Boyfriend kicks her, demands she settles his bills
In conjunction with Dating Violence Awareness month in February, Pave voices its concern over the increasing number of dating violence victims seeking help. LINETTE HENG (firstname.lastname@example.org) looks at one of the cases Pave handles
He had a long list of rules for his girlfriend, all meant to exert control over her.
Nellie (not her real name), 21, an administrator, had to send him pictures of herself throughout the day and answer his calls within a certain number of rings.
Phillip (not his real name), 28, also installed a programme on her phone to monitor her activities.
He even got physical: throttling, kicking, punching and slapping her.
Adding insult to injury, Philip also made Nellie pay for his bills and settle his debts.
Nellie is a victim of dating abuse and counsellors are concerned as they are seeing more people seeking their help.
Pave (Promoting Alternatives to Violence), a voluntary welfare organisation which provides and develops integrated services against interpersonal violence and aims to promote healthy relationships, helps women like Nellie.
Her friends were so worried about her that they referred her to Pave.
They had many reasons for concern.
In another move to keep tabs on Nellie, Philip made her switch on her laptop as soon as she got home from work.
To further control her, she was not allowed to share her problems with friends and family, and her contact with them was restricted.
Philip also constantly accused Nellie of cheating on him and used vulgarities on her.
Nellie eventually got tired of his relentless harassing. So to make him stop talking about it, she lied to him that she had been unfaithful.
But this worsened their relationship. Philip started telling her that she deserved the abuse because of her "infidelity".
He also got physical.
During a particularly violent incident, Nellie needed stitches after she hit her head on the edge of a wall when he pushed her in public.
The abuse in their relationship has been going on for two years.
Pave said Nellie has sought help. But she said she really loves Philip and wants to stay in the relationship.
The couple are even planning to get married and Nellie is hopeful that things will improve after marriage.
At Pave, Nellie was taught how to keep herself safe.
For instance, she is now able to identify when a situation is escalating and to get out of it.
She also knows her rights and that help is available if she needs it.
Unfortunately, she is not ready to take action to stop the violence.
She is also unable to go for regular counselling because Philip is against the idea.
Executive director of Pave, Dr Sudha Nair, thinks that such severe cases are only the tip of the iceberg.
Dr Nair said: "In cases of spousal abuse, we often hear that the abuse started when they were dating.
"It's not always physical abuse, other forms of abuse could be just as debilitating - sometimes it could be subtle coercive tactics, such as isolating the victim from spending time with their friends and family."
Dr Nair urges those in abusive relationships to seek help.
"The abusers are not violent 24/7. They can be loving and caring at times," she said.
"But love and fear are not equal in a relationship. Many of those in abused relationships hope for change but the only way change can materialise is if there was no more fear."
The abusers are not violent 24/7. They can be loving and caring at times too... Many of those in abused relationships hope for change, but the only way change can materialise is if there were no more fear.
- Dr Sudha Nair, executive director of Pave
NIP VIOLENCE IN THE BUD
Dating violence should be nipped in the bud because some of those in abusive relationships would end up marrying their abusers, said Pave's executive director Sudha Nair.
Their children would eventually get involved as well, she added.
Violence may not always be physical but it is just as harmful, said the experts.
Ms Sheena Jebal, CEO of Nulife Counselling, said: "It usually starts off with words to belittle the victim, then breaking things in front of them to frighten them before it escalates to a slap, then hitting.
"They would also isolate the victim, who would think there is no one to help them.
"If the abuse is not reported, the abuser would take advantage of the situation and this pattern of abuse would continue."
Women rights group Aware said it received 70 calls relating to (non-married) intimate partner violence (IPV) on its hotline last year.
Aware spokesman Jolene Tan said: "Spousal abuse and intimate partner violence are very similar - they are about one partner exerting power and control over the other.
"Even though they aren't married to the abuser, it can be very difficult for people facing IPV to leave the situation or the relationship, and they may enjoy fewer legal options and less social support.
"For example, Personal Protection Orders (PPOs) under the Women's Charter are not available for IPV.
"Unlike PPOs, breaches of Protection Orders under the Protection from Harassment Act are not seizable."
When an offence is seizable, the police are legally empowered to arrest without a warrant.
Dr Nair thinks the brunt of the law usually sends a strong message to abusers. Some of them would have to attend mandatory counselling with Pave.
"The focus of counselling sessions is to stop the violence and the only person who can stop the violence is the person who uses it," she said.
"We get the abusers to take responsibility for their actions and teach them the steps that they can take when they face conflicts."
Enhanced protection for victims
Protection for victims of family violence was enhanced, with amendments made to the Women's Charter passed in Parliament yesterday:
EXPOSING PLACES OF SAFETY IS PROHIBITED
Places of safety are meant to provide temporary shelter to victims of family violence, their family members and other individuals who are facing a crisis.
Those who publish information that will identify the place of safety or its residents, either in a newspaper or social media, will be liable to a fine.
OTHER CARE OPTIONS FOR FEMALES
Those who need protection may be put under the care of a "fit individual" who might be a relative or a close friend.
Currently, the Director of Social Welfare may make order to place women and girls in need of protection in a shelter or children's home, while the circumstances of their cases are being investigated.
- Pave (Promoting Alternatives to Violence): 6555 0390
- Trans Safe Centre: 6449 9088
- Care Corner Project StART: 6476 1482
- Aware: 1800 774 5935
- NuLife Care & Counselling: 6300 8706