Would Singaporeans intervene in domestic violence, asks Aware

Peace Chiu
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[UPDATE 6 December 7:30pm Adding comments from Aware's We Can! Campaign spokesperson]

A shocking anti-domestic violence campaign video by Aware draws flak from netizens. (Yahoo screengrab of YouTube video)

Would you step in when you witness domestic violence?

That’s the question women’s advocacy group Aware wanted to find out with their campaign video, which has been making the rounds on the Internet, with close to 67,000 views on Friday evening.

The three-minute long video, hosted on YouTube and part of Aware's We Can! Singapore campaign, showed three fictional scenes of a man abusing a woman who is acting as his girlfriend.

Along different stretches of Orchard Road, including outside Takashimaya and Ion Orchard, the man was seen scolding her, using vulgarities and physical aggression, drawing a lot of stares from bystanders.

Three kind-hearted people – a Caucasian man, a Caucasian woman and a Malay man – then stepped in during the filming to warn the ‘boyfriend’ to stop his aggression towards his ‘girlfriend’. They also offered to call the police for the ‘girlfriend’.

A host then came in to tell the Good Samaritans that the ‘abuse’ was part of a video to raise awareness on domestic violence in Singapore. She also told them that it was a test on whether Singaporeans would step in to help.

Kokila Annamalai, the coordinator for the We Can! Campaign, told Yahoo Singapore they re-enacted the scene of the man abusing his 'girlfriend' “about fives time over one day” on a busy weekend.

But, only three people intervened (all shown in the video) to help the ‘girlfriend’, added Kokila.

She said they were “disheartened” during the times when no one stepped in, but were “very encouraged” by the actions of the three people who intervened to help.

The coordinator also said that people had told them that after watching the video, they would step in if they witness a similar situation.

Aware revealed in the video that one in 10 women in Singapore had been physically abused by a man, with six in 10 victims suffering repeated violence.

Kokila added that many survivors of domestic violence cite a lack of support from family and friends as a major reason they were forced to remain in an abusive situation.

Thus, she encouraged everyone to play a part in ending domestic violence.

Draws flak from netizens

While the video was eye-catching, it’s been drawing flak from YouTube users.

YouTube user yuujin7788 questioned the campaign for neglecting “violence towards men”.

Another user cadmiumpureland said he or she didn’t know what the video was trying to show, adding that it was “kind of silly”.

He or she also questioned whether human compassion is only concerned with “men protecting women”.

User Elliot Goon lamented that nobody stepped in to protect a man who was beaten by his girlfriend when a video of the incident was uploaded to YouTube earlier this year, adding that until “misandry is recognised, [he or she] will not be supporting” the campaign.

Meanwhile, other users also criticised the methods used by Aware for this campaign.

User doryfishie2 called the video “pointless”, saying “the more you televise these things, the less likely anyone will commit with the right response”.

He or she added that standing up against domestic violence should be something “normal” rather than “heroic”, saying it should be addressed through education, parents and society.

User 3zEternal also questioned the relevance of the video, citing the bystander effect and how domestic violence happens behind the closed doors of home.

Instead, he or she suggested having a video showing “a woman taking the first step by asking for help”, instead of “waiting for someone to intervene”.

But there are also netizens who praised the campaign organisers for the unusual campaign.

YouTube user Zan Qairul encouraged the team to make more of such videos.

Singaporeans oblivious to domestic violence?

Netizens also noted that two out of three of the people who stepped in to help in the video were Caucasians, whom viewers believe are foreigners.

YouTube user helloanygoodbye asked whether “only foreigners have the guts to step in” and expressed disappointment over the large number of Singaporeans who just walked past and stared at the ‘couple’.

But he praised the Malay man in the video for stepping in to help.

User anudas also commented that the number of Singaporeans who “walked by looking, without intervening” was “appalling”.

We Can! Singapore is a campaign launched by Aware in May this year to trigger change in social attitudes towards violence.

It’s not the first time that Aware drew criticisms from netizens regarding its methods.

Earlier in November, netizens said Aware over-dramatised the issue of the singing of “misogynist” lyrics used in a marching song, “Purple Light”, sung by full-time National Servicemen.

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