Monday, January 24

Young women are sick of being told to stick together and look at their drinks | Gaby hinsliff


A young woman, going out to party at night, suddenly feels the room spinning.

He passes out and wakes up feeling terrible, with only vague memories of the night before and a mysterious stabbing pain on the back of his hand. And then, on closer inspection, he finds a puncture in the skin. You think you remember a sharp scratch, like an injection, before everything went blank.

It sounds like something of an urban myth, the kind of sabbatical horror story that begins in a remote bar on a side street in South America and ends when the victim supposedly wakes up without a kidney. However, police in cities such as Nottingham, Edinburgh and Glasgow are taking seriously reports of so-called “needle sticks” (young women on a night out allegedly injected by invisible strangers with something that renders them unconscious) in cities such as Nottingham, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Heartbreakingly, there have been reports of nervous women coming out in thick needle-proof jeans and leather jackets. As rare as these incidents may be, they conform to a pattern of behavior that to many feels horribly familiar.

Once upon a time, the idea of ​​adding drinks (pouring drugs or extra shots of alcohol into a glass while the victim was on their back, making them vulnerable to a potential rapist or thief) also seemed outlandish. But a BBC investigation In 2019 they uncovered 2,600 reports of drinking spikes to police in England and Wales over the previous four years, and now the return of nightlife after closure seems to be pulling old fears out of the woodwork.

Nottinghamshire Police have registered 44 reported spike incidents since September, 12 of them involve “something sharp.” Student unions across the country are collecting accounts of suspected beverage handling, with incidents reported in Sheffield, Norwich, and Canterbury. After enduring months of canceled music festivals and closed bars, this year’s rookies deserve to have the time of their lives. But for some, socializing now is marked by anxiety.

The hand of a stranger who unceremoniously pulled up your skirt on a night out has become almost routine for young women. Street harassment, not just yelling, but rude propositions and being followed by men who can turn aggressive if rejected, is normalized. Young women are fed up with being told to hang out, or watch their drinks, when the problem is male violence, not female surveillance. Why should they tie themselves in increasingly anxious knots trying to stay safe, while the perpetrators carry on regardless? Meanwhile, what depresses many older women is that if anything, this kind of daily bullying seems to have gotten worse, creepier, and more aggressive, over the years, even as the world opens up to younger women. of many ways.

Of course, bad things have always happened in nightclubs or at parties. Some men have always taken advantage of women who are out of it. But Generation X didn’t go out at night worried that someone might poison us. No one had to offer us tapas for our drinks, like our daughters do. The misogyny we encountered was stark and overt, but there is something so dark and insidious about the idea of ​​sneaking doping women into submission.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the needle stick allegations is that injecting a drug is likely to have a much more dramatic effect than causing someone to unknowingly swallow it, making it more difficult to smuggle a woman out. to get him out of the gorillas pretending he’s just drunk. Is it really a desire to humiliate and scare women, rather than sexually assault them? Do some men have fun simply making a woman pass out in front of them, as if an invisible hand has drowned them? Young women are sometimes teased for being anxious and fragile snowflakes. But given the pressures some of them are under, they seem positively warriors to me.

Student unions are already organizing a boycott for Friday, October 29 under the hashtag #GirlsNightIn, urging young women to take a night off and go protest. Since there is nothing anyone can do to stop a stranger with a needle other than to never leave the house, the spotlight is finally focused, as it should, on addressing the perpetrators. If the nightlife industry wants the custom of women, without which they would quickly go bankrupt, then it’s time to prioritize their safety, even if it means bothering men with stricter searches or measures that are already common in student union bars, from better trained security to stocks. of spike-proof caps that fit over a beer bottle. But while students are right to use their influence as consumers, nightclubs will not solve this on their own.

Excessive alcohol use remains difficult to prosecute, while women remain reluctant to go to the police for fear that they will not take them seriously, and that even when they do, the evidence can be difficult to find. Newbies going overboard on a night out are too common a sight in overloaded emergency rooms to now be routinely tested for suspicious substances; and victims are likely to be confused and struggle to piece together what happened. But that is a signal for the police and prosecutors to find a way around these obstacles, not to present these cases as too difficult. Right now, spikes have become one more thing that men do to women with relative impunity. Barring an overnight sexual revolution, that will only change with a realistic fear of getting caught.

Gaby Hinsliff is a columnist for The Guardian




www.theguardian.com

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