Domestic abuse victims will be able to access Safe Spaces in Boots and Superdrug after demand for services increased during the coronavirus lockdown.
Hestia, a charity offering crisis support in London and beyond, announced that Superdrug, and more than 60 independent pharmacies, have joined the scheme it launched with Boots last week as part of its UK SAYS NO MORE campaign.
The Safe Spaces will enable victims to contact specialist domestic abuse services for support and advice.
Head of the UK SAYS NO MORE campaign at Hestia Lyndsey Dearlove said: “For some victims of domestic abuse it could be the one opportunity they have to phone that service and get the help they need.
“It’s just incredible that we have been able to pull this off together.”
More than 2,600 pharmacy consultation rooms across the UK will provide Safe Spaces.
We’re partnering with charity Hestia’s @UKSAYSNOMORE & from today victims of domestic abuse will be able to access safe spaces in our 200 Superdrug pharmacies. Our dedicated pharmacy teams are here to help people during this difficult time for them. https://t.co/IAx0bRWQkH pic.twitter.com/D9xpmjDwFm— Superdrug (@superdrug) May 7, 2020
The scheme was launched after Hestia saw a 47% increase in victims reaching out for support on its free domestic abuse app, Bright Sky.
Last week, the Home Affairs Select Committee published a report calling for a cross-governmental COVID-19 strategy on domestic abuse.
The Committee proposed that Safe Spaces should extend past pharmacies and into supermarkets and other retailers.
Ms Dearlove said she was keen for the scheme to expand and engage with communities to find further Safe Spaces.
Since the coronavirus lockdown, domestic abuse services have witnessed increasing demand.
In just one 24-hour period, Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline recorded a 120% increase in calls and contacts.
Since the lockdown, in just one 24 hour period, Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline recorded a 120% increase in calls and contacts.— Refuge (@RefugeCharity) May 7, 2020
Now, more than ever we need your help to keep our helpline running. Please donate £10 at https://t.co/PwcQ1Vqcek#YouAreNotAlone pic.twitter.com/XuStZsw1fY
Refuge chief executive Sandra Horley said: “Living with an abuser is dangerous at the best of times and now even more so.”
In the six weeks up to April 19, the Met Police made an average of nearly 100 arrests a day for domestic violence offences.
However, it is not just the rise in demand that is of concern to services.
Sutton Women’s Centre counselling manager Pauline Hennessy suggested that women who are getting in touch for the first time wanted more urgent support than in normal times.
Ms Hennessy recently took a call from a woman with three children who wanted to leave her home immediately to escape her abusive partner.
The caller said: “I can’t stay here. If he comes for me when he comes home I know that something awful is going to happen.”
Another issue for organisations is that victims thought services stopped running when the UK went into lockdown.
Ms Dearlove said: “For them it meant that it’s danger or it’s death because they are forced to stay home with their abusive partner.”
Hestia and Sutton Women’s Centre raised the terrifying situations some women have experienced locked down with their abuser.
This included a woman being hit in her sleep, one being timed whenever she left the house and another whose partner listened in on all her calls.
Domestic abuse organisations want to reassure women that services, including refuges, are continuing to run during lockdown.
You can contact the Freephone 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline run by Women’s Aid and Refuge on 0808 2000 247.