The Lincoln Shire Rape Crisis Center in England came up with a genius yet simple campaign for helping women who are victims of sexual violence and abuse – one of the most simple and compelling acts of service towards women that I’ve ever seen sprawled across my Twitter feed.
A photo went viral on Twitter recently of a poster in the women’s restroom at a bar in Lincolnshire. The sign encourages women who may feel like they are in a bad situation and aren’t sure how to get away from their date to simply go up to the bar or member of the bar staff and ask for “Angela.” This code alerts the staff that they are to discreetly assist said woman in getting out of the situation.
The sign reads:
“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.”
As a woman, I feel completely moved by this simple act of service. And as a woman who has experienced her fair share of hopelessness while with an abusive man in the past, the sense of hope this campaign gives me for women who may be experiencing something similar is so heartening.
Because here’s the deal, it can be pretty terrifying to try and get away from a man who isn’t kind or nice, or, you know, is an abusive asshole. Adweek exlpains it as “The idea of being helped discreetly is the most compelling part about the campaign. Fear of causing a scene or being wrong can be paralyzing for people in an unnerving situation.”
Hayley Child, substance misuse and sexual violence and abuse strategy coordinator for Lincolnshire County Council, tells the Independent: “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, promote services in Lincolnshire and empower victims to make a decision on whether to report incidents.”
The thing I love most about this campaign is that it hits all the bases. It’s not just aimed towards women who are unjustly being assaulted at home (although I’m stoked and proud that it does include this group), but it includes women who may be on a first date and realizing that the guy is a total prick. It includes women who might have been catfished by some weirdo on Tinder. It’s including any woman who just feels uncomfortable in the situation and feels like she can’t simply walk out on the guy.
I had a conversation with one of my guy friends recently about how this seemingly nice enough guy struck up conversation with my friend and I at an event. He had been listening to our conversation and joined in to discuss whatever topic she and I had been indulging in over a couple beers. Toward the end of the conversation with this stranger in our midst, we were waiting on an Uber and totally trying to get away from this creeper. We walked fast, we made excuses, we told him we wanted to be alone, etc. When we realized that nothing we were saying would get this tool to leave us alone, we started getting a little freaked out. How are we supposed to get away from this dude? He’s just not listening to us…
My guy friend’s response to the situation was nothing short of total ignorance: “Why didn’t you just make him leave you alone?”
So, what, was I supposed to take him out? Was I supposed to break out my pepper spray simply because I felt uncomfortable? Or was I supposed to just keep telling him to leave us alone and walk away from him until he eventually followed us back to our cars or apartment? No thanks.
Honestly, I would have preferred the whole pepper spray thing, had I not left it at home.
The point is that there are times when a man is being annoying AF and it’s not so simple to get away from the situation. While the lovely little anecdote I just shared may be the on the lower end of the whole “get me away from this nut” meter, I can say that I would have appreciated that discreet “Ask for Angela” then just as much as I would have appreciated it when my ex-husband was punching a brick wall just inches from my face.
So kudos to the Lincolnshire Rape Crisis Center for assisting women in this fight and giving women a way out; I hope I start seeing these signs in bars, restaurants, libraries, hospitals and DMV’s across the United States, as well.