Domestic abuse victims to get codeword to report violence to shop workers

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Lucy Watson

Domestic abuse victims could be given a codeword to help them escape from immediate danger and alert others to their plight, under new government plans.

A specific phrase could be used to alert shop workers, who have been trained to identify the key words, the Home Office said.

The codeword scheme is set to be discussed at the virtual Hidden Harms Summit, which is to be hosted by prime minister Boris Johnson on Thursday and includes government, law enforcement, victims’ charities and frontline workers among those in attendance.

Mr Johnson said: “I am acutely aware that for some people home is not a safe space, and that coronavirus has brought with it additional dangers.”

The codeword will be reported to supermarket and pharmacy workers. Credit: PA

The government is working with various groups – including the National Pharmacy Association and British Retail Consortium, plus domestic abuse charities – on the codeword scheme, according to the Home Office.

Mr Johnson stressed the importance of supporting “the most vulnerable”, and the need to keep them safe from harm and exploitation.

He added: “It is vital that we come together and bring all our collective expertise to ensure we are doing everything we can to support those at risk, and to help them rebuild their lives.”

The codeword scheme has been championed by the Victims’ Commissioner, Domestic Abuse Commissioner and crisis support charities such as Safe Lives.

The summit is seen as a chance to drive forward action to support victims of crimes such as domestic abuse, sexual violence, child sexual abuse and modern slavery.

Boris Johnson is hosting the virtual Hidden Harms Summit. Credit: PA

It is also hoped that victims may reach out for help, and experts might come up with further ways to tackle these serious issues.

New tactics to try and tackle domestic abuse – which are being piloted by police forces including Cumbria, South Wales and Sussex – are up for discussion.

They aim to better identify those who pose the highest risk of attack and set up ways for different agencies to stop re-offending.

It comes as around £10 million has been earmarked to boost the National Crime Agency’s ability to tackle paedophiles operating on the dark web, and there is a further £3.36 million for projects to understand the threat posed by the most serious criminals.

The Home Office said that £76 million of extra funding has been made available for vulnerable people from the Government’s £750 million package of support for charities.

Credit: PA

Representatives from the National Crime Agency, National Police Chiefs’ Council, the children’s, domestic abuse, anti-slavery and victims’ commissioners and leaders from domestic abuse and children’s charities, including the NSPCC, Refuge and Women’s Aid are among those who are set to attend the summit.

NCA director general Lynne Owens said the additional funding for this financial year should help to arrest more online child sex offenders while NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless described children as “the hidden victims of this crisis” who may be struggling with anxiety and fear of abuse or neglect while being cut off from friends, family and support services.

Mr Johnson is set to chair the opening session, while Home Secretary Priti Patel, Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland QC and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson are to lead meetings on law enforcement, victim support and safeguarding vulnerable people in the community.

If any of these issues have affected you, here's how you can get help and advice:

  • Call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline for free and confidential advice, 24 hours a day on 0808 2000 247.

  • Women's Aid has a range of direct services for survivors, including a live chat service and an online Survivors’ Forum.

  • The Men’s Advice Line is a confidential helpline for male victims of domestic abuse and those supporting them. Contact on: 0808 801 0327.

  • Galop runs the National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse specialist helpline. Contact: 0800 999 5428. Email:

  • Chayn provides online help and resources in a number of languages about identifying manipulative situations and how friends can support those being abused.

BAME specialist services

  • Imkaan is a women’s organisation addressing violence against black and minority women and girls.

  • Southall Black Sisters offer specialist support, advocacy and information to Asian and Afro-Caribbean women suffering abuse. Contact on: 0208 571 9595.

Disability specialist services

  • Stay Safe East provides specialist and holistic advocacy and support services to disabled victims and survivors of abuse. Contact on: 0208 519 7241. Text: 0758 7134 122.

  • SignHealth provides domestic abuse service support for deaf people in British Sign Language (BSL). WhatsApp or Facetime: 07970 350366. Contact on: 020 3947 2601. Email:

For details of further helplines, visit the website.