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Queen opens domestic abuse ‘safe space’ at Art Gallery

Affected individuals will now be able to seek help from trained staff members

By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

Photo: Aberdeen City Council

Aberdeen Art Gallery has launched a new programme which will allow those living with domestic abuse to discreetly ask for help from venue staff.

Flanked by local politicians and domestic abuse survivors, Her Majesty Queen Camilla officially opened the ‘safe space’ on the 17th of January.

Gallery staff have received mental health and domestic violence training, which will allow them to better identify someone who might be in an unsafe situation. Affected individuals can also request assistance from staff.

The Queen, who serves as patron of domestic violence charity SafeLives, was greeted by Lord Lieutenant of Aberdeen Dr David Cameron upon entering the gallery. 

Reflecting on the Queen’s visit, Dr Cameron said: “I was honoured to welcome Her Majesty The Queen to Aberdeen Art Gallery today.

“The gallery becoming a ‘Safe Space’ for those seeking help and support while living with abuse is a necessary and welcome addition to one of our much-loved public buildings.  I hope that anyone requiring such assistance feels able to enter the building and approach a member of staff for help and support.

“I was humbled to also meet many people today at the event who spoke to The Queen about their lived experiences and learn about the subsequent support they have received and continue to do so.”

During the event, the Queen unveiled a fused glass sculpture created by Shelagh Swanson, an artist and domestic abuse survivor.

It is hoped that the sculpture, entitled "You are not the darkness, you are the light”, will help to identity the venue’s status as a ‘safe space.’

The Queen also spoke to members of SafeLives Scotland, who hosted a panel discussion on the lived experience of domestic violence. 

Jess Denniff, the head of SafeLives Scotland, welcomed the Queen’s visit to Aberdeen.

Ms Denniff said: “We know that when survivors of abuse feel listened to, seen and believed, it helps unravel some of the harm and trauma caused by perpetrators who tell them that they don’t matter, that nobody cares about them, that nobody will believe them.

“With her visit today, Her Majesty is making it clear that this is not true: anybody who lives with an experience of domestic abuse does matter and is an expert in their own situation. In Scotland, the brilliant Authentic Voice Panel proves this, in their ongoing, determined work to ensure that the survivor voice is at the heart of Scotland’s response to domestic abuse.”

She added: “As a wider team, we were delighted today to see the opening of this welcoming and reflective space in the heart of Aberdeen, and to meet Her Majesty The Queen.”

The Queen has been involved with domestic violence charities across the United Kingdom for more than a decade, and has helped to raise awareness of measures like Ask for ANI. 

Speaking on the issue in 2022, she noted: “I have learnt from my conversations with these brave survivors that what they want, above all, is to be listened to and believed, to prevent the same thing happening to others.

“They know there is power in their stories and that, in the telling, they move from being the victims of their histories to the authors of their own futures.”


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