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Nouse speaks to Martha Williams, founder of Girls Night In, and the University's sport societies

Students in York are expected to join the nationwide boycott on Wednesday 27 October

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Next Wednesday, students from the University of York and York St John University will be taking part in the ‘Girls Night In’ boycott of nightclubs. The Girls Night In campaign was originally conceived by Martha Williams, a third-year undergraduate at the University of Edinburgh, and Bristol student Milly Seaford. Within the past two months, there have been numerous high profile spiking cases across the country.

One of the most recent and well-known victims of the spiking epidemic is Sarah Buckle, a University of Nottingham student, who quickly became ill on 28 September after receiving a prick to her hand. Spiking can take many forms, although there are new concerns that spiking using a needle or by injection is becoming a common method for committing the crime.

The campaign will see university students across the country participate in boycotting nightclubs for one night in their local area, with students at the University of Southampton starting the first boycott tonight. Despite the campaign starting in Edinburgh, university students at universities such as Bristol, Durham and now York will all be showing solidarity against the lack of action taken by clubs in preventing and deterring spiking.

The Girls Night In campaign is insisting that nightclubs make the following changes: introduce bystander training for all club and bar staff (including agency staff), ensure that there is a designated and identifiable welfare officer, anti-spiking devices to be readily available, a clearly communicated zero-tolerance policy on spiking and a clearly written procedure on reporting, as well as support for staff and customers.

Several sports societies are uniting in their opposition to spiking by supporting the boycott in York next Wednesday. Students of all genders have been welcomed to join the boycott, which has been reflected by male-dominated societies also choosing to express their support for the campaign.

Langwith Men’s Football and Heslington East Rugby Football Club, for example, are just two of the sports societies which have gone to great lengths to show their support for the boycott on social media.

Ben Stedman and Beau Patten, co-presidents of Langwith Men’s Football, told Nouse: “After hearing about the decision to boycott all clubs and bars in York in response to the recent increase in spiking, we felt compelled to take part as a club.”

“In recent weeks we have witnessed first hand the impact spiking can have on friends of our own, and due to its severe nature we feel it is important that we pull together as students to fight against it. We have been delighted with the response from clubs and societies across the University, and hope that the campaign will have a lasting impression moving forward.”

Morgan Willetts, Club President for Heslington East Rugby Football Club, told Nouse that “Heslington East Rugby are supporting the Girl’s Night In boycott of York clubs, bars and other venues on Wednesday 27 October because we are concerned by the recent drastic rise in spiking both in York and nationwide.”

“As a club we want all members of the University to feel safe on nights out and we believe action is needed to combat the ongoing spiking epidemic and promote the well-being of the student community. With this boycott, we are asking for action to be taken to combat this prominent issue facing society.”

Langwith College Netball Club has been very proactive in promoting the boycott and in encouraging awareness of the issue.

Jess Cleverdon, President of the Netball Club, told Nouse: “In solidarity with Girls Night In, Langwith College Netball Club have decided to boycott nightclubs on Wednesday 27 October, joining many other societies and sports clubs. There has been a recent increase in drink spiking in York (and nationwide), so we are refusing to go into nightclubs until they take some responsibility for the issue and ensure they do full searches when people enter the premises to prevent any illegal substances or objects being brought in.”

“This is a hugely important campaign for our predominantly female club, as we need to be assured of the safety of our members. Not only this, but this issue hits close to home as members of our own committee and further community have been spiked at clubs in York in the past. As a result, we’re keen to be part of the movement that shows nightclubs that some of the responsibility must be on them to keep attendees safe. The onus should not be on women, but on society as a whole to fix this dangerous and unfortunately common issue.”

In addition to boycotting nightclubs next Wednesday, the Girls Night In campaign urges its supporters to sign a petition set up by 24-year-old Hannah Thomson which calls for MPs to “Make it a legal requirement for nightclubs to thoroughly search guests on entry.”

As of today, the petition has received around 162,000 signatures and this is significant in that the government must respond to any petition with more than 10,000 signatures. Due to the petition surpassing 100,000 signatures, Parliament will also consider the petition for a debate.

Nouse also reached out to Martha Williams, one of the founders of the Girls Night In campaign, to hear her thoughts about what inspired her to set up the movement and to learn more about the movement’s future plans beyond next week’s boycotts.

Martha told us that she set up the movement because “incidents of spiking occurring in nightclubs were becoming continuously more and more common at an alarming rate and the issue was accelerating to where none of my friends felt safe going out.”

“The first spiking incident I had ever heard of happening in Edinburgh, which occurred in September, happened to one of my closest friends and after hearing about all the other people this epidemic has been affecting, I felt like something had to be done.”

Martha added that the primary aim of the movement is “to bring widespread attention to this issue so that clubs start taking our concerns and the safety of their clubbers seriously.

We want nightclubs to implement new measures (such as more thorough security, better CCTV, lids on cups) and prioritise training their staff, including both bouncers and bar staff, on the issues of spiking and drug misuse protocol, in addition to first aid.”

Since first setting up the movement online with her friends, Nouse asked Martha whether she had been surprised by the nationwide support which she has received.

Martha said: “I didn’t realise to what extent these issues were affecting other cities across the UK but I’m glad it spread so quickly because clearly it’s an issue that needs to be addressed on a national scale.”

With the movement’s events limited to next week, Nouse asked Martha whether she thought the boycott would be effective in forcing nightclubs to change the way they operate.

In Edinburgh, Martha said: “We have accompanied our plan to boycott clubs with an open letter addressed to nightclubs detailing exactly what changes we want to see made and so far we’ve seen positive and proactive responses from a few of the clubs but definitely not all of them.

Hopefully the initiative will spread, and all nightclubs will reconsider what they’re doing to ensure the safety of their patrons.”

Until the changes demanded by the movement are introduced, Martha wanted to use the opportunity to speak to Nouse to remind students that “as long as clubs are not taking the initiative to look out for our safety, unfortunately the responsibility does fall upon ourselves- which isn’t by any means fair.

Make sure you stick with friends and take extra caution when going out clubbing. If you anticipate feeling anxious and worried about spiking when going out then don’t go out because it is important to remember that clubbing is supposed to be fun.”

When asked whether the movement was inclusive to everyone, Martha said that: “We have had some confusion about our name ‘Girls Night In’. However, the name was initially a play on the phrase ‘girls night out’.

Considering that the majority of spiking incidents do affect girls, I thought the name was appropriate. I have since realised that the name does exclude other genders and identities, but the movement is inclusive of absolutely everyone.

Spiking and sexual assault in nightclubs affect everyone and we should all be fighting this fight collectively.”

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