Pilot scheme to help sexual assault victims gets scaled up

A recent report found that sexual offences committed by youth rose by 49 per cent between 2016 and last year. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A programme that was piloted in January is now being scaled up to help sexual assault victims turn the corner in their mental and emotional recovery journey.

The free community-based programme is offered by counsellors and social workers at family violence specialist centre Care Corner Project StART (CCPS).

Ms Grace Arthur, a social worker at CCPS, said the programme - funded by the Ministry of Social and Family Development - was set up after staff noted a need for more tailored support to help sexual assault victims.

"Across different service points of Care Corner, we had been receiving requests for assistance on sexual assault recovery for some time," she added. "We had also noted that there was a need for more agencies to provide this service for the community."

A team of 10 social workers involved in the pilot, who are trained to handle sexual violence cases, offered help to 20 clients - including victims of dating violence, workplace sexual harassment and technology-facilitated sexual violence.

Ms Grace said: "Sexual violence can lead to specific emotional, physical and social consequences for survivors. The trauma of sexual violence does not just affect one aspect of a survivor's life.

"It deeply affects all areas of their lives, such as not being able to have healthy relationships, full-time employment, mental health concerns such as post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, or adopting coping mechanisms like alcohol or drug abuse."

Through the programme, social workers help victims develop healthy coping solutions as well as reduce self-doubt and self-blame.

"This often means letting the survivors know that they can have the time and space to think, cry, process their emotions, slow things down and focus on taking care of themselves - returning some sense of control to the victim, which is an important part of the healing process," she added.

With the scale-up of the pilot, CCPS in Commonwealth Avenue and Pave in Ang Mo Kio will be the only two specialist protection centres that provide counselling support and interventions for victims of all forms of violence, including sexual violence.

A September report by the National Committee on Prevention, Rehabilitation and Recidivism found that sexual offences, such as outrage of modesty and rape, committed by youth rose by 49 per cent between 2016 and last year.

In July this year, gender advocacy group Aware said its Sexual Assault Care Centre saw 191 cases of technology-facilitated sexual abuse last year, 36 per cent more than the 140 cases in 2019.

The cases include explicit sexual messages and calls, coercive sex-based communication and image-based sexual abuse - the non-consensual creation, obtaining or distribution of sexual videos or images of another person.

It is the highest number of such cases in a year since the group began tracking in 2016.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, the Ministry of Social and Family Development said it is working to make extra-familial sexual violence recovery services available across all family violence specialist centres in the future.

Extra-familial sexual violence refers to assault by someone who is not the victim's family member.

In September this year, legislation to increase the punishment for certain sexual offences, such as molestation, was passed in Parliament.

Noting the need to look at sexual assault as a community concern instead of a personal incident, Ms Grace said CCPS will welcome collaborations and referrals from family service centres, the police, and family justice courts.

CCPS can be contacted on 6476-1482 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm).

People can also visit its office in Commonwealth Avenue or e-mail projectstart@carecorner.org.sg

Other Helplines

Big Love Child Protection Specialist Centre: 6445-0400, contact@biglove.org.sg (weekdays 9am to 6pm)

National Anti-Violence Helpline: 1800-777-0000 (24 hours)

Aware's Sexual Assault Care Centre: 6779-0282 (weekdays 10am to 6pm)

Tinkle Friend (for children): 1800-274-4788 (weekdays 2.30pm to 5pm), online chat (Monday to Thursday 2.30pm to 7pm, Friday 2.30pm - 5pm)

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