In the Thomas Kemp pub in Brighton, you won’t be staring at club night adverts or inane graffiti carved into the door while you’re on the loo. Instead, you’ll be faced with a poster that reads: “Are you on a date that isn’t working out? Is the Tinder or Plenty of Fish date not who they said they were on their profile? Do you feel you’re not in a safe situation? Does it all feel a bit weird? If you go to the bar and ask for ‘Angela’ the bar staff will know you need help getting out of your situation and will call you a taxi or help you out discreetly – without too much fuss.”
This is the result of an initiative rolled out by Lincolnshire County Council in late 2016. As part of its ‘No More’ movement, the scheme was launched to reduce sexual violence and vulnerability by giving customers a non-descript phrase they could use to get the attention of staff members, who could then help separate them from the company of someone they feel unsafe with – whether that’s calling them a cab and allowing them to exit the venue subtly or, in extreme cases, asking the other person to leave.
This information and code word is displayed on the back of the male and female toilet doors in a variety of venues – from pubs to student nights – as a visual aid to prompt its customers about safety precautions and how ‘Ask for Angela’ works. The initiative has now been taken up by multiple constabularies across the country: the Metropolitan Police introduced the scheme to bars and pubs in London in March 2017.
At the end of June, the scheme was taken up by 79 venues in Telford; last week the campaign was rolled out in Sydney, Australia; and this weekend Alexandra Palace will display the posters at its Flaming Lips-headlining Kaleidoscope festival. All three events have highlighted the importance of the initiative all over again.
Australia’s Minister for Police, Troy Grant, said the program has been a success in the UK and he supports the move to Sydney. “Given the increasing popularity of online dating apps, many people are meeting for dates at bars, clubs and pubs having never met beyond the screens of their phone or computer,” he said. “We don't want people feeling intimidated when they're socialising in the city, they're out to enjoy themselves, not feel threatened and this initiative supports their safety.”
Almost three-quarters of young people have seen sexual harassment on a night out, according to a recent survey. The 2017 YouGov poll of 2,013 adults aged between 18 and 24 who drink in bars, clubs or pubs also found nearly 63% of women and 26% of men said they had been on the receiving end themselves.
A total of 72% claimed to have witnessed some form of sexual harassment, including someone being on the receiving end of inappropriate sexual comments or abuse; someone being on the receiving end of inappropriate sexual touching; or someone receiving other inappropriate or unwanted physical attention or touching.
In light of President Trump’s controversial trip to the UK last week, and the women’s marches that were sparked by his visit, giving women (and men) the courage to speak up if they feel vulnerable in a dating environment is an act that appears timelier than ever. So long, victim-blaming: we hope to see the ‘Ask For Angela’ posters – and accompanying staff training – being rolled out even further.
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