It is always frustrating and disheartening to see that authorities have yet again placed the onus of women protecting themselves from men back on the women themselves rather than recognising that male violence and the normalisation of male privilege in public spaces is the real issue. So in that respect I fully agree with Gaby Hinsliff’s column (Young women are sick of being told to stick together and watch their drinks, 21 October).
However, while she seems to think this is a new thing, I have to disagree. She says: “Generation X didn’t go out at night worrying that someone might poison us. Nobody had to offer us lids for our drinks, as they do our daughters.” This suggests either that she moved in a very different space from anyone else that I knew, or that she just didn’t recognise what has been totally normal for decades.
I’m the tail end of Generation X, my sister is an early millennial. We and our friends all knew that: (1) you didn’t go out without other girlfriends, (2) you watched out for each other by moving in groups even if you were there with a male friend/boyfriend, and (3) you never, ever left your drink unattended or even accepted a new one from anyone other than the bartender.
We learned that you always watched your bartender pour or make your drink even if it was being bought by someone else, because it was the only way to be sure. Being “roofied” was a thing back in the 1970s, and it did not go away in the 80s, 90s or early 2000s.
I’m no longer a young woman, but it doesn’t change my awareness when I’m out. The only surprise here is that there has been so little change – that young women today are still dealing with casual male violence and the authorities still place all of the responsibility for it on women, and that there continues to be so little interest in addressing this by police, prosecutors or courts.
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You state that 198 confirmed reports of drink spiking have been made recently (Hundreds of UK drink spiking reports in the past two months, 23 October) but the actual number is bound to be much higher. My eldest child has just started university and is aware of several cases already – mostly women, but also some men.
The local clubs and student sports associations have started handing out drink covers and some clubs are now searching people at the door. The university is also starting to give out drinks testers, in case it is bar staff who have spiked the drink.
The Girls’ Night In movement is a good idea, but my daughter suggests that a full week of it is more likely to force action than a single night’s boycott. That would really impact on clubs and also create more awareness in men, who may think it’s not their problem.
The Manchester police’s campaign has put all the onus on victims to keep themselves safe. Why not have posters outside and inside all clubs warning that anyone caught carrying date rape drugs faces a prison term?
Also, who is supplying these drugs? It’s probably online, but that needs to be blocked by police investigators and new legislation if necessary. No one should ever be able to obtain these drugs.
Lastly, there are obviously privacy and data protection issues involved, but why not have each nightclub take a photo of everyone on their way in, holding up their ID? Then if someone get’s spiked, there’s an immediate list of suspects available. For most women this would be preferable to having undercover male police officers inside venues.
If people argue that it is an attack on people’s liberty to take and store such data, then I would argue that it is an attack on women’s liberty that they can’t go out without worrying about threats like this. The onus is on the police to come up with better ways of preventing attacks and protecting women. But they need to act quickly.
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