Thousands of young people across the UK organised a boycott of nightclubs on Wednesday night for a “girls’ night in” as they protested against a sharp rise in spiking cases.
Women from various university cities including Bristol, Manchester and Leeds decided to “stay in” as part of the Girls Night In campaign, focused on “spreading awareness and challenging clubs” to keep people safe.
It follows hundreds of cases of drinks spiking in recent months, with recent reports of injections sparking alarm and prompting police investigations. A man appeared in court charged with rape on Wednesday after a complaint from a woman who said her drink had been spiked.
Pictures showed a large crowd amassing in in St Peter’s Square in Manchester to urge nightclubs to enhance safety measures.
One University of Manchester student said the demonstration – which mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham attended – was “just the beginning”.
Benjamin Hobbs, 18, a management student, said: “The students of Manchester will not cease demonstrations until sufficient action is taken and we can sleep at night, knowing we’re safe to go out and have fun without risk of being spiked.
“We are collectively calling on nightclubs and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to take immediate preventative action to better protect girls from potential spiking incidents as well as asking for the combined authority to run a campaign aiming to make people think about their behaviour and hold their friends accountable.
“We would also like measures to be taken in order to make Manchester safer for young people at night, including better street lighting, especially in vulnerable areas such as Fallowfield and a review of public transport at night time, especially in areas populated by students.”
Suspected incidents of spiking have seen a surge in recent weeks.
According to a survey by nationwide news site The Tab, more than 2,600 young people believe they have been spiked since the start of this academic year, with half of respondents - almost 12,000 people - believing a friend or someone they know has been spiked since the start of this university term.
The National Police Chiefs Council recently confirmed there have been at least 56 ‘confirmed reports’ of some form of injection spiking in the last two months - including at least 12 incidents in Nottinghamshire and seven in seaside towns from Brighton to Eastbourne.
Petra Mirosevic-Sorgo, who runs Loughborough’s Girls Night In Instagram account with two other students, said that her own experiences of spiking made her want to "make sure that [others] feel safe".
"I woke up and I was so distraught... I just remember running out to the hospital lobby crying," the 21-year-old recalled.
Ms Mirosevic-Sorgo said the university’s student union had only sold 60 tickets for an event on Wednesday night – a sharp fall on the 3,000 usually given out.
Meanwhile, detectives are investigating six reports of women being injected while on nights out in Brighton during the past week.
Chief Superintendent Justin Burtenshaw, of Brighton police, said the reports are being taken “incredibly seriously”.