Look after your physical, sexual and mental health as you celebrate a brand-new year…
Whether you’re hitting the club or heading to a house party, we hope you have fun and stay safe this New Year. As the drinks flow, inhibitions loosen, putting you and your friends at risk of harm. Read our helpful tips to keep yourself safe while you party your way into 2023…
ALCOHOL: KNOW YOUR LIMITS
If you plan to drink alcohol, please drink responsibly. Stick to your limits and drink water or pop between alcoholic drinks to pace yourself. Don’t drink on an empty stomach – have a filling meal before you head out for the evening. Wrap up warm when you go out for the night – alcohol can trick you into thinking you’re a lot warmer than you actually are, putting you at risk of catching hypothermia so make sure you layer up against the cold weather.
Keep an eye on your drinks and never leave them unattended. Use anti-spiking drinks covers if they’re available or take your own along with you. Spiking can cause a range of symptoms, from feeling sleepy and confused to vomiting and loss of balance. If you suspect your drink has been spiked, tell someone immediately and seek medical help. Read more about drink spiking and its effects here.
Be careful with drinking games. Drinking too much alcohol in a short space if time can make you very drunk, very fast. When your whole group is knocking back sangria and trying to convince you to join in, it can be difficult to say no but remember that you don’t have to drink anything you don’t want to. It’s OK to pass on the shots and sip slowly on your own drink.
Don’t ever get behind the wheel when you’ve been drinking and never get in a car with an intoxicated driver. Take a bus, train, or order a taxi or Uber to get you where you need to go. Drink-driving kills.
Any sexual behaviour that makes you feel uncomfortable, intimidated or discriminated against is counted as sexual harassment. Unwanted sexual attention such as inappropriate comments, behaviour and touching are all examples of sexual harassment. Other examples include:
- Comments about your body or the clothes you wear
- Showing you sexual videos or content
- Invading your personal space
- Questions about your sex life
- Telling sexually offensive jokes
- Flirting or making sexual gestures
- Pressuring you to do sexual things you don’t want to do
- Someone exposing themselves to you
- Staring or leering at your body
- Touching someone without permission
- Sexual assault or rape
Sexual harassment is never OK. If someone refuses to leave you alone or tries to grope or kiss you against your will, report it to the bar or club’s management, security team or police. It’s never OK to touch someone against their will and being drunk is no excuse.
If you’ve been a victim of sexual abuse or sexual violence, it’s vital to understand that it was not your fault. It doesn’t matter what you were wearing, what you were drinking, who you were with, what you said or what you did – you are not to blame. There is NO excuse for sexual abuse and sexual violence.
If you have been sexually assaulted it’s important to seek medical assistance immediately for any injuries you may have and because you may be at risk of pregnancy or STIs. It can feel scary to talk to medical staff about what you’ve experienced but rest assured that you will be in safe hands and looked after in a professional, sensitive way. Try not to wash or throw away any clothing you were wearing at the time of the assault as this can destroy important forensic evidence that can help find and punish the person who committed this terrible crime against you.
Remember: this is not your fault. Please seek support to help you process and deal with the trauma you’ve experienced. You can find your nearest sexual assault referral centre here: https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/other-services/Rape-and-sexual-assault-referral-centres/LocationSearch/364
Protect your sexual health if you hook up with someone this New Year. Remember that not all contraceptives protect you from both pregnancy and catching an STI – you can get free contraception and advice from your local sexual health clinic or GP. Asking your partner to wear protection can feel awkward, but it’s important to look after your sexual health. It’s wrong for someone to pressure you into having sex without using contraception. If you’re having lesbian, gay or bisexual sex, you should also use contraceptives to protect yourself and your partner from STIs.
Dr Dawn says, “Condoms are often the first form of contraception used by a couple. They are most commonly made of latex, but some people are allergic to latex and thankfully you can get alternatives made of substances like silicone or polyurethane.”
Another popular option is the Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill (COCP) or Mini Pill. The pill will protect you from pregnancy but not STIs so it’s important to use condoms, too. Remember, if you have vomited or had diarrhoea then your contraceptive pill may not be 100% effective which is why it’s important to also use condoms.
If you’ve had unprotected safe and are worried about pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, it’s important to seek support. Dr Dawn says:
“You can access free emergency contraception from Family Planning Clinics, GP surgeries, Sexual Health Clinics, Walk-in Centres, Minor Injuries Units, A&E and pharmacies although not all of these will offer the IUD option.”
The two types of emergency contraception are:
The Emergency Contraceptive Pill (“Morning After Pill)
There are two types of emergency contraceptive pill. Levonelle can be used any time up to three days after unprotected sex and EllaOne can be used up to five days after unprotected sex.
The IUD can be inserted up to five days after unprotected sex.
If you are still struggling to decide what contraception to use then speak to your GP. The Brook Contraception Tool can also help you work out the best method for you.
For more information on the different types of contraception available, click here.
For more practical tips on staying safe this New Year, click here.