When Safe Spaces was launched by Hestia at the start of May 2020, behind it lay a number of key partnerships; organisations whose joint aim was to support victims of domestic abuse who suddenly found themselves trapped at home with their abusers during lockdown.

From the start the Royal Pharmaceutical Society was an important and influential champion of Safe Spaces and its President, Claire Anderson, reflects on why they felt so strongly about offering their support.

I remember hearing about Safe Spaces for the first time and thinking, that’s a stroke of genius. Offering support to victims of domestic in pharmacies now seems so obvious but no-one was doing it. It was a really good idea.

At the time pharmacies were under enormous pressure because of the pandemic and lockdown. They were one of the few places that people could go and see someone and I remember they often had queues that stretched down the street – they were that busy. But it also meant that pharmacies were well placed to help victims of domestic abuse. They were open for long hours, they were in the local community and they had consulting rooms where someone could go and get their thoughts together or make a phone call to get support. So the creation and launch of Safe Spaces was a really important part of the pharmacy response during the pandemic.

It was also a timely response because we knew that lockdown was making domestic abuse worse because victims were stuck at home with their abusers with no relief. So it was the right time to do something.

Our main role at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society was to support and encourage our pharmacies to join the scheme and offer a safe space. Everyone we spoke to saw the value of the scheme. Pharmacists know the people that come through the door so well, they talk to them and help people every day. It really was a natural extension of the role that pharmacies play in the community.

I remember when it launched, our patron, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, shared our message about Safe Spaces on social media and that felt such a special endorsement. It really was such an important issue and it felt that everyone was behind it.

We are still encouraging more pharmacies to join Safe Spaces because we know the culture of abuse and violence towards women is ever present, so we need to do more. I was in my local pharmacy the other day and saw a poster about Safe Spaces and while it is great to see it going strong I don’t think we can ever stop raising awareness of domestic abuse. It’s so important that people understand that it can happen to anyone. So I encourage every pharmacy to join up – it may seem like a small thing to do but it can save a life.

Find out more about Safe Spaces