As the country moves towards fully re-opening after lock-down, Safe Ireland and totalhealth Pharmacies are launching a community-based initiative called Gateway to Safety, to help ensure that survivors of domestic violence can get access to expert support and advice on their main streets.
People experiencing domestic violence and coercive control, and those close to them, are encouraged to come forward to talk in confidence to the team at their local totalhealth Pharmacy where they can be immediately connected with one of the 39 frontline specialist domestic abuse services across the country for free and confidential support and advice.
Safe Ireland’s Co-CEO Mary McDermott said that during lockdown, there was a collective focus on the sanctuary of our homes and a national outpouring of empathy for those trapped in unsafe and controlling environments. Now that we are beginning to move out from our homes again, she said, it was vital that we don’t lift our eyes away from those continuing to live in unsafe homes. She said that post-lockdown domestic violence services had already seen a significant increase in the numbers and complexity of cases coming forward. It was now more important than ever that it easy for women to reach out to the specialist services they need from a variety of community based sanctuaries, like pharmacies.
Safe Ireland is the national policy and services hub for 39 frontline domestic abuse services working with women and children throughout the country. totalhealth is the largest independently-owned pharmacy chain in Ireland over 80 branches, many of which have been providing care, advice and support to Irish communities for many decades.
“If we want safe homes, we must have safe communities,” Mary McDermott, Co-CEO said. “With this partnership with totalhealth, we are making it clear that people do not have to live with domestic abuse and coercive control at any time and that support is available, right here in your community, on your main street, at all times. totalhealth Pharmacies are providing an accessible, safe and confidential space for survivors and those close to them who may be concerned, to be connected with expert help so that they can begin to make a first, simple step to safety and freedom.”
The initiative is part of Safe Ireland’s Safe Homes Safe Communities programme, which aims to bring voice and visibility to the issue of domestic violence into communities by bringing together businesses, statutory groups, community organisations and civil society to change the culture of silence that allows domestic violence to continue. The Gateway to Safety initiative provides information and support to both women and men who are victims of domestic violence.
Commenting on the partnership, Rory O’Donnell, chairperson of totalhealth, said: “It’s so important that people who may have been living with an abuser know that help is available and that their community supports them. We are delighted to be able to join with Safe Ireland and its members in all of our communities to provide a safe, confidential gateway to professional domestic violence advice and supports.”
John Arnold, Managing Director of totalhealth, added “Our pharmacies are rooted in their communities, for generations in some cases. They are involved in caring for local families, their own families have grown up in the area, and they care about the communities in which they live. This partnership is a natural extension of the community support we pride ourselves on.”
During the Covid-19 lockdown period, domestic violence was recognised as a national priority. An Garda Síochána has reported a 25% increase in domestic violence cases over the past three months.
On average each year, Safe Ireland frontline member services, which work primarily with women and children, provide a range of supports to approximately 12,500 people across Ireland. In addition, there are on average 50,000 calls to helplines around the country each year. However, research also shows that only 21% of women who have experienced intimate partner abuse have reported the most serious incident to police. Safe Ireland wants to change this extreme under-reporting by making it easier for survivors to reach out for support in a variety of community locations.
NOTES TO EDITOR:
ABOUT TOTALHEALTH PHARMACY
totalhealth Pharmacy is a cooperative symbol group of community pharmacies throughout Ireland. By working together, we improve the service provided to our patients and our local communities, as well as offering security and support to our members. We represent over 80 pharmacies nationwide and continue to grow.
ABOUT SAFE IRELAND
Safe Ireland is the national policy and services hub for 39 frontline domestic violence services throughout the country. We are leading a nationwide movement to end domestic abuse and coercive control – and to make Ireland the safest country in the world for women and children. We want to transform the culture in Ireland so that coercive control and domestic abuse is no longer tolerated in our communities, in our mindsets, in our systems and in our societal structures.