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    Oxford to join nationwide boycott of nightclubs in protest over spiking

    Estelle Atkinson reports on plans for a ‘Girls Night In’ protest over spiking in nightclubs.

    CW: Sexual assault, spiking

    Oxford is joining a number of universities across the UK in having a ‘Girls Night In’,  in which students of all genders are encouraged to boycott nightclubs. The Oxford protest is due to take place on Wednesday the 27th of October, with other universities staging protests from the 25th of October to the 3rd of November.

    The Oxford SU Women’s Campaign has posted in support of ‘Girls Night In’, saying “do NOT attend clubs on the 27th – spiking is NEVER acceptable and we have to resist how normalised it has become.” Oxford Feminist Society has also shared information about the protest, echoing the message of the SU Women’s Campaign.

    It Happens Here Oxford put out an Open Letter on Spiking addressed to Oxford’s bars and clubs. The letter reads: “[spiking] presents a deep and pervasive threat to people across Oxford, particularly women who are overwhelmingly victims of spiking.”

    It goes on to ask what local establishments are doing to help prevent spiking and support victims, specifically:

    “What specific measures are you taking as an institution to tackle spiking?”

    “Do your staff receive training or information on spiking, helping prevent spiking, or helping those who have been spiked?”

    “What is your current policy on supporting, believing, and taking seriously someone who you think may have been spiked?”

    “What is your current policy on identifying and responding to those suspected of spiking others?”

    The letter addresses the upcoming protest in hope that “this goes some way to demonstrating how important and prevalent this issue is to people in Oxford.” It concludes: “at the very least, we would like a firm commitment from your organization that you are committed to tackling spiking whenever and wherever it occurs. We look forward to hearing back from you as soon as possible.”

    The protest follows reports made to the Oxford Mail by an anonymous 18-year old woman who was the victim of a suspected spiking at a bar on George Street. The woman told the Oxford Mail: “I was really enjoying going out. Other friends of mine are turning 18 this week and next week, I was going to go out with them and take them out for the first time. I do not want to do that anymore because of what happened. I do not want it to happen to me or happen to them.”

    Detective Chief Inspector James Senior told the Oxford Mail: “Reports of drink spiking in Oxford remain low. Officers continue to work alongside management and staff at venues across the city to educate them on the dangers of drink spiking and how to spot the signs of someone who may be vulnerable to enhance customer safety.” The open letter from It Happens Here Oxford cites “an increase in the number and awareness of spiking instances at nightclubs and bars in Oxford and around the country – including spiking by injection.”

    When approached for comment, ATIK nightclub said “We are aware that at the moment there is a lot of concern regarding drink spiking – both locally and nationally. This is something we, at ATIK Oxford, take very seriously and we continue to work closely with Oxfordshire Police who have confirmed that to date there have been no confirmed cases in our venue.”

    ATIK is hosting a Park End night, as promoted by Oxford Events, on the night of the boycott. Reggae-pop artist Iyaz is scheduled to do a live show. ATIK said “We are still going ahead with our regular Park End promoter Wednesday night this evening and next week, which features lyaz and would like to reassure those planning to attend that their safety and welfare is our priority, for example, protective drink covers will be freely available to use.”

    When asked about specific policies in place to prevent spiking, ATIK responded with the following measures:

    Training: Our teams are fully trained on the issue of drink spiking. They are aware of what to look out for and what to do if someone thinks they have been spiked,

    Policies: We operate our We Care policy and support the Ask Angela scheme. Our We Care policy can be found here but it is about making sure we look after our customers and that everyone who comes to us ends up getting home safely. We will make sure this is more visible in our venues so everyone is aware they can just ask us if they need help.

    Searches: We carry out thorough searches on entry  – which we will be increasing over the coming weeks.

    CCTV/Bodycams: We have extensive CCTV coverage throughout the venue and our security staff also wear bodycams. We will always review these if an allegation is made and we will pass on to the police to help with any investigation.

    Anti-spiking devices: We will start providing anti-spiking bottle stoppers and protective drink covers as soon as we can get more stock in and each bar will have drink testing kits available.

    First Aider: We have a fully qualified first aider on site and a quiet room where we can look after you if you aren’t feeling well or just need a breather. We can call the emergency services for you if we need to.

    Getting home: We will never ask anyone to leave on their own and our staff are able to arrange for a taxi or a friend/family member to collect you.”

    Further, ATIK said “We would encourage anyone who sees suspicious behaviour, or suspects they have been a victim of spiking to tell us straight away – either by alerting security, telling a manager or a member of staff. We would also encourage them to contact the police, so that any allegation can be properly investigated and we will support them to do this. Anyone who is suspected of spiking will be detained and handed over to the police.”

    “We feel passionately that everyone should feel safe on a night out, and they should feel safe in our club. We work hard to create a welcoming, inclusive and safe environment so that all our customers can enjoy a fun night out and we will do everything we can to make sure that this stays the case.”

    A spokesperson from the University of Oxford said: “The University is not currently aware of any recent incidents of this type but are concerned about the reports from across the country.

    “If any students have been affected, we would encourage them to report them as soon as possible to the their college, department, or to the Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service which provides free, confidential advice for all students. Any incidents will be managed sensitively in accordance with University and college processes.

    “Sexual harassment and violence of any form is never acceptable, and we are committed to doing everything we can, alongside the Police and other groups, to making Oxford a safe place for all our students and staff. We would encourage all students to engage with our latest sexual harassment and violence campaign, produced in collaboration with the Student Union, for sources of support – https://www.ox.ac.uk/againstsexualviolence.”

    The Oxford University Student Union Women’s Campaign, It Happens Here Oxford, the Oxford Feminist Society, Oxford Events, Bridge Oxford, Plush Oxford, The Bullingdon, Thirst Bar, The O2, and The Varsity Club were all approached for comment.

    Image: Krys Amon via unsplash.com

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