// Supermarket staff should be trained to recognise code words from domestic abuse victims, Victims Commissioner says
// Lockdown has reduced opportunities for support, and some women may only leave the house to visit shops or pharmacies
Supermarket workers should be trained to recognise code words from domestic abuse victims whose only opportunity to seek help may be during the weekly shop, the Victims Commissioner said.
While the school gates used to be a place where women could speak out, the coronavirus lockdown has reduced opportunities to get support, and some women may only be leaving the home to visit shops or pharmacies.
Victims Commissioner Dame Vera Baird said the government must adapt to the new normal brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, by providing a “system of rescue” in the places where victims are most likely to frequent during the crisis.
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She told the Home Affairs committee: “Now, the equivalent of course is the supermarket, so you may be a very controlled person but the likelihood is you are sent out to buy the food, and also of course pharmacies.
“We urgently need to copy the French model… which is to have emergency provision available in supermarkets and pharmacies.”
Baird mentioned how “Ask Angela”, an emergency code word to protect people from sexual assault by alerting bar staff to the need for help, could be adapted for use at shop tills.
She said: “You could have a very similar system, easily training local workers in supermarkets, to just respond… if people are able to come in and talk about what’s happening, fine, but maybe that’s not so straightforward and you wouldn’t know what to say to a cashier, so an option to have a code word so that you say ‘Ask Vera’, and the person says ‘that means this to me’.”
Baird added that police were looking out for signs of abuse on patrols, and urged the public to sound the alarm if things do not seem right, similar to how they are encouraged to report suspected terrorist issues.
“I hope we can also get the government really to commit to introducing a system of rescue at the places, the sole places, that people who are in difficulties can go to now, which are largely pharmacies and supermarkets,” she said.
Baird said one member of the BRC had proposed a red button system where women ordering groceries online could sound the alarm that they are in danger.
Another option could be to broadcast messages over loudspeaker in parks, such as is already taking place with regard to people only using the areas for exercise.
“It seems to me we have really got to be creative, nationally and locally,” she said.
with PA Wires