SINGAPORE — The Taskforce on Family Violence has come up with 16 recommendations to improve immediate support for survivors, enhance protection for them, prevent recurring violence and raise awareness of early warning signs.
These recommendations were released on Wednesday (22 September) and are organised along four key thrusts:
Increase awareness, strengthen societal attitudes against violence, and enhance targeted preventive efforts for persons at risk: The taskforce recommends sustained public education campaigns, and tapping on touch-points such as schools and grassroots organisations to strengthen community detection of violence and refer victims to available support. Another recommendation is to enhance marriage preparation programmes for couples who may face greater challenges in their marriages.
Make it easier for survivors and the community to report violence, and get immediate help: The taskforce recommends enhancing the National Anti-Violence Helpline to allow multiple modes of reporting family violence. It also recommends enhancing prioritisation by frontline responders for family violence and introducing on-site social service interventions for such cases.
Strengthen protection and support for survivors to reduce their risk of being harmed again: The taskforce recommends amending the Women’s Charter to increase penalties for the breach of personal protection orders (PPOs) and grant powers to selected third parties to apply for PPOs for vulnerable persons experiencing family violence. It also recommends enhancing training for the police to better address the needs of survivors and perpetrators of family violence; to enhance the care provided by police officers to victims; and to better equip family violence specialist centres (FVSCs) to handle survivors and perpetrators with mental health conditions.
Increase the accountability on perpetrators and strengthen their rehabilitation: The taskforce recommends enabling the Court to order mandatory assessment and treatment orders for PPO respondents with treatable mental health conditions, where these conditions may have contributed to or exacerbated the risk of occurrence of family violence.
Steady rise in family violence cases in recent years
The taskforce, which was set up in February last year, said in its recommendations report that there has been a steady increase in the number of enquiries and new cases on family violence received by FVSCs and the Integrated Services for Individual and Family Protection Specialist Centre in recent years.
This was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the increase in the number of enquiries also corresponds with intensified public education and outreach efforts, especially during the circuit-breaker period last year.
Studies by MSF and the National Council of Social Service indicate that family violence negatively impacts survivors and other individuals who witness the violence. In particular, maltreated children and youth offenders who witnessed family violence tend to have higher risk of developing emotional and behavioural problems compared to their peers.
Furthermore, findings suggest a cycle of violence: persons who had contact with the PPO system earlier in life as an applicant were more likely to have a PPO application made against them later in life.
After examined data from several thousand family violence cases, the taskforce's findings point to the need for focused preventive efforts as well as support and rehabilitation, in order to tackle and break the cycles of violence.
Minister of State for Social and Family Development and Education Sun Xueling, who is the co-chairman of the taskforce, said, "We hope our proposals can help chart the way forward on how we can address issues faced by survivors and hold perpetrators accountable while ensuring they receive treatment and rehabilitation.
"We want to break cycles of violence so our young can grow up in safe environments and understand what respectful relationships are about."
Sun - together with co-chairman Faishal Ibrahim, Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development - have submitted the recommendations to the government.
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