The Duchess of Cornwall holds reception to celebrate 15 years of SafeLives

12th February 2020

Today, Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cornwall hosts a reception at Clarence House, bringing together survivors, supporters and practitioners who have worked with UK-wide domestic abuse charity SafeLives, to mark its 15th anniversary. It also marks the launch of the charity’s #ImASurvivor Valentine’s campaign, celebrating the collective strength of survivor voice.  

Founded by Baroness Diana Barran MBE in 2005, SafeLives quickly established the ‘best friend’ rule: if your best friend was experiencing domestic abuse, what would you want for them?

15 years later and now led by CEO, Suzanne Jacob OBE, the relationships SafeLives has built with organisations, frontline professionals and survivors of domestic abuse has helped tens of thousands of victims, survivors and whole families receive the support they need to become safe, sooner, and live the lives they want after abuse.

  • SafeLives established the idea of the specialist Idva (independent domestic violence adviser), training more than 3,000 Idvas and Idaas (Scotland) to support those at the highest risk of serious harm or murder. After support from an Idva, 84% of victims felt safer.[1]
  • We’ve piloted and embedded the idea of the Marac, the multi-agency risk assessment conference which brings together police, children’s services, health and other agencies to share information and develop safety plans for people at the highest risk of serious harm or murder – approximately 290 now operate across the UK, supporting 100,000 cases last year alone.
  • We have trained over 27,500 police officers and staff in 20 forces across the UK to understand the dynamics of domestic abuse, driving real change in the police response. 
  • In the last three years, we have challenged nearly 1,500 perpetrators to change their behaviour through Drive[2], our partnership programme with Respect and Social Finance, and together with over 70 organisations and individuals called for a national perpetrator strategy to tackle domestic abuse at the root.
  • In the last year alone, over 65,000 adults at risk of serious harm or murder and more than 85,000 children received help through dedicated multi-agency support designed by us and delivered with partners.
  • And we have heard from the voices of more than 400 victims and survivors who helped shape our response to the Domestic Abuse Bill and from over 1000 men and boys who took part in our survey of attitudes to relationships and abuse.

This is just the start. To end domestic abuse for good we must see the whole picture, for every person, family, community and the whole society. And we must work together to act sooner – stopping harm before it begins.

Remarks by The Duchess of Cornwall at a reception to acknowledge the 15th anniversary of domestic abuse charity SafeLives at Clarence House, London

Wednesday 12th February 2020

'Ladies and gentlemen, it is a huge pleasure to welcome you all to Clarence House today to mark the 15th anniversary of SafeLives. I’ve really enjoyed speaking to you all this afternoon and hearing about your connections to this remarkable charity, whether as staff members, supporters, partners or survivors. Each one of you is making an enormous difference as we seek, in the words of SafeLives, to end domestic abuse, for good.

It seems particularly appropriate to be celebrating your 15th anniversary in my home, as SafeLives was, at the start, very much a home-grown initiative. Your inspirational founder, Diana Barran, started this charity from her kitchen table, with no guarantee that it would prove to be the success it is today. She had, quite simply, asked, what was the biggest human problem that was the hardest to raise money for. The answer was domestic abuse… SafeLives was born…

Those early days, gathered round the kitchen table in Somerset, must have been very daunting. But a wonderfully simple principle was found to apply to this difficult task – the ‘best friend’ rule.  The point being, if your best friend was experiencing domestic abuse, what would you want for her?

Your conclusion was a single person to talk to, who could be an advocate for the different statutory agencies: the police, the courts and so on. Over the past 15 years, SafeLives has grown beyond all recognition. But your ‘best friend’ rule still applies. Last year alone, your work supported more than 65,000 adults and 85,000 children, ensuring, through your friendship, that their voices were heard and their lives were made safer.

I visited SafeLives for the first time in 2016 and, as I have said on numerous occasions, that memorable day fired my interest in domestic abuse. I did know of people who had suffered from it, but I was both shocked, and horrified by just how many thousands of people across the world live with it. I had the privilege of hearing incredibly brave women (some of whom are here today) standing up to tell their stories. Harrowing stories that reduced many of us listeners to tears. But with each story that is told, the taboo around domestic abuse weakens and the silence that surrounds it is broken, so other sufferers can know that there is hope for them and they are not alone.  

Now Ladies and Gentlemen, as you mark this anniversary and look to the future, you give us all hope that those survivors can live their lives in peace, and be victors, not victims of these horrendous crimes, hopefully ensuring that domestic abuse can be made a crime of the past for ever. Thank you all.'

SafeLives Chief Executive, Suzanne Jacob, OBE, said:

“We’re so grateful to HRH, The Duchess of Cornwall for hosting this reception today to celebrate 15 years of SafeLives and for her continued support for victims and survivors of domestic abuse and their families.  

“As we look back at the progress we’ve made in the last 15 years, it is important to note that none of it has been done alone. To every partner, organisation, professional, and survivor of domestic abuse who has supported us and shared their voices with us – thank you.

“To end domestic abuse for good, we must push our work upstream – looking for earlier opportunities to stop harm before it begins. That starts through working directly with young people and those who support them to change attitudes before harmful behaviours become entrenched.

“In 2019, we heard from more than 1,000 men and boys aged 11 and over, asking them about abuse, masculinity and what a ‘healthy’ relationship looks like. We know that men and boys are more likely to harm themselves and others, and less likely to talk about it. 84% of those we heard from agreed with the statement: ‘Society’s views of masculinity can have a negative effect on the mental health of men and boys’. Too often discussions around domestic abuse and harmful behaviours are still viewed as taboo subjects. It’s time we break down those barriers and open up these conversations.”

“Today, we’re also celebrating all survivors, with the launch of our #ImASurvivor Valentine’s campaign. We’re sharing positive messages of love and support from survivors, connecting people with lived experience and celebrating their collective strength and resilience.

“We continue, in partnership with so many others, to improve understanding of the dynamics of domestic abuse, hold those responsible to account, and support victims and whole families to become safe, sooner and live the life they want after abuse. Ending domestic abuse for everyone. For good.”

For more information and interviews, contact Natalie Mantle, Head of Communications at natalie.mantle@safelives.org.uk or 07394560466.


Notes to editor

About SafeLives

We are SafeLives, the UK-wide charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse, for everyone and for good.  

We work with organisations across the UK to transform the response to domestic abuse. We want what you would want for your best friend. We listen to survivors, putting their voices at the heart of our thinking. We look at the whole picture for each individual and family to get the right help at the right time to make families everywhere safe and well. And we challenge perpetrators to change, asking ‘why doesn’t he stop?’ rather than ‘why doesn’t she leave?’ This applies whatever the gender of the victim or perpetrator and whatever the nature of their relationship.  

Last year alone, nearly 11,000 professionals working on the frontline received our training. Over 65,000 adults at risk of serious harm or murder and more than 85,000 children received support through dedicated multi-agency support designed by us and delivered with partners. In the last three years, over 1,000 perpetrators have been challenged and supported to change by interventions we created with partners, and that’s just the start.  

Together we can end domestic abuse. Forever. For everyone.


[1] SafeLives Insights national dataset, 2018-19