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Ask for ANI: Force and PCC back new domestic abuse codeword scheme to help victims seek support

14 Jan 2021

The force and the Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, are supporting a new domestic abuse codeword scheme which launches today (Thursday) to help victims access emergency support in the community via local pharmacies.

The “Ask for ANI” (pronounced Annie) scheme has been devised by the Home Office in collaboration with pharmacy associations, the police, and partners working in the domestic abuse sector.

Anyone experiencing abuse will be able to use the codeword “ANI” at participating pharmacies, which stands for “Action Needed Immediately”, to indicate they require emergency police response, or help to find support, when speaking to pharmacy staff.

Participating pharmacies will display information to let customers know that they can approach their staff to seek help, and when a victim uses the codeword, or asks directly for help, they will be shown to a consultation room and helped to seek police assistance, or contact appropriate support services, and work has already been undertaken by the Bedfordshire Domestic Abuse Partnership, to get the county’s pharmacies on board with the scheme in readiness for its launch.

Detective Chief Inspector Craig Laws, head of our Emerald team, responsible for the investigation of domestic abuse, said: “This new scheme provides a simple and discreet way for those experiencing abuse to signal that they need help from the police or from domestic abuse support services.

“Anyone can be affected by domestic abuse, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, ability, socio-economic status, sexuality or background, and pharmacies are such an appropriate setting for hosting the scheme, because everyone can visit them.

“We are working with our partners to ensure that our officers and call handling teams are fully briefed on what “Ask for ANI” will mean to those at risk of harm, and we are delighted that victims have a further way of accessing support, especially now we are in another full lockdown period, which we know presents potential for greater risk to victims.”

Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “Victims of Domestic Abuse can be terrified of speaking out at all, let alone being overheard. Just being able to go into a participating pharmacy, indicated by a poster and say ‘I’d like to ask for Ani’ and know the staff understand that this is a cry for help which cannot be ignored is essential. I trust that all the participating businesses will ensure that every single member of staff is trained and regularly reminded of this lifeline and that it is put to the test to make sure that they do.”

Jenny Bull, Domestic Abuse Project Manager at Victim Support, said: “It can seem almost impossible for those affected by domestic abuse and unhealthy control to find a safe way to reach out for help.

“Schemes such as this are more important now than they have ever been, as they provide someone with a lifeline, a safe space away from the public eye and a chance to safely get access to advice, guidance, support, and police action.

“In some instances, this could save their lives and the lives of their children or other family members.”

We would also like to reassure those experiencing abuse that support is still available, despite the pandemic, and together with partner agencies, will continue to investigate and share information on how to make a report and to find help.

To report domestic abuse, call police on 101, or visit a participating pharmacy and ask for “ANI”.

Alternatively, you can call independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

If someone is in immediate danger, call 999.

To find out more information and advice about domestic abuse please visit our information pages.

Victims of domestic abuse can also contact Signpost for free and confidential support, whether the abuse has been reported or not.

Signpost’s experienced staff and volunteers know what emotions and challenges victims may be going through. They are specially trained to listen and give help and advice. Often just talking to someone, especially one who is not family or a friend, can help victims, or those affected, make sense of what has happened and find a way to help cope and recover.

They can provide a safe, neutral place for victims to voice their fears, worries and emotions. Their emotional support is confidential and non-judgemental. They also work with a range of specialist organisations and community support groups and can make referrals to help victims on their journey.

For further information or to get in contact visit www.signpostforbedfordshire.com

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