Coronavirus: More cases of family violence during circuit breaker; police to proactively help victims

A posed photo to illustrate family violence.
A posed photo to illustrate family violence.PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Family violence has been on the rise since circuit breaker measures kicked in on April 7, according to latest police figures, and this has prompted the authorities to take a more proactive approach to help high-risk victims.

From April 7 to May 6, there were 476 police reports filed for offences commonly associated with family violence.

This was a 22 per cent increase compared with the monthly average of 389 for such cases before the circuit breaker period, the police said in a statement on Thursday (May 14).

The offences include causing hurt, using criminal force, assault, criminal intimidation, and wrongful confinement.

With the circuit breaker - which encourages Singaporeans to stay at home to curb the spread of Covid-19 - extended to June 1, the authorities are giving victims of family violence more support.

The police said they will assess the victims' risks of encountering more family violence, and refer those at a higher risk to social services, even if they do not request help or shelter.

"In making these assessments, the police will consider a number of factors, including the profiles of their offenders and the nature of violence inflicted," the police said.

This is a step up from the current protocol of referring victims to the nearest family service centre or the family violence specialist centre if they request social assistance.

Victims who request shelter are also referred to one of the four crisis shelters funded by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).

The police will also keep tabs on victims by contacting them regularly to check how they are and find out if they need more help.

To address the root cause of family violence and break its cycle, the police will also now step in to help offenders deal with the underlying issues that led them to commit violent acts against their family members.

 
 

They will refer offenders to social workers, who will assess whether intervention - such as counselling, mental health assistance, and financial assistance - is needed. The offenders will then be referred to the suitable agencies for help.

This initiative to support offenders was piloted at Bedok Police Division last year and is now available for all police land divisions.

The police said that this will ensure that offenders who need social assistance are referred earlier to avenues for help.

The enhanced measures by the police to prevent incidents of family violence come after an inter-agency task force was set up in February to increase public awareness on family violence, and come up with initiatives for victims.

On April 23, the task force said it is aware that individuals and families may experience more stress amid the extended circuit breaker period, potentially leading to violence.

It urged those experiencing family violence to come forward and seek help by calling hotlines run by MSF and its partners. It also encouraged family members and members of the public to report cases of family violence.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Sun Xueling said on Thursday: "Worldwide trends show that stress and social isolation caused by Covid-19 could lead to more cases of family violence.

 

"We need to keep the victims of family violence on our radar and ensure that harm does not happen to them again."

Ms Sun, who also co-chairs the task force addressing family violence, added: "We also appeal to the community to help keep a look out for signs of family violence and to report their suspicions so that help can be rendered to the victim as soon as possible. The simple act of reporting can help save someone's life or prevent further suffering."


For help with issues related to family violence, here are hotlines run by the MSF and its community partners:

GETTING HELP

• National Care Hotline: 1800-202-6868

VIOLENCE OR ABUSE

• Big Love Child Protection Specialist Centre: 6445-0400

• Heart @ Fei Yue Child Protection Specialist Centre: 6819-9170

• Pave Integrated Services for Individual and Family Protection: 6555-0390

• Project StART: 6476-1482

• Trans Safe Centre: 6449-9088

MARITAL AND PARENTING ISSUES

• Community Psychology Hub’s Online Counselling platform: CPHOnlineCounselling.sg

COUNSELLING

• Touchline (Counselling): 1800-377-2252

• Care Corner Counselling Centre: 1800-353-5800

ELDERLY

• Agency for Integrated Care Hotline: 1800-650-6060