Staying Safe at Home

If you are at risk of domestic abuse then police and support agencies will support you if you need to leave your home for your own safety, whatever the government restrictions are at the time.

Women’s Aid advises that anyone feeling vulerable should try to keep a charged mobile phone with them at all times. 

If you are concerned about your own safety 

Call 999

Do not be afraid to call 999 in an emergency. It is always best to speak to the operator if you can, even by whispering. You may also be asked to cough or tap the keys on your phone in response to questions. 

But if you can’t speak, this is what to do. Please note it’s different on a mobile phone (compared to landlines) as 20,000 accidental silent calls to 999 are made a day from mobiles that need to be screened.

Calling 999 from a mobile phone:

If you don’t make a sound, you will hear an automated message, which lasts for 20 seconds and begins with ‘you are through to the police’. 

It will ask you to press 55 to be put through to speak to a police call handler. Do not press 55 until you are prompted and not hang up straight away as the police will ask you simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions. If you are not able to speak, listen carefully to the questions and instructions from the call handler so they can assess your call.

(If you don’t press 55, the call will be terminated but pressing 55 does not allow police to track your location). 

Here is an example of a silent call to 999

Calling 999 from a landline:

If you don’t answer the operator’s questions you will be connected to a police call handler who will ask you simple yes or no questions. If you are not able to speak, listen carefully to the questions and instructions from the call handler so they can assess your call. 

If you hang up, the landline may remain connected for 45 seconds in case you pick it up again. If you pick up again during this 45 seconds and the operator is concerned for your safety, the call will be connected to police. 

When 999 calls are made from landlines, information about where you’re calling from should be automatically available to the call handlers to help provide a response.

(For more information on the Silent Solution please visit the Independent Office for Police Conduct)

ANI – Action Needed Immediately

Victims of domestic abuse are able to use the codeword ANI in participating pharmacies (including all Boots stores and participating independent pharmacies) to let staff know that they require an emergency police response or help contacting a helpline or specialist support service.

Participating pharmacies will display posters in their window and around the pharmacy to let customers know that they can approach their staff to seek help. Any information shared will be treated confidentially. See more details from Thames Valley Police.

Signal for Help

The simple hand gesture was launched early in the COVID-19 pandemic to address a worldwide rise in domestic violence and help those suffering while stuck at home.

The gesture, created by the Women’s Funding Network and the Canadian Women’s Foundation and now recognised worldwide, can be silently displayed during video calls, to alert family, friends or colleagues that an individual needs help.

It could also be used in other situations, such as when answering the door.

Contact a refuge or a lawyer

  • Get free legal advice from a family law solicitor about your personal situation via Flag DV by calling 0800 731 0055 Mon to Fri 10am-7pm.
  • Family lawyer Karen Salmon helps a lot of victims of domestic abuse and families in crisis. Contact her for free advice at Marlborough Law, 01488 508008 or or facebook/marlboroughlaw 
  • Berkshire Women’s Aid, 0118 950 4003 provides confidential support, information, outreach services and refuge accommodation for women and their children who are affected by domestic abuse and violence. 
  • Refuge National Domestic Violence Freephone 24-hour helpline 0808 200 0247.
  • Reducing the Risk supports adults and children at risk of domestic abuse.
  • West Berkshire/Oxfordshire Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0800 731 0055 weekdays 10am-7pm. Outside these times call the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 200 0247. (A freephone number that will not show on your telephone bill but may appear on an itemised mobile phone bill.)
  • Swindon Women’s Aid has a 24-hour helpline on 01793 610 610 to support both male and female victims of domestic abuse or violence. 
  • Respect Phoneline 0808 802 4040 supports perpetrators who want help to stop abusing their partners.

Contact a friend

If possible, arrange an emergency code with a friend or neighbour, for instance by putting a certain object in a window that is visible from the street, or a code phrase like ‘I need a pint of milk’ so they know to call the police.

You can still contact your GP by phone and they will call 999 on your behalf. If a phone call is hard try to get a note with your name and address to a shop assistant, postal worker or delivery driver, asking them to call the police.  

This advice and more is in this article in The Guardian.

What else you can do

  • Keep in low-risk parts of the home – if you are frightened of violence, try to avoid being in the kitchen or bathroom.
  • Teach your children how to dial 999 and give their full name and address.
  • Think about where you could go, such as to a friend’s house or a refuge.

If you are concerned about a vulnerable adult or child

Social isolation makes it harder for professionals to identify safeguarding concerns, so they are relying on communities and volunteers to identify and report concerns. There will be people who were managing prior to the Covid-19 crisis and are not known to services that may be now struggling.

If someone you know is becoming more withdrawn than usual or if you see someone in a queue who looks frightened or who has bruises please ask them if they are OK. If they say no, suggest they call the police or Swindon Women’s Aid on Swindon (01793) 610610 or contact family lawyer Karen Salmon for free advice at Marlborough Law, 01488 508008 or facebook/marlboroughlaw 

In an emergency situation call the Police on 999. If you think there has been a crime but it is not an emergency, call the Police on 101.

If you are concerned about an adult or child who may be being abused or neglected, contact the social services in the area in which the person lives:

Be Brave, Speak up

Communities are encouraged to report concerns they may have about vulnerable children and adults.


Criminals exploit vulnerable people and they are more likely to be victims of scams. Friends Against Scams has information on lots of scams and you can sign up for alerts. 



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