Nightclub boycotts planned after date rape injections leave women afraid

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Police are investigating reports of spiking by injection in UK clubs (Getty Images)

Women are “scared” to go out clubbing as police investigate reports of spiking through injection, campaigners have warned.

Nightclub boycotts are planned across UK cities next week as students call for tighter security in nightclubs amid reports of women being attacked with needles.

Police in Nottinghamshire and West Yorkshire have both received reports of spiking with injections. Officers in Scotland are also reportedly investigating alleged incidents.

Zara Owen, 19, toldThe Independent she woke up after a night out in Nottingham last week with a “sharp, agonising pain” in her leg, a limp and no memory after a certain point.

“I said to my mom that my leg was sore. She initially thought I had pulled a muscle or something,” she says. “And my friends were confused as well because they know I didn’t drink much.”

The first-year student at the University of Nottingham says: “I thought maybe I’d been spiked, because it seems horrible to jump to the conclusion but it seemed quite likely.”

The day after, she found a “pinprick” on her leg and pressed it, triggering a shooting pain.

“The main thing that is really terrifying me as well as being spiked is that it was by an injection,” she says. “Naturally, I could be a carrier of HIV or hepatitis if this needle in use was a dirty one.”

Zara Owen says she believes she was spiked during a night out in Nottingham earlier this month (Supplied)

She says she gave up waiting in A&E after it took eight hours and is still waiting for her nearest available GP appointment. She says her doctor advised to go to a local sexual health clinic.

Ms Owen says she has been in contact with police.

Students are organising boycotts of nightclubs next week across the UK – including in Nottingham, Edinburgh, Bristol and Exeter – in a call for clubs to do more to tackle spiking at venues, including tighter checks on entry.

“We deserve to have FUN on our nights out,” Edinburgh’s “Girls Night In” campaign posted on Instagram. “It’s not fair that our club experiences are being tainted by the fear, worry and anxiety that we are going to be drugged.”

Organisers of the Girls Night In boycott in Nottingham tell The Independent they first thought stories of women being spiked by injection first appeared as “hearsay” and “like a horror story”.

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“Then we heard it happened to people we know and people we can actually put a name and a face to,” Laura*, a third-year student behind the campaign, says.

“I didn’t even think it was a thing,” Frankie*, anothe third-year organising the boycott, tells The Independent, saying she always thought spiking involved putting something in drinks.

“It sort of changed the game a bit, the fact you can be conscious about keeping your drink close. But then you can't really stop someone injecting you,” she says.

“So I think it has created a different level of fear for girls in Nottingham and across the UK. “

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Laura tells The Independent she thinks “a lot of people are scared” to go out in Nottingham the current climate.

Frankie adds: “We’re all frustrated that after a year and a half inside and now we can go out, we feel like we’ve been forced to stay inside.”

Nottinghamshire Police is currently investigating reports of individuals suspecting that their drinks have been spiked, Superintendent Kathryn Craner from the force said.

“Linked to this a small number of victims have said that they may have felt a scratching sensation as if someone may have spiked them physically. Consequently, we are actively investigating all these reports,” she said on Tuesday.

Supt Craner said a 20-year-old man has been arrested following a report of an incident in Lower Parliament Street in Nottingham on 16 October. He has been released on bail as investigations continue. “This arrest comes as part of our ongoing investigations into alleged spiking reports in the city,” she said.

Supt Craner added: “We do not believe that these are targeted incidents; they are distinctly different from anything we have seen previously as victims have disclosed a physical scratch type sensation before feeling very unwell. This is subtly different from feelings of intoxication through alcohol according to some victims.”

Meanwhile, West Yorkshire Police toldThe Independent on Tuesday they had received one report of “spiking by injection”. This was reported to have occurred in Leeds City Centre on 13 October.

“We have spoken to the victim about this matter and enquiries are currently ongoing into the incident,” the force said.

Detective Superintendent Paula Bickerdike from West Yorkshire Police 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.”

Police in Scotland are also investigating allegations of spiking by injection in clubs in Glasgow, Stirling, Edinburgh and Dundee, according to media reports. The force has been contacted by The Independent.

The Home Office has been approached for comment.

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*Not their real names as did not wish to be identified

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