Duchess of Cornwall praises ANI scheme to tackle domestic violence as ‘pure brilliance’

The Duchess of Cornwall has given her praise to the ‘Ask for ANI’ scheme, describing the idea to help domestic abuse victims as ‘pure brilliance’.

On a call with representatives of SafeLives – a patronage of Camilla’s – the Duchess spoke to the Suzanne Jacob, chief executive of the charity and Rachel Williams, a Pioneer of Safe Lives about the ‘Ask for ANI’ scheme. The scheme aims to support domestic abuse victims from thousands of pharmacies across the UK by offering them a private space to seek help.

Anyone in need of assistance simply needs to go into one of 2,500 Boots stores or an independent pharmacy participating in the scheme, and ask a member of staff for ANI (Annie); it stands for Action Needed Immediately.

The Duchess of Cornwall took part in a virtual video call to lean about the ‘Ask for ANI scheme’. (@Clarence House).

The Duchess, who became Patron of the charity last year at the Women of the World Festival, was aware of the increase in domestic abuse cases because of lockdown, and asked Suzanne if there was a sign of improvement in the way people are coming forward and reporting the crimes thanks to the scheme.

Suzanne replied: “One of the things that Rachel and the other Safe Lives pioneers were talking about at the start of the first lockdown how do we open up new spaces for people to access support and from that came the ‘Ask for ANI’ scheme, which is now in over 2,500 Boots stores, over 200 independent pharmacies.

“You know all of those places opening up their doors, training their teams to be able to have those initial conversations with somebody.”

Prince Charles’ wife asked Ms Jacob for more information on how the help is give. When the individual asks for ANI, she queried if they are ‘taken into a room by a person and sat down and then discuss?’

“So they will make a space available, to be able to make phone calls, get access to information and to do that out of view from the rest of the shop,” came the reply.

The Duchess of Cornwall, spoke to Chief Executive of SafeLives, Suzanne Jacob and Rachel Williams, Pioneer of SafeLives. (@Clarence House)

Having previously stating domestic violence as ‘everyone’s problem’, The Duchess of Cornwall praised the new scheme as ‘pure brilliance, because it’s so simple and yet so effective’.

The issue of domestic abuse has been at the forefront of the Duchess’ charitable work, with the main objective of breaking the taboo around the issue. Last year, The Duchess of Cornwall issued a personal message of sympathy and support to those who are in abusive situations during the lockdown, with helplines and practical advice.

This is not the first time the Duchess of Cornwall and Rachel have met; Camilla held a reception at Clarence House to mark the 15th anniversary of SafeLives last February. She met survivors of domestic violence, including Rachel Williams. Williams, who first met the Royal in 2016, highlighted the positive impact of the scheme stating they knew that ’20 people have accessed the safe space and used the codeword ‘ANI’ since it’s been launched’ which was ‘amazing’.

Chief Executive Suzanne added: “That’s nearly one person a day since the scheme started. It’s people from different backgrounds, different demographics, feeling like this is a safe way for them to get support. One of the women who has used the scheme already after being in an abusive situation for 20 years and now she’s in a place of safety.

“It’s a simple thing, a really simple thing but it can change people’s lives.”

Pioneer Rachel told the Duchess how she suffered at the hands of an 18-year domestic abusive marriage after she was shot in a gun attack at the salon in which she worked. She added that she would always explore ways to leave the relationship but would never know which direction to take.

Camilla praised the young pioneer, who is the founder of SUTDA (Stand Up To Domestic Abuse), saying: “You have been such a wonderful spokesman because you know have suffered this terrible abuse but you are prepared to get up and talk about it. I think that is what is needed.”

“We need an army of Rachel’s really,” she added.

Rachel jokingly replied: “I don’t think my husband would be too happy about that. One is quite enough.” The trio shared a laugh at Rachel’s remark.

“But I think there is something really survivors supporting survivors,” Williams added.

Adding on from Rachel’s comment, Suzanne replied: “And I think those ways of starting and continuing the conversation, you know are spreading and they’re opening up and this is the way we’ll end domestic abuse I’m convinced of it.”

The Duchess concluded the virtual engagement but saying: “My heart is well and truly in it so I would like to do anything for these wonderful people.”

Suzanne added: “Thank you. And we know how heartfelt that is and it means so much to so many people.”

Embed from Getty Images
The Duchess of Cornwall talks to CEO of SafeLives Suzanne Jacob (L), SafeLives staffers Michelle Phillips, Melani Morgan and Susie Hay during a reception to acknowledge the 15th anniversary of domestic abuse charity SafeLives at Clarence House

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