KUALA LUMPUR: During a pandemic, the safest place for anyone is home. Unfortunately, for women with abusive spouses, home is anything but a safe haven, more so during the Movement Control Order (MCO) when they were homebound every day.
Last month, a 40-year-old woman in Bangi, Selangor, was reportedly beaten repeatedly by her jobless husband. When the police intervened, he promised to settle their differences peacefully. But the case turned tragic when he hanged himself after stabbing his wife and father-in-law, who survived.
According to the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), cases of abuse have increased after the enforcement of the MCO since March 18.
WAO received 234 calls and messages from women in distress during the third week of April, a four-fold rise compared to the average of 63 calls and messages they received on a weekly basis before the MCO.
WAO head of campaigns Tan Heang-Lee said among the cases they had seen recently involved a woman who was locked in a room during the MCO by her husband who beat and tried to strangle her. There were also instances of women who were sexually abused and even raped by their own husbands.
“One victim sent a message via WAO’s WhatsApp helpline saying that she was very frightened as she was trapped at home with her husband who kept beating her and even tried to strangle her, ” said Tan.
She said the case was referred to the Sexual, Women and Child Investigations Division (D11) at Bukit Aman for immediate action.
“She was saved by the police who sent her for treatment. She is now in a safe place, ” Tan said, adding that WAO works closely with the police, Social Welfare Department, Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development and other agencies to smoothen operations to assist victims of domestic violence.
Bukit Aman Sexual, Women and Child Investigations Division assistant director Supt Siti Kamsiah Hassan said 526 investigation papers were opened in connection with domestic violence over 44 days between March 18 and April 30.
But it reflected a 15% drop in such cases as 621 investigation papers were opened over 44 days from Feb 3 to March 17 just before the MCO was enforced.
“The drop in domestic violence cases reported to the police during MCO could be due to the fact that the victims were unable to access telephones or leave home to make a police report due to the lack of public transport, ” said Siti Kamsiah.
The Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) launched the helpline MyCareCov19 on April 13 and as of April 27, it had received 841 calls and 136 e-mail messages.
NGO Love Yourself Association founder Nur A’minahtul Mardiah Md Nor uses her Twitter account to urge women to communicate.
On April 17, she posted a message with the WeCare hashtag and gave three secret codes, as well as her telephone number, to make it easier for the victims to communicate and share their problems with her.
“It was re-tweeted 11,900 times and we helped several sexual abuse and domestic violence victims who didn’t know where to seek help during the MCO, ” she said.
Nur A’minahtul said among the complaints she received were from a woman who was forced to become a sex slave and a wife who was abused by her drug addict husband.
Those facing abuse can contact the following helplines:
> Talian Kasih: 15999
> MyCareCov19: 03-887 0519/ 7752/ 7528
> WAO: 03-79563488/ WhatsApp: 018-988 8058
> Befrienders KL: 03-7627 2929/ Skype: BefKL Skype 1.