than 2,600 instances of drink spikes in England and Wales since 2015.
Fiona Measham is a professor and chair of criminalology at the University of Liverpool. She also directs the Loop, which monitors drug use and nightlife.
She said it was possible, but not impossible, to needle-spike. However, each allegation must be investigated and treated seriously. She said that the anxiety is very real and that the anger towards nightclubs is real.
Recent social media posts about criminal gangs and dirty needles have raised fears. (Wilsons doctor suggested that she might have been given Ketamine, an opioid, and that she had begun a course in hepatitis shots as well as blood tests to make sure she doesn't get any other diseases.
Yvette Cooper (chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee) called on police to review reports of attempted druggings to compile a nationwide assessment in order to better understand the situation.
She said that there is not a proactive assessment of the problem's scale. However, it is still the victim's responsibility to protect themselves.
Many young people don't want to wait for their assessments. Under the Girls Night In initiative, local groups have formed across the country to call for a boycott next week of clubs in an effort to raise awareness and demand better protections.
Ally Valero (20), a student who started the Nottingham boycott, stated that the goal was not signaling that women should stay home. The goal is to communicate to club owners that they must do better in ensuring patron safety.
Valero stated that they want to go outside again. However, we prefer to go out in a more secure environment.
Primrose Sparkes (20), who was part of a similar boycott at Durham University said that the most important factor in her decision to go out or not was whether she could attend an early morning class.
She asked, "Do I feel safe?" There is a new element of fear.
A large number of college students dressed up in themed costumes set off for Nottingham on Wednesday. Many young women stated that they have always been cautious about having their drinks spiked, but the idea of needles made them more nervous.
Jocie Mears (18), a friend, stated that it has always been "Watch your drink and cover your drink." It is impossible to cover all of your body. It is not our fault, it's the people who are spiking.
Luis Danton (20), a student at Nottingham Trent University and president of the soccer society, called the situation crazy and stated that the team plans to boycott the boycott.
He said that many people are afraid, if I'm being truthful.
Students removed their jackets from the Pryzm club before going through a metal detector. Club officials claim that they have intensified their efforts to reassure customers.
Hundreds of students poured onto cobblestone streets 150 miles north, in Durham. Concerns heightened and women stated that they feel safer drinking at bars only accessible to students with campus cards.
Tillie Drapper (20), who created a Facebook group for people to report suspected spiking incidents, stated, "I don't know anyone that doesn't know someone that has been spiked."
After being told by the university to not get spiked in a deleted post on Twitter, students here were critical of the university's response. They called it victim blaming. The university stated that it takes the concerns seriously.
Some women stated that they think about wearing more durable clothing to protect themselves. Drapper stated that women shouldn't have to wear sturdier clothing to go out on a night out. She has avoided nightclubs in the majority of her school years, but she suggested that friends wear more sturdy clothing to protect themselves. It's not worth it.
The wait at Jimmy Allens nightclub in Durham was unusually long Wednesday. Students were frisked and their bags checked by bouncers. This is a new policy. Employees have also started wearing bodycams.
Darryl Watson, a manager, stated that it takes people longer to get in but is worth it.
Durham police stated in a statement they had not been notified of any reports regarding injections by spiking incidents.
No matter how widespread needle spiking may be, young women are aware of the risks they face.
Fish, the ex-police chief, stated that women have done these things in order to protect themselves, but it is men's behavior that needs to change.
She said that putting women under the responsibility to defend themselves against attackers does not solve the problem.
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