Women’s Aid responds to Ask for Ani codeword launch
Nicki Norman, acting chief executive at Women’s Aid, said
“Following the ‘Mask 19’ initiative in Spain and other European countries – where women can use a codeword to alert pharmacies about domestic abuse – the UK government is launching a similar approach. Survivors will be able to ‘Ask for ANI’ within participating pharmacies to access support.
Women’s Aid knows that, most often, the first time survivors speak about domestic abuse is to friends, family or someone in the community. Improving gateways to support and safety in our communities is essential. However, we remain concerned that the proposed national scheme does not meet critical safeguards. We know from survivors that the first response they receive when they reach out is critical for their next step. But it is neither not fair nor safe to expect staff members to respond to a survivor effectively without robust staff training, facilitated by an expert trainer. Harmful attitudes and persistent myths about domestic abuse in our society also must be challenged. We are experts in training and empowering community members to give safe, effective responses to survivors, having led, in partnership with Welsh Women’s Aid, a community response to domestic abuse, Ask Me, for four years and trained over 1000 ambassadors in England. This kind of training is critical for ensuring survivors get the right support, the first time.
Government guidance and information about domestic abuse must be universally available for all survivors during this challenging time. However, we share the concerns of services led ‘by and for’ disabled women that Downing Street press briefings are still not available British Sign Language. We also remain concerned that the ‘Ask for ANI’ scheme will not be accessible to all marginalised groups. We know that migrant women will continue to fear reporting abuse and seeking help because of the data-sharing arrangements between the Home Office and health services. We continue to support urgent calls by the Step-Up Migrant Women campaign led by the Latin American Women’s Rights Service, for safe reporting mechanisms for migrant survivors, through the domestic abuse bill.
In the third national lockdown, it is welcome that the government is making clear that domestic abuse is an exemption from the ‘stay at home’ rules. However, we continue to hear worrying examples of survivors being criticised for using exemptions from COVID 19 regulations – including not wearing a mask due to their experiences of trauma. It is also vital that the services which support survivors are protected during the pandemic, and priority access to testing and vaccination are now urgent priorities for our life-saving sector.”