Codeword scheme for domestic abuse victims

The Government recently hosted a virtual Hidden Harms Summit in Downing Street with the aim of supporting victims of abuse during the current health crisis.

The Summit was hosted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and attendees included representatives from the National Crime Agency, National Police Chiefs’ Council, victims’ commissioners and leading domestic abuse and children’s charities.

The focus on the summit was to put measures in place to support victims of crimes such as domestic abuse, sexual violence, child sexual abuse and modern slavery.

Mr Johnson said: “I am acutely aware that for some people home is not a safe space, and that coronavirus has brought with it additional dangers.”

The headline initiative was a plan to provide domestic abuse victims with a codeword to help them escape from immediate danger and alert others to their plight. They would be able to alert shop workers who have been trained to identify the key words.

Other measures to be discussed included:

  • A Pilot scheme to tackle domestic abuse allowing the Police to better identify those who pose the highest risk of attack and multiagency approaches to stop re-offending;
  • A helpline and email service to assist unrepresented victims seeking an emergency protective order from the family court with making their applications;
  • Commissioning further work to identify the best law enforcement responses to domestic abuse by analysing data and intelligence on incidents during the lockdown period;
  • Multimillion-pound boost to law enforcement to tackle child sex offenders operating on the dark web and increase support for victims;
  • Extra funding to support vulnerable groups such as victims of sexual violence, domestic violence and modern slavery.

Home Secretary Priti Patel commented that “while the necessary social distancing guidelines are keeping the majority of us safe, they are amplifying danger for others.’’

There is a fear that the current health crisis will make it more difficult for victims of abuse and exploitation to come forward but initiatives such as this Government summit may show victims that support is available and enable them to reach out for support.


Nicholas Leigh, Associate, BLM

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