How to cope with the newest epidemic of violence against women
Amy Colwell discusses the needle spiking epidemic and how to deal with this newest iteration of violence against women.
In the last few weeks, a new weapon has been added to the seemingly endless arsenal deployed against women. There have been hundreds of reports of spiking via injection in nightclubs, igniting yet another fear to add to the list that women must grapple with every day. A survey by The Tab concluded that over 50 percent of respondents from Exeter University knew someone who had been spiked, and 9.4 percent believed they had been spiked themselves, within the first four weeks of term.
It has been proven time and time again that aggressors will do anything to find a loophole in the precautions that women have learnt to take. Do you cover your drink on a night out? Well, watch out: there’s a needle coming for you when your back is turned. Do you walk home on a main road, under streetlights, calling a loved one? Well, in the horrific case of Sarah Everard, that didn’t work – she was brutally murdered by a policeman abusing his power to force her to comply. How could she have done anything differently? Despite this, the onus remains on women to protect themselves. We are told to stay in a group, watch our drink, keep our phones charged, don’t walk home alone – these are preventions, not solutions.
This absolutely cannot be treated as an isolated phenomenon which will blow over if security guards spend a few extra seconds patting us down. It is abundantly clear that this is yet another manifestation of our society’s inherent misogyny. It is particularly disturbing how rapidly the idea spread nationwide. Walking down the street or sitting in the library, I find myself wondering who around me would take the opportunity to assault a woman, maybe put off by the fear of being caught in the past, but now tempted by the shroud of anonymity that a discreet needle provides.
stay in a group, watch our drink, keep our phones charged, don’t walk home alone – these are preventions, not solutions
A ground-breaking survey by UN Women concluded that 93 per cent of women in the UK had been sexually harassed or assaulted – this comes as no surprise. There is a built-in sense of dread that accompanies womanhood. From being 13 years old and having your breasts numerically rated by boys at school, to walking home at 16 in a pair of shorts and being catcalled by men 40 years your senior, to being 20 in a club and being injected by a dirty needle with the design of making you vulnerable enough to assault – what else do young women of today face in their future?
Philip Allott, Police Commissioner for North Yorkshire, publicly stated that “it is up to women to be streetwise”. Is it not up to all men to ensure that themselves and their friends will never pose a danger to a woman? The rampant misogyny within the policing institution was put under the spotlight during Wayne Couzens’s trial, entrenching the lack of faith in the police that women already had, having heard too many tales of slut-shaming and dropped court cases. Unsurprisingly, but nevertheless disappointingly, the organisation Everyone’s Invited, which shot to fame earlier this year as tens of thousands of women shared their personal testimonies as victims of assault, concluded that only 11 per cent of those who had been spiked reported it to the police. What can women do if the organisation that is meant to protect us is failing in that task?
My male friends recount funny stories of stumbling home alone after a night out, passing out in bushes and making random friends on the street. That unquestioned freedom and safety is something women cannot, and will not, ever experience. We start making grim jokes about wearing full-body armour to clubs, attempting to make light of our genuine fear. After a year and a half of lockdowns, women should be able to go out and enjoy ourselves without the prospect of sitting in A&E being tested for HIV looming over us – and that’s the best-case scenario, if you’re lucky enough for someone to realise you’ve been spiked before anything worse happens.
The more we talk, the more power we have, and the more we can hope for a better future
Do we accept the trappings of misogyny as part of our lived experience; do we deny its existence; or, do we do everything we can to fight? It is easy to feel defeated, to feel as if there’s no point discussing how you feel with men because they will never understand. Which is true: they never will, however hard some of them may try. But defeated silence cannot be the answer. Talk to your male friends, your brothers, your fathers – they can never truly understand what it is to be a woman, but they can grow to understand what it means to be an ally to women. The more we talk, the more power we have, and the more we can hope for a better future.
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