Whilst on campus and in the sober world, we all seem to mingle well – but it’s a different story when the sun goes down. In a sea of students and free-flowing of alcohol, many nights out can start off fun but go disastrously wrong; Impact’s Nights Editors look into the dark side of partying.
So, you went out last night with a few friends, you knew you were going to drink but didn’t intend to get as drunk as you did. We’ve all been there. With little cash left in your pocket, a thumping head, an outbox full of badly typed texts and an inbox full of messages from your mates asking how your hangover is, what else have you got to remember your night by? Perhaps your souvenir of your night out is more than just a number. Perhaps it’s a rip in your outfit, a cut from being pushed over or punched – or perhaps it’s the marks on your wrists from being handcuffed and arrested.
There is a worrying correlation between alcohol-related arrests and injuries among young people. Needless to say, as alcohol and student life often go hand-in-hand there is a concern about such levels of injuries and alcohol-related violence and arrests affecting students. Certainly it’s a widespread feature of British society that the government is keen to rid of.
It’s all very well stating that this is a worrying trend and one that needs to be rectified, but for this to happen we need to understand the consequences of alcohol-related violence. First and foremost, nobody wants to have a criminal record for being drunk and disorderly, or for ABH (Actual Bodily Harm) or GBH (Grievous Bodily Harm). It could seriously harm your chances of getting that dream job. At the time you wanted to be the hard man (or woman), or wanted to protect your mate or just get revenge on someone who spilt a vodka coke down your new Diesel jeans or stood on your foot with their stilettos. You may well think that you would never react with excessive violence, but there are far too many cautionary tales about normal students whose judgement was clouded by alcohol. It’s also important to remember that any fight can all too easily have tragic consequences. One 20-year old student is facing prison on charges of manslaughter after a drink-fuelled fight. In the last year, another student was killed by a brain haemorrhage caused by a single punch to the head.
Even though most of us do a good job of staying out of trouble on a night out, we can’t always be sure that trouble won’t find us. However, an A&E nurse assured us that the majority of alcohol-related incidents and injuries are often self-inflicted accidents. James, who works in A&E at the QMC, told me that on any given weekend a large proportion of the cases they receive in are there due to alcohol related incidents. He also told me how the injuries range from the minor, such as cutting oneself with a knife in the kitchen or on some broken glass to the much more serious, such as road traffic accidents caused by drink-driving. A real plethora of injuries stems from just one cause: alcohol. Whilst a few injuries are caused by person-on-person violence, fortunately perhaps, most injuries end up being self-inflicted. Take Sean, a second year student, who during a Campus 14 had consumed a lot of alcohol in a short space of time (as is the nature of a Campus 14). A friendly rugby tackle at a friend went wrong, and Sean ended up head butting a curb. It resulted in a broken nose and 17 stitches on his face.
When asking James about his opinions on reducing alcohol-related arrests and injuries, the answer for him is not tee-totality. The best way to reduce causing harm to ourselves and to others is to pay attention to how much you’re drinking, stay out of any potentially inflammatory situations with friends or fellow clubbers and remember acting ‘hard’ is, at the end of the day, not hard or clever. It’s plain stupid and you’ll regret it.
Everyone’s witnessed some sort of scuffle on a night out; anything from a punch-up between two pumped up lads, to a cat fight between two girls wearing heels the size of Trent building. With inter-hall rivalry drilled into us from day one, can we really expect all Nottingham students to show a united front? What is perhaps more alarming is this type of situation is not just limited to the student male population. Girls, although not necessarily as strong or capable of inflicting such injuries, can be just as aggressive. If a drunken mess is stumbling through the crowd with no regard for anyone else, and has trodden on your foot with four inch stilettos and the weight of a rugby player, your immediate reaction is to push her away from you, not only to relieve the pain, but to signal that you are not impressed. The Ocean floor is strewn with girls ready to fight back at whoever just pushed them over; and girls can also pack a punch.
To some degree aggression and violence between students of the same sex can be expected when you shove two thousand students in to a crowded room with unlimited alcohol. However, one of the most shocking instances, one that seems to be on the rise, is the battle between the sexes. Attitudes towards mixed gender violence seem to be changing and, dare I say it, actually becoming more lax. When emotions are running high and alcohol is dictating every action, girls do not seem fazed by a fight between two angry lads and sometimes even get involved by throwing a punch themselves or trying to break up the fight. By no means are we implying that girls are a ‘weaker sex’ who shouldn’t defend their male friends, but if you’re going to get involved, it’s more likely than not you’ll end up with a bruise or two. One second year male student told Impact: “If a girl hit me I wouldn’t think twice about hitting her back”. On the other hand, and to many the most disturbing instances are when girls often become victims of violence for defending themselves or friends from perverted ‘lads’. During Refresher’s Week, Nina (Impact Nights Editor) experienced this sort of violent outburst: “A guy pushed my friend up against a wall, so I gently elbowed him off her, after which he turned around and punched me in the head – thankfully he was so drunk he missed my face. He then kicked me a couple of times in the legs before disappearing into the crowd, whilst I picked myself up and went to my friend’s aid.”
Another increasingly frequent occurrence is drink spiking. Scarily it is happening more and more and not just to girls; one in five of all spiking victims are boys. There are over 40 drugs that can be used and some are fatal. The effects include vomiting, loss of consciousness, poor coordination and balance, slurred speech, muscle spasms, respiratory difficulties and in cases where a drug like GHB is mixed with alcohol, you could die.
Not only done as a means to sexual assault, practical jokes are increasingly enlisting the aid of these drugs or trying to liven up a party. It’s likely that it’s never crossed your mind, and it’s never going to be possible to watch your drink every second of the night. Nights Editor, Sam Tully, recounts her own personal experience: “I had only had two drinks, but clearly one had been spiked, and I made it half way across the dance floor before blacking out. I couldn’t finish a word, never mind a sentence, and couldn’t sit, stand, or walk on my own. Thank God for my friends, who helped me home and sat with me all night whilst I threw up and struggled to breathe. The next day I had to ask how I got home and why there were cups of water around my room and in the bathroom. The aftereffects lasted for at least two days. I was lucky though, my friends were with me and willing to look after me. If anything else had happened there was no way I could have defended myself. Just asking around friends I realise my experience is definitely not an isolated incident. At least eight people I know have been spiked since arriving at university. This is eight people too many.” The experience has the potential to be a lot worse; drink spiking is practically synonymous with date rape. The next time you think about leaving your drink on the bar, remember that this could happen to you.
Many more responsible students have already started to combat such incidents, with Club Outreach distributing water outside Ocean to help those feeling a little worse for wear, as well as preventing any drink-induced behaviour. So, whilst most of these unfortunate events occur in isolation, they are very real threats to us all. We should take much more care and consideration when we hit the bars and the dance floors, instead of hitting each other and the pavement.
Katie Cook, Nina Sorensen and Sam Tully