domestic abuse no words.PNGDomestic abuse victims in Cumbria can now discretely seek help from pharmacy staff taking part in a new scheme - by “asking for Ani”.

The phrase is code that they are making a call for assistance, with staff at participating pharmacies trained on the next steps to take.

Boots stores across the county are taking part and other participating pharmacies will display posters to show they are also available to help – with the scheme being rolled out across Cumbria.

All the person who feels at risk needs to do is go to a staff member and ask “for Ani”.

They will then be provided with a safe space at the branch and a phone to call for help or information on what support is out there.

The national scheme arrives in Cumbria today (January 14) and forms another service to help people who suffer from or are in fear of domestic abuse.

This issue has added significance during the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions. People may leave home to avoid injury or risk of harm, including domestic abuse.

The “Ani” they ask for is an abbreviation of Assistance Needed Immediately.

Cumbria Constabulary’s force lead for domestic abuse is Detective Chief Inspector James Yallop.

He said: “This is another vital service to help people when they may feel too frightened or unable to contact police or other support services.

“People can visit one of the participating pharmacies as if picking up essential goods and ask for Ani while dealing with staff.

“This is really important in rural towns and communities, giving people more access to the support they need.

“They do not necessarily have to contact police. Other support is available and getting the right support can empower someone to take their next positive step forward.

“There is a whole wealth of support services available in Cumbria; everything from counselling to rehoming support, in addition to many other services available nationally.

“We also, of course, want to encourage victims to report abuse. Incidents will be investigated thoroughly and with sensitivity and we will also help people get the support they need.

“These are uncertain times, with people staying at home to protect themselves, the NHS, their families and communities. But nobody should suffer domestic abuse. If people need help we would encourage them to come forward.”

Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, said: “We would all like to believe that domestic abuse doesn’t take place in our communities but, unfortunately, it does – which is why we need to give victims as much help as possible to escape their situation.

“Many victims can’t talk in front of their abuser so having the opportunity to have a private room in a pharmacy to call for help is a fantastic resource.

“I would urge anyone suffering from domestic abuse to call the police on 101 or 999 in an emergency but I know that is not an option for everyone.

“This is why I fund services in Cumbria to help, such as Victim Support, that can provide information and advice on any type of crime and can signpost anyone to other local, appropriate services.

“If you are in an abusive relationship, please reach out and speak to someone – you are never alone.”

A spokesperson for Community Pharmacy Cumbria, which represents pharmacies, said: “Community Pharmacy Cumbria are aware of how important the Ask for ANI campaign is and are happy to support.

“We have ensured that all pharmacies across Cumbria have the relevant information needed if anyone needs help accessing support from police or other support services.”

There are five categories of domestic abuse:

* Physical abuse.

* Controlling behaviour, where someone controls areas of the victim’s life. This can include controlling who the victim meets or speaks to, what they access on social media, what they wear and monitoring a person’s movements.

* Coercive behaviour, where the victim is forced to do things against their will, or they are constantly shouted at, ridiculed, deliberately frightened, threatened or made to feel like they have to walk on eggshells.

* Financial abuse, where the perpetrator controls the victim’s finances or restricts what money they can access for themselves or others. This is also a form of controlling behaviour.

* Psychological abuse, where a perpetrator destroys the confidence, outlook or mindset of the victim.

If you have been the victim of domestic abuse, or are concerned for someone who is, you can report this by calling 101. Always dial 999 in an emergency.

You can access support services regardless of whether you have reported a crime to the police. To access support services independently, contact Victim Support 24/7 on 0808 1689 111 - or visit the Cumbria Together website