Spike in family violence cases during COVID-19 circuit breaker

Increase in family violence in Singapore during first month of circuit breaker measures. (Photo: Getty Creative)
Increase in family violence in Singapore during first month of circuit breaker measures. (Photo: Getty Creative)

SINGAPORE — Police will be more proactive in its collaboration with social service agencies to help victims of family violence, after reporting a spike in such cases in the past month.

In a media release on Thursday (14 May), the Singapore Police Force (SPF) said that there were 476 reports filed for offences commonly associated with family violence from 7 April to 6 May. Offences include hurt, criminal force and assault, criminal intimidation and wrongful confinement.

This was a 22 per cent increase compared to the monthly average of 389 such cases before the COVID-19 circuit breaker period began on 7 April.

“The Singapore Police Force takes a serious view of such cases. Police will continue to take tough enforcement action against those who abuse their family members, and also enhance collaboration with social service agencies to combat family violence,” SPF said in the media release.

Referring victims to social service even if no request made

Currently, the police would refer victims of family violence to the nearest Family Service Centre or the Family Violence Specialist Centre if they request social assistance, and to one of the four crisis shelters funded by the Ministry of Social and Family Development if they request shelter.

To enhance protection, police will now help such victims even if they do not make any request for assistance or shelter. They will assess the victims’ risks of encountering further family violence, and refer those assessed to be at higher risk to the relevant social services.

In making these assessments, police will consider a number of factors, including the profiles of their offenders and the nature of violence inflicted. They will also watch over these victims and find out if they need further assistance.

Referring offenders to social workers

Police will also extend support to offenders via the Home Team Community Assistance and Referral Scheme (HT CARES). The scheme started as a pilot at the Bedok Police Division last year, but will now be extended to all police land divisions.

Under this scheme, they will refer offenders to social workers – called CARES officers – who will assess whether social intervention is needed to address the offenders’ underlying issues.

Intervention can be done through means such as counselling, mental health assistance, and financial assistance, and referring the offenders to suitable agencies for help.

Look out for signs of family violence: Sun Xueling

Sun Xueling, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs, said in the media release that her ministry is very concerned about the increase in family violence incidents reported to the police.

“Worldwide trends show that stress and social isolation caused by COVID-19 could lead to more cases of family violence,” she said.

“There can be many reasons why victims do not specifically request for assistance or shelter, but to better protect them, the Police will proactively refer victims at higher risk of further violence to social service agencies and also follow up by checking up on them to make sure they are all right.

“We need to keep the victims of family violence on our radar and ensure that harm does not happen to them again.

“We also appeal to the community to help keep a look out for signs of family violence and to report their suspicions so that help can be rendered to the victim as soon as possible. The simple act of reporting can help save someone’s life or prevent further suffering.”

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