As we battle the rise of Covid-19 infections by staying home with our families, not everyone finds home the safest place to be. If you’ve been keeping up with the news, you would’ve come across numerous reports of an increase in the number of domestic violence cases especially during the Movement Control Order – and since the first MCO at that. There’s been no room for rest for the NGOs that are dealing with such cases as they’re in a constant frenzy of assisting and supporting survivors.

In just four months this year, 902 domestic violence cases have been recorded by the ministry through its ‘Talian Kasih’ helpline, and this was during the period when the second MCO was announced. As we (im)patiently wait for the third MCO to end, The Rakyat Post has shocked us with the fact that out of a total of 11,802 calls received by Talian Kasih, 463 were domestic abuse cases. With that, I couldn’t help but wonder about the ones that go unreported or choose to stay silent – what happens to them?

Domestic Violence 101

Domestic violence isn’t just a simple act of physical violence towards one’s spouse in a home setting. It’s the constant occurrence of a physical or emotional threat to exercise control over another person, which can even happen between unmarried couples. This form of violence can also happen outside the home where the perpetrator shares a close relationship with the victim. To put it simply, domestic violence can happen between a husband and wife or a parent and child.

Domestic violence comprises of both direct and indirect forms of abuse where the survivor is stripped off of her rights and coerced into ‘obeying’ the abuser. It includes but isn’t limited to all forms of physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, verbal and financial abuse, and can happen to anyone regardless of their socioeconomic status. It’s devastating to know that survivors live with the constant fear of another outburst. It’s that feeling of walking on eggshells; not knowing when or what will cause the perpetrator to harm them again. When this cycle of Tension builds up, it leads to an Incident before Reconciliation and ‘finally’ Calm take place – a never-ending cycle that survivors face in varying degrees. It isn’t true that the cycle of violence can easily stop. Because this cycle keeps the survivor constantly oppressed and the perpetrator in power, survivors often feel trapped and afraid to reach out for help.

As much as it’s easier to identify survivors of domestic violence by their physical injuries, not all survivors are as easily detected. Some may be experiencing mental health issues which will commonly show after the emergence of domestic violence. Symptoms may appear immediately or after a few months, which is why it’s important to identify them and seek treatment if you (or someone you know) are experiencing it.

How to recognise if you’re in a violent relationship:

What’s most often associated with domestic violence:

Myth 1: Financial issues
Myth 2: Mental illness
Myth 3: Drugs & alcohol

To know more about the cycle of abuse and educate yourself on the myths associated to it, look it up on WAO’s website. Survivors may often feel guilt or experience low self-esteem which leads them into thinking that they’re the cause of the perpetrator’s violent behaviour. This, coupled with social stigma, discourages survivors to speak up and seek help. However, do keep in mind that domestic violence is never the fault of the survivor.

How Domestic Violence Survivors Can Seek Help During FMCO

There are NGOs that specialise in assisting and supporting domestic violence survivors even at difficult times like these. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) is one of the main NGOs that focuses on domestic violence cases and has been advocating for this cause for 39 years. Besides advocacy work, WAO also provides crisis support via its hotline, free counselling and free shelter home for survivors.

How to seek help when an incident has happened at home:

The best way to seek help is to call Talian Kasih at 0192615999 or WAO at 0189888058 to assist you with the process of getting help (you can WhatsApp or call the numbers provided). Seek treatment at the One Stop Crisis Centre (OSCC) when you’ve been physically hurt, even if it’s a small bruise as it may act as an evidence to the abuse you faced and can be filed at a police report for future use.

To help you understand the function of OSCC better, watch this video:

It’s important to seek professional help if you’ve been experiencing emotional abuse, especially if it’s been prolonged for years and you’ve only come to the realisation recently. Taking the first step to seeing a professional may be the hardest obstacle to overcome, but it’ll empower you and manage your emotional well-being in many ways. Here you can find the directory provided by AWAM on where you can seek legal aid, OSCCs and counselling centres in Malaysia.

Signs you’re experiencing emotional abuse:

The Ministry of Women, Family, Community and Development (KPWKM) encourages you to contact Talian Kasih if you (or someone you know) are experiencing emotional abuse.

How to take care of yourself and plan for safety when incidents happen:
Source: Free Malaysia Today (FMT)

For more information on how to draft a safety plan, click here.

How You Can Support Domestic Violence Survivors

If you suspect that your friend is in an abusive relationship, the first step you can take is to read up and educate yourself on domestic violence to understand the dangers and tread on the matter carefully. It’s important to avoid confronting your friend’s partner as it may put both you and your friend in grave danger. Even so, be very vigilant on where you choose to communicate with your friend about matters concerning her abusive partner as the perpetrator may be in control of your friend’s communication device(s).

As an active bystander, here’s what you can do to help:

Most importantly, be there for your friend by being understanding of her needs and concerns. If she decides to visit the OSCC to examine her injuries, go with her as it’ll help her to feel less alone. If you’re unsure if your friend is experiencing abuse and would like to know the various ways you can help, visit WAO’s website.

Talian Kasih encourages the community to contact them if anyone happens to come across women in abusive or threatening situations:

For more information on how you can support survivors of domestic violence, click here. Alternatively, you can take a less active stance by donating funds or provisions to shelter homes to keep survivors going and live comfortably. Every Ringgit matters and will bring a smile to their faces when they know that there are people out there who care. Interested to donate? Click here for the list of women's organisations you can support. Not only are the organisations supporting survivors of domestic violence, they’re also supporting underprivileged or disadvantaged women in B40 communities too.

Sources: All Women’s Action Society Malaysia (AWAM), Free Malaysia Today (FMT), The Rakyat Post (TRP) & Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
Featured image: Lester Liang

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