Boots launches codeword scheme for domestic abuse victims

UK pharmacy Boots has now teamed up with the government in a pledge to help domestic abuse victims.

Boots launches codeword scheme for domestic abuse victims
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In an effort to offer more support to domestic abuse victims, Boots along with other independent stores, have teamed up with the UK government to launch Ask for Ani.

What is ‘Ask for Ani?’

The effort launched on the 14th of January allows domestic abuse victims to ask for support at pharmacies in a discreet manner as to not tip off abusers. When customers ‘ask for Ani’ they will be led into a private consulting room where they will be able to safely access police and other forms of domestic abuse support.

Ask for Ani, launched by Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins, was prefaced last year by a move to install safe spaces in the consultation rooms of over 5,000 pharmacies across the nation. Boris Johnson also spoke about the need for increased domestic abuse support at last year’s Hidden Harm’s summit stating:

As we once again have to ask people across the country to stay at home to tackle this virus, it's vital that we take action to protect those for who home is not a safe space.

The PM continued to reveal that 2,300 Boots stores and 255 pharmacies ‘up and down the country’ would be participating in the scheme in order to give ‘some of the most vulnerable people in society a critical lifeline.’

As part of an awareness initiative for Ask for Ani, the codeword will be subtly advertised on social media networks, with pharmacies also having brochures and booklets on display to signal their participation. Health professionals, social workers, Job Centres as well as police, local authorities and specialist support services will also all be asked to promote the scheme in order to reach as many potential victims as possible.

The sad reality of domestic abuse during lockdown

Unfortunately despite homes being our safe haven from coronavirus, lockdowns can also put domestic abuse victims at risk of more danger.

Data provided by The Counting Dead Women Project after the first lockdown showed that between March 23rd and the 12th of April, 16 people had died from domestic violence, a figure that was shockingly high for that time of year.

Additionally, three weeks after entering the first lockdown, calls to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline had increased by 49%. Despite this being a disturbing increase, it doesn’t represent all those who were unable to reach for the phone. A survey from August last year found that 61% of domestic abuse victims were unable to seek help during lockdowns ‘partly because they weren’t able to access the phone or online support, or their perpetrator was with them all the time.’

Women’s Aid research and evaluation manager Sarah Davidge revealed that during lockdowns, not only are victims forced to spend more time with their abusers, but they are also often cut off from lifelines such as helplines, friends, family and the police.

During this time many walk-in centres had also closed their doors and transitioned to phone and internet services which prevented even more victims from accessing support. Davidge explained:

If you think about the women who don’t even have access to phones or the internet, speak another language, or they’re being prevented from access by their abuser, then we’re really just scratching the surface.

However, as essential stores, pharmacies will continue to stay open during lockdowns and the Ask for Ani initiative will hopefully give victims a better opportunity to seek help.

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