It is well documented there has been a marked increase in domestic violence since the onset of the first national lockdown. A report released to UK MPs showed that domestic abuse killings doubled in the first 21 days of the first lockdown and domestic abuse charities have reported a huge increase in the use of domestic violence helplines and requests for help.
One of the responses to this crisis is a new scheme rolled out yesterday, which allows victims trapped in their homes to discretely pass on a message to a pharmacist that they need help. Pharmacists in the UK have been trained to support survivors of DV and to spot signs of possible domestic violence in their customers. The idea is that people who use the word Ani (Action needed immediately) or who may show signs of domestic abuse are offered to sit in a private space then the pharmacist contacts domestic violence services for them or the police. One advantage of using pharmacists for this role is that they are available widely in all communities and as a provider of health care and toiletries are less likely to be seen as suspicious by an abuser.
Johanna Beresford, who has been involved in training programmes to help staff at Tesco and Boots on how to identify domestic abuse victims stuck at home previously told The Independent they are hoping to “demystify myths” of domestic abuse for staff who are regularly in contact with the public. She said: “We are providing people with information from previous scenarios so they can spot signs, know things to say and how to point someone in the right direction.’. This includes noticing when people are very regularly in a store maybe multiple times a day and are only buying one or two items or noticing when customers wear clothes that do not mirror the weather (such as long jumpers in hot weather to hide bruises). Other signs are “If they seem very withdrawn or anxious as they are walking around the supermarket or pharmacy, or won’t look at you look when you serve them as they’re too nervous – these could also be signs of domestic abuse.”. The victims commissioner in England Vera Berd and the Domestic Violence commissioner Nicole Jacobs both support the scheme. A four week national advertising campaign is also being run concurrently to make sure that domestic abuse victims know how they can gain access to help.
You can read more about the scheme here.