Don’t be like Sally; addressing disastrous dates has never been easier with ‘Ask for Angela’.

The scheme has been adopted at various venues in Lincoln. Photo: Lincolnshire County Council.

Sally just met Tom. 24 years-old from Market Rasen. Hobbies include: fitness, cooking and travelling.

Only Tom didn’t look 24, he was a mid-thirties type. His fitness skills were severely lacking, and the only travelling she could assume he did was the trip from the sofa to the fridge, chomping on last night’s left-over greasy take-away. He was pushy and kept touching her thigh under the table, the complete opposite to the man from their chats. Much to Sally’s relief, the end of the night dawned. Tom persistently offered to drive her home, she politely declined, but he wouldn’t accept no for an answer.

If only Sally knew about Ask Angela.

‘Ask Angela’ is an ongoing scheme that aims to reduce sexual violence, harassment and vulnerability in nightclubs and bars in and around Lincolnshire that initiated in 2016, in collaboration with the ‘#NOMORE’ project. How does it work?

‘Are you on a date that isn’t working out?’

‘Do you feel like you’re not in a safe situation?’

‘Is your Tinder or PoF date not who they said they were on their profile?’

‘Does everything just feel a bit weird?’

These are just a few of many regrettably common things that pass through young people’s minds on a night out. The scheme works like this; if you go to the bar or reception of the venue you are in and ask a member of staff for ‘Angela’, the staff will know immediately that you need assistance and will call you a taxi or help you out discreetly without causing any attention. Ask Angela helps particularly vulnerable people in awkward situations that make them feel unsafe, uncomfortable or under pressure.

Founder of the Ask Angela scheme, Hayley Child was inspired by her best friend Angela’s tragic death at the hands of her abusive husband. Hayley dedicated her viral Lincolnshire-based safety campaign in the memory of her dear friend. It was too late for Angela, but Hayley’s hopes are that her hard-work and dedication will prevent another victim from the same heart-breaking fate.

Hayley had this to say about her project: “Angela was a play on the word [guardian] Angel. The posters are up in male and female toilets, and provide reassurance there is support available if needed.”

We think it is important to fixate on the fact that this scheme is not only a prevention scheme for female victims, but also male. Many nightclubs and bars display posters advertising this helpline in both male and female restrooms, for those who were unaware of the scheme. Sexual assault and vulnerability are publicised as more common in women than men.

However, only in the last few years has the silence been broken for male victims. Male rape and sexual abuse helpline ‘SurvivorsUK’ note the extent of attacks on men that go on unheard: “An estimated 12,000 men are raped in the UK every year, and more than 70,000 are sexually abused or assaulted.”

It is clear that speaking up about sexual abuse is difficult, perhaps a step forward in the Ask Angela scheme would be to introduce an ‘Ask Andrew’, a male alternative to Ask Angela, potentially encouraging more men to seek comfort in coming forward or asking for support. Ask Angela fights to bring both female AND male sexual violence and harassment to the attention of the public-sphere, preventing the suffering of further victims.

At The Linc, we were delighted to discover just how many of our local pubs and clubs in Lincoln support and enforce the Ask Angela scheme. Just a few of these venues include; Kind Bar, Slug and Lettuce, Circle, Trebles and The Ritz Wetherspoon. To see a complete list you can go to the Lincoln Big website or visit the Lincolnshire County Council website for more information. Our student community is pleased to see the vast amount of support from our local establishments in order to safe-guard our city’s residents.