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This Codeword Will Get Domestic Abuse Survivors Discreet Support Across Most UK Pharmacies

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Lockdowns to protect against COVID-19 have led to a rise in domestic abuse globally. The UN’s Global Goal 5 for gender equality calls for an end to violence against women and girls everywhere. Join us and take action for gender equality here.

If you’re suffering from domestic abuse, there’s now a discreet way you can get help right away.

Just say ANI — pronounced “Annie”, standing for Action Needed Immediately — to a staff member in any Boots or across most independent pharmacies in the UK, and you’ll be taken to a private room where you can access support.

Thousands of pharmacies are taking part as domestic violence continues to spike with every COVID-19 lockdown.

The initiative came from an idea by survivors for survivors — and has been developed in a partnership between the government and the National Pharmacy Association. It will run alongside a 4-week national advertising campaign, according to the Independent, with promotional materials shown in stores across the country.

It launched on Thursday, reaching new levels of attention with a viral tweet from journalist Victoria Derbyshire.

Domestic abuse has risen dramatically during the lockdowns to protect against COVID-19 — both in the UK and all over the world.

Indeed, the charity that runs the UK’s domestic abuse hotline revealed in May 2020 that traffic to its website increased tenfold during the first lockdown back in March.

That spike is echoed across data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which said that domestic violence accounted for 1 in 5 of all reported offences during that first national lockdown. According to Sky News, more than 250,000 cases were recorded in total between March and June 2020.

“Community pharmacies are about people, not just pills,” said Mark Lyonette, chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association. “There is a clear and urgent need to support victims of abuse and we want to play our part.”

“The Ask for ANI alert mechanism is a discreet and sensitive way to help support some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” he added.

Related Stories July 8, 2020 The UK’s Groundbreaking Domestic Abuse Bill Has Finally Passed. Here’s What You Need to Know.

Domestic abuse is often about control, an issue intensified by the current government orders to stay at home. It’s important to note, however, that those lockdown instructions do not apply to people fleeing violence.

“It is dangerous to be confined with an abuser and it can be extremely difficult to seek help when you are with a perpetrator almost 24 hours a day — as many victims are under the current lockdown conditions,” said Nicole Jacobs, domestic abuse commissioner for England and Wales. 

“This is exactly the kind of activity I would like to see more of: the whole community stepping up to play a role in responding to domestic abuse, which is truly ‘everyone’s business’.”


If you’re in the UK and are experiencing domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline for free, 24-hours a day, on 0808 2000 247. If you’re in immediate danger of violence, call the police on 999.