1 In September 2021, the Taskforce on Family Violence released its report comprising 16 recommendations to improve immediate support for survivors of family violence, enhance protection for them, prevent violence from recurring, and raise awareness of early warning signs. In October 2021, the Government accepted, in principle, all the recommendations by the Taskforce, and has started the work of implementing the recommendations.
2 This factsheet provides updates on several initiatives – (i) Raising family violence awareness through a refreshed Break the Silence public education campaign and promoting a Hand Signal for Help, (ii) Tapping on ComLink to support early detection of family and domestic violence, (iii) Amending the Women’s Charter to strengthen legal provisions on protection against family violence, and (iv) Deploying forensic-trained psychologists to community-based Family Violence Specialist Centres.
Raising family violence awareness through refreshed Break the Silence campaign and promoting a Hand Signal for Help
3 The Break the Silence public education campaign was first introduced in 2016 to educate members of the public on what should be done if they encountered instances of family violence. The campaign was recently refreshed in November 2021, to increase awareness of the different types of abuse, including non-physical forms of abuse, and to encourage survivors and bystanders to seek help.
4 MSF has also started promoting the use of the “Signal for Help”, which is a simple, one-handed gesture for survivors of family violence to discreetly show that they need help and would like someone to check in on them in a safe manner. This signal is done by first holding up one hand with the thumb tucked into the palm, and then folding four fingers over the thumb (see Annex A). To further amplify this signal, MSF also incorporated it into its Break the Silence campaign logo.
5 As part of these efforts, MSF produced and broadcasted posters and videos on the signs of family violence and help resources on free-to-air television channels, as well as digital displays at HDB lift landings and MRT stations. These brochures and posters have also been shared with partner organisations across the people, public and private sectors, such as schools, workplaces, and religious and grassroots organisations. To further increase the reach of these messages, MSF worked with digital media publishers, such as Our Grandfather Story, to produce videos and posts to raise greater awareness about family violence and how to assist survivors.
Tapping on ComLink to support early detection of family and domestic violence
6 Our community partners play an important role in ongoing efforts to tackle family violence.
7 In 2021, MSF trained over 1,100 persons from 16 groups/organisations across the people, private and public sectors, equipping them with knowledge on the different types and forms of abuse and neglect, ways to detect violence early, and provide an appropriate response. This includes about 100 staff and volunteers under Community Link (ComLink), an initiative that provides Comprehensive, Convenient and Coordinated support to families with children living in rental housing. Equipping ComLink staff and volunteers with the necessary knowledge will strengthen our partnership with the community in the early detection of family and domestic violence. More will be trained in 2022.
8 In February 2022, MSF expanded the scope of the training to also raise awareness of violence that occurs in non-familial relationships, such as between intimate partners, and renamed it to Family and Domestic Violence Awareness Training (FDVAT). The FDVAT is also now compulsory for MSF Social Service Office (SSO) staff and volunteers who are involved in ComLink. MSF delivers monthly FDVAT sessions for SSO volunteers and quarterly sessions to staff, as part of the training roadmap for all SSO staff.
9 MSF will continue expanding our outreach and training to more partners that may have direct contact with survivors of family and domestic violence or with groups that are at a higher risk of family and domestic violence. Organisations or individuals keen to be trained or collaborate to organise trainings can indicate their interest at go.gov.sg/msfbreakthesilence.
Amending the Women’s Charter to strengthen legal provisions on protection against family violence
10 MSF will amend the Women’s Charter to enhance protection and support for survivors of family violence, and rehabilitation for perpetrators. The amendments are targeted to be announced in Parliament by end-2022. These include provisions to allow the Courts to make additional types of orders when making a Personal Protection Order (PPO), such as non-visitation or non-communication orders and non-access orders, to ensure the safety of survivors. These orders prohibit the perpetrator from visiting or communicating with the survivor and from entering and remaining in an area outside the survivor’s place of residence or any other place frequented by the survivor. MSF also plans to introduce amendments to enable mandatory assessment and treatment orders for PPO respondents with treatable mental health conditions that have contributed to or exacerbate the risk of family violence. In addition, the amendments will enable emergency social service support to be provided where incidents of family violence involving immediate safety risks have occurred, so that survivors can get immediate help. The maximum penalties for breaches of PPOs will also be increased.
