Earlier this week, Lucy Ward posted a message on Twitter which her 18-year-old daughter Claire* had sent her about the reality of going clubbing as a young women right now. In it, Claire wrote: ‘I know by name about half a dozen girls who’ve been spiked, and more who suspect having been. All others have horror stories, some so gruesome they only share them months or years later.’
Claire shared the message with her mum after Lucy flagged reports to her of women being injected with drugs in nightclubs. The post quickly went viral, garnering nearly 8,000 retweets. This is in a week where women are sharing accounts of blacking out and later discovering what appear to be puncture wounds.
Police in Nottinghamshire are investigating 12 reports of women being injected with needles on nights out. Women in Liverpool, Edinburgh and Dundee have also reported being pierced with a needle in their leg, hands and backs. While drugging by injection still needs investigating, it’s no wonder talk of spiking has hit such a nerve.
This year has been horrific when it comes to us waking up to the realities of women’s safety – or lack of it. In the wake of the deaths of Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa, Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman - and many others - we’re on high alert; we know what can happen when a woman steps outside.
Boycotts of nightclubs are planned for next week
Many women have spent the year sharing their frustrations and fears about walking alone or knowing who to trust after it emerged serving police officer Wayne Couzens kidnapped, raped and murdered Sarah. Staying in doesn’t always help matters either, considering home is also a dangerous place for women to be thanks to domestic violence.
Claire, a first-year university student, had no idea the post would go viral after her mum shared it. But it's no surprise, considering she says everyone is hyper-aware of spiking at the moment.
‘The scale of the problem is mad,’ she tells Grazia. ‘When my mum mentioned the news about the spikings I was like, not only do all my friends know, we’re not surprised. Everyone’s outraged but nobody is especially surprised because the sinister nature of this stuff is not new to anyone.'
'Something like getting spiked is embarrassing: you’re out of control, lolling your head, being sick or unable to walk. My friend was spiked and fell over.'
‘There are so many things I do as safety measures. You take a big hoodie with you so you can look less appealing on a walk home. I don’t buy drinks in clubs, as a rule. It’s too risky. At the moment the weird underlying fear outways the appeal for me.’
She describes how prevalent it is to be harassed, groped and catcalled, not just in nightclubs, but walking around in the day.
‘Entering a club guarentees a hand up the skirt. Even bouncers do it. The other night I was going into a club and a bouncer stamped my hand then touched my bum. You brush it aside because it’s so normal. Also, something like getting spiked is embarrassing: you’re out of control, lolling your head, being sick or unable to walk. My friend was spiked and fell over. A lot don’t talk about it afterwards because they’re embarrassed or know they won’t be believed.’
When it comes to spiking by injections, the Home Secretary has requested an urgent update on the situation. Meanwhile, the reports have prompted a boycott of nightclubs planned for next week as part of a campaign called Girls Night In, calling for more to be done to tackle the ‘epidemic’ in spiking.
‘It actually really angers me. Great – so our protest is staying in and giving up?' says Claire. [But] if lots of people are absent that’s something that’s really visible – if you have an empty club. It’s some people saying “we care” and others saying “we’re scared”.'
Let’s hope it encourages clubs to tighten safety measures and prioritise protecting women - because spiking can't continue to be yet another thing women have to worry about.
*Name has been changed.