by Jo Swo
It’s not exactly radical to say we live in a victim blaming society. I’m not just referring to sexual assault either, which that phrase is now so well associated with. We are blamed, and blame others, for drinking too much, staying out too late, not planning journeys home, going out in the first place, and leaving drinks unattended to go for a quick smoke outside. As a consumer, you are held accountable for everything that could possibly happen, whether or not it’s in you control, because you chose to put yourself in that position (i.e in a club/bar).
Going out is a fantastic paradox, because it’s when people want to relax, drink, and let down their guard, but the environment you’re in is universally accepted as unpredictable and often dangerous. You pay for the privilege to step onto private property, it could be in the form of a stamp at the front door or a drink at the bar, and you are left to your own devices (or the devices of others).
Got felt up at Mantra? Why did you go to Mantra?! Got spiked at Norwich Arts Centre? Why did you leave your drink unattended!? Oh wait, you have to if you want to go outside. The idea that clubs and bars are sleazy, with wandering hands and sticky floors is now part of the ‘charm’ of going out. None of these things sound like a recipe for a good night out in Norwich.
the environment you’re in is universally accepted
as unpredictable and often dangerous
A few months ago I was scrolling through Facebook in some much needed procrastination from my dissertation. I came across a status of an old school friend, a picture of her in a club with the caption ‘…before some dick spiked my drink’. I scoured the comments to try and find out where she went so I could avoid it at all costs, but nothing came up. All this got me thinking, was Facebook the only place someone could share this experience? What were the consequences for the place that had let this happen?
The quickly became obvious that I, Jo Swo with the impending dissertation, long distance relationship, and soon campaign for Welfare Officer at UEA, had to take on this task and save the world. I wanted to create a safe place where anyone could share their experiences, name and shame the places that had let them down and warn others of certain members of staff they felt wary of. Friends voiced their concerns of the dangers of encouraging anonymous stories on the internet, that the website would be used for evil (negativity) and discourage business relationships with nightlife venues. All good points, but it brought me back to an unforgettable evening which I don’t remember because it was the day of my final exam in 2nd year.
no one likes talking about this sort of thing,
another problem with nightlife culture
I had drunk too much at the LCR and, whilst covered in glitter in my makeshift mermaid costume, decided it was a great idea to walk home to Unthank Road alone at 4am. This is the point that most peoples’ eyes widen and everyone becomes uncomfortable (no one likes talking about this sort of thing, another problem with nightlife culture), but the story ends well. A security guard from UEA pulled up beside me and offered me a lift. Being the all loving and naive 2nd year I was (and am) I jumped in and happily yapped away.
His name was Paul (I think) and he made sure I got home safe, so I woke up the next day with a terrible hangover but a good sense of humanity reinforced. What Paul did may not be called radical, looking out for a student, but the extra effort he made ensured that I felt safer every time I stepped onto campus. I went in search of Paul to try and thank him but to no avail, so I left a note at the front desk of Unio and a shout out on Facebook.
And I have not forgotten him. Sure, I may have forgotten his real name and his face, but I know he drove a UEA security car, was patient with my ramblings, and made sure I got home safe and sound. It enforced my faith in my campus and made me want to hold this man up as an example so other minimum-wage security workers may do the same and feel appreciated. By recognising the good of a few members of staff, we can encourage businesses to provide the necessary workshops for their employees to create the environment that we demand and deserve.
they’re not too bothered about the people who
leave the club, drunk beyond measure without
safe means of getting home
Too many times have I heard of friends being hospitalised after their drink was spiked, and a bouncer tutted them down when they tried to get help and said they were too drunk. This isn’t to say that bouncers and managers are cruel heartless bastards. But in most cases, security is hired by a third party and their focus is to ‘keep the peace’, usually by way of intimidation and force, so they’re not too bothered about the people who leave the club, drunk beyond measure without safe means of getting home, or the fella complaining about homophobic remarks made at him in the bathroom. Managers themselves are often too busy keeping a minimal team of underpaid bar staff and trying to make enough sales to turn a profit, to realise that the locks in the girls’ bathroom are all broken.
By sharing your night on Good Night: Norwich you are telling the clubs what makes you feel safe and what doesn’t. You’re not only helping improve the experience of you and your friends but you’re teaching the clubs and bars what you, as a consumer, want. When clubs start listening, changing and embracing the needs of their customers and accept accountability, these are the venues that will prosper, and the ones that I hope to dance in.