Have you ever been out in a bar or nightclub and found yourself in a situation you wish you could escape? Many people, particularly younger girls, find themselves ‘hiding’ in the toilets or searching for their friends in order to lose the unwanted attention of someone while out at night. Sometimes, though, it’s more difficult to get away. That’s where Ask For Angela comes in.
‘Ask for Angela’, a simple, code-word campaign, has been introduced across Britain.
It’s a helping hand for anyone facing sexual violence or an uncomfortable situation in bars and clubs – but what does it mean, and can it really help?
‘Angela’, apparently, is a play on the word (guardian) ‘angel’, designed to look out for people who find themselves with unwanted company when out for the night.
The campaign, which has been implemented throughout the UK via posters in various bar and nightclub toilets, encourages people to ask for help by going to the bar and asking for ‘Angela’. The phrase alerts bar staff that something is wrong, allowing them to help diffuse the situation or get you home.
The poster not only advises people to ask for help at the bar, but includes various helpline phone numbers – differing by location – to encourage people in a potentially dangerous situation to seek advice and help. The campaign started in Lincolnshire almost two years ago and gained momentum after a viral tweet was shared worldwide. The positive social media response, including approval from Hollywood star Ashton Kutcher, prompted the spread of the campaign to multiple venues across the country.
i saw this in a toilet and thought it was important and should be a thing everywhere not just lincolnshire !!!! pic.twitter.com/oO45I7gaJL
— izzi 🍓 (@iizzzzzi) October 18, 2016
When, though, is it acceptable to use the discreet cry for help?
The Tab recently interviewed various nightclub and bar staff, asking about the campaign and whether it had been used. Despite everyone having heard of ‘Ask for Angela’, and the majority of venues having a plan in place to help, nobody had actually heard the phrase used yet. This could be a testimony to the safety of the venues, or it could be the preconception that the phrase can only be used in an ‘emergency’ situation.
That’s why it is important to emphasise that the campaign is for anybody in an uncomfortable situation; ‘Ask for Angela’ is not just for people who fear for their lives or feel helpless. Most bars and clubs use the codeword as a way to escort you either somewhere where you will feel safe, or out a back door where they will help you make your way home. This means that it is safe to use at any time, for any reason, whether your friend is acting a bit strangely and making you want to leave, the person at the bar won’t stop buying you shots, or you’re scared of somebody getting violent or aggressive with you.
Can it really help?
Definitely. It’s a relatively small measure put in place to not only help people feel safe, but to actually keep them safe. The campaign gives people a helping hand and a way to escape. It’s discreet enough that it takes away a lot of the fear of rejection, and overcomes the ‘social structure’ that can stop us from being rude even when we are uncomfortable; it can be difficult to say in front of someone that you want to be left alone, but ‘Ask for Angela’ allows you to subtly let the bar staff know that you need taken away. Whoever is making you nervous won’t know why you have left, or where you’ve gone.
However, despite being heard of in the majority of bars and clubs across Britain, there are still some venues where the campaign is not in place.
This doesn’t mean that you have to deal with an uncomfortable situation yourself. Most bar staff and security personnel are trained to notice signs of discomfort, and to intervene if they see somebody in distress. If you need a little help, or you’re feeling nervous or scared, you can always approach the bar and let someone know. Even if there is no specific strategy in place, workers are always willing to help. After all, your safety comes first.