SINGAPORE: An inter-agency task force will be set up to tackle family violence amid increasingly violent cases, some of which were committed in public, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Sun Xueling on Monday (Feb 17).
"Family violence cases appear to be increasingly more violent in nature," Ms Sun said in a speech at an event at family violence specialist centre PAVE.
"From 2016 to 2019, victims have reported more acts of violence committed against them in their PPO (Personal Protection Order) applications."
MORE TYPES OF VIOLENCE DESPITE FEWER PPOS
Last year, for example, victims reported 4,224 types of violence against them in 2,452 PPO applications. This compares with 4,033 types of violence in 2,478 PPO applications in 2018.
Out of the four types of violence victims indicated in their PPOs last year, placing a person in fear of hurt ranked highest (1,739), followed by causing hurt knowingly (1,580) and continual harassment (905). There were no reports for wrongful confinement.
"Family violence destroys lives," said Ms Sun. "Each case is one too many. No one should fear going home."
In 2019, 2,058 police reports were lodged for offences of hurt, criminal force and assault as well as criminal intimidation that involved family members, up from 1,899 in 2018.
"These are just the reported cases from those who have had the courage to step forward," said Ms Sun.
"Research shows that there is a vicious inter-generational cycle of family violence: Children who witness their fathers beating up their mothers are 10 times more likely to abuse their future spouses. It is therefore crucial that we take steps to break this cycle," she added.
Ms Sun raised concerns over "egregious cases", including abuse committed in public.
She brought up the example of a case in 2018, where a man severely assaulted his wife at Pending LRT station in front of their two children.
According to court documents, the husband was angered by his wife's refusal to return to their matrimonial home.
He pushed her to the wall and punched her repeatedly in the face. When she fell to the ground and fainted, he kicked her on the face and stomped on her head, until her face started to swell and bleed.
The assault only ended when passers-by intervened and helped the woman, who suffered various injuries including a fracture of her jawbone, bruising over her arm and finger and bleeding on her skull.
"How terrible. I was absolutely horrified when I read about it," said Ms Sun. "The two young children, who were six and seven years old, were crying and shouting for their father to stop."
The man pleaded guilty to causing grievous hurt and contravening a PPO in November 2019.
READ: The Big Read: Some men just don’t get it - more awareness but abuse of women in S’pore still a problem
TASK FORCE CAPABILITIES
The task force will be co-chaired by Ms Sun and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim.
It will identify areas that can be improved, strengthen existing initiatives and come up with fresh ideas.
One priority will be providing better support for victims when they report family violence cases.
While police officers are trained to handle such cases sensitively, they are not social workers and cannot provide immediate social service support, said Ms Sun.
As such, the task force will study the feasibility of extending the Home Team Community Assistance and Referral Scheme (Home Team CARES) initiative to family violence victims by the end of the year.
Home Team CARES, a pilot scheme set up in January last year, was aimed at providing first-response triaging and referral of offenders to social service agencies.
"This means that in future, when police investigate a family violence case, Home Team CARES officers will also support the victims in such cases, and triage and refer them to appropriate agencies for help," said Ms Sun.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) is also considering a dedicated national hotline for victims of abuse and violence. The task force will aid in its design, said Ms Sun.
Additionally, the task force will also explore working with NGOs and the private sector, focusing on public education and research into family violence.
"Family violence cannot be condoned, even if it happens in private and some may feel is a family matter," said Ms Sun.
"Our goal is to work towards a Singapore where everyone has a safe and loving home to go home to."