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Opinion | Female safety on nights out is still not guaranteed

Jessie Dutton speaks up on how safety on nights out is a privilege women have never seemed to obtain.

By Jessie Dutton, Sociology, First Year

There is a difference – though it may be subtle – between safety and security. Do I feel safe whilst on a night out? Safety being the “condition” of being protected from, or not exposed to, danger, risk and injury. Do I feel secure, that is “free” from danger or threat? The answer? It's complicated.

My point here lies in the disparity between a 'condition' and 'freedom'. A condition is susceptible to change, to context and the environment, so maybe I do feel safe, sometimes, protected from possible harm. But do I feel secure, free from danger? Not ever completely. Freedom alludes to notions of liberation, perhaps even the holding of privilege. Privileges are something that has often fallen short of the female grasp.

Between September 1st 2021 and the 31st of August 2022, there were 4924 drug spiking incidences according to the National Police Chief Council. Discounting, of course, those which were not reported or those which were discredited either by the victim or authority that's roughly 14 a day and nearly one every two hours. The majority of the victims were women. 60 percent of the incidents occurred in pubs, bars and nightclubs. Do you feel safe going out at night?

group of people tossing wine glass
Image Courtesy of Kelsey Chance// Unsplash

Growing up in a small village, where nearly every face was familiar, I walked home from the pub late and alone without any significant second thoughts or doubts. I felt relatively safe. Yet still, I covered every drink with my hand (my father told me to), I always texted to say that I had made it home (my friends would check), my location was tracked (my mother insisted) and my brother always warned to not be naive. He had friends who had been spiked in situations that appeared nothing but innocent – the boyfriend of a girl he knew was hospitalised after drinking a drink that was offered to her – he was told that if his girlfriend had drunk it, she would be dead.

The spiking “epidemic” – as it is so called – saw its peak roughly two years ago, but, when asked whether or not they feel safe when going on a night out, women from fifty years ago would likely offer the same answers as women do today. No, I do not. Yes, we’ve seen movements such as the “Reclaim the Night” marches against sexual violence and gender equality and the growth of female-only night clubs, and perhaps a difference is felt. It is undoubtedly relieving being able to attend the bar alone, no unwanted hands, eyes or comments – I can be made to feel safe.

However, instituting separation as a prevention for harm and danger at the hands of discrimination doesn’t work. According to a YouGov survey, more than 80 percent of women and 70 percent of men want safer pubs and bars. Statistics might be high for both genders, but when sceptical desires are compared with sickening realities, the disparities ring clear – with an estimated 84 percent of sexual assault victims being female. Following this, with data found by Birmingham Eastside, in three years, more than nine in every ten pub and nightclub sexual assault cases were closed without anyone being charged, the question of how safe women feel when going out at night seems rather rhetorical.

group of women raising champagne flutes
Image Courtesy of Efren Barahona

So the answer, do I feel safer on a night out? I know that personally, safety is something that I have convinced myself I have for my sanity above all else. I mean, gee... What a life to live, hey? Keys between knuckles, fake phone calls, an inconspicuous jog, looking behind every five steps. Deep down though, I never feel truly secure. Never sure that I won’t get harassed or assaulted. Never sure that I’ll make it home at all.

So, safety is something we remain in pursuit of. We are taught to be cautious, to be scared. We are raised on the assumption that, though ‘it may never happen to you’, safety isn’t guaranteed: it’s conditional. Don’t walk home alone, cover your cup, don’t drink too much, watch what you wear. Still, even then, after every precaution, being safe... it’s really just luck.

Featured Image: Michael Discenza // Unsplash

How safe do you feel on nights out? Tell us at @epigrampaper