Duchess of Cornwall hails new 'Ask for ANI' domestic abuse codeword scheme

The Duchess of Cornwall is the patron of charity SafeLives. Credit: Clarence House

The Duchess of Cornwall has praised the “pure brilliance” of a new codeword scheme launched in pharmacies to help victims of domestic abuse

Camilla, who is Patron of the domestic violence charity SafeLives, heard about the Ask for ANI (Action Needed Immediately) initiative during a call with Chief Executive Suzanne Jacob and domestic abuse survivor Rachel Williams.

The project, introduced in mid-January, is operating in more than 2,000 pharmacies and offers a private space for a person when they mention the codeword ‘Ani’.

A trained member of staff provides a phone and asks if help from the police or other domestic abuse support services is needed.

Camilla with Suzanne Jacob and domestic abuse survivor Rachel Williams. Credit: Clarence House

Camilla hailed the project as “pure brilliance because it’s so simple, yet it’s so effective” and pledged “to do anything to help”.

Ms Williams, who was shot and severely injured following years of domestic abuse, helped develop the idea for the new scheme during the first coronavirus lockdown when rates were rapidly rising.

  • Camilla speaks to Ms Williams and Ms Jacob about ask ANI

Ms Jacob said: “There has been information coming out that we know is showing that there is a sign of very severe escalation for what’s happening for people and indeed a lot of people trying to reach out to get the help that they need.

“A lot of the national helplines, online ways in which people can get help, they’ve seen huge increases – 75%, 80% rises in the number of people trying to contact them, including people reaching out to say they are worried about their own behaviour.”

With support from the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and Victim's Commissioner, SafeLives proposed the ‘Ask for ANI’ scheme to the Home Office and worked with the department to create the initiative.

  • Ms Jacob talks about how domestic abuse rates have increased during the pandemic

Ms Williams said: “As a fellow survivor, along with pioneers who I work with at SafeLives, we were really concerned with the lockdown – where are these victims and survivors going to go now?

"It’s what more can we do to help them find safe spaces.

“It must be like walking on broken glass in lockdown and I can’t think of anything worse.

“Ask for 'Ani' is something so simple, we need to keep things simple, and ask those that need the help what they want.

"Like myself, and the other pioneers – what could a service have done for you at that time?

"It’s only by asking those with the lived experience that we will really tackle this and hopefully end it one day.”

During the call, Camilla told Rachel: "You have been such a wonderful spokesman, because, you know, you've suffered this terrible abuse and yet you're prepared to get up and talk about it - and I think that is what is needed."

She added:"I think you ought to have an army of Rachels".

The charity has been in “close contact” with the Duchess throughout the pandemic and their chief executive said it had been “absolutely wonderful to have her support”.

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