'Whole-of-society' effort needed to fight abuse

The Disabled People's Association (DPA) was outraged to read a recent report highlighting a case of abuse (Couple pleads guilty to torturing friend who died after 8 months of abuse; ST Online, Nov 27).

Studies show that women with disabilities are more likely to experience abuse emotionally, physically, mentally and sexually.

It is a distressing situation where women with disabilities feel more isolated and are less likely to report the abuse as they may be dependent on their abuser for their care.

While organisations in Singapore such as Aware work tirelessly to end violence against women, it is women with disabilities who often slip through the gaps because they are a lesser-known demographic.

Furthermore, women with intellectual disabilities who might not have the awareness to identify and report instances of violence are at an even higher risk.

In this latest case, it is especially disconcerting to read that despite colleagues of the victim Annie Ee Yu Lian showing concern about bruises all over her body, the incident was not raised with the management nor reported to the authorities.

Is this indicative of a lack of civic-mindedness, or is it merely a lack of knowledge? Or does this highlight a more worrying trend amongst Singaporeans' propensity to merely be a bystander in the face of possible violence?

DPA urges persons with disabilities, caregivers and Singaporeans in general to play a more active role in speaking up on behalf of their fellowmen.

We also urge disability organisations to equip their clients and beneficiaries with the skills and tools to identify and report potential signs of abuse. We are aware that this would require a whole-of-society effort, from community leaders to individuals, to raise awareness and continue to engage with the more vulnerable in our society.

However, the current environment where young women with disabilities continue to face exploitation is simply unacceptable.

Marissa Lee Medjeral-Mills (Dr)

Executive Director

Disabled People's Association