Community support ramped up to help victims of family and sexual violence in S'pore

(From left) The Whitehatters founder Shahrany Hassan, Casa Raudha executive director Zaharah Ariff, Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling and Nee Soon GRC Carrie Tan, who were panellists at a family-relational violence awareness workshop. PHOTO: MSF

SINGAPORE - Victims of family and sexual violence will get better community support to seek safety from their perpetrators and overcome their trauma, as efforts are ramped up to raise public awareness about detecting and reporting such violence.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) on Tuesday (Feb 8) conducted its first family and domestic violence awareness training, looking at forms of abuse beyond family violence, for grassroots leaders from Nee Soon and Ang Mo Kio.

Started in 2018, the training sessions were designed to raise awareness of family violence in the community and equip the public with knowledge to detect and report violence.

This month, MSF is expanding the scope of the sessions - renamed Family and Domestic Violence Awareness Training - to include non-familial relationships such as dating violence, as well as elder abuse and child abuse by perpetrators other than immediate family members.

Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling, who attended the virtual training and a subsequent panel discussion on Tuesday, said: "Today, we started off by sharing the different types of violence that can occur. Physical violence, sexual violence, psychological and emotional violence, as well as neglect.

"The reason why we have done this is that we want to emphasise to our participants that violence can take place in all these various forms.

"It should not just be physical abuse or violence that we are looking at because violence of other forms also cause great distress and fear in survivors. And this can also happen online as well as offline. And the ways to detect the various symptoms of such violence have commonalities."

The training sessions will equip participants with a basic understanding of the different types of abuse and neglect, and services and legislation that survivors can tap in Singapore. It will also equip participants with the knowledge to help in the early detection of family and domestic violence and offer support.

Last year, MSF worked with 16 organisations from across the social, public and private sectors, such as schools, workplaces and religious and grassroots organisations, and trained more than 1,100 leaders, staff and volunteers to detect and report family and domestic violence.

The ministry said it will be expanding its outreach strategy to train a larger pool and variety of community partners, including public-facing community touchpoints such as volunteers and staff from Community Link (ComLink), and staff from social service offices. 

ComLink is a programme that provides coordinated support to low-income families.

During the panel discussion on Tuesday, five panellists from the Government and community organisations discussed existing and future initiatives to support survivors.

One of the community organisations that will be providing support to survivors of violence is local non-profit The Whitehatters, which will be expanding a campaign to help survivors of sexual violence in April.

The first edition of the campaign, called A Holding Space, ran for a year from October 2020 to provide support to female survivors through two support group sessions and a webinar. The campaign, which ended in October last year, engaged more than 100 participants through the initiatives.

This year's run will have an expanded reach, with more support group sessions and scaled-up training for support networks to better help survivors.

There will be a toolkit for survivors on how to seek help, and it will list the different options and hotlines. It will also map out the processes and information they need to make a report about their abuse.

Seminars, podcasts and videos will be used to engage the public and raise awareness about sexual violence.

The widened scope of the campaign will also see a support group focused on male survivors, a change from the previous run's all-female focus.

Ms Shahrany Hassan, founder and director of The Whitehatters, said: "It is important that we acknowledge that survivors and victims of sexual violence are not just women but also men.

"We know we have these cases, but most of them go unreported, as I think it's because the stigma for male survivors is probably more harsh than it is for women. We will see how we can help these male survivors even further."

Those interested can find more information about Family and Domestic Violence Awareness Training sessions at this website.

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