Pharmacies Become Safe Spaces For Domestic Abuse Survivors During Coronavirus Pandemic

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For people experiencing domestic abuse, stay at home doesn’t mean safe at home.

As shelter-in-place orders and lockdowns came into place around the world, domestic violence cases have increased significantly. The U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) has predicted that at least 15 million more cases of domestic violence will occur around the world for every three months that government lockdowns are extended, amid the new coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).

Across the UK, Boots pharmacies will now become safe spaces where domestic abuse survivors can contact specialist support services.

From May 1, people experiencing domestic abuse can ask Boots staff if they can use the consultation rooms where they’ll be able to contact support services for help and advice.

The UK is currently under lockdown, and people are only allowed to leave their homes for a limited set of circumstances. Under the lockdown rules, the government ordered non-essential shops to close with a few exceptions. Pharmacies are one of the few remaining shops currently open in the UK.

The initiative has been launched by domestic abuse charity Hestia as part of its UK Says No More campaign. According to a statement, Hestia has seen a 47 percent increase in survivors seeking support and information on its free domestic abuse app, Bright Sky.

“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,” Lyndsey Dearlove, head of UK Says No More at Hestia, said in a statement.

“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,” Dearlove added.

She added that Hestia hopes more pharmacies will follow Boots UK’s example and turn their consultation rooms into safe spaces. “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,” Dearlove continued.

Marc Donovan, chief pharmacist at Boots UK, said the initiative is available at 2,400 stores across the UK, providing a place of safety for those in need.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Within the consultation rooms, people will have access to the following UK-based services:

  • 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 gives support and information to anyone who may be in an abusive relationship.

Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the General Pharmaceutical Council, which regulates pharmacies in Great Britain, said the council was encouraging all pharmacies to consider becoming a Safe Space. “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,” he said.


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