DOMESTIC VIOLENCE – WHO IS TO BLAME?

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After a month of Movement Control Order (MCO), the Government has extended it to April 28, in order to further break the chain of Covid-19 infection. The 3rd phase of MCO started on April 15, and will end after a fortnight. 

Therefore, the directive repeatedly announced by the Prime Minister to stay at home and not to go anywhere except for essential matters, will continue for another 2 weeks. This will undeniably pose certain challenges to the people, both physically and mentally.  Having to go through a new normal, Malaysians have to adapt to the new ways of life coping with the Covid-19 situation.

A PLACE CALLED HOME?

A place called home is a shelter for many to live in peace, safe and sound. Also, a home should be a significant place for a person spiritually and physically. Especially during the MCO, this is the time for family members to strengthen their bond with each other.  The modern family whose parents are busy-beavers, now have more time to spend with their children or pets at home. Nothing is more valuable than spending time with their loved ones.

Despite being a blessing for many, it is believed that the ‘home sweet home’ is unfortunately on the contrary for some, particularly those who become victims of domestic violence. For them, home is like a prison or a nightmare. To those who suffer from physical and emotional abuse, home is definitely not a safe place; rather it has become a threatening place for these victims who live in constant fear and pain. 

Tan Heang Lee, the Communications Officer of Woman’s Aid Organization (WAO) stated that the organization received on average 10.5 complaints a day, via call or WhatsApp. The data was collected in March, 2020. WAO is a Malaysian non-governmental organization with a mission to end violence against women and promote gender equality in Malaysia. 

Domestic violence is an alarming issue that should not be taken lightly. With the current MCO, it is more worrying because the victims are trapped in their house and could not go out to seek help. In this situation, it is much easier for the abuser to keep the victims locked in the house.

CALLING ON RINA HARUN, THE MINISTER OF WOMEN AND FAMILY

It is therefore, the responsibility of the Women and Family Ministry to provide support and protection to these unfortunate victims of domestic violence. The ministry should not only rely on the NGOs, but should have a proper plan to execute their strategy in reducing the number of cases and to provide support and protection to the victims of domestic violence during MCO.

It is interesting to note that abuse can happen in several ways in terms of physical, sexual, psychological, emotional and economic abuse. These are the different types of abuse any victims of domestic violence have to endure. While many reported cases involve women and children as victims, men also can also suffer in silence from domestic violence.

This issue should be dealt with effectively and resolved immediately to ensure the short-term and long-term mechanism is beneficial for those in need. The ministry, NGOs and the neighborhood community should be alert with the difficult situations faced by the victims. 

Domestic violence is definitely not a local issue; it is faced by the global community in other parts of the world. In France for example, the rate of reported cases of domestic violence is on the increase during the first week of lockdown. The initiative done by the government is providing accommodation for the victims at hotels and paying for the bills. Besides, the government opens a pop up counseling centers to assist the victims. Meanwhile in Taiwan, The Asian Network of Women’s Shelter utilizes technology to help the victims. They offer help in webinar as a platform to protect and support the victims.

WHY IS ABUSE CASES ON THE INCREASE DURING MCO?

There are several factors leading to domestic violence, namely economic, stress and work.

If no effective measures are taken, the number of cases will keep increasing during the MCO. The possibility of this unwanted issue to happen is higher when the abuser is stuck with the victim at the same place for a long period of time as they have no other means to release stress. 

In this pandemic situation, many are losing their job and facing financial difficulty. Undoubtedly, Covid-19 has caused negative impact to the global economy.  What is worse, according to the Chief of Statistician Malaysia Datuk Seri Mohd Uzir Mahidin, the number of unemployed was approximately 525 200 in February compared to that in January. The rate is expected to further increase during the pandemic. Other than that, Bank Negara Malaysia is also expecting the unemployment rate to hit 4% in 2020 compared to the previous year, which was 3.3%. This is a nightmare for many employees and it is also highly affecting those who are self-employed. Simply put, financial issue can be a great cause of domestic violence.

By all means, domestic violence impacts the victims negatively, either physically or mentally, or both at the same time. Physical effect can be seen and is noticeable with the naked eye like bruises and wounds, or fracture that may lead to permanent disability or death. Unlike physical effect, mental effect cannot be seen through the human eye alone. The victims might develop severe depression that can lead to them harming themselves or even committing suicide. 

TO THE ABUSE VICTIMS

Hence, the victims of domestic violence are strongly advised to seek help immediately from the government or NGOs and more importantly, do not stay in denial state when violence happens. In addition, victims should not blame themselves for the abuse because it is always the fault of the abuser, not the victims.

Victims can go to the nearest police station or the welfare department office to lodge a report. They can call Talian Kasih at 15999. Besides that, victims can seek help from the NGOs like WAO and Women’s Center for Change (WCC). Both organizations have the same goal; that is to help and protect the victims of domestic violence, child abuse, rape and sexual harassment. They can be reached via this number 03-7956 3488 or 04-228 0342 respectively.

Last but not least, always know that everyone deserves to live in peace and safe from any harm. There is always a rainbow after the rain.

To all Malaysians, #kitajagakita

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Luthfi Yusri and Ajda Nuha

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