Campaign launches safe space in pharmacies for victims of domestic abuse across the UK

From today, victims of domestic abuse will be able to access safe spaces at Boots UK pharmacy consultation rooms across the country where they can contact specialist domestic abuse services for support and advice. Launched by charity Hestia’s UK SAYS NO MORE campaign, the scheme is in response to the desperate situation facing many victims who are isolating with perpetrators during lockdown.

Hestia says it has already seen a 47 percent increase in victims reaching out for information and support on its free domestic abuse app, Bright Sky. While 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men experience domestic abuse, the charity is concerned that the figures will be much higher during lockdown, making access to support critical.

Lyndsey Dearlove, Head of UK SAYS NO MORE at Hestia said:
“Whilst lockdown and social distancing measures continue, it is restricting victims of domestic abuse reaching out to their friends, family and co-workers for support. We know there is an increased level of uncertainty for people looking to escape an abusive relationship. Self-isolation offers a new method of control over victims making it very difficult for them to seek support.
We recognise that key workers in pharmacies hold a unique position within the community as a single point of contact for victims. By creating this safe space in Boots pharmacies, we hope many will be able to safely access support whilst following Government guidelines. We hope more pharmacies will follow Boots UK’s lead and join the Safe Space initiative. Although we are in a period of lockdown and isolation, our message to victims is domestic abuse services are open and we can help you.”Marc Donovan, Chief Pharmacist Boots UK said:
“Our pharmacies have long been a place where people can turn to for help and advice on their local high street. At times like these, our 2,400 stores in communities across the UK take on increased importance, as a place of safety for those who need one. We hope that making our consultation rooms safe spaces we can help people find the support they need at this difficult time, when many other options are temporarily unavailable. This is something our pharmacy teams feel very passionately about, and would like to thank them for stepping forward to help at a time when they are under tremendous pressure.”

Sara*, a survivor of domestic abuse, who lived in a Hestia domestic abuse refuge said:
“Women or men who are now ‘forced’ to be indoors with the abusive partner or family member really need a ‘safe haven’ where they can retreat to collect their thoughts and get
support. Sometimes getting out of that bubble of abuse, that you are in at home, helps you to realise that help is out there. It also gives you a little bit of hope and confidence to take a step towards helping yourself.
An abuser wouldn’t really think that their victim could access help at the local pharmacy or be able to have a moment in a place like that. So being able to contact a domestic violence helpline in this way will be life changing for many.”

President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Sandra Gidley said:
“Home is not a safe place for people experiencing domestic abuse. Victims need to do all they can to stay safe which is why UK SAYS NO MORE’s initiative to create safe spaces in nominated pharmacies is so important.
During the pandemic, when options for survivors/victims are even more limited than usual, pharmacies can provide the safe environment needed to get support. The trust that the public have in pharmacies make them an ideal place to access help and take a step away from harm towards a better future.
The RPS fully supports UK SAYS NO MORE campaign and would encourage other pharmacies to take part and become a safe space for those experiencing domestic abuse.”

Duncan Rudkin, Chief Executive of the General Pharmaceutical Council, which regulates pharmacies in Great Britain, said:
“We are encouraging all pharmacies to consider becoming a Safe Space, to help people experiencing domestic abuse access vital support they may need. Pharmacies are in the frontline in supporting the healthcare needs of patients and the public during the COVID 19 pandemic in the community, and are one of the few places that are open to people who may need help. We know pharmacies are already very busy during these unprecedented times, but participating in this scheme is another important way in which they can safeguard vulnerable people.”

Whilst in the consultation room, people will have access to:
 24-hour National domestic abuse helpline: 0808 2000 247
 Men’s advice line: 0808 801 032
 Scotland – Domestic Abuse & Forced Marriage Helpline (freephone 24/7): 0800 027 123
 Wales – Live Fear Free Helpline (freephone 24/7): 0808 801 0800
 Northern Ireland – Domestic & Sexual Abuse: 0808 802 141
 Signposting to download free mobile app Bright Sky, which provides support and information to anyone who may be in an abusive relationship or those concerned about someone they know.