My Newsradio Scripts

These are my old radio news scripts on Singapore's current affairs when I worked as a broadcast journalist.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

In Your Neighbourhood #10 - Family Violence

Broadcast Date: 10/1/02

Family violence has a spot of good news this year with Ms Pang Kee Tai winning the Social Worker of the Year award for her work combating it.

But for years, family violence is hidden, where even witnesses turned the other cheek.

Hi, Welcome to In Your Neighbourhood with me Chong Ching Liang.

This week we revisit the sad social problem of family violence and how it was combated over the years.

It is to the credit of non-government organisations and practitioners that the issue of family violence came to the Singaporean public's view.

Retired Social Work lecturer, Myrna Blake, on the insidious nature of family violence.

"Well, I mean, it has always been around. Family violence is not a new thing. But I think it was not taken seriously, it was always thought it was a family affair. From quite early on, people in MCDS like Janet Yee used to have forums and papers on it but somehow it didn't catch public attention."

Then Community Development ministry received a boost some 20 years after the enactment of the Women's Charter.

"Women's organisations in the 80s began to say that this is an issue and there were many public forums on the subject and so it gradually got more and more attention. A big impetus came when Kani Soin was an NCMP and she raised the question in Parliament. I think even at that time, the response was it's a family affair. Its not that frequent in Singapore."

Nominated Member of Parliament Kawanjit Soin tabled a Family Violence Bill but it was rejected.

But nonetheless the flurry of parliamentary debates did its trick to educate the masses.

Dr Blake on an important change in mindset.

"I think there was even a statement by the senior district judge that the crimes of violence do stop just at the doorstep of the home. What I think changed is the belief that whatever happens in the home was private, its not for the public to get involved in what beyond the front door of a home. The safety of victims, mostly women but not always women, children and sometimes men, that their safety within the home should also be of public concerns. So that was what the big change was."

With this change in mindset, government agencies began to sir in support of the bill that never was.

For Social Work practitioner like the Director of Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centre, Sudha Nair, it ushered in an era that helped her work tremendously.

"Possibly the single biggest advancement is the networking system. The fact that various systems are aware of what needs to be done. Because they are aware, it's much easier for a social worker then to tap on the system and work out gaps in the services. For example, when a victim comes to a social service agency and needs to make a police report, the avenues on how to make a police report and what kind of information that needs to be taken is already there because the police have trained, the hospital knows what to do and so on."

Victims are also better educated and some of them knew when and who to turn to for help but more needs to be done.

"Compared to where we were 5 years ago, more people are aware of family violence but more needs to be done. We need to talk about the issues more. The good thing that has happened is that family violence is no longer a hidden issue. The very fact that the Women Charter recognises the rights of victims and recognises perpetrators also need help has lent a voice to the whole issue of family violence."

Dr Nair on the difficulty to come forward.

"Taking the first step is always very difficult and staying with the decision is also difficult because unlike other forms of violence, family violence is perpetrated against somebody you care about, a person that you loved and often making the decision to take some action against the person that you love is very very difficult. From what we know of our cases, usually it takes about 5 years before they'll make the first decision to seek some help. One of the key things that made a difference is the reassurance that there are support systems within the community that are there to help them."

There's also the fears of physical harm that must be assuaged in the victim, to ensure his or her safety.

But as Dr Blake pointed out, protection has always been there.

"Previously the victim could always get a personal protection order and the various orders and all that are in place before. The Women's Chartered extended to include all family members and also to include other than physical abuse. Also, the big big change was the capacity for the court to make an order for the abuser to go for counseling. Now that always used to be difficult before."

The social workers and families almost always aim at reconciliation, not separation.

The mission is to save marriages of affected couples and the lives of their children who had been unnecessary and coerced witnesses to the family violence.

Child witness going astray is the gravest concern of Ang Mo Kio FSC's Sudha Nair.

Family violence isn't about shot-gun marriage going awry, or people getting married younger.

It's all about a power and control imbalance and perpetrators can look towards a dedicated group of social workers working very hard to help them.

Tune in next week when In Your Neighbourhood visits the Promoting Alternatives to Violence centre in the Ang Mo Kio FSC.

This Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.

Related Websites:
Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports
Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centre


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