Women who fear they might fall victim to sexual assaults and unwanted propositions have been given a new weapon to defend themselves while on a night out.
From this weekend, women feeling uncomfortable on their date just have to ask staff for “Angela” at almost any bar pub, bar, hotel or nightclub Sydney and the trained professionals will leap into action.
Staff across the city have been trained to either lead the person who asked for help discreetly out of the premises so they can escape or take the complainant to a safe space within the venue — such as a kitchen or staffroom.
Bar staff have also been trained to ensure the person who complained has a safe option to get home, by either calling a loved one, ordering a cab or calling police if the situation becomes too heated.
It’s all part of a new campaign, launched by the NSW Government this morning, to encourage those feeling unsafe to speak out.
The state’s Police Minister Troy Grant says he does not want people to feel “intimidated” or “threatened” when they are socialising in the city.
“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 told The Daily Telegraph.
The launch comes as crime statistics published by NSW Police reveal sexual assaults in the state have shot up by 7.2 per cent in the past two years up to March 2018.
Indecent assault and other sexual offences have also increased by 6.3 per cent in the same time.
Central Metropolitan Region Police Commander, Mark Walton APM, said Licensing officers are already training venue staff.
“We have been working with our Liquor Accord partners, the Australian Hotels Association, the City of Sydney and others to ensure staff can respond to the code-word concept,” Assistant Commissioner Walton said.
“It could be someone on a social media-arranged first date or perhaps a couple has met at one of the 13-hundred or so licensed venues in the Sydney CBD.”
The “Ask for Angela” scheme was originally launched in the UK about two years ago in Lincolnshire. After it found support and success among local women, it spread across the country.
When a student in Lincoln posted a picture of the poster on social media, it was circulated more than 25,000 times around the world — with many praising the idea.
Hayley Child, the sexual violence and abuse strategy co-ordinator for Lincolnshire County Council, came up with the idea and said she is delighted with the response it has received across the world.
“We’d seen that a few individual pubs around the country had done similar messages at the bar saying that if people’s dates weren’t going well the bar staff would help and call them a cab,” she said in a statement.
“We wanted to do this in a more organised way.”
She added the popularity of dating apps like Tinder meant more people might find themselves in difficult situations, adding that “feedback suggests having the scheme in place makes people feel safer”.
“We have had a really positive response to the campaign, including thanks from victims of abuse for the work that’s being done,” she added.
“Around the country and the world people have sent us messages saying what a great idea this is, and the response has been amazing.”
AHA NSW Director of Liquor and Policing, John Green, said many licensed premises in the Sydney CBD have signed up to the program.
“We have been busy educating venue staff about how to enact the concept and how to facilitate the safety measures within their own environments,” Mr Green said.
“This is not about venue staff replacing the role of police or putting themselves at risk,” he said.
“This is about reinforcing the need to be aware of patron behaviour and to provide options when a date or social encounter doesn’t go as planned.
“Participating venues have been quite enthusiastic about introducing “Ask for Angela” to the city of Sydney and we’re rolling out a fair bit of messaging about the initiative,” Mr Green added.
Sydney’s Deputy Lord Mayor, Jess Miller, said, “Everyone has a right to feel safe in the City, at all times.”
“Ask for Angela sends a message that creepy behaviour will not be tolerated and that nobody has the right to make anyone else feel threatened in any way,” Councillor Miller said.
“I, like many people, have zero tolerance for bad behaviour and this is a step toward ensuring that being made to feel threatened, or intimidated is not something anyone should have to put up with.”
In addition to training licensees and their staff, Police and their partners have produced a demonstration video, posters and other materials to highlight how the initiative works.