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​Libraries launched as safe spaces for anyone suffering domestic abuse

The Safe Spaces launch event at Ipswich County Library involving people from Suffolk Libraries and the other agencies supporting the campaign.

A campaign has been launched to ensure that anyone affected by domestic abuse in Suffolk knows the library is a safe space.

Suffolk Libraries has been working with Suffolk County Council to ensure library staff know how to respond if someone who is suffering from domestic abuse asks for help.

The Suffolk Domestic Abuse Champions Network has provided training for library staff with some also becoming domestic abuse champions.

The training provides people with an understanding of domestic abuse, how to recognise the signs and how to respond if anyone needs help. The aim of offering Suffolk Libraries as safe spaces is that anyone, whether they are experiencing domestic abuse themselves, or if they’re worried about someone else, can speak to someone in the library in confidence and be referred to the organisations who can support them.

A visit to the library may offer someone the chance to get away from their abuser and so provide an ideal opportunity to speak to someone. A local survivor of domestic abuse has welcomed the idea of libraries as safe spaces, recounting her own experience:

“I once ran into Ipswich County Library when being chased by my ex-partner because I knew he wouldn’t follow me. Having a designated safe space for victims/survivors to go to for support, respite and peace is so important. I’ve always seen libraries as non-judgemental spaces that anyone can use. Having library staff with some knowledge about domestic abuse will make victim/survivors feel more comfortable and safe.”

Bruce Leeke, Chief Executive of Suffolk Libraries, said:

“Our libraries have always offered a welcoming and non-judgemental environment with staff willing to listen and help. Our colleagues receive a huge range of queries every day, often using their knowledge and skills to refer people to other organisations for help. If you’re affected by domestic abuse it can be difficult to know who to turn to so we want everyone to know that libraries are safe spaces and that we can help.”

Cllr. Matthew Hicks, Leader of Suffolk County Council, said:

“The more that can be done to support victims of domestic abuse, the better. Providing a safe space for victims to seek refuge and support is absolutely crucial. Libraries play such an important role in our communities and by providing staff with the necessary training, we can ensure that those seeking support can access it safely and will be treated with kindness, understanding and respect.”

There is also now a Suffolk Domestic Abuse Helpline which anyone can call for free 24/7 on 0800 977 5690.