Written by Bridget Eke, University of Leeds, September 2022
Staying vigilant doesn’t mean being dull – it’ll help you to have a better time.
We shouldn’t have to write this article. You shouldn’t have to read it. But we do and you do, so read on and remember you can have a great night –the most amazing night of your life – and be aware of what’s going on around you. In fact, it’ll help. Here are seven things to bear in mind when you’re next grabbing your coat and your keys...
1. There's safety in numbers
This is Numero Uno. It’s always best to stay within a group of friends or other students. Being together with people you can trust will massively reduce the risk of somebody targeting you or seeking to take advantage – and it’s also important to look out for others who may be vulnerable.
2. Plan a route home
It isn’t as simple as sticking to busy, well-lit areas (although definitely do that). When you’re out late, it’s easy to forget that the timings of public transport at night will differ from day schedules. Keep this in mind, and always have a backup. If you miss the last train, do you have the money for an Uber? Does your university have a late taxi service? Are there friends nearby who could put you up for the night until you can journey back safely the next day?
3. Watch your drink
We’re being literal this time. Unfortunately, leaving a drink unattended means it can be spiked. It can happen to anyone, and for a variety of criminal acts, so keep an eye on your drink all night. You can visit the NHS website for help on the topic of sexual assault and drink spiking.
4. Drink in moderation
Yeah, yeah, heard it before. Know your limits, stay in control… boring. But this message is repeated so frequently for a reason. Under the heavy influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, there’s a much higher risk that your night takes an unexpected turn and not one of the better ones. Judging when to stop so you can still enjoy your night is virtually a superpower when you’re a student, because at the very least you’ll be the one keeping your lunch in. Which reminds us: eat a meal before a night out, and drink water during it. Yes, as well as the alcohol, not instead of it – give us some credit...
5. Keep your valuable close
It’s easy to be careless with your stuff on a night out, and opportunists know that. Someone may well be looking for a drunk student who doesn’t know where their phone is, or their wallet, or their purse, or actually anything at that moment in time. Keep your valuables out of sight to avoid being an easy target. Minimising the amount you carry (within reason, obviously,) can also reduce the risk.
6. Carry a portable charger
The invention of the portable charger was an instant game-changer; now everybody has one (or six), and why wouldn’t you? Our lives revolve around our phones, so fully charge yours, and your charger, and you won’t be without a way to reach friends or the emergency services. That’s not the only reason. I rely on Apple Pay so much that I forget to carry actual bank cards with me.
7. Be an active bystander
This rule applies inside and outside both bars and clubs. If you see someone at risk, assess the situation and how you can help – which does not mean getting personally involved. Bar staff or security will be trained in how to de-escalate or assist, and you can check out Neighbourhood Watch’s Active Bystander page on their website for helpful tips on intervening safely. If you’re abroad, ensure you know local emergency numbers. And finally: if you’re in a dangerous situation, please consider the risk to yourself, because you’re not Batman. Nobody is. Well, except Batman.
You can learn more about street harassment and what to do if you experience it, support for victims and how to report it on this page.