By Katie Lewis
There’s no doubt that Cardiff is a great place to live, in fact, it was ranked the third best place to live in 2016. But it doesn’t matter where in the world you might live, there are still some dangers to be aware of. Between January and December 2018 there were 11,583 violent and sexual offences reported to the police in Cardiff, which topped the chart and was followed closely by 10,561 reports of anti-social behaviour. This proves that unfortunately Cardiff isn’t always the happy and jolly place we know it to be. I’m going to give you some words of advice of how to avoid situations, and how to better prepare yourself if danger comes your way.
Sometimes, as hard as you may try, certain situations are hard to avoid. It’s common for harassment to take place in the city, whether you’re getting cat-called, whistled at, or propositioned in the street. Unfortunately, you can’t stop people from doing these things, but you are completely in control of how you deal with it. I would suggest, as hard as it may be, to ignore the perpetrators of the harassment if you can, as the situation could become unsafe. Especially if you’re on your own, you should try to avoid agitating the harasser as they might turn nasty. If you find that someone is relentlessly harassing you, and you are alone, go to a safe space like a university building or enter a shop and phone a friend to come and meet you. They are less likely to harass you if there are people around and CCTV cameras watching their every move. If you feel you are being continuously harassed, or even stalked, you can report it by calling 101 or by popping into the police station.
If you’re walking around the city at night, make sure you know your route and stick to roads with good street lighting and avoid short cuts through back streets or alleyways. If you can, avoid walking alone at night, because if you have a friend with you, you can look out for each other. Keep your phone charged, in case you lose your way or need to contact someone if you’re feeling concerned about something. If you feel unsafe and haven’t got money on you to pay for public transport, students of Cardiff University and Metropolitan can use the Safe Taxi Scheme. In partnership with Dragon Taxi’s, this service allows you to phone 029 2033 3333 and quote ‘Cardiff University Safe Taxi Scheme’ and simply give them your name and student number. You can pay the bill within the few days after your trip in the Finance Office at the SU. The scheme is available 24 hours a day, so if you feel unsafe or just want to get home after a night out, you can use this scheme to ensure a safe trip.
Keeping safe on a night out is a different ball game, because we all know when under the influence, our judgement can become clouded. But if you get into the habit of looking out for yourself and your friends on a night out, it becomes second nature. Recently, on a night out, one of my friends suggested adding each other on the ‘Find My Friends’ app, so that if we got split up, we could reunite easily. I can imagine this really coming in handy for those of you who go out in large groups, as there is always someone who decides to stray from the pack and go solo in the club. Also, you can be sure that your friends made it back home safely, so you can all sleep soundly.
Whilst on the subject of nights out, a danger to be aware of in a busy nightclub, is someone spiking your drink. There are plenty of horror stories in the press about spiking, and unfortunately, it’s on the rise in the UK, with a 108% increase in cases reported in the UK since 2015. Spiking is often followed by instances of sexual assault or robbery, whilst the victim is under the influence of unwanted drink or drugs. If you’re on a night out with friends, make sure you’re looking out for each other and are aware of the people surrounding you. If you see any suspicious people possibly lurking too near to you or looking noticeably shifty, don’t ignore it, move away as soon as you can. You can report them to a member of staff like a bouncer, and they can keep an eye on them. But how do you spot symptoms of a spiked drink? Spiking victims often become nauseous, have problems with their vision, find it difficult to speak, are often disorientated and feel paranoid and disorientated. If you suspect yourself or a friend to have been spiked, you should act quickly and take them to a first aid room where they can be examined and possibly taken to hospital. Remember to never leave your drink unattended, or to accept a drink from someone that you don’t know, because then what happens to that drink is out of your control.
But while I’ve talked a lot about some of the horrors of big city life, it’s important to remember that there are so many helpful services if you ever feel unsafe. Not only are there police, but there are helplines like C.A.L.L. which is a listening line offering emotional support to those suffering with personal issues. You can phone C.A.L.L. on 0800 132 737. There is also the Cardiff Nightline service that you can phone on 02920 870555 at any time between 8pm and 8am. This is a student led service where you can be listened to without judgement. So, if you’re struggling with anything, or you’ve been through something and want to talk about it, there are people out there that will listen. Know that you’re not alone.