Ever since the “circuit breaker” period started in April, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) revealed on Thursday (14 May) that there has been an increase of 22 percent cases related to family violence in the country.
From 7 April to 6 May, 476 police reports were made for offences like hurt, criminal force and assault, criminal intimidation and wrongful confinement. This figure is a jump from the monthly average of 389 cases before the “circuit breaker” period.
The police said that they view such cases seriously and will take stern action against offenders who abuse their family members. It also added that it will enhance collaboration with social service agencies to fight against family violence.
At the moment, victims of family violence who request for social assistance will be sent to the nearest Family Service Centre or the Family Violence Specialist Centre by the police.
For those who ask for shelter, they will be brought to one of the four crisis shelters funded by the Ministry of Social and Family Development.
In order to intensify the protection given to the victims, SPF said that it will proactively review the victim’s risk of being exposed to further family violence, even if they do not come forward and ask for any assistance or shelter.
“Specifically, we will assess the victims’ risks of encountering further family violence, and proactively refer those assessed to be at higher risk to social services, to ensure that they receive the help they need,” SPF said.
Some of the points that will be taken into consideration when making these assessments, include the profile of the offenders as well as the type of violence reported.
If that’s not all, the police will also keep a close eye on the victims. For instance, SPF will follow-up with the victims within one week after the police report was lodged to find out if they require any further assistance.
“To break the cycle of family violence, the root causes that led to the offenders committing violence on their family members also need to be addressed,” SPF said.
This will be done via the Home Team Community Assistance and Referral Scheme (HT CARES).
Under this scheme, the police will refer offenders to social workers or other suitable agencies to find out the underlying issues via counselling, mental health and financial assistance.
Additionally, all Police Land Divisions can now also refer offenders whom they are investigating for family violence.
“This will ensure that offenders who need social assistance are referred earlier to avenues for help,” SPF added.
MP Sun Xueling raised concerns over spike in cases
Earlier on 12 May, MP for Punggol West and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Sun Xueling pointed out her worries about the influx in the number of family violence cases in the country in a video posted on her Facebook page.
“Worldwide trends show that stress and social isolation caused by COVID-19 could lead to more cases of family violence,” she noted.
“There can be many reasons why victims do not specifically request for assistance or shelter, but to better protect them, the police will proactively refer victims at higher risk of further violence to social service agencies and also follow up by checking up on them to make sure they are alright,” she added.
Besides that, she also urged everyone to watch for signs of family violence in their community and inform the police so the victims can be given help as soon as possible.
“The simple act of reporting can help save someone’s life or prevent further suffering,” Ms Sun stated.
On 8 May, gender-equality organisation AWARE launched a new online text chat service to better support survivors of abuse and violence, after receiving record-breaking number of calls since the COVID-19 outbreak.
In March this year, AWARE’s Helpline received 619 calls – the most recorded in one month in the Helpline’s 29 year history.
During the chat service, AWARE representatives perform the same support functions as on the Helpline. They can provide emotional support, practical information, make referrals to AWARE counsellors and legal clinic, and advise on other helpful resources from crisis shelters to Family Service Centres, Family Violence Specialist Centres, and Family Justice Court.
With the online text chat service, AWARE particularly hopes to reach survivors of abuse and violence whose circumstances prevent them from calling the Helpline at all.