I’m a Bristol Uni student and I’m sick of having to foot the bill for my safety on a night out

What about students who can’t afford to Uber home?

As a woman at Bristol Uni, the jubilant anticipation of a night-out is becoming increasingly tainted by the worry of how I am going to get home.

Unfortunately, this is the case for most women, as well as people whose identity has been marginalized.

I am sick of the ownership being placed on me to keep myself safe. I am part of a student body and I am simply not seeing enough collective responsibility. On the SU website you can find a rather exhaustive list of how to keep safe on a night-out, a checklist for safety, if you will. These factors include “Look after your drink”, “Know your limits” and “Make a plan” all of which a little alarmingly, seem to pin the responsibility of keeping safe directly upon ourselves.

Polling from The Bristol Tab, taken by 1,566 people, showed that 71 per cent had taken a taxi or an Uber home this month to avoid walking home in the dark. However, a subsequent poll highlighted showed that only 39 per cent had taken more than five Ubers home this month.

A second-year female student who wishes to remain anonymous and commutes from Filton, expressed how unsurprised she was by the outcomes of this poll.

She said although she would feel safer taking an Uber home after every night-out, this is not sustainable when the bus costs just £1.60 and an Uber costs around £15.

When getting the bus home this student said she had witnessed many fights breaking out, telling us that “as a young female travelling alone, I feel vulnerable and scared when things like this happen”.

This unjust choice women are having to make between financial stability and safety is not limited to nights-out. A different second-year female student works in Broadmead, working shifts that sometimes don’t finish until 1am. Despite asking to swap shifts, voicing her concern about getting home, “the only advice I was given was to try to find someone to walk back with which was obviously my own first thought”.

After speaking with these students, it begs the question of where is the support? And what about those students who simply cannot afford to Uber home?

Bristol SU’s No Means No report published last week showed that 47 per cent of students had been sexually harassed at university and 29 per cent had been sexually assaulted.

84 per cent of those who had been sexually harassed did not consider the incident to be “serious enough to report” and common responses kept circling back to a collective feeling of acceptance that harassment is just “a part of life” and something many have come to expect.

Addressing this tax on safety, on the SU website you can find a link to a partnership with V Cars, a “safer taxi scheme” whereby “if you get stuck on a night-out, even if you don’t have the money for a fare” then “a vehicle will be sent to you as a matter of priority”. When looking at V Cars’ actual website, there seems to be a disparity in advice, clearly stating on three separate occasions, this is a service to be used if you find yourself in an “emergency situation”.

The use of “emergency” in this context is immensely damaging as it completely invalidates a woman’s fears of walking alone at night. It reinforces the doubt that the situation is “not serious enough” to warrant an emergency and discourage women from using the service.

It is also important to note that Bristol SU’s partnership with V Cars was not actually mentioned on the SU website until after the first three weeks of term.

Although the findings of the survey were published last week, it took place between February and March. If Bristol SU were aware of the survey results six months prior to Freshers’ Week, why was the scheme not in place for the start of term? Due to the pandemic, for many first-years, Freshers’ would have been their first experience going clubbing and the scheme was not listed as an option to support them.

Why are we still having to foot the bill for our own safety? And why are we still getting blamed if we don’t?

A Bristol SU Spokesperson said: “Safe nights out are really important to us, which is why we’re supporting the Girls Night In Bristol boycott today and lobbying for better provision in the university and the city for a safe night out. We’ll be continuing to provide updates on this work over the coming weeks.

Our partnership with VCars has been in place since 2018 and provides students with a safe option to get home if you find yourself in an emergency situation, even if you don’t have the money for the fare on you. This partnership has been confirmed for the next academic year.”

V Cars were approached for comment.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• Bristol students are boycotting clubs next Wednesday, demanding they do more to prevent spiking

• Almost half of Bristol Uni students have been sexually harassed, report finds

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