Students say they will boycott nightclubs in Leeds next week to pressure venues to introduce tighter security measures amid reports of several women being spiked with needles.
It comes as West Yorkshire Police confirmed today that they have launched an investigation after a woman was reported being spiked by injection in Leeds on October 13 and police in Nottinghamshire said they have arrested and released a man on bail in connection with allegations of ‘physical’ spiking.
The boycott will take place on Wednesday 27 October, which organisers say has been timed to when sports societies typically hold events at clubs.
Lucy Thompson, a second-year History of Art student and one of the organisers of the boycott, told The Gryphon she was inspired by a similar campaign in Edinburgh which has since been replicated across the country. She created the Instagram page GIRLS UNCUT LEEDS after she was left feeling helpless when two of her friends were recently spiked. Within 48 hours of creating the page, it was followed by over 2,000 people and a separate account, Girls Night In Leeds, which is also encouraging a boycott on the same day, has also been widely followed.
Instead of attending clubs, some societies have already agreed to host alternative events and people more widely in the city are being encouraged to have gatherings at home. Leeds Student Radio have announced they will host a special 5 hour live event on the night with coverage of how people are spending their night at home as well as guest speakers and DJ sets.
Thompson said that the campaign has three main aims. The first aim is to break down the taboo surrounding spiking which Thompson believes is discouraging all victims from reporting what has happened to them. She stressed that anyone could fall victim, especially now with reports of spiking by injection, and the consequences, which can be serious and lasting, are not appreciated enough.
The second aim is to remind event managers that they have a responsibility and duty of care to the people attending their events, particularly to young and vulnerable university students. Thompson says she has been inundated with women sharing experiences of clubs failing to treat their complaints seriously, including one victim who was laughed at when they asked for help from bouncers.
The third aim of the campaign is to increase security in venues.
A national petition calling for mandatory searches of all guests upon entry to clubs has been signed over 130,000 times. This has proved controversial, however, with some fearing the move would disproportionately affect black, Asian and minority ethnic people and would give bouncers too much power, especially given reports of bouncers themselves assaulting women.
Thompson supports such a move but only in tangent with proper training as well as screening and random drug tests of employees themselves.
After it was announced that an investigation has been opened in Leeds in connection with allegations of spiking by injection, West Yorkshire Police Detective Superintendent Paula Bickerdike said : “We understand the genuine concerns that women have around their safety, particularly in the night-time economy, and we remain absolutely committed to doing everything we can alongside our partner agencies to make the county a safer place for women and girls.
“We continue to work alongside partner agencies and licensees to warn and educate people about staying safe on a night out, and we conduct regular partnership operations to keep people safe.”
GIRLS UNCUT LEEDS and Girls Night In have reached out to a number of clubs in the city for comment.
HiFi said it was “putting in place a number of new safety measures”, with lids provided with every drink, free spike test kits as well as additional training for security and Cirque Du Soul said they were “utterly appalled by the rise of spiking” and would consult with their host venue Beaverworks in order to tackle the issue. Other venues have so far not commented.
Thompson said the outpouring of support had been heartwarming and had left her cautiously optimistic that things may “finally change” but warned that if action is not taken and there is not a serious change in culture surrounding the safety of women in Leeds, then the boycott next week could be the first of many.
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