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Home  »   National Association of Women PharmacistsMember Voice   »   Violence against women and girls

Violence against women and girls

President of the PDA NAWP Network, Ayah Abbass, and Immediate Past President of the PDA NAWP Network, Naina Chotai discuss violence and abuse against women and why it's often seen as easier to blame the victim of domestic violence.

Fri 21st October 2022 The PDA

In 2022, it should not be the case that many women and girls have daily concerns about their safety or fear violence or abuse against them. High-profile cases, such as the murder of Sarah Everard in London in 2021, have ignited the debate and prompted women and girls to share their experiences around their feelings of safety and fear of violence in usual, everyday situations. These incidents manifest in a variety of ways, such as catcalling, harassment, assault, and being generally concerned about the risks to their wellbeing and safety when going about their daily business. However, when finding the courage to raise concerns or seeking support, it can often be easier for those expected to stand up against unacceptable behaviour to blame the victim. This can undermine confidence significantly and results in failure to tackle the issue head-on.


Victim-blaming, be it direct, indirect or unconscious, occurs when a victim of a crime is seen as being at fault for the harm that they have experienced.

We need to ask the fundamental question, why is it easier to blame the victim? Why is it easier to point the finger at a woman and say it was ‘her fault’? We have seen on social media how women get blamed after horrendous traumas. We have heard ‘why was she wearing that?’, ‘she was asking for it’ and so on.

In the year ending March 2020, 77% of victims in domestic abuse-related prosecutions were female, compared with 16% who were male (the sex of the victim was not recorded in 7% of prosecutions).

Working in pharmacy

As female pharmacists, we sometimes work late hours to help the community, but we often hear ‘aren’t you scared of working that late?’ Little comments can be very triggering such as when patients assume you are working alone in the pharmacy. As a woman, you always think of the worst-case scenario. Many women can strongly agree that we are always on edge and feel the need to be super vigilant because we are still not protected enough in the community. The panic when you walk to your car after a late-night shift. You do countless head turns before you finally get into the car, start breathing again, and press the lock button.

Community pharmacists in general deal with a tremendous number of daily threats and abuse, which tends to increase during late shifts and weekends. The usual response is to blame the victim, you hear, ‘you picked a late shift, what do you expect?’. Apologies and offers of compensation to those that display violence or abuse towards pharmacy teams are commonplace from employers. This reinforces a flawed concept of ‘the customer is always right’ rather than adopting a zero-tolerance approach. When will we stop blaming the victims and put an end to this behaviour being allowed?

The statistics

According to the Office of National Statistics, “in the year ending March 2021, the number of domestic abuse-related incidents recorded by the police in England and Wales (613,929 incidents) increased by 6% compared with the year ending March 2020.” Of all crimes recorded by the police in the year ending March 2021, 18% were domestic abuse related. This was an increase of 3% compared to the previous year. These are worrying statistics and maybe just the tip of the iceberg.  There is still potentially significant under-reporting of domestic abuse due to the reluctance of the victim to come forward. A common myth is that ‘they were provoked’ to justify the domestic abuser’s behaviour. This myth can discourage the victims to report the crime.

Earlier this year to mark International Women’s Day 2022, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) Women’s Committee held a webinar to discuss how unions are developing policies to support victims of domestic abuse as well as supporting members who have experienced sexual harassment.

PDA National Officer for Northern Ireland, Una O’Farrell said, “The webinar concluded with a case study that beautifully highlighted the inherent injustice of the current regime: A working woman had been a victim of an up-skirting incident. Under current culture and legislation, there is no protection for victims of such incidents. More so, the crime falls under public indecency, ignoring the wrong, harm, and trauma experienced by the individual. It served as a stark reminder of why this work is so very necessary”.

What many people may not realise is the disproportionately higher rates of domestic abuse experienced by healthcare professionals, as highlighted in a recent study.

NHS Employers highlights the importance of workplaces having the right precautions in place for staff to feel safe and supported and draws attention to the following statistics:

Employers need to adopt a culture where people can seek help and effective help is given and work effectively with staff, unions or representatives and managers to better understand how to offer support, whether they are experiencing abuse and threats in the workplace or domestic violence.

President of the PDA NAWP Network, Ayah Abbass said, “NAWP believes that we need to stop the victim-blaming culture and support the victims instead. Members who experience any sort of harassment or other forms of violence in the workplace can contact the PDA Service Centre for advice. Pharmacist Support is also available for counselling and peer support.”

By Community/GP pharmacist and President of the PDA NAWP Network, Ayah Abbass and, 

Community and locum pharmacist and Immediate Past President of the PDA NAWP Network, Naina Chotai

Learn more

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