The Duchess of Cornwall spoke to domestic violence charity SafeLives about the new government-supported Ask for ANI scheme launched in January that helps domestic violence survivors access support in pharmacies across the United Kingdom with the use of a codeword.
Ask for ANI (Action Needed Immediately) was implemented in over 2,000 pharmacies in the UK and allows survivors to signal that they need help without tipping off their abusers.
Camilla spoke with SafeLives Chief Executive Officer Suzanne Jacob and SafeLives Pioneer Rachel Williams via video call to discuss the new scheme.
“After the first lockdown, do you think now, in this lockdown we’re in now, do you see a sign of improvement in the way that people are reporting it?” Camilla asked.
“One of things that Rachel and the other SafeLives pioneers were talking about right at the start of the first lockdown was how do we open up new spaces for people to access support and from there came the Ask for ANI scheme,” Jacob replied.
If a domestic violence survivor asks for ANI, Jacob said that they’ll be given a space to access more information and make phone calls out of view of the rest of the shop.
Camilla praised the programme, saying, “It’s pure brilliance because it’s so simple yet it’s so effective.”
Rachel Williams, who survived a shot-gun attack in 2011 and later founded Stand Up to Domestic Abuse, told Camilla that 20 people have used the codeword since it launched, nearly one person every day.
“It’s a really simple thing but it can change peoples’ lives,” Jacob said.
“You have been such a wonderful spokesman, because you’ve suffered this terrible abuse but yet you’re prepared to get up and talk about it and I think that is what is needed. I think you’ll have an army of Rachels coming,” Camilla told the campaigner.
“There’s something really special about survivors supporting survivors,” Rachel replied.
“This is the way we’ll end domestic abuse, I’m convinced of it,” Jacob added.
Camilla ended the call with a promise, saying that “My heart is well and truly in it. I’d really like to do anything to help.”
“We know how heartfelt that is and it means so much to so many people,” Jacob said.
The Duchess of Cornwall has been a vocal supporter of domestic violence survivors, and last summer became patron of SafeLives. During the first lockdowns, she became more involved with campaigns to support survivors and raise awareness.
In a speech at last spring’s Women of the World Festival, Camilla said: “Through my work, I have talked to many women who have lived with coercive control and domestic violence and, thankfully, come out at the other end as the victors, not the victims. They are some of the bravest people I have ever met. Their stories are harrowing and have reduced even the toughest of their listeners to tears. That is why it is so vital that these survivors should no longer feel any shame or any blame.”