Spiking: be bold and honest with us

For many of us, clubbing is a staple part of university life. Whether it’s heading down to the LCR on a Tuesday night or the streets of Norwich at the weekend, clubbing has historically been a largely safe and secure social activity across our university towns. Therefore, I do not need to begin to express how shocked and horrified we have all been at the scale of spiking incidents this term.

As with all public safety issues, the relevant authorities are rightly under increased pressure to respond accordingly. We have seen plenty of visual signs of action from our own SU and university management, such as increased presence from the dedicated SU Alcohol Impact team volunteers, for example, who I have witnessed first-hand provide much-needed care and advice. Indeed, this is to be commended and built upon.

However, we must also recognise it is the more subtle and even subconscious messages which can often make the difference between the victim feeling alone and isolated or genuinely supported and cared for by the community if the worst happens. In this light, I was disappointed last week, when I read a poster in the city entitled “Don’t be the victim – Don’t get spiked”.

No matter how we may each personally respond to such a crisis, those in positions of public responsibility need to recognise many vulnerable young adults will experience a deep sense of victimhood in response to this form of assault. These short but critical messages should therefore stem from positions of care and compassion – the principal aims of which must be to provide the increased awareness and reassurance needed if the worst were to happen. With what could this message realistically be replaced with then? I say something quite simple and succinct such as ‘Five things you can do if…’, followed by some practical and reassuring steps we can all take to help and protect ourselves and those around us.

I firmly believe this is also a time to consider the effectiveness of safety and security personnel at night venues. For example, while I was out in a popular Norwich nightclub last week, I was very disheartened and frustrated to witness two of the regular door bouncers completely ignore a middle-aged woman just a couple of metres away from them who was quite clearly in a very bad way, despite my telling them of my personal concern. Now I’d like to think we would all be willing to make sure a person was safe and secure, but I can’t help feeling cautious if a professional with specialised training is unable or unwilling to provide the, often critical, assistance needed in these situations.

Those responsible need to re-evaluate either the skills and attributes required for their security staff or perhaps even an additional care-based role primarily focused on customer welfare. While I’d like to highlight this was an isolated incident in a private venue, I’m sure I am not the only one who has received a very unfriendly and unexpected response to concerns raised. Yes, we need physically able security to step in where appropriate, but we also need to feel a clear sense of care and compassion for our overall welfare and personal safety.

It is clear we are gradually beginning to understand and deal with this issue more effectively.

But it is also an issue where we all know that one victim is one too many and those in the appropriate roles need to start having more bold and frank conversations about how they can best help that one to become none.

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Jamie Bryson

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November 2021
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