Domestic abuse could be far more widespread than first thought, according to a new survey out yesterday.
It found that 30 per cent of Singaporeans said they have experienced such abuse, or that someone close to them has experienced it.
The survey also noted that many people had differing opinions on what constitutes domestic abuse, with 84 per cent saying hitting a spouse and leaving a physical wound would meet the definition.
But this drops to 75 per cent if hitting a spouse does not leave a physical wound.
And 20 per cent said they did not consider forcing a spouse to engage in sexual intercourse against their will a form of abuse, while 30 per cent did not consider verbal threats and restraining or holding them against their will as abuse.
The survey of 300 people on perceptions of domestic abuse was conducted by global market agency Ipsos and non-profit organisation United Women Singapore.
United Women Singapore president Georgette Tan said: "Much more needs to be done to protect the victims and shed light on the situation and especially what constitutes domestic abuse."
The Ministry of Social and Family Development defines family abuse as a broad range of controlling behaviour which often takes a physical, sexual and/or psychological nature, and typically involves fear, harm, intimidation and emotional deprivation.
It may include verbal abuse, threats, harassment, intimidation and controlling behaviour like limiting access to friends, relatives and finances. It is recognised that family abuse can happen at any level of close interpersonal relationships, including those between spouses, partners, parents, children and siblings.
While most survey participants agreed that Singaporeans need to be more knowledgeable about domestic abuse, 41 per cent said they were still unclear on what to do if they or people close to them were victims.
There are a range of penalties according to the severity of each case, including applying for a personal protection order, mandating counselling for the abuser, excluding the abuser from the shared residence with the victim, fines and jail terms.
Ms Elodie Causier, director of Ipsos in Singapore, said: "It is encouraging that many Singaporeans are willing to do something if they encounter cases of domestic abuse, but more needs to be done to raise social awareness and more guidance given on where help can be found."