Life and Style’s Isobel McArthur informs us of the simple ways we can all enjoy our night and get home safe on nights out at University
Nights out are laced with hidden dangers. The stories you hear in the news about muggings, drink spiking and rapes can all seem far-fetched until you’re walking alone in the dark or accepting a drink from a stranger at a bar. This article is not a motherly lecture about not staying out late or having a drink – it is a practical, no-nonsense guide to the realities of night out dangers taken from personal experience and research. It is important to remember that the safety on our campus is partly what we make it; we are responsible for our own safety and should take care of that of others.
Perhaps the area of a night out most interwoven with danger is walking to and from clubs. Personally, I have always felt unsafe walking alone at in the dark, so this is something that I try and avoid on a night out. Ideally, it is best to walk with a group of friends but if you find yourself walking alone, it is even more important to approach the journey with a level head and a few simple tips in mind.
Before you even leave, tell a friend or family member where you’re going and, if possible, the route you’re taking. When walking, take a well known and well-lit route and walk with confidence without any distractions like a phone or music playing. These might seem like unnecessary precautions to take, but they will help you to stay aware of your surroundings so that you can follow your instincts if you feel unsafe.
We are lucky in that the UoB campus is well lit with 24/7 campus security services, but the safest way to travel is in a group, so it is worth putting yourself out there on any university course or accommodation group chats to see if anybody else is walking your way.
Following on from this, the solution to avoiding the dangers of walking at night is not to simply get a taxi. Taxi companies tend to be safe, but taxi drivers are essentially just strangers in a car so it is important to check that the taxi driver is legit (and lets be honest, we’ve all seen that episode of Sherlock). It is better to call a taxi company instead of hailing an individual as then the company is accountable (not just one person) and you can even check the online reviews to see if anything seems unusual. Before you get into the taxi, take a photo of the registration or taxi number, and inform the driver that you’re sending the photo to a friend or family member. This ensures both that a friend is aware of your whereabouts and also that the taxi driver knows that if they try anything, they are directly accountable and trackable.
Awareness is equally important at the venue of your night out. Horror stories about drink spiking unfortunately stem from real danger – in freshers week alone, two of my friends were spiked on nights out. Although frightening, a little common sense and awareness can help prevent you and your friends falling victims to the harmful effects of drink spiking.
Firstly, despite the pinching of the student budget, it is safest not to let people who you don’t know very well buy you drinks – and if you do choose to take this risk, stand close to the bar and watch your drink get prepared. In fact, from pouring to partying, don’t take your eyes off your drink! This is the number one safest way to make sure that nobody tampers with it and to ensure that you have a good night – that doesn’t end in A&E.
If you suspect that you have consumed a spiked drink, alert club security or a medical professional as soon as possible, staying with a friend at all times. The NHS website lists symptoms of date-rape drugs as a difficulty with communication and motor functions, amnesic blackouts, nausea and disorientation. Due to the nature of date rape drugs, it is important that if you experience any symptoms, you seek help immediately because they don’t just make you feel unwell, they also make you vulnerable to further dangers such as sexual assault or muggings.
It is unfortunate that I find myself writing this article on the back of my friends and I feeling unsafe during freshers week. University should be a time of feeling carefree – not policing your drink or walking the long way home – but the sad reality is that without these precautions, people get hurt. Stay safe, enjoy your night and remember what mum told you!