Guardian ‘Angel Shot’ could save your life

Some Bristol bars participating in program to prevent sexual violence against women

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Nearly 20 percent of women — one in every five — will become a victim of sexual assault at some point in their lives. Many initial encounters with their attacker occur in a bar or club where adults often meet up, making bartenders or bouncers the first line of defense against violence toward women.

The problem for bar workers is knowing when a woman is in trouble, and when someone needs to step in to protect her. She may not always be able to send that message without alerting her date and possibly provoking further violence. Some bars around Bristol now have a new tool to allow women to subtly alert a bartender that they need help, empowering bar workers to act when women find themselves in danger.

The “Angel Shot” is an international movement to give women an emergency escape if she finds herself in a dangerous situation with another person, particularly a man she may have met online and is meeting in person for the first time. Not knowing how he will react if she reports his inappropriate behavior, she can know tell a bartender in code that she needs help, simply by ordering a drink.

Here's how it works: Order an angel shot neat and a bartender will escort you to your car. Ask for it with ice and the bartender will call a taxi or Uber for you. Order it with lime and the restaurant staff will recognize the gravity of the situation and immediately call the police.

Roger Williams University’s Heath Education Department and the Bristol Warren Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force have brought the program to Bristol and are encouraging bars around the town to take part.

“It is not an ordinary drink, the shot is a code for ‘I need help,’” reads a letter to area establishments encouraging them to participate. “The idea is to give women a way out of potentially dangerous situation. This program will be a safeguard against a significant rise in the number of reports of rape and assault on women who met their attacker via dating apps. Some attackers are now specifically using dating apps to find their victims. Add to this the constant threat of date-rape drugs, and the angel shot becomes a necessary step to help keep women on dates safe.”

The Prevention Task Force has petitioned bars throughout Bristol to encourage them to hang the posters in the ladies room and educate their staffs on what the code words mean. Some have committed to the program, including Common Pub on Wood Street, according to Manager Courtney Poissant. The bar, which hosts a college night every Tuesday, has hung the posters in the ladies room and placed a “cheat sheet” behind the bar for bartenders to refer to when a customer issues the code.

“We definitely want to keep all the college kids safe, just like all the other people who come in,” Ms. Poissant said, noting no one has used the codes in the week the posters have been hanging. “It’s a really cool concept that if you don’t feel safe, you can do something about it. We’re happy to take part in it.”

Any bars or restaurants interested in taking part can contact Maria Ursini, with the Prevention Task Force, at 401-396-5700.

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