Boots and pharmacies across the UK introduce a new codeword that offers a lifeline to domestic violence victims

Boots store
(Image credit: Alamy)

Boots and pharmacies across the UK will listen out for a codeword that offers a lifeline to domestic abuse victims.

Staff at chemists will be trained to listen out for a codeword that will enable domestic violence or domestic abuse victims to secretly tell them they're in danger.

The government has teamed up with Boots and other nationwide pharmacy brands to help tackle the growing number of people suffering from domestic abuse in lockdown.

Domestic abuse cases have risen since the UK imposed a national lockdown to curb the spread of Covid last March - a report released by MPs revealed domestic violence killings in the first 21 days of the first lockdown were double the total of an average period in the past decade.

And one step to help victims report the crime is for them to enter any pharmacy and tell a secret codeword to a trained member of staff, who will be able to help them discreetly.

What is the domestic abuse codeword?

If a victim asks for ANI (pronounced like the name ‘Annie’ and which stands for Action Needed Immediately), a trained pharmacy worker will offer them to go into a private space where they can support them to either contact domestic abuse services or the police. It's a project spearheaded by domestic abuse survivors, already has thousands of pharmacies signed up to take part.

Mark Lyonette, chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association, said, “Community pharmacies are about people, not just pills. 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.”

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The codeword initiative has been shared across social media, in the hope of notifying as many people as possible. Among those publicising the scheme is BBC newsreader Victoria Derbyshire.

Meanwhile, Nicole Jacobs, domestic abuse commissioner for England and Wales, has welcomed the join approach. She said, “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."

She added, “I welcome the Ask for ANI scheme which gives victims another chance to access safe spaces and to get help in pharmacies by using a code word. 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’.”

Alternatively, you can reach out to Women's Aid Live Chat (weekdays 10am-4pm, weekends 10am-12pm) or email or call Refuge's freephone, 24-hour, national domestic abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247.

Selina Maycock
Senior Family Writer

Selina is a Senior Family Writer for GoodtoKnow and has more than 16 years years of experience. She specialises in royal family news, including the latest activities of Prince George, Charlotte, Louis, Archie and Lilibet. She also covers the latest government, health and charity advice for families. Selina graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2006 with a degree in Journalism, and gained her NCTJ and NCE qualifications. During her career, she’s also written for Woman, Woman's Own, Woman&Home, and Woman's Weekly as well as Heat magazine, Bang Showbiz - and the Scunthorpe Telegraph. When she's not covering family news, you can find her exploring new countryside walking routes, catching up with friends over good food, or making memories (including award-winning scarecrows!)