According to a YouGov poll of 2,013 adults aged 18 to 24 ‘who drink in bars, clubs or pubs’, nearly two-thirds of women (63%) and more than a quarter (26%) of men have been on the receiving end of sexual harassment while socialising. These statistics combined mean that terrifyingly, ‘almost three-quarters of young people have witnessed sexual harassment on a night out.’
This survey, commissioned by the independent alcohol advice trust Drinkaware, shows the startling reality of the sexual harassment epidemic in the UK. Drinkaware’s campaign leader Janet MacKechnie said; ‘For far too many people, drunken sexual harassment is now sadly part and parcel of a night out.’ Clearly, something has gone terribly wrong in society.
Another survey conducted by ITV in 2014 found that 1 in 10 people have reported having their drink spiked. It should be zero, however, this statistic sounds relatively low. But this doesn’t take in to account the people that didn’t report a spiking to the police, 82% predicts ITV, maybe because they put it down to a few too many or didn’t see the point.
A night out or a first date should be nothing but fun but with sexual harassment an almost certainty, it is going to put you on your guard, and make you just that bit more prickly to the completely innocent guy unintentionally standing slightly too close in the crowded queue for the bar.
In this modern age of increased (yet not full) equality and with eye-opening campaigns like Me Too, it is incredibly sad that we need to say this, even so, here a few ways you can keep yourself safe out and about.
‘Ask For Angela’
Have you ever been on a date with someone who makes you feel unsafe, is refusing to take the hint, or is just plain creepy? ‘Ask For Angela’ is the ingenious solution to a situation that unfortunately most women find themselves in at some point in their life. Even Ashton Kutcher is a fan.
Posters have been put up in participating bars, clubs and restaurants in a campaign created by Hayley Child from Lincolnshire Community Council in 2016, following their #NoMore sexual violence and abuse campaign.
The posters, usually found on the bathroom walls, say; ‘Hi I’m Angela. 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 it all feel a bit weird?’
The campaign encourages women to discreetly leave the date, maybe on the pretense of grabbing some more drinks, go to the bar and ‘Ask for Angela’. Trained staff will then take them to a safe place so they can explain the situation and then get a taxi, friend or family member to pick them up. The member of staff can then remove the creep or inform the police if they believe a criminal offense has taken place, ‘without too much fuss.’ Takes the stress out of Tinder a bit doesn’t it?
The posters are now nationwide.
Coming in Autumn, Undercover Colours is a nail varnish that claims to be able to detect date rape drugs such as Rohypnol, Xanax, GHB. According to the brand, in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
Apparently founded in 2014 by 4 male friends, all undergraduates at North Carolina State University, Undercover Colours was inspired by their desire to help their female friends feel safer on nights out or dates.
Paint it on your nail, stir your finger into your drink and if one of a drug is present, the polish will change colour in under 2 minutes.
While it might prove slightly difficult to stick your finger in your drink with much subtlety on a date, and if you suspect someone of spiking you enough to test it’s probably best to call it a day and Ask for Angela, it’s still nice to know we can find out. This product is probably more for a night out situation, where sticking your hand in your drink would be perfectly acceptable.
Again, the initiative is a preventative measure rather than a solution to the overarching problem of sexual harassment, but it could potentially make a huge difference as a deterrent and a detective device.
There are quite a few apps out there that aim to keep you safer when alone, on a dodgy date, or out on the sauce.
Companion is a security app that works with your phone number and will text a GPS linked map to your chosen contacts, to effortlessly notify your them (friends or family) of your whereabouts, perhaps on a date, in a cab, or walking home.
The app sends your location to people of your choosing, making them aware of your location and route in real time, telling them when you have arrived safely or if you are in trouble or need help.
The recipients don’t even need to have the app downloaded to get your notifications and the police are only one tap away.
The only downside is that while using it, you need to have your wits about you. If your headphones get yanked out of your phone, if your phone hits the ground, or if you start running, the app will ask you if you’re ‘OK’. If you don’t answer in 15 seconds the app will notify your chosen companions. So, if you don’t want pissed off friends and terrified parents every time you’re stumbling home balancing a kebab and trying to pick the perfect ‘walking home song’, maybe think about turning it off.
These schemes have been criticised by some for ‘ignoring’ the core reasons behind the prevalence of sexual harassment and not dealing with the men that are actually doing the harassing, and the issue of culpability and victim blaming definitely needs to be a factor in any discussion about consent and sexual harassment.
However, the core reasons for sexual harassment cannot be fixed overnight. Despite these worrying statistics, society is changing, and with that so are attitudes towards women, men, sexuality, and consent.
These options are not claiming to solve the issue of sexual harassment, but it this age of internet dating, people are meeting up with strangers more and it’s good to know that there are products, schemes and app’s we can use to keep ourselves safe. Everyone want’s to think we’re a black belt in Judo, but we’re not and until we learn, or men just stop it, we thank them for it.