FOR most of us, a night out is a happy occasion, a chance to meet family and friends for a few hours in one of the city’s great pubs or restaurants. We don’t worry too much about personal safety as we’re usually with people we know.
There is a darker side to this nightlife, which was highlighted by recent reports that rape and sexual assault have more than doubled in Cork city in the last 12 months. When you consider that many sexual assaults go unreported, it’s clear we have a real and present problem.
Which is where the ‘Ask for Angela’ campaign comes in.
If you’re in a situation where you feel uncomfortable, you simply approach the bar staff and ‘ask for Angela’. The staff member will take you to a safe place or call a taxi to take you home.
‘Ask for Angela’ was originally developed by Hayley Child, who works for Lincolnshire County Council in England. Hayley felt with the increased use of dating apps such as Tinder more people were arranging to meet people they knew very little about in pubs and clubs. What happens if the date goes bad or you feel uncomfortable?
Hayley designed ‘Ask for Angela’ posters to be put up in bars and other social areas to instruct anyone on a date which makes them feel upset or unsafe to go to the bar and ask to “speak to Angela”. The phrase is a code word to alert staff to the situation and help them diffuse it and ensure the person is safe.
The posters advise: “Are you on a date that isn’t working out? Is your Tinder or POF [Plenty of Fish] date not who they said they were on their profile? Do you feel like 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.”
Discretion is at the heart of the ‘Ask for Angela’ campaign. A woman — and it usually is a woman — can approach the bar staff and it will appear they are simply asking for a drink.
The campaign was rolled out in the UK throughout 2016 receiving positive reviews from members of the public, while also endorsed by police forces.
Speaking in 2016, Hayley said: “The ‘Ask for Angela’ posters are part of our wider #NoMore campaign which aims to promote a culture change in relation to sexual violence and abuse, while empowering victims to make a decision on whether to report incidents.
“Sexual abuse and violence is a national issue and all councils have a responsibility to tackle abuse.
“We have had a really positive response to the campaign, including thanks from victims of abuse for the work that’s being done. The campaign has been supported by many professional partners.”
Last week on Crimecall on RTÉ1 the gardaí gave the campaign its full backing. The force would like to see as many pubs and clubs support the campaign as possible, by putting up posters and training staff about what to do in the event they are approached and asked for ‘Angela’.
Publicans’ representative organisation, the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI), is also backing the campaign by raising awareness of its members and making available ‘Ask for Angela’ posters on its website.
In Cork a collaboration between the VFI, Gardai, Cork City Council, Purple Flag Committee, Students Union representative bodies and security services in the city is supporting the campaign.
VFI Cork Secretary Michael O’Donovan says the ‘Ask for Angela’ campaign provides a safety net for people feeling vulnerable on a night out.
“As publicans, the safety and comfort of our customers is always to the forefront of our minds,” he says.
“Anyone feeling uncomfortable or threatened needs to feel they can reach out for help. ‘Ask for Angela’ is a great idea, which provides the harassed person with a discreet way of asking for help. It also helps bar staff deal with a difficult situation without the need for confrontation that may become dangerous.”
Campaign founder Hayley says pubs are the key to the campaign’s success: “We’d seen that a few individual pubs had done similar messages saying that if people’s dates weren’t going well the bar staff would help and call them a cab,” she said. “And what’s more, the response to the initiative has been extremely positive, with many contacting me to say what a great idea it is.”