Christmas party season is upon us, and in an ideal world, the only thing you need to worry about is your outfit choice.
Unfortunately, with rates of harassment, drink spiking and sexual assault still unacceptably high, many of us must also keep safety at the front of our minds.
Festive functions often involve tons of alcohol, late nights and mingling with different people in unfamiliar venues.
That’s why we’ve got a guide for you so you can make sure your festivities are memorable for all the right reasons.
What we’ll be looking into:
- Planning your night out
- Safety in numbers
- How to prevent drink spiking
- Getting out of a tricky situation
- Best taxi tips for safety
#1: Make a plan – and share it
Before heading out, ensure you’ve got all the information you need. It’s a good idea to have the venue details, a safe route there and the mobile numbers of a couple of the people you are meeting, just in case you get lost. It’s likely that you have all of this on your phone, so make sure it’s fully charged, and get a small portable charger that fits in your bag or pocket.
We suggest that you share these details with a loved one, too and let them know what time you’ll be heading home. If you agree to notify them when you are back home safely, they can act if you don’t arrive as expected.
In reality, there may be occasions when you’ve had a few too many and you don’t have the capacity to inform your circle about your whereabouts. We recommend sharing your location with your loved ones prior to leaving for the night, so they can see where you are whenever they become concerned. It’s also really good for reporting, if your location is always available, it’s much easier to send or sort help.
It’s probably a really good idea to commit at least one emergency contact to memory, and to set the emergency contacts up in your phone too.
In case of emergency (ICE) guides:
What the experts say:
The Office of National Statistics released a report in 2021 that shared the heart-breaking statistic that one in two women felt unsafe walking alone after dark in a quiet street near their home.
They also found that one in two women felt unsafe walking alone after dark in a busy public space and that two out of three women aged 16-34 years had experienced one form of harassment in the previous 12 months.
Since it’s dark by late afternoon during the winter, ensuring your route is safe both there and back is vitally important.
#2: Stay close to your party
Nobody is suggesting you can’t chat with new people during a night out, but just make sure you are still in the vicinity of the group you are there with.
It’s much harder for somebody with bad intentions to target you if you are surrounded by people you know and trust.
You could even arrange a buddy system with a friend where you agree to look out for each other throughout the night. Having an extra person keeping your safety in mind will help reduce the risk of getting into a dangerous situation.
If you’re a wanderer (or liability), you’ve got to approach this situation with some realism. You may lose your friends throughout the night, so it’s a good idea to at least get them in your eyesight before resuming your drunken escapades.
What the experts say:
Crimestoppers UK has put together a piece with seven safety tips for people heading off on a night out.
They say, “Always stay within a group when possible. By remaining close to the people you trust and know well, you’ll reduce the risk of being targeted by people who are up to no good and could be out to take advantage.”
Problem #3: Keep an eye on your drink at all times
It doesn’t matter whether your tipple is of the alcoholic variety, or if you are on soft drinks, don’t let your beverage out of your sight.
Sadly, spiking has become more prevalent, whether that’s lacing drinks with drugs or stronger alcohol.
If somebody offers to buy you a drink, only accept it if you can take it from the bartender you’ve seen pour it. Ultimately, rejecting the drink if it’s from a stranger is probably the most sensible course of action for your safety. If in doubt, chuck it out!
There are lots of different drink cover products on the market, and some venues will offer these to you as a complimentary extra. However, if you want to be super safe, you can buy your own and have peace of mind.
A 2022 YouGov Survey found that 35% of UK Women have had a drink spiked, know somebody who has, or both. When accounting for people who are ‘unsure’ on the spiking, this number becomes much higher. How to spot someone who’s had their drink spiked.
The Stamp Out Spiking initiative says that if you think you have been spiked, you should take the following action:
“Immediately tell someone you trust [or a bartender or someone employed by the venue]. If you need urgent help, call 999. Be wary of accepting help from a stranger and don’t leave with someone you don’t know. If you feel unwell, someone you trust should take you to your nearest A&E department. Tell the medical staff that you think your drink’s been spiked.
“Arrange for a trusted friend or relative to take you home and stay with you until the drugs have fully left your system. Report it to the police as soon as you can. They may ask you to provide blood and urine samples. Most drugs leave the body within 72 hours of being taken (the date rape drug GHB leaves the body within 12 hours), so it’s important to be tested as soon as possible.”
#4: Ask for help if you need it
You may be out on a date or have struck up a conversation with somebody during a Christmas party, but if things don’t feel right, act.
Sometimes, an online connection feels all wrong in real life, or what starts as a fun flirtation progresses into something you aren’t comfortable with. The person you’re talking to could just feel ‘off’.
If your instincts tell you this is not a great situation and you want to get out of it, trust them.
What the experts say:
There’s a very useful initiative out there for anyone who finds themselves in a tricky situation with a date or somebody who is making them feel unsafe.
You can go to the bar and ask the staff if you can ‘Speak to Angela’ and they will help you.
This is a way for you to discreetly ask for assistance to get out of the venue safely. The bar staff can escort you to a safe place and call you a taxi so you can get home without a difficult confrontation.
Never hesitate to use this service if you feel scared or vulnerable in these scenarios.
#5: Book your transport home
Before you go out, it’s a good idea to have a taxi booked to take you home.
If you book ahead, you can ensure that the firm you are using is reputable and the driver is licensed.
It’s worth remembering that black cabs are the only ones allowed to stop if they are hailed from the street.
To be extra safe, you can take a photograph of the taxi and its number plate before you get in and send that to a few of your loved ones so they know who you are travelling with.
In likelihood, you’re using Uber or Bolt to get home if you live in a major city. Both of these ride-sharing services offer a ‘Share’ feature, so your trusted person can see your journey in real-time, the details of your driver and their car, and when the journey has been completed. These ride-sharing services also have thorough vetting processes for their drivers, so we recommend using them wherever possible.
What the experts say:
Transport tech company Safer Minicabs have some excellent advice for people travelling by cab.
They say: “Ideally when you phone for a cab, ask what kind of car is coming to pick you up and the driver’s name. When the taxi arrives, before you get into it, make sure you ask the driver the name of the customer he or she is there to pick up – rather than giving them your name – and the name of the company they work for. That way, you can be sure you are safe and in the right cab.
“Safety experts advise women to sit in the back of cabs, rather than in the front seat, as this keeps you at a safe distance from the driver should there be any problems. You will also have two doors to leave the cab from in an emergency rather than one.”
If you’re using a ride sharing service like Uber, always ask who the driver is there to pick up, rather than volunteering your name up front. Also, double-check the numberplate prior to getting in. The app will tell you the type of car and its numberplate.
Be safe, not sorry
Hopefully, your festive party season will be nothing but joyous and happy.
The advice we’ve given is there to help you make sure that you’ve done everything you can to keep yourself out of harm’s way.
In our view, it’s not right that we must make so many provisions to ensure we are safe on a night out.
But it’s sadly the reality we are dealing with, and it’s far better to be extra vigilant than to put yourself at unnecessary risk.
Take care of yourself and your friends this Christmas.
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