claudia-soraya-3m15w5sirVs-unsplash (Photo by Claudia Soraya on Unsplash)

Figures released by the Singapore Police Force reveal that there is a 22% rise in reports of hurt, criminal force and assault, criminal intimidation and wrongful confinement in families compared to pre-Circuit Breaker days. Photo by Claudia Soraya on Unsplash.

Peter Tan remembers his father stubbing out his cigarettes on his cheek and the back of his hand when he was a child.

“He would get angry when he helped me with my school work and I was too slow,” recalled Tan, now 60.

His younger brother, Bob, was not spared either. For handwriting that tended to lean to the left, he would get his knuckles rapped.

“I couldn’t talk to my mum. How could I when I could see her in pain?”

But that was nothing compared to what their mother had to endure.

Said the educator with over 30 years’ experience, who is the principal of Queensway Secondary School and the former principal of ACS (Junior) and ACS (Barker Road): “My father would often beat my mother up quite badly.

“There were quite a number of occasions she had to wear sunglasses to hide the black eyes he gave her.

“I remember feeling helpless, wanting to do something about it but being too small to do anything.”

The family’s pain was shrouded in silence.

“This was the 1960s. Most people didn’t talk about such things. I couldn’t talk to my mum. How could I when I could see her in pain?”

“The current circumstances highlight issues at home that perhaps were already existing”

More than a generation have since passed but stories like Tan’s are still being played out in Singapore. In fact, because of the COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent Circuit Breaker, family violence incidents have been on the rise.

According to the Singapore Police Force, between April 7 and May 7, there were 476 police reports of hurt, criminal force and assault, criminal intimidation and wrongful confinement related to families. This is a 22% rise compared to before the start of the Circuit Breaker.

Queries about domestic conflicts and violence have similarly gone up from the start of the Circuit Breaker compared to before it. It was reported on April 23 that the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) experienced a 14% increase in enquiries while family violence specialist centres and PAVE Integrated Services for Individual and Family Protection saw a 37% increase.

“The current circumstances highlight issues at home that perhaps were already existing but lurking in the background when family members had other distractions, outlets and things to attend to,” said principal counsellor for Focus on the Family Singapore, Theresa Pong.

“In addition, individuals feel more anxious and fearful in such unprecedented times when the future may seem bleak. This sense of helplessness and feeling of losing control of the future exacerbates stress levels in the family. 

“With extended facetime with one another and lack of resources for emotional support, the risk of family violence also increases.”

We can do something 

“It is a very painful thing to see such things happen in the families,” said Jason Wong, founder of Dads for Life movement and chairman of Focus on the Family Singapore.

“Can we do something about this? Well, I think we can.”

As a former senior director at MSF, Wong has seen his fair share of families hurt by domestic violence.

“When these things happen, even the children can end up in hospitals, taken away from the family and they end up in children’s homes.

“Question: Can we do something about this? Well, I think we can.”

One way is to recognise the signs of abuse. MSF’s website defines family violence as “violent, threatening or controlling behaviour that happens within the family”. This might include:

  • physical injury
  • direct or indirect threats
  • sexual assault
  • emotional and psychological torment
  • damage to property
  • social isolation
  • any behaviour which causes a person to live in fear
  • controlling behaviour involving fear, harm, intimidation, emotional deprivation, isolation from friends, relatives and finances
  • verbal abuse, threats and harassment

Strong families can help too

To raise awareness and funds to help families, Singapore online streaming platform SMIX is making available award-winning docu-movie Call Me Dad which explores the psyche, motivations and struggles of men as they learn to maintain relationships without resorting to abuse.

“At its heart, this film shines a light on the process of restoration of perpetrators, who themselves have often been victims of past abuse,” said Wong.

“I could not help but tear as these men share their journey.”

“I was moved by how the men came together in therapy and committed to transforming themselves and their family relationships.

“When I watched it, I could not help but tear as these men share their journey.”

Tan believes it is important to have movies like Call Me Dad to create more awareness, both for victims as well as for the men struggling with violent tendencies.

“When my mum was a victim, she simply accepted it as her lot in life and hoped for a better day to come,” said Tan.

“Families who suffer such violence often do so in silence. It is important that there be more information about family violence so people can identify it and know where to go for help.”

Call Me Dad can be viewed from now till June 28. For every pay-per-view at S$7.99, S$3 will go to the Centre for Fathering, Focus on the Family Singapore and Society Against Family Violence.

For every pay-per-view, S$2 will be donated to Centre for Fathering Singapore and Focus on the Family Singapore to build strong families.  Photo courtesy of SMIX.

For every pay-per-view, S$3 will be donated to Centre for Fathering Singapore, Focus on the Family Singapore and Society Against Family Violence to build strong families. Photo courtesy of SMIX.

“The organisations that are beneficiaries of this fundraiser work hard to build strong families.

“I believe that strong families form the bedrock of society that, in turn, contribute to building a strong nation.

“We can work toward resolving social issues like family violence when there are strong families,” said Sherman Ng, CEO and Founder of Salt Media & Entertainment which owns SMIX.

The movie can also be bought as a gift for family and friends to watch together.

Call Me Dad is moving and educational. I encourage parents to watch this with their older teens. I also believe that this is a must-watch for all men so that, together, we can end family violence,” said Wong.

 

“Fathers, don’t wait till you are dying to tell your son you are proud of him”: Veteran educator Peter Tan

 

“I was scared when my father beat my mother”: World Vision’s poignant peek into domestic violence

 

 

WHERE TO GET HELP

For victims:

  • AWARE Helpline: 1800 777 5555 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 6pm)
  • Big Love Child Protection Specialist Centre: 6445 0400
  • Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800 353 5800
  • ComCare: 1800 222 0000 (to reach a Family Service Centre near you)
  • HEART @ Fei Yue Child Protection Specialist Centre: 6819 9170
  • Institute of Mental Health’s Mobile Crisis Service: 6389 2222
  • PAVE Integrated Services for Individual and Family Protection: 6555 0390
  • Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444
  • Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
  • The National CARE hotline: 1800 202 6868
  • Tinkle Friend (for Primary School Children): 1800-274-4788

For abusers:

  • ComCare hotline: 1800 222 0000 (to reach a Family Service Centre near you)
  • Care Corner Project Start: 6476-1482
  • PAVE Integrated Services for Individual and Family Protection: 6555 0390
  • Trans Safe Centre: 6449 9088
  • Care Corner Project Start

Courts:

  • A personal protection order (PPO) can be obtained to protect the family.
  • This will prevent the person from using or threatening to use violence against the family.

Police:

  • Call 999 if there is a risk of injury, immediate threat to life or bodily harm (relatives and friends of victims can call as well).
  • A police report can be made.
  • The police can also recommend centres where help can be obtained.
About the author

Christine Leow

Christine believes there is always a story waiting to be told. This led to a career in MediaCorp News scripting and producing news, current affairs programmes and documentaries. Christine is now a Senior Writer at Salt&Light. Her idea of a perfect day has to do with a big mug of tea, a bigger muffin and a good book.