Ask For Angela: Keeping Women Safe And How We Can Do Better

TW: Discussions of Women's Safety


If you have ever been to a bar, you have most likely seen an ‘Ask for Angela’ poster in the female toilets. If you have read the poster, you will know that if you ask a member of staff for ‘Angela’, they will help you out of whatever situation you are in. You may also notice that these posters all suggest the same scenario: a Tinder or Plenty of Fish date that is not going well, and the same outcome: helping you discreetly or getting you a taxi home.


What is Ask for Angela?


Initially launched by Lincolnshire County Council in 2016, the Ask for Angela campaign aims to keep women safe from sexual harassment and sexual violence. This is done by creating a safe space for women to approach members of staff to help them get out of an unsafe situation. If you use the codeword ‘Angela’ to a staff member, they should help you out discreetly by removing you to a safe space away from who you are with, calling you a taxi home if you wish, or removing the person from the establishment.




Essentially, the campaign aims to keep women safe by intervening and helping women out of unsure situations if and when they ask for support.


The campaign from past to present


As mentioned, the campaign was initially launched in 2016 by Lincolnshire County Council but has since gone on to become a nationwide campaign after being supported by the National Pub Watch scheme (where they made the poster available to all member pubs) and going viral on social media. According to Stephen Baker, as of October 2021, the ‘Ask for Angela’ poster was downloaded from the National Pub Watch website almost 12,800 times.


The campaign was relaunched in 2021, under a partnership between Safer Sounds, the Met Police, and the Mayor of London. The relaunch is currently being rolled out in London and aims to “help keep people safe while enjoying a night out.” One way the partnership aims to ensure people’s safety is through Welfare and Vulnerability Engagement (WAVE) training for all venues that participate in the campaign. Safer Sounds state that “WAVE training aims to increase the skills, knowledge, and confidence of those working in licensed premises focusing on identifying vulnerability and making appropriate interventions".


Does the ‘Ask for Angela’ campaign work?


Despite the abundance of drinking venues becoming involved in the ‘Ask for Angela’ campaign, the question remains whether it works or not.


Tanyel Mustafa, a lifestyle reporter for Metro News, tested what would happen when asking for Angela in seven drinking venues across London and found that bar staff did not know about the campaign, despite some venues having posters up. This is not to say that the campaign does not work in other venues across the UK, but that some participating venues with posters up do not seem to be competently trained to help. From Mustafa’s findings, Metro News began the #MakeAngelaSafe campaign to advocate making the campaign safer and more reliable by making WAVE training compulsory, inclusive to trans and queer people, and to have bi-annual refresher training so that staff can spot sexual harassment and vulnerability.


Unfortunately, Metro News reported that “Ian Graham, chief licensing officer at Metropolitan Police, admitted that he didn’t think sign up to the scheme ‘will ever become mandatory’." This means that venues can sign up to the campaign without receiving the necessary training to ensure the safety of their customers from sexual harassment and violence. This is especially damning as the programme and training manager for the Safer Sounds Partnership stated that “56% of night-time economy workers surveyed by his team encounter a vulnerable person at least once a week – but an overwhelming 93% hadn’t had vulnerability training.” By not making WAVE training compulsory for participating venues, people in vulnerable positions are being let down by those venues that choose to forego training.


What are the pitfalls of the campaign?


I think it can be agreed that the ‘Ask for Angela’ campaign has good intentions at its core, but that there is plenty of room for improvement. Whilst a campaign aimed at keeping women safe is vital, training is not compulsory and is only aimed at keeping ciswomen safe. Furthermore, the onus of responsibility is on the woman who feels unsafe to seek out help which can be terrifying to do so, with no guarantee that a staff member will understand the codeword and be able to help. The campaign posters are only aimed toward one scenario: a date that is not going well. As temporary Chief Inspector Gill Cherry, Night-Time Economy Lead for Cumbria Constabulary stated: “Whilst the campaign focuses on those who are on dates, it also applies to any situation where a person feels uncomfortable or threatened by a person they may have met.” However, this is not explicit, and women may not know that they can ask for help in any other situation except on bad dates.


Suggestions on how the campaign can be made more successful


  • WAVE training to be made compulsory for all participating venues, with inclusivity training included.

  • Several staff members per shift should be WAVE trained. They should be vigilant and intervene discreetly if necessary.

  • Campaign posters to be placed visibly throughout participating venues to encourage awareness of the scheme for everyone, not just women.

  • Educational posters to inform what sexual harassment, assault, and spiking are, and the criminal repercussions of these offences to deter possible perpetrators.

  • A variety of posters that show different scenarios to encourage and let people know they can seek help in all sorts of situations.


Have you seen an 'Ask For Angela' poster before?

  • Yes

  • No

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Illustrations

  1. Cover Image - Official 'Ask for Angela' posters

  2. In-Article Image courtesy of Karolina Jonc Buczek (@Jajonc on Instagram)

Writer

Hannah Milner (She/Her)

Hi, I'm Hannah (she/her) and I recently graduated from the uni of Strathclyde in Social Policy and English. I love reading books, am passionate about challenging social inequalities, and desperately want a pet cat.

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