11 The amendments to the Women’s Charter will also allow appointed persons, such as the Director-General of Social Welfare (DGSW) or appointed Protectors, to apply for PPOs or Expedited Orders for vulnerable survivors experiencing family violence under specific circumstances, without the need for their consent. This is in recognition of exceptional instances where survivors of family violence are unwilling to apply for PPOs, often due to the influence that their abusers have over them or because they wish to preserve the relationship with their abuser.
Deploying forensic-trained psychologists to community-based Family Violence Specialist Centres
12 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 who experience family violence. We will continue to strengthen the interventions for individuals and families who have experienced trauma due to family violence.
13 By end-2022, MSF will deploy forensic-trained psychologists to the FVSCs and ISIFPSC to provide more intensive and specialised support and rehabilitation. The on-site forensic-trained psychologists will augment the Specialist Centres’ efforts in working with survivors and perpetrators, by providing psychological assessment and intervention to identify risk factors and needs relevant to perpetrators’ abusive behaviour, address violence risk issues, trauma and mental health concerns, as well as engage in safety planning.
14 Timely intervention by the community can save lives. You can play your part in breaking the cycles of abuse and neglect. We urge family members, neighbours, and members of the public to call the National Anti-Violence Helpline (NAVH) at 1800-777-0000 if you or someone you know is experiencing violence. If facing a life-threatening situation, call the Police immediately at 999.
1 Report can be found here: https://www.msf.gov.sg/publications/Pages/Taskforce-on-Family-Violence-Report-Tackling-Family-Violence.aspx
Annex A: How to do the signal for help
Annex B: Likely Asked Questions
Annex C: Translated Terms [148 kb]
Annex A: How to do the signal for help
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Annex B: Likely Asked Questions
Family and Domestic Violence Awareness Training (FDVAT)
1. What scope does the Family and Domestic Violence Awareness Training cover?
The Family and Domestic Violence Awareness Training aims to:
- Provide a basic understanding of the different types and forms of abuse and neglect, including the impact of family and domestic violence, resources in the community and relevant legislation in Singapore; and
- Equip participants with knowledge to help in the early detection of family and domestic violence (including the Signal for Help) and to provide an appropriate response.
MSF provides training to various agencies in the people, public, and private sectors. Organisations interested in such training may send in an enquiry via the link: go.gov.sg/msfbreakthesilence
2. We would like to join as a partner organisation to tackle family violence. How can we do so?
We welcome more organisations to step forward and partner us. Organisations may reach out to MSF through the link go.gov.sg/msfbreakthesilence
Proposed legislative amendments to the Women’s Charter
3. Is there any precedent for emergency social service response for family violence-related incidents? What types of legislative amendments will be made to enable the emergency social service response for incidents of family violence involving immediate safety risks?
Currently, MSF already provides after-office-hours response to emergencies involving the possible abuse of children and vulnerable adults. The MSF team seeks to de-escalate tensions and address immediate risks of abuse in the family, and to work with the family to put in place an immediate safety plan to ensure their safety until further interventions are worked out.
This emergency social service response is currently not available for cases of family violence that do not involve child or vulnerable adults abuse concerns. We recognise that there are family violence incidents, for example, between spouses, that may benefit from the immediate intervention by social service professionals to reduce the risk of violence recurring or escalating.
The proposed amendments are intended to introduce time-limited protection notices that can be issued to perpetrators and survivors and to empower the emergency social service team to assess and obtain information to facilitate their intervention in family violence incidents involving immediate safety risk.
4. Which groups of persons will the proposed mandatory assessment and treatment orders in relation to family violence be made for?
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MSF notes that mental health conditions do not necessarily cause family violence, and a majority of persons experiencing mental health concerns do not experience or perpetrate family violence. However, there is room to provide better support for perpetrators who have mental health conditions, as international literature suggests that symptoms related to a perpetrator’s mental health condition can contribute to and/or exacerbate the nature of family violence.
The proposed mandatory assessment and treatment orders may be made for PPO respondents (i.e. persons whom a PPO was made against) with treatable mental health conditions that have contributed to or exacerbated the risk of occurrence of family violence. This ensures that such perpetrators can receive suitable treatment to reduce the risk of future violence.