Women’s safety

Illustration of cowering woman

If you are frightened, or feel unsafe or vulnerable in your situation, there are people who can help.

On this page we have collected information about help for victims of domestic abuse, and also for victims of trafficking and modern slavery.

Symptoms and signs of abusive relationships

Sometimes we don’t realise we are in an abusive relationship because behaviour patterns have become so normal to us – see Gov.uk – Domestic abuse: recognise the signs

  • Are you ever afraid of your partner?
  • Do you change your behaviour because you’re frightened of your partner’s reaction?
  • Is your partner jealous and possessive? 
  • Do you often feel like you’re walking on eggshells? 
  • Do you feel controlled or isolated?

If the answer to any of these questions is Yes, then you may be in an abusive relationship – see Women’s Aid – How to recognise domestic abuse.

You are not alone and there are many places to find support.

In an emergency situation when you cannot freely use your phone:  You can call emergency services using 999 from a mobile phone.  If you cannot speak, tap the phone or cough to respond to the emergency call handler. If you don’t respond, you will be asked to press 55 and then your call will be transferred directly to the police. They are not able to track your position from your call, but the police will communicate with you to provide help.

Alternatively you can text 999 if you have registered your phone for the 999 emergencySMS service.

Immediate non emergency help: Many pharmacies participate in the “ask for ANI” scheme. 

Ask for Ani

If you approach the counter and ask for “ANI”, the staff will recognise the ‘codeword’. They have been trained to help. The staff will offer you a private space, provide a phone and ask if you need support from the police or other domestic abuse support services.

Safe Spaces are provided by many pharmacies across the UK, both independent pharmacies and big brands such as Boots, Superdrug, and Well pharmacies. The safe space is usually a quiet room, where you can confidentially access domestic abuse support services, contact friends & family, or the police, or just take time to think and plan. Morrisons supermarkets, TSB, and HSBC banks are also part of the scheme. Ask a member of staff for the ‘safe space’.

Bright Sky is an app and website available in English, Welsh, Polish, Punjabi, and Urdu, for men and women experiencing domestic abuse. The app is available for free from Android and Apple app stores. The app can be disguised on your phone as a weather app, calendar, or a game. However, only download it if you feel it is safe to have it on your phone and you are sure that your phone is not being checked by your abuser.

National helplines in the UK

EnglandRefuge National Domestic Abuse Helpline0808 2000 247
Online live chat
Online contact form
Northern IrelandDomestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline0808 802 1414
Online Live chat
Email help@dsahelpline.org
ScotlandScotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline0800 027 1234
Online live chat
Email helpline@sdafmh.org.uk
WalesLive Fear Free helpline0808 80 10 800
On line Live chat
SMS Text
Email info@livefearfreehelpline.wales

More advice services

MIND the national charity for mental health has more information about support options for those who have experienced or are experiencing abuse. 

Women’s Aid have a directory of local support services. They also provide an online chat and an email support service.

See NHS – domestic violence and abuse, and GOV.UK provides advice in many languages:

Trafficking and modern slavery

  • Have you been brought to where you now live by someone else who controls all of your time, work, and money?
  • Are you frightened, scared, threatened or bullied by someone?
  • Are you not allowed to go out or leave where you live without someone else with you?
  • Are you forced by someone to participate in sexual acts with them or with others, against your will?
  • Have you been branded/tattooed as belonging to someone?

If you answered ‘Yes’ to any of these questions, this may be a sign of trafficking or modern slavery. You are not alone and there are many places to find support.

In an emergency or if in immediate danger: call 999 (or text 999 if pre-registered).

Note: to use the 999 emergency SMS service you need to register your mobile phone – TXT ‘register’ to 999.

Help and advice: