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“A Safe Space has saved my life”: how pharmacies are helping people find a way out of domestic abuse

22 October 2020

In May, we contacted community pharmacies to ask them to consider providing a Safe Space for people experiencing domestic abuse in their consultation room as part of the UK SAYS NO MORE campaign run by Hestia, a national charity. Over 1 in 4 pharmacies are now taking part in the scheme and a recent report from Hestia estimates that Safe Spaces in pharmacies have been used over 3700 times already- which demonstrates how high the need is from people experiencing domestic abuse.

One of our inspectors recently heard first-hand how one pharmacy had got involved and has included this as an example of good practice for meeting the standard relating to safeguarding on the knowledge hub.

Good practice: providing a Safe Space

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic the pharmacy had registered as a Safe Space through the ‘UK SAYS NO MORE’ campaign. The pharmacy’s prominent advertising of its safe space led to multiple people seeking support. Where appropriate, the pharmacy had escalated its concerns about people’s safety through the relevant safeguarding channels, including to the police. When necessary, the pharmacy team had kept people safe in the consultation room until the safeguarding agencies had managed the situation. The initiative meant people could remove themselves from an abusive or violent environment by seeking refuge at the pharmacy, and by being put in touch with relevant safeguarding agencies.

“A Safe Space saved my life”

For one person, their local pharmacy provided an effective way out. They contacted Hestia to say thank you- read their story below.

Hi, 

I do need to tell you however, that a Safe Space has saved my life.

I had been experiencing (what I now know to be) coercive control for five years of a 10-year relationship. During lockdown and shielding (due to my complex medical needs), the abuse escalated to aggression and violence, leading to a fear for my life. I knew that I needed to get out of the house at the very least, but had nowhere to go. 

My aforementioned medical conditions mean I take ~23 medications, and as luck would have it, my village pharmacy couldn’t source one of my medications. I turned to the Boots online ordering system and on the bottom of the site I saw a reference to Safe Spaces. Reading on, I realised that this was exactly what I needed to access-urgently.

Seeing the big chains of pharmacies quoted as opening their consulting rooms to us folk experiencing domestic abuse was great, but impossible for me to get to.

I then saw that 60 independent pharmacies were also offering Safe Spaces. Scrolling down through the list with my heart in my mouth, I found it! My local village pharmacy was on the list. I could now make a plan and on the first day that dear Boris said us shielders could have outdoor exercise time, after 10 weeks indoors, I raced to the pharmacy and asked to use their Safe Space.

The consultation room became a second, safe and sound part of my lockdown from hell. I called the local domestic abuse and violence partnership who immediately worked out the best plans to keep me safe in the first instance. I phoned my mum and sister for the first time in months (everything I did at home was monitored), I phoned a good friend and a solicitor. Over the weeks I used the Safe Space, I developed a plan to get the abuser out of my home.

Last week I got him out of my home, had the locks changed, and boxed all his things. I am beginning to feel safe in my home again, but without the Safe Space, things could have been very different and far, far worse.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, for creating the concept of Safe Spaces, realising their crucial role in lockdown and getting independent pharmacies on board.

I am alive, safe and no longer living with my abuser.

Thank you.

For more information about how pharmacies can become a Safe Space, visit the campaign website at uksaysnomore.org/safespaces
 

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