How a non-existent cocktail might prevent sexual violence in Montreal

A Quebec student group is launching a campaign in bars across Montreal, aimed at giving patrons who are on a bad date a way of asking for help.

Through the “Order an Angelot” campaign, bar patrons who are in situations in which they feel threatened or uncomfortable can discretely ask for help from the bartender by ordering a non-existent drink called an Angelot.

If they order the Angelot with ice, they’re asking bar staff to call them a taxi so they can leave.

If they order it without ice, that means they want the bartender to take them to a safe place.

And if they order it with lime, that’s the signal to tell the bartender they’ve been assaulted and that police should be called.

The campaign is similar to the “Ask for Angela” campaign in the U.K. and “Order an Angel shot” program in the U.S., but substitutes the word “angelot” because it means "little angel" and can be used in both English and French.

Stephanie Juteau, the co-owner of Resto Bar La Maisonnee near the University of Montreal, says if patrons ask for help from her staff, they are ready to step in no questions asked.

“It's not a secret code, but if the girl just says the word, she doesn't need to give an explanation. We know that we're going to help her because she's saying this word,” she says.

The student group “Sans Oui C’est Non (“Without Yes, It's No”) launched the campaign this week, offering to train all bar staff about how the program works.

“It's an active bystanders training, so we're trying to help the staff become more aware of all the sexual violence we have in bars,” says the group’s Marie Gauthier.

ASEQ, the Quebec student health alliance, is part of the campaign too and hopes to convince 40 to 50 bars in university areas to put posters up in washrooms telling patrons how the program works.

“We’re starting small to make sure it works and is efficient. So 40 to 50 bars on and around campuses and after that, we'll see,” says ASEQ’s Patrice Allard.

Some have been critical of the campaign, worrying that bar staff may not understand how to respond properly, or complaining that the program won’t work if abusers are aware of the code words too.

Jennifer Drummond of the Concordia Sexual Assault Resource Centre has heard the criticism but thinks the initiative is still a positive one.

“This gives people the option of getting to a safe place, getting help if they need to and that's a good thing,” she says.

With statistics showing that one in three women experience some sort of sexual violence during their university studies, she says any campaign that helps raise awareness can only help.