• Emma Louise Alvarez

‘Girls Night In’: A Call For All Genders To Boycott Clubs

[Trigger warning: references spiking, sexual assault & victim-blaming.

Scroll to the end of the article for resources.]

© Unsplash


There’s a new “epidemic” of spiking via injections. Now it is time for new conversations about responsibility.


There is an immense societal pressure on victims to be extremely careful on a night out. We know of the many dangers and horror stories of spiking and sexual assault and so we have learnt to take care of each other. To watch out for each other. We tell our friends to text us when they get home, to let us know if someone is making them feel uncomfortable and watch each other’s drinks when we go to the bathroom.


How can we protect ourselves from spiking via injection?


We know of the dangers of spiking so one of the common things we ask our friends is: “Can you watch my drink for me?”


But what happens when that is no longer enough?


There is a huge outrage about a now-deleted tweet by Durham University’s wellbeing department, where the controversial statement read: ‘Drink Spiking is dangerous and something that you can prevent from happening to you and your friends.’ As if victims can ‘prevent’ themselves from being spiked.


Students were particularly angry and upset about the victim blaming implicit in the hashtag #dontgetspiked, which perpetuates a dangerous victim-blaming culture. Instead, Twitter users are calling for the use of the hashtag #dontspike, shifting the responsibility and conversation away from the victims.


This tweet follows a recent increase in reports of drink spiking throughout the UK, where the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) have urged the Home Office to launch an inquiry into the rise of spiking cases.There have also been reports of spiking via needle injections in nightclubs in Nottingham, Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen and Glasgow.


An online campaign has since been launched to organize a ‘girls* night in,’ demonstrating that more needs to be done to protect individuals from spiking via injection. The idea is that, instead of going out to clubs, people stay in: actively avoiding going out at all. And while ‘boycotting clubs’ is not the final goal, the hope is to spread awareness about the severity of spiking and to get clubs, pubs and even members of parliament to recognize that more needs to be done to protect victims from spiking.


*As echoed by numerous different Instagram accounts advocating for a ‘girls night in,’ the name of the campaign was chosen to reference the phrase a ‘girls night out,’ and acknowledges that “the name fails to include people of all identities.” Anyone can be a victim of spiking, where the campaign is meant to be an "all inclusive community." The campaign is now working with groups like Not On My Campus to address these issues, rebranding the Instagram handles, and ensuring a more inclusive approach, focusing on intersectionality.


Urban Angels, a community on a mission to make society safer for women and non-binary people, expressed in an Instagram post that “it is the responsibility of bars and nightclubs to be thoroughly searching people before entry to ensure that they cannot enter with harmful objects.” This is consistent with different forms of feedback offered via the different Instagram polls; a common demand calls for the retraining of bouncers. Unfortunately, most of the symptoms of drink spiking are similar to being drunk, and include: slurred speech, visual problems, drowsiness, vomiting, confusion and passing out. Lucy Thompson, a student at the University of Leeds told the BBC that "a lot of the time, spiking gets misconstrued for being too drunk and we've heard from women that they've tried to get help from staff and bouncers and they've just been laughed at.” Others also argue that bouncers can prevent harmful substances being brought into clubs with a more rigorous search of individuals prior to entry.


As a result, there is currently a petition circulating, calling to make it “a legal requirement for nightclubs to thoroughly search guests on entry,” already gaining over 100,000 signatures. However, ‘Girls Night In’ Manchester (@girlsnightinmanc) are urging their followers not to sign the petition. In a statement released on Wednesday, the Instagram post reads: “We want to make it clear that we have not signed this petition and do not endorse increasing search powers for security as it would have a negative impact on multiple sections of our community, particularly black people. Intersectionality should be at the forefront of this movement and any demands made should be very carefully considered.”


‘Reclaim the UK’ (@reclaimtheuk) lists some of the other demands that this campaign hopes to achieve:

  • Greater repercussions for abusers

  • Training for nightclub staff (response, prevention and treatment)

  • CCTV at the bar

  • Better support for victims

  • Anti-spiking devices provided in abundance at clubs (drink covers, stoppers etc.)

  • Response from government (treatment and prevention) that match the severity of the issue


Already, there have been some positive responses from clubs: Unit 1, in Exeter, lists some of the changes they are making, from offering free phone-charging services to taxi escorts, where OffBeat Events, based in York, cancelled an event in solidarity with the campaign, re-sharing the petition and encouraging more feedback on how to improve their safety and security measures. Other organisations, specifically football clubs, are also offering their solidarity and support with the Girls Night In campaign.


The campaign continues to grow, and is garnering more and more attention in larger newspaper corporations. The more than 100,000 signatures on the petition also guarantees the debate to be brought to parliament. But is it enough?


What would it take for you to feel safer on a night out? Who should bear the responsibility / claim the authority to enact positive changes that actively combat spiking?


Attached in this article is a template for an open letter you can send to the clubs and pubs nearest to you, where you can even forward it to the relevant mayor or council leaders. Also included are some resources about what to do if you’ve been spiked, and organisations to reach out to if you want to talk to someone.


Let ‘Girls Night In’ be more than just a moment - let it be a movement. A movement towards safety for all: women, non-binary folks and men. Spiking victims are not exclusive to just one identity, where gender inclusive language is therefore important when discussing victims of and solutions to spiking.


Until more is done to guarantee the prevention of spiking or the safety and care of its victims, let’s continue with what we know how to do. To take care of each other. To watch out for each other.


See below for the aforementioned resources.


HERE you can find a template for a open letter to your clubs, pubs, or members of parliament:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1hsEVHquc9bnBE1S5DDmjoG93Ajn4UMnasPFYZGSrUL8/edit?usp=sharing


*This template was created with the help of and is based on the open letter from Girls Night In Edinburgh (@girlsnightinedinburgh) as well as the open letter from Girls Night In Manchester (@girlsnightinmanc).


Find out here about the nearest ‘Girls Night In’ to you:

https://linktr.ee/girls.night.in


If you think you have been spiked:

  • Call / stay with a friend or trusted person

  • Alert a manager, bouncer or general member of staff

  • Go to a safe place - have a trusted person with you

  • If you need urgent help call 999

  • Report it to the police as soon as you are able to


Want to talk?

  • Womensaid.org.uk

  • 24 hour National Domestic Abuse helpline 0808 2000 247

  • GALOP: LGBTQI+ anti-violence charity 0800 9995 428