Initiative to reduce sexual violence gets renewed

An initiative that provides potential victims of sexual violence with a secret phrase to ask for help in public places has been renewed in Wolverhampton.

Back in 2017 the council launched the ‘Ask for Angela’ initiative, which aimed to reduce sexual violence and vulnerability by providing customers with a nondescript phrase they could use to gain assistance from staff members if they felt unsafe.

A total of 28 pubs and clubs in Wolverhampton initially signed up to the scheme, through which someone simply had to ask a staff member to ‘speak to Angela’ in order to be separated from the company of someone with whom they felt unsafe.

After “Asking for Angela”, an individual would be taken aside, or to a safer location, to speak in confidence to a member of staff about the assistance they need. Options available to staff include offering to call a taxi for the individual, contacting their friends or family, calling the police or requesting that an individual causing the distress leaves the venue.

However, it has somewhat fallen away since the launch in 2017, papers from this week’s council statutory licensing committee note, with natural turnover in licensed premises staff and the lockdown meaning that ‘the initial impetus may have been lost and the scheme may not now work coherently and effectively across the city centre.’

Backing

The relaunched scheme will be targeted at both men and women, papers note, starting in city centre licensed premises and expanding out to Bilston and Wednesfield town centres later in the year, with the initiative having backing from West Midlands Police, the university, Pubwatch, the Business Improvement District and the Wolverhampton Domestic Violence Forum.

In practice, the £1,300 initial cost for the initiative will be spent on promotional posters, business cards and window stickers.

While the new campaign will be less gender-specific, Councillor Lynne Moran wants to ensure that a strong focus remains on vulnerable women in the city.

“We do know quite a lot about the Ask for Angela scheme and I welcome it, thoroughly, just as anyone would in Wolverhampton,” she said.

“It’s a good example of partnership, of making sure that anyone who could be approached for help is aware of just what Ask for Angela means.

“We do know, from the data we’ve already got, that it’s mainly women who ask for Angela in bars and clubs, although there is some evidence to show that men in same-sex relationships may be put in that kind of position.

“But we also know that over 90 per cent of sexual assaults and street harassment are against women by men. So while it’s right that we’re diverse, and we’re inclusive, don’t let’s lose sight of the data, which clearly suggests that women are far more at risk of this kind of assault.”

The initiative will be rolled out from June 26.

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