Let's talk about Belfast Night In & Women's Safety w/ The Safe Yard and Belfast Night In
On Wednesday the 27th of October, we boycotted Belfast bars and nightclubs in protest against spiking. Young people are speaking out about the alarming rise in spiking incidents. Over 30 universities across the UK getting involved. The movement started with students in Edinburgh taking a stand. Edi student Martha Williams set up the initial Girls Night In social media account. To learn more about the issue, I got in contact with Belfast Night In. The local initiative encouraged everyone to stay in to take a stand against gender biased attacks and are concerned that the issue may be related to a systemic negligence of womens' safety. Belfast Night In was spurred not just by spiking but by other fundamental issues like the access to safe abortion services and safeguarding rights of minority groups.
"Over the last year we have seen and heard horror stories of gender based attacks; sadly many being victims from marginalised communities.This spiking epidemic is unfortunately, another one of these. In Northern Ireland we are living with no appropriate access to abortion and no strategy dedicated to tackling gender-based violence. Our local institutions are not doing enough to keep us safe and prevent spiking. We need change now."
Belfast Night In described to me in a statement the changes they would like to see implemented for the protection of young people on nights out. They recognise the link spiking has with sexual assault and theft, believing venues have a duty of care to their customers but the government should also be doing more.
"We would like to work with establishments to see the implementation of bystander intervention training for staff; anti-spiking provisions provided for patrons, such as cup covers and test strips and easy to identify dedicated welfare officers to support and advise victims. We want to encourage bars to engage with schemes like ‘Ask for Angela’, where bar staff and customers can seek help and a safe way home if they are feeling vulnerable or targeted. We do not however, think that the nationwide petition calling for increased searches on entry, is an effective solution to the problem as it would undoubtedly affect marginalised groups disproportionately. We will not be satisfied until we are all safe."
What I feel is most important about Belfast Night In is its inclusivity. It's extremely conscious that this is an issue faced by men and women, we can all stand together against assault. They don't promote extensive frisking so that minority groups will not be targeted in the searches. They told me that they will continue to lobby until the appropriate changes are made.
Ensuring your own safety is so important. Especially when living away from home as a university student. As young people, we can often feel that we're invincible but there are some extremely real risks out there. I'm sure everyone reading this can think of a time they've felt targeted or vulnerable in a situation. It's important to keep vigilant as much as you can and take measures to protect yourself. This week, I got chatting with the inspirational Zara Campbell. She is the founder of The Safe Yard. I reached out to her via Instagram where I saw her products advertised. There has never been a more apt time to start a self-defence business than now. I hadn't seen anything like these products before. I wanted to know the motivation behind her entrepreneurship and whether she was driven by her own experiences. Her new self defence products are so unique. My favourite are her key chains because they're so deceptively cute. All of her products are very useful in protecting yourself as much as possible. Her online space is a safe one. She shares tips and is a platform where you can open up about your fears or experiences.
"Driven by my own experiences as a young woman, ‘The Safe Yard,’ Northern Irelands first
safety and self-defence company of its kind was set up on the basis of knowing what it’s like
to be on your own in a new place for the first time and not feeling protected from the
unknown. With every other news heading detailing another instance of drink spiking, assault or hate crime. I understood that now was the time that something had to be done".
Zara Campbell- CEO of The Safe Yard
"My own experiences of harassment and sexual assault played a huge role in the motivation
behind creating this company and I am not ashamed to say it. I am proud of what I have
been able to overcome, and it has made me extremely passionate to help others in similar
situations. If my company can help prevent at least one potentially dangerous situation for
at least one other person, my goal has been achieved. With “offensive weapons” being considered as “any article made or adapted for the use or intention of causing injury to another person” here in Northern Ireland (PSNI). This means there is not a lot of things we can carry to defend ourselves without it being deemed illegal, but I have worked hard to find products that legal here in Northern Ireland and useful"
I'm so grateful to have gotten to hear about Zara's story, I'm so excited for her and her new venture! I really encourage everyone to shop her products to support her small business, the work she is doing is so important.
I also wanted to thank Belfast Night In for taking the time to make a comment in this especially busy time.
As a young woman, I'm definitely aware of the risks there are living away from home, going for a run alone, even in something as simple as going out with your friends. Personal stories I've heard recently from friends and people I know about spiking are horrifying. I feel that we all need to work together, not only to stay safe, but to try to campaign for a change.
Thanks for reading x