More help for survivors of family violence to be rolled out
The initiatives come in response to 16 recommendations made by a task force set up to tackle family violence.
SINGAPORE: An emergency response team for survivors of family violence, an online channel for reporting such cases, and stronger legislation against the perpetrators.
These are some of the new measures that will be implemented, in line with recommendations from a task force tackling family violence.
The response team, which will start work on Apr 1 next year, will operate round the clock every day, said Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling on Thursday (Nov 17).
It will include officers from the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and police officers, Ms Sun told CNA938’s Asia First a day after providing updates at a conference on managing family violence. She added that the team will be empowered to issue emergency protection orders.
This is important because it provides immediate help to victims, said Ms Sun. Currently, those who require protection need to apply for a personal protection order that may take time, she noted.
“With this new initiative, which is that the officers on site will be able to issue emergency protection orders - that will be able to provide protection for the victims in the first instance,” she said.
The Taskforce on Family Violence was set up in February 2020 to better understand the family violence landscape in Singapore, identify areas for improvement, and make recommendations to tackle the issue.
Its report, released in September last year, included 16 proposals grouped under four thrusts: To raise awareness and enhance prevention for those at risk; to make it easier for survivors and the community to report family violence and get immediate help; to boost protection and support for survivors; and to increase the accountability of perpetrators and strengthen their rehabilitation.
ONLINE CHANNEL, CHANGE IN PENALTIES
Another initiative in line with these proposals is an online channel, where survivors can report cases of violence against them, Ms Sun said. The channel will launch on Dec 30.
“This is important because we know that there can be occasions whereby victims are not quite able to call and speak to an officer, because they may be in a situation of great duress and danger,” she said, adding that they may not be physically able to call a helpline at the time.
The ministry has spent time increasing the manpower for hotlines, making sure that social workers are available to attend to callers, Ms Sun added.
Family violence specialist centres will also be renamed as protection specialist centres, as it is not only victims with a familial relationship to the perpetrator who can approach them for help.
Currently, these centres are already providing help for sexual violence victims … victims of intimate partner violence as well as victims of dating violence, she said.
The Women's Charter will also be amended early next year to impose stricter penalties on those who breach rehabilitation orders.
Family violence is a “serious issue”, said Ms Sun, and enhancing the penalties will send a strong signal that it should not be condoned whether or not it happens in a domestic setting.
“These changes aim to better protect survivors and hold persons who cause harm accountable while focusing on their rehabilitation,” Ms Sun said in a speech on Wednesday.
HELPING THOSE WHO CAUSE HARM
While help resources are being beefed up, there are other challenges, Ms Sun said. For example, family members may hesitate to report their cases.
“They are worried sometimes about getting their loved one in trouble. And as a result of that, they prevent themselves, stop themselves from reporting or they give the perpetrator many chances,” she said.
However, she noted that there could be many reasons for the perpetrator not changing.
For instance, the perpetrator could have a mental health condition, could be under the influence of drugs, or have anger management issues, she said.
“These go beyond what a victim can do and they sometimes need to involve professionals but for that to take place, they will have to start to step out to put forward their request for help,” she said.
“This is also where we want to train bystanders to look out for these victims.”
While the focus of family protection work has so far been on the survivors, Ms Sun said in her speech on Wednesday: “I believe it is equally important to talk about rehabilitating persons who have caused harm to prevent further violence and build more positive and resilient relationships.”
Mr Ben Ang, principal social worker at Thye Hua Kwan Family Services, supports the initiatives. He agreed that it may not be just the survivors who need help.
“The people who cause hurt, they are also suffering, and they need help and they need critical help. So, we also want to make it safe and open to them, and they can also reach out for help through their platform,” he said.