Wednesday 29 May 2013

8 in 10 won't intervene in abuse cases: Study

By Lim Yi Han, The Straits Times, 28 May 2013

EIGHT out of 10 people here will not intervene if they know a friend or relative is being physically or verbally abused by her partner, a new survey revealed yesterday.

The Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) also found that nearly a third of respondents would not know what to do to help such victims.

One in 10 of the men and women questioned even thought rape victims were "asking for it" while 16 per cent felt that women often say no to sex when they actually mean yes.

AWARE polled 1,322 Singaporeans and permanent residents, with a 50-50 male-female split.

Reasons given for not stepping in to help possible victims included a fear of the abuser hurting the victim even more and the respondent thinking that it is "none of their business".

"It's alarming, we didn't expect the number would be that high," said AWARE executive director Corinna Lim. "We do need to empower people and to encourage people to intervene at an earlier stage when things haven't come to a crisis."

AWARE launched a three-year campaign yesterday to raise awareness about the problem.

We Can! aims to get people to look out for those who show signs of abuse, such as being withdrawn or physical injury, and equip them with knowledge and resources to help victims.

It is part of a global initiative to get individuals to pledge that they will not tolerate violence against women. Singapore is the 16th country to take part.

The campaign is looking to recruit volunteers to spread the message. Communications manager Rachel Chung, 37, is one. The mother-of-two suffered eight years of domestic violence before filing for a divorce.

She said: "If you see something like this happening, do speak up and offer help in any way.

"Even just to be a listening ear or shoulder to cry on. It could mean so much."

Sociologist Tan Ern Ser said people who believe a friend or relative is a victim should alert the police.

He added: "The more difficult healing work would involve counselling and therapy, which would entail professional training."

Another sociologist Paulin Straughan added: "This doesn't necessarily mean Singaporeans are cowards, but it's not easy to react if you're not trained to manage a situation where there's potential threat and harm."

Twenty-one per cent of respondents believed that women often make false rape claims.

Psychologist Daniel Koh said many victims fail to come forward because they fear they will not be believed.

He added: "In order to move forward, she needs to overcome the initial feeling of 'being dirty and used'."

The International Violence Against Women Survey 2011 found that one in 10 women in Singapore will suffer some physical violence from a man in her lifetime.

About 72 per cent of women abused by their partners were unlikely to tell the police.

AWARE said it has seen the number of cases its Sexual Assault Befrienders Service handles rise from an average of 2.5 a week last year to 4.5 this year.

Set up in November 2011, it provides counselling and support to victims. Ms Lim added: "With time, there is a growing awareness of such a service. There may also be more sexual crimes."

The police said that they will investigate and "take appropriate action" when a report is lodged and advised the public to make a report when in doubt.

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