Boycotting clubs is not enough to tackle Warwick’s spiking problem

We need to do more than just staying in for a few nights

A week ago, my friend sent me one of the most terrifying messages I had ever received. It read: “I’ve been spiked”.

Initially I was doubtful- she’d gone with a friend to the pub we always go to, somewhere we’ve never felt unsafe before or heard of anyone being spiked there. But when her friend’s boyfriend called me to help bring my housemate home, I realised it was true. I was terrified.

My friends and I aren’t the only ones who’ve recently been affected by spiking. People across the country have been sharing their stories and experiences, of not just drink spiking but also reporting being spiked through injections. So even if we do everything possible to cover our drinks, we could still be spiked with a jab in the back. Great.

I hadn’t realised until now just how common spiking is or how scary it can be. It’s a major issue, a serious form of violence against women. Now don’t get me wrong, I am aware that women are not the only group falling victim to spiking, but as the most frequently attacked, women need to be protected. And I don’t think two days of boycotts is enough.

Warwick students boycotted clubs and bars on 27th and 28th October, as part of a national anti-spiking campaign to force clubs to increase their security measures to protect customers from spiking. I took part in the boycott, and I’m so proud of @warwicksnightin for raising awareness of spiking at the uni. And whilst raising awareness is incredibly important, Warwick students need to do more in order to see actual positive change.

So what if club events are cancelled for the week, or people don’t go out on those days? What is stopping spikers from attacking on Friday night, at different venues?

The problem is still going to persist

Boycotts can be effective forms of protest- the increased social media engagement around them even prompted Kasbah to release a statement promising to provide free drink lids and enforce full body searches upon entry. But this is only one of the many clubs and bars that Warwick students frequent. And even then, Kasbah’s statement feels like performative activism.

I went to Kasbah two days after their new measures were announced. But I wasn’t given a full body search. My friends weren’t given full body searches. And we didn’t see anyone else being searched as we waited in the queue. So much for their “no search, no entry”  policy.

If venues lose business for just two nights in one week, they will easily make up the loss the next day or during the weekend. Students at Warwick are always going to go out- it’s undeniable and I probably will too. Most managers and owners won’t know why they have lost business if social media content around spiking is aimed at university students and young adults.

This is why boycotts don’t work

They were just two days of performative action and didn’t encourage permanent change. What Warwick students need to do is continuously boycott clubs and bars and tell them why we are boycotting. What use is it if we boycott without telling club managers why? We need to be emailing and calling venues to tell them that we are boycotting their business until they implement better security measures to prevent spiking. To tell them we don’t feel safe and it is their duty to make us feel safe. To tell them to do more and be better.

With enough emails and calls, managers will be forced to take action to make their venues safer for all groups from this horrible form of violence.

Students can also email their local MP to raise awareness and ask them what they are actively doing to make venues safer for women. There are also plenty of Warwick societies and groups which aim to improve gender equality on campus and make campus a safer space for women such as @warwickantisexismsociety, @protectwarwickwomen, and @unwomenukwwk. So have a look at their pages and take some action!

Kasbah responded, saying that on the night in question, “The manager took the decision to skip on the searches of some customers who he knew are regulars and never cause any issues whilst in the venue.

“This was the lesser of two evils as customers had began spilling into the road due to the queue being so long and public safety is one of the four licensing objectives. It was clearly the correct decision as despite being extremely busy and short staffed we didn’t have a single incident or complaint that night.

“Notices such as the posters referred to in the club are very useful tools in that they can act as a powerful deterrent to those minded to commit antisocial acts. It is inevitable that the club may from time to time relax its own rules to search customers, for reasons which trump the need to search.

“This usually happens when safety concerns in other areas begin to arise and need urgent attention. The deterrent is still in place as customers will be unaware of when the club relaxes its policy of searching.

“Public safety is our number one concern. We are by far the busiest venue in the area and (according to the WM Police) we have the least number of incidents and are the safest venue. We are proud of that record and a lot of the measures other venues have only just put into place recently due to the heightened media coverage over spiking, we have been doing for over 20 years, hence our excellent safety record.”

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