The Student
A realistic guide to staying safe on a night out

This is not going to be one of those articles that tell you ‘drink water between every drink’ (as that is unrealistic and no one wants to do that) or an article that tells you to ‘stay out of hostile situations’ (realistically a large majority of us won’t be out fighting). Such advice perpetuates the myth that victims have some control and implies that the victim is to blame. Which is obviously not true! However, we cannot ignore the fact that there are risks on nights out and several things which can be done to reduce these risks, whilst still having fun.

One risk is your drinks being spiked. Both men and women need to be equally aware of these risks, as there is a common misconception around spiking. Many believe that women make up the majority of ‘spike victims’ when in fact 44% of spiking victims are men (NHS). Some important habits to get into include- if someone is buying you a drink, even if it’s
someone you trust, always go to the bar with them and keep your eye on that drink (yes, that includes toilet breaks). If you do put it down, just get a new drink. Furthermore keep your drink as covered as you can, this means holding it close to your body when possible.

If you suspect your friend or someone else has been spiked, the symptoms of drink spiking include: Lowered inhibitions, difficulty concentrating or speaking, loss of balance and finding it hard to move. Visual problems, particularly blurred vision, memory loss (amnesia) or blackouts, feeling confused or disorientated (particularly after waking up, if you have been asleep), paranoia (a feeling of fear or distrust of others), hallucinations (seeing, hearing or touching things
that aren’t there) or having an out of body experience. More immediate effects may include nausea and vomiting, or unconsciousness.

Whilst some of these symptoms are very similar to just being drunk, in either case you should escort that person home, stay with them and try to get a taxi with them as quickly as possible, do not leave anyone in this state. If you suspect they have been spiked call medical staff immediately and stay with that person.

Evidence shows that women are at a particularly high risk of experiencing sexual violence or rape when on a night out, especially in a university context. There is safety in numbers and make sure everyone has each other’s mobile numbers in case you need to contact them. Ideally you would stay with the group of people you came with, but if you do lose them then make sure you have multiple people to call in an emergency.

Another tip is to carry a small portable charger, this ensures that you will always have a means of contacting your friends. If you do find someone that you absolutely must go home with in that moment, make sure you have told your friend their name and where you are going, don’t just leave without at least texting them this information as this ensures they would know where to find you if necessary.

One important thing to know is that it is the responsibility of businesses and institutions to have a very clear zero tolerance policy to any sort of sexual violence. A lot of venues have introduced schemes such as ‘Ask Angela’. This scheme means that  if you find yourself alone and an individual is making you feel uncomfortable e.g a date, some random person you just met, a friend etc and you want to leave without causing a scene, all you have to do is ask the bar staff for Angela and they would understand the situation. Bar staff can then call for a taxi or help you to leave discreetly.

Do not ignore any feeling of discomfort, no matter how small you may think it is, follow your instinct and get out of there. Don’t stay just for a date, there will be plenty of other date opportunities we promise!

Finally a few tips for getting home. Plan how you are going to get home before you leave, so you know the last bus times etc or have a taxi booked. Have a central taxi’s number saved in your phone as well as the Uber app, in case you find yourself without internet.

Ideally you will go home in the group that you came out with, if you are going to walk home, take a route that is well lit and
do not take shortcuts down dark alleyways, if this is not possible take some form of public transport back.

If you find yourself in a position where you are out of money or can’t get back, The University of Edinburgh have a scheme with Central Taxis where they will take you home for free, and a few days later you pop into the Students’ Association reception at Potterow to pay back your fare, or call 0131 650 9399 and pay over the phone using your debit or credit card. You do have time to pay this back so don’t worry if you are currently short on money. All you need to do is show the driver
your student card or give them your student number (maybe pop it in notes on your phone incase you forget it!). If you are by yourself, please try do this instead of walking alone (this includes you too boys!)

Hopefully with these tips you can continue to go out, drink and have fun, whilst staying safe!

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