Task force aims to beef up laws against family violence

A housewife in her 60s stuck it out with her abusive husband, who rained blows on her over 40 years.

This man bashed her until she miscarried in their earlier days of marriage and, more recently, fractured her rib cage.

The cleaner in his 60s was jailed for about a year for the abuse, but, two days after his release, he started to hit her again - and continues to take his anger out on her.

Kristine Lam, lead social worker at Care Corner Project StART, which specialises in tackling family violence, said: “We have been working with her for five years, but no matter what we say, she refuses to leave him or apply for a personal protection order (PPO).”

A PPO is a court order restraining a person from committing violence against a family member.

Of the couple, who have no children, Lam added: “She felt like she had given so much of her life to him.

“Her life revolves around him, and now that they are old, she wants to look after him as they are husband and wife. Even though she knows that he may kill her, her attitude is ‘So be it’.”

Lam highlighted this case shows how some victims are so trapped – either by love, fear, fatalism or a mixture of all three – that they are unable to apply for a PPO against their husbands, even though they fear being beaten to death.

There are also seniors who would not apply for a PPO against their adult children who are abusing them, as they cannot bear to get their children into trouble with the law, social workers interviewed said.

Such cases make it crucial for the law to allow third parties to apply for PPOs for very vulnerable victims even without their consent, to protect their lives and well-being, Lam said.

It would apply in cases where the victim is at risk of being seriously harmed and is assessed to be under the undue influence of a loved one not to apply for a PPO. This recommendation was one of 16 put up by the task force on Thursday.

The recommendations cover four key areas: increasing awareness of family violence; making it easier to report the violence and get immediate help; boosting protection and support for victims; and taking a stronger enforcement approach and beefing up rehabilitation for those who inflict the violence.

The task force was set up in February last year, but Covid-19 was not the only catalyst for its formation, said Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling who chair the task force.

It wanted to address gaps and find various approaches even before the violence happens.

“We want to break cycles of violence so our young can grow up in safe environments and understand what respectful relationships are about,” she said. — The Straits Times/ANN

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