Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim asked the Minister for Social and Family Development with regard to male survivors of family or sexual violence, particularly those who have experienced such violence when they are young, what are the avenues of help available to these survivors in terms of counselling and support, awareness of legal rights and access to peer support groups. Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim also asked whether the Ministry will consider, on its own or in partnership with other organisations, implementing programmes to encourage a more proactive approach towards preventing family violence which goes beyond contacting the Ministry’s family violence hotline to also include bystander intervention training and strategies to empower all members of the public.
Ms Carrie Tan asked the Minister for Social and Family Development what is the current strategy or practice in the social work and social services sector on the provision of therapy or support for families that have gone through family violence to aid in their psychological and emotional recovery from the trauma. Ms Carrie Tan also asked the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) what is the current capability and capacity of the social services system in providing support to survivors of sexual violence in their mental, psychological and emotional recovery; and (b) whether the Ministry is currently working or plans to work with educational institutions to ensure a trauma-informed and survivor-centric approach to postviolence care and support for youths.
Ms Hany Soh asked the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) what are the types of cases which the Family Violence Specialist Centres (FVSCs) handle; and (b) whether the FVSCs render any assistance towards victims of non-domestic sexual assault or harassment in the workplace cases.
1 Mr Speaker, Sir, Parliamentary Questions 2233, 2234, 2241, 2242, and 2254 by members Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim, Ms Carrie Tan, and Ms Hany Soh are related to family and sexual violence, and efforts to support survivors. May I have your permission to reply them together, please?
2 MSF works closely with the community-based Family Violence Specialist Centres (FVSCs) and PAVE’s Integrated Services for Individual and Family Protection Specialist Centre (ISIFPSC) to provide support to all persons, regardless of gender, who experience any form of violence. The support provided includes safety planning to reduce the risk of violence recurring, facilitating alternative safe accommodation for survivors away from perpetrators, supporting survivors through the Personal Protection Order (PPO) application process, referring them to legal aid where necessary, making Police reports of violent or sexual offences committed against them, and working with them and their families, where applicable, on their longer-term needs. Beyond addressing immediate safety risks, FVSCs and PAVE also provide counselling to survivors to address their psycho-social needs such as trauma arising from the violence. There are also various support and therapeutic groups run by the community, including FVSCs and PAVE, for survivors of family or sexual violence to speak about their experiences in a safe and supportive environment. Survivors who have mental health or trauma needs are also able to seek services from mental health professionals of restructured hospitals, including those with specialised trauma clinics.
3 MSF will continue strengthening interventions for families who have experienced trauma due to family violence. As recommended by the multistakeholder Taskforce on Family Violence, we will cater for a forensictrained psychologist at each of the FVSCs and PAVE, to enable them to work more effectively with survivors and perpetrators. This includes addressing trauma and mental health concerns, providing assessment and intervention to identify and address risk factors and needs relevant to the perpetrators’ abusive behaviour, and working with the social workers to engage in safety planning for survivors. Taken together, the assessment, intervention and safety planning can help to reduce the risk of repeated violence. MSF is also working with social service agencies to develop and implement a common assessment and intervention
framework. This framework will enable frontline professionals to better
identify family violence cases, make timely referrals and facilitate
discussion of cases across agencies where relevant, and support the
agencies in managing the risks and addressing needs of both survivors and perpetrators.
4 There are currently three FVSCs, namely Care Corner Project
StART FVSC, TRANS SAFE FVSC, and PAVE ISIFPSC. Two of these –
Care Corner Project StART and PAVE – are already able to provide
comprehensive social and emotional support, including counselling and
other interventions, for survivors of all forms of intra- and extra-familial violence, including sexual violence. These two centres also have the
capability and capacity to provide social and emotional support to persons
who experience sexual violence. This
support complements the efforts by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and
Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP), which provides advice to
persons who experience harassment at work, such as how to tap on workplaces’ internal grievance handling and workplace harassment
management procedures. TAFEP will also require employers to provide
an investigation report of the workplace harassment complaint in accordance with the Tripartite Advisory on Managing Workplace
Harassment and take clear steps to prevent and manage workplace harassment in future.
5 Care Corner Project StART and PAVE are the only two agencies in Singapore with the capability and capacity to provide comprehensive
support for survivors of sexual violence. MSF is working with the third
FVSC, TRANS SAFE, to enhance its capability and capacity to provide
similar comprehensive support to survivors of sexual harassment and
violence in the second half of the year.
6 Children and young persons who experience family or sexual
violence are supported by MSF’s Child Protective Service (CPS) or the
community-based Child Protection Specialist Centres (CPSCs),
depending on the severity of the presenting risks. Management and staff
at the various touchpoints like preschools, schools, healthcare institutions,
and social service agencies are also trained to identify and report child
abuse to CPS. As part of the intervention, CPS and the CPSCs work with
families to put in place safety plans to minimise the recurrence of harm.
MSF and the CPSCs also have psychologists who are trained to provide
evidence-based trauma interventions for children and their caregivers to
treat their trauma and abuse-related psychological issues. Where relevant, MSF and our community partners may work with the schools and educational institutions, including their counsellors and student welfare officers, to ensure that school-going children receive the post-violence care and support they require. MSF also works with community agencies that provide psychological services, including training for the agencies’ staff, to identify trauma needs in order to help the children and families heal from the trauma caused by abuse.
7 While post-violence support is important for survivors to heal and recover, MSF recognises that upstream, preventive efforts are equally critical.
8 MSF has invested in public education efforts for many years. The Break the Silence public education campaign was launched in 2016, and was just refreshed in November last year to increase awareness of the different types of abuse, including non-physical forms of abuse, and encourage bystanders, survivors and perpetrators to seek help. This is in line with the recommendations of the Taskforce on Family Violence. MSF has also started promoting the use of the “Signal for Help”, which is a hand signal that can be used by survivors to discreetly indicate that they need help. To further amplify this signal, MSF has incorporated it into its Break the Silence campaign logo.
9 On working with community partners to detect violence, MSF actively seeks out and collaborates with community partners and organisations to strengthen community detection of violence and refer persons experiencing violence to available support. In 2021, MSF worked with 16 organisations across the people, public, and private sectors, including educational institutions, grassroots, and religious organisations to provide Family Violence Awareness Training to over 1,100 staff and volunteers. MSF will continue expanding our outreach to more organisations, particularly partners that are likely to have direct contact with survivors of family violence or with groups that are at a higher risk of family violence. We welcome more organisations to step forward and partner us.
10 On preventive efforts, MSF works closely with our partners on various fronts. For instance, MSF has enhanced the marriage preparation programme to include topics such as adverse childhood experiences and its impact on relationships, with the aim of increasing couples’ awareness of family violence and building healthy relationship skills. Additionally, MSF has developed a set of respectful relationship narratives, which is aligned with ongoing efforts by the Government and community partners to educate youths on healthy and respectful relationships, with the aim of inculcating positive behaviours from a young age. MSF is currently working with partners to align and incorporate these narratives into programmes. These will complement ongoing efforts by MOE to equip students with age-appropriate knowledge and skills to maintain healthy and respectful relationships, including through the Character and Citizenship Education curriculum.