Staffordshire Police is urging all those who experience domestic abuse to use the code ‘Ask Ani’ when visiting pharmacies in their community in order to access urgent support.
It comes as part of the national #YouAreNotAlone campaign, launched by government, to help those at risk of abuse, particularly during this latest national coronavirus lockdown.
If you Ask for Ani at a pharmacy, you will be offered a session in a private consultation room where you will be helped to call the police or a domestic abuse helpline, in order to enable you to access services and further assistance safely and securely.
In its guidance to organisations involved in the campaign, HM government said: “Home is not always a safe place.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into focus the impact of lockdown on domestic abuse victims and reinforced the importance of domestic abuse being ‘everyone’s business’.”
Ask for ANI, which stands for Assistance Needed Immediately, alerts officers to the danger a potential victim finds themselves in and means help will urgently be made available.
HM government added: “This does not just apply to a lockdown situation and is equally true as restrictions change.
“Therefore, the domestic abuse codeword scheme Ask for ANI (Action Needed Immediately) is being established…to enable victims of domestic abuse to access support within their local community.”
According to national figures, an estimated 2.4 million adults experienced domestic abuse in the year ending March 2019, of whom 1.6 million were women and 786,000 were men.
In the same year, police recorded 746,219 domestic abuse-related crimes – an increase of 24% from the previous year.
“Asking for help is not easy,” a government spokesman said.
“Misunderstandings about domestic abuse often prevent people from knowing what to do, how to talk about it or where to direct victims disclosing abuse.”
It is hoped that the Ask for Ani scheme will encourage victims to come forward in a safe and discreet way in order to receive urgent help.
Staffordshire Police Head of Safeguarding, Detective Chief Inspector Paul Cooke, said: “The Ask for Ani scheme is a real lifeline to people at risk of domestic abuse.
“Victims can ask pharmacists for help in a discreet way, either verbally or by passing a note, which will enable them to be moved to a private consultation space and protected until further help and support can be arranged.
“We know that victims are often limited in terms of how often they are able to leave home and for what purpose, particularly during this latest national lockdown, so we would urge anyone at risk to take the opportunity and let us know you need help.
“However, if you or someone you know is at risk of abuse and needs emergency help, do not hesitate to call 999.”
Staffordshire Commissioner for Police, Fire and Rescue and Crime, Matthew Ellis said: “Domestic abuse can be utterly traumatic for victims, and the current restrictions may have left some people feeling unsure where to turn for help.
“The Ask for Ani initiative offers a new way for victims to seek support, in a safe, discreet and familiar environment, making it invaluable for those who, for whatever reason, are unable to ask for help online or on the phone.”
To find out more, visit: www.GOV.UK/domestic-abuse.
For information on how to adopt the Ask for ANI scheme, go to: www.gov.uk/homeoffice/pharmacy-codeword-scheme.