By Tiffany Chan
This article mentions sexual assault.
Durham University’s college common rooms are currently in the process of developing #DurhamUnite, an anti-spiking campaign, in response to a rise in spiking cases during Michaelmas 2021. The campaign is to be carried out in collaboration with the University and the DSU.
In an email sent to all students on the 22nd of February, the campaign leaders explained that #DurhamUnite will urge clubs, pubs and bars to contribute towards the detection and prevention of spiking perpetrators. They suggested “additional CCTV, more staff training, extra door checks, offering cup toppers, etc.”
The campaign will be launched along with partners and licensed premises in Durham, showing “the benefits of multi-agency working across the city.” Partnering venues will be given a #DurhamUnite logo to display on store fronts to demonstrate their support.
The initiative comes after a report compiled by St Chad’s JCR Vice-President Joe Anson found that 167 cases of suspected spiking had been reported to college JCRs and welfare teams in freshers’ week, the week leading up to it and the weekend after.
Just 82 possible spikings, 25 of which involved injections, were reported to County Durham police between October and December 2021. Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Joy Allen told MPs that the number of reports to police was unlikely to reflect the true number of incidents, explaining that “only 10% of people who have been a victim of spiking feel confident enough to report it in”.
The University-wide email shared the actions taken as part of the campaign has so far. 16 local licensed premises have agreed to “adopt best practice” regarding safety and protection measures, work with Durham County Council Drug and Recovery Service on a pilot scheme where those potentially affected by spiking can seek testing and support, and expansion of training schemes for those who work in premises such as college bars.
The pilot scheme will add an extra option to existing testing and support available via the Durham Constabulary, or, if sexual violence is suspected, at the Sexual Assault Referral Centre.
Other achievements include the publication of updated information about spiking for the University’s Report &Support tool, the provision of bottle and glass covers for distribution by common rooms to their students, and supported plans to improve CCTV in college bars.
The University’s Report & Support tool currently provides exact details about how to detect spiking, how to prevent spiking, and what to do if you suspect you were spiked. The tool then gives students the choice of either reporting an incident anonymously or to report with contact details.
Apart from the JCR-led campaign and the University’s Report & Support tool, the DSU also provides support in the form of a “Night-Cab” scheme which, according to the University website, “provides a safe and secure way for students to get home or travel to A&E”.
Commenting on the scheme when it launched earlier this academic year, SU Welfare and Liberation Officer, Jonah Graham called on students to involve themselves with the campaign, explaining “#DurhamUnite is led by student voices throughout the colleges so please speak to your Presidents, your Student Support teams, and your SU so we can respond to what is happening in
Image: Mark Norton