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Rise in number of people making police reports on family violence since 2020

More people are making police reports on family violence, with a total of 5,190 reports filed in 2021, up from 5,134 in 2020, said the police on Monday.

The bulk of the cases involved violence against spouses, followed by parents and then children, although the police did not give a detailed breakdown of their proportions.

This rise in the number of reports could be due to greater awareness, leading to more people taking action, the police said.

The increase could also be due to Covid-19 curbs being lifted in 2021, said Ms Kristine Lam, principal social worker at Care Corner Project StART, a family violence specialist centre.

She said that the circuit breaker in 2020 may have deterred people from filing reports. Her personal experience at that time was that there were many people who requested information from the centre but did not take action.

“Post-circuit breaker, we see a lot more families coming forward to say, ‘I want to apply for a personal protection order, I want to move out’,” Ms Lim told reporters at a media briefing at the police headquarters in Novena.

At the event, the police also revealed that 2,603 reports on family violence were filed from January to June this year. This was up from 2,560 in the same period in 2020, the year such figures were first available. In the first half of 2021, 2,638 cases were reported.

Inspector Tony Thian, deputy officer-in-charge of the Community Policing Unit at Rochor Neighbourhood Police Centre, said the rise in the number of reports in 2021 could be due to greater public awareness of family violence. “My personal observation is that more people are willing to speak up and empowered to actually make a report,” he said.

As the police are often the first point of contact for victims of family violence, their initial interactions are crucial in determining whether victims decide to seek help, said Ms Lam.

In one case, a woman sought a personal protection order (PPO) from her husband, who had been emotionally and psychologically abusive to his family for years.

When he learnt about her application, he threatened to commit suicide and made harassing phone calls to their four children in a bid to get her to withdraw it.

After a meeting with social workers, the woman finally decided to report the matter to the police, who handled the situation promptly.

Ms Lam said: “The whole experience made the victim realise that, ‘I can depend on the police, the police will respond, the police will believe in me.’”

When her husband realised his threats no longer worked, he began threatening to kill other people, and the woman immediately lodged another police report.

That decision showed the trust she had in law enforcement, and demonstrated how emotional and psychological abuse no longer had an effect on her, added Ms Lam.

Police being trained to better support victims

The police have been ramping up efforts to better support victims of family violence.

In July 2022, family violence community policing officers were introduced throughout all 34 neighbourhood police centres.

These officers specialise in the management of family violence cases and escalate potential high-risk ones to social service agencies for early intervention.

If violence reoccurs, the same officers continue to work with those involved, as a sense of trust has already been established, said Insp Thian, who leads five family violence community policing officers.

Front-line officers have also received specialised training to better handle cases related to family violence.

In June 2021, the police started a collaboration with the Ministry of Social and Family Development in which various agencies – including family service centres, the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations, crisis shelters and the Family Justice Courts – provide expertise to equip officers with the skills to better address the needs of victims.

Senior Staff Sergeant Matthew Wee, a crime prevention officer at the Bedok Police Division, said the training helped him identify tell-tale signs of family violence beyond physical injuries.

He added that the scenario-based training reinforced the need for officers to approach such cases with sensitivity. All front-line police officers will go through the training by the end of this year, he said.

(From left) Ms Kristine Lam, principal social worker at Care Corner Project StART, Senior Staff Sergeant Matthew Wee, and Inspector Tony Thian. ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM
 

The police said they would make information pamphlets on family violence widely available at neighbourhood police centres and posts, as well as online, by June 2023.

The pamphlets are currently available only to victims who have lodged reports at the Central Police Division or Ang Mo Kio Police Division.

These pamphlets provide victims with crucial information on seeking help, including the National Anti-Violence and Sexual Harassment Helpline number, as well as the steps to apply for a PPO.

Victims of family violence or those who witness family violence can call the National Anti-Violence and Sexual Harassment Helpline on 1800-777-0000 to make a report.

If there is imminent danger to a person’s life and safety, the public is advised to call the police on 999 or SMS 71999.

FAMILY VIOLENCEFAMILIESpoliceSOCIAL SUPPORT