EVERY Stagecoach bus in the county is now a Safe Space for women and girls who feel threatened or intimidated.
The Safe Space scheme, to which more than 80 Gloucestershire businesses are now signed up, designates premises as places where women and girls can go to seek refuge if they’re being followed or feel under threat in any way.
Originally created by a woman in Stroud, it has now been rolled out across all Stagecoach West buses.
This week the Safe Space team, Gloucestershire’s Office for the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC), Gloucestershire Constabulary, and Stagecoach West held a launch event to introduce the new Stagecoach buses as Safe Spaces.
Police officers, the Police and Crime Commissioner and partners came together at Gloucester’s SkillZone centre to role-play scenarios and how bus drivers will respond.
A spokesperson for the OPCC explained: “Women and girls face sexism everyday with the likes of men following them, staring at them, catcalling or wolf whistling them.
“Safe Space is a scheme that shops, facilities and now buses have joined to indicate to women they will help them and provide refuge.”
The scheme was set up in the wake of a series of sexual assaults, lewd acts and rapes of women in Stroud last summer (2022). Since it was founded in October 2022, 85 businesses have joined the scheme.
The OPCC says the scheme is already proving worthwhile. Multiple women have stayed in designated shops in Stroud after being followed by men.
In another instance a woman was the victim-survivor of a domestic abuse incident in the centre of Stroud and was injured. She went to a designated Safe Space where she was supported.
Additionally, a young woman was being followed and intimated by an aggressive male in Stratford Park. She ran away from him and took safety inside a safe space where a member of staff kept her safe until help arrived.
The scheme is now used in Gloucester City Centre also, where it has already been used by a woman being followed and intimidated by a man, a woman in a domestic abuse situation and wanted protecting from the male offender, and by a young girl who was being bullied. As well as many other instances.
Chris Nelson, Police and Crime Commissioner said: “Tackling men’s violence against women and girls is a real priority for me. I am always looking at ways we can help make our county less sexist. However, misogyny is a deep rooted issue in our society and it needs to be tackled at the source - men and boys.
“This scheme set up by Chrissie is incredibly valuable and clearly very much needed. I am supportive of the Safe Space scheme, as anything we can do as a society to help women and girls feel safer and more protected from predatory men is beneficial.”
Chrissie Lowery, founder of Safe Space said: “Safe Space and Stagecoach have collaborated to grow the scheme into the West with over 400 buses taking part.
"The Stagecoach drivers have been trained and stickers placed so that anyone who needs help can seek safety on the bus.
"If you are being followed, are at risk of harm and need help, just get on the bus and ask the driver for a safe space.”
Rachel Geliamassi, Managing Director, Stagecoach West said: “It made perfect sense for us to get involved and support the Safe Space scheme, with over 400 buses serving our region that’s 400 ‘safe spaces’ available to those who may need it.”