SGN to provide Online Safe Spaces for victims of domestic abuse

SGN has partnered with crisis charity Hestia and its ‘UK Says No More’ campaign as well as the Royal Mail Group to provide Online Safe Spaces for victims of domestic abuse to access specialist support and information through its website.

Online Safe Spaces is a portal thatcan be accessed via the logo in the footer of the SGN website. By clicking on the Safe Spaces portal, isers can access the Online Safe Space, which holds a directory of national domestic abuse helplines, a directory of local specialist domestic abuse services, and an assessment questionnaire. It also leaves no trace in the user’s browser history.

The portal is accessible in a variety of languages and has a quick exit button, taking the user back to the original page they were on, thereby providing a degree of safety to the user.

It comes at a crucial time for keeping people safe during the pandemic. Recent figures show that there were 30,718 charges reported in 2019-20 related to domestic abuse in Scotland. It’s the highest since 2015-16, and is 5.7% higher than the year before.

Around 20 organisations have signed up including eBay, Royal Mail Group including the Post Office and Parcelforce, Ministry of Defence, and Thames Water. It’s estimated that in the last four months of 2020, there were nearly 4,000 visits to Online Safe Spaces every single day.

Claire Barnett, executive director of UN Women UK, said: “COVID-19 has led to increases in violence against women that threaten to roll back achievements in gender equality by decades. UN Women has been working with local partners to create safer public spaces for the past ten years, including through our project Safe Spaces Now. I am delighted to see the Online Safe Space initiative innovating by using existing platforms and partners to share critical information on women’s services.”

Maureen McIntosh, head of customer experience at SGN, added: “We regularly provide additional support and help to our customers who are living in vulnerable circumstances, and I’m pleased we’re going even further now by providing important information to also help people who are experiencing abuse. Sometimes people don’t know where to turn to for help, in what can be really difficult or dangerous situations, and I hope we can help people further and they are able to find the extra safety and security they need.”

Lyndsey Dearlove, head of domestic abuse prevention at Hestia, said: “Businesses have a unique role to play in breaking the silence around domestic abuse and ensuring victims can access the help and support they need. Lockdown restrictions due to COVID-19 have provided an opportunity for businesses to step up their response to domestic abuse for their staff and customers through digital platforms. With the launch of Online Safe Spaces, we are delighted to work with SGN to provide their first online safe space to provide a vital lifeline to victims of domestic abuse.”

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