Bars urged to help women suffering harassment

Ask for Angela if you need help

Thursday, 20th May 2021 — By Bronwen Weatherby

may20 Image 2021-05-20 at 08.05.07 (2)

Phoebe Wyburd meets DS Stephen Pritchard

PUBS, bars and restaurants are being urged to do their bit to help keep women and girls safe from violence and harassment, as the Covid ban on socialising indoors was lifted this week.

Officers from across Camden and Islington’s police force have visited venues to offer advice on creating safe environ­ments for female customers. Businesses including cab companies and hotels were also offered training and information on the role they can play in spotting and reporting instances of abuse or exploitation.

Speaking to the New Journal at Hicce restaurant and market in Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross, Detective Sergeant Stephen Pritchard, from the public protection unit at Holborn police station, said: “The majority of the crimes we investigate are perpetrated against women and venues have a key part in reassuring the community.

“We want them to have contingency plans in place so that if an incident does occur, they know how to carry out the initial investigation, how to protect vital evidence, secure CCTV and the crime scene and most importantly how to protect the victim.

“Staff are the perfect witnesses and their testimony could be key to the case going the distance or not.”

He added: “Some victims may not want to immediately inform the police but they may change their mind later that night or in the days that follow and if the venue has recorded what happened and kept hold of evidence then police can corroborate the woman’s story.”

Businesses are being encouraged to use “Ask for Angela” – a campaign already adopted by many venues since it was launched in 2016 – in an attempt to prevent and reduce sexual violence and violence against women.

By asking a staff member for “Angela” a woman, child or anyone who feels vulnerable or in danger, can discreetly signal for help.

DS Pritchard said: “The campaign is not meant to be a secret, in fact I’d encourage venues to put up the posters and fliers in both men’s and women’s toilets because half the battle is getting it through to people that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated, by businesses or the police.”

He added: “Incidents that happen in public spaces can also be an indication of domestic abuse. Around 75 per cent of victims are females, and victims usually experience between 30 to 50 instances of abuse before they ever report anything But often there are signs when people are out. It could be raised voices, a smashed glass, a female being reduced.

“Not all instances will be abuse but, if something doesn’t feel right it usually isn’t.”

Phoebe Wyburd, the Coal Drops market manager, said: “We’re totally on board with Ask for Angela and doing whatever we can to keep women safe. We have a duty of care and responsibility for anyone who enters our venue, be that a man or a woman, and whether they’re inside or outside the building.”

Ninety-nine arrests were made last week across London on outstanding warrants.

Commander Catherine Roper, the Met’s Crime, Prevention, Inclusion and Engagement lead, said: “This operation isn’t in direct response to the death of Sarah Everard but concerns were certainly accentuated around that time.

“It’s important that it is known the Met Police will not tolerate incidents ranging from heckling on the streets to the most serious cases of violence and sexual crimes.”

Reaction must not be forgotten

WHEN Sarah Everard was found dead in March, the newspapers were full of debate and discussion about how girls and women did not feel safe in London. Social media bubbled with rage from everyday interactions to more serious cases of abuse.

We heard from women who felt they needed to pretend they were on the phone when they left a station late at night or carried their keys in a tight fist,

Sarah Everard’s death led to a national debate

Others said they were still being cat-called and whistled at. There were vigils and protests – and anger, of course, at how those events were policed.

There was national debate about why rape investigations so often ended with nobody being charged, and discussion on the sentencing. In sixth forms and universities, young women spoke out about what they had experienced.

But the news agenda then moved on and campaigners have had to work hard to keep it at the front of the national debate.

It is similar to how the protests about racial equality last summer were meant to mark the moment when everything changed.

The New Journal believes that it should not take the death of another young woman to restart the conversation all over again.

We will continue covering the campaigns and invite all readers to take part too.

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