1 The Taskforce on Family Violence (“Taskforce”) has released its report with 16 recommendations aimed at improving immediate support for survivors, enhancing protection for them, preventing violence from recurring, and raising awareness of early warning signs. The report can be found at Taskforce-on-Family-Violence-Report-Tackling-Family-Violence.aspx
2 The prevalence of family violence in Singapore is lower compared to the global and South East Asian prevalence rates. Nevertheless, every case is one too many. Studies by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) indicate that family violence negatively impacts survivors and other individuals who witness the violence. In particular, maltreated children and youth offenders who witnessed family violence tend to have higher risk of developing emotional and behavioural problems compared to their peers. Furthermore, findings suggest a cycle of violence – persons who had contact with the personal protection order (PPO) system earlier in life as an applicant were more likely to have a PPO application made against them later in life. We need to collectively and proactively take steps to break the cycle of family violence in Singapore.
3 There has been a steady increase in the number of enquiries and new cases on family violence received by Family Violence Specialist Centres (FVSCs) and the Integrated Services for Individual and Family Protection Specialist Centre (ISIFPSC) in recent years. This was exacerbated by the stressors brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the increase in the number of enquiries also corresponds with intensified public education and outreach efforts, especially during the Circuit Breaker period.
4 The multi-stakeholder Taskforce was set up in February 2020 to develop a comprehensive understanding of the family violence landscape in Singapore, identify areas for improvement, and co-create recommendations to tackle the issue. It comprises 21 members from social service agencies (SSAs), non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the Courts, hospitals, and Government agencies (see Annex A for the full list of members). The Taskforce is co-chaired by Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State, Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and Ministry of Education (MOE), and Assoc. Prof Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Ministry of National Development (MND).
Key Findings on the Family Violence Landscape
5 Over the past one and a half years, the Taskforce has been working hard to examine and better understand the family violence landscape, identify areas for improvement and co-create recommendations to tackle the issue. In the course of its work, the Taskforce engaged a range of stakeholders that work directly with family violence survivors and perpetrators, including frontline responders, psychologists, social workers, lawyers, women’s organisations and advocacy groups.
6 The Taskforce, supported by MSF, MHA and NCSS, also examined data from several thousand family violence cases seen by FVSCs, ISIFPSC, Family Service Centres (FSCs), as well as data on PPO applicants and respondents. The study findings point to the need for a combination of targeted upstream preventive efforts and downstream support and rehabilitation to tackle and break cycles of violence. Key findings can be found in Annex B.
7 Taken together, these insights have guided the development of the Taskforce’s recommendations. The work of the Taskforce complements the Conversations on Singapore Women’s Development, the latter of which will culminate in a White Paper.
4 Key Thrusts, 16 Recommendations
8 The Taskforce’s 16 recommendations are organised along four key thrusts, as follows
i) Thrust 1 Increase awareness, strengthen societal attitudes against violence, and enhance targeted preventive efforts for persons at risk
Upstream interventions are needed to detect and prevent the onset of violence.
a) The Taskforce recommends continually improving the awareness of family violence through sustained public education campaigns such as MSF’s Break the Silence campaign, and tapping on touchpoints such as schools, grassroots organisations, religious organisations and private entities to strengthen community detection of violence and refer persons experiencing violence to available support.
b) Another recommendation is to enhance marriage preparation programmes for couples who may face greater challenges in their marriages to increase their awareness of family violence and build healthy relationship skills.
ii) Thrust 2 Make it easier for survivors and the community to report violence, and get immediate help
Improving ways to help survivors of family violence and the community seek immediate help more easily is an important focus area in the Taskforce’s recommendations.
a) One recommendation is to enhance the National Anti-Violence Helpline (launched in February 2021) to allow multiple modes of reporting family violence.
b) Another key recommendation involves strengthening the emergency response for family violence incidents by enhancing triaging by frontline responders and introducing on-site social service interventions for family violence cases.
iii) Thrust 3 Strengthen protection and support for survivors to reduce their risk of being harmed again
It is important to reduce the risk of recurrence of family violence for survivors, by strengthening protection and support for them.
a) Recommendations include amending the Women’s Charter to increase penalties for the breach of Personal Protection Orders (PPOs) and grant powers to selected third parties to apply for PPOs for vulnerable persons experiencing family violence.
b) The Taskforce also recommends enhancing training for the Police to better address the needs of survivors and perpetrators of family violence, to enhance the care provided by Police officers to victims, and to better equip FVSCs to handle survivors and perpetrators with mental health conditions.
iv) Thrust 4 Increase the accountability on perpetrators and strengthen their rehabilitation
a) This Thrust focuses on perpetrators of family violence, with the intent to increase their accountability and strengthen their rehabilitation to reduce the recurrence of violence.
b) Recommendations include enabling the Court to order mandatory assessment and treatment orders for PPO respondents with treatable mental health conditions (where these conditions may have contributed to or exacerbated the risk of occurrence of family violence).
9 A summary list of the full set of recommendations by the Taskforce can be found in Annex C.
10 Ms Sun Xueling, co-chair of the Taskforce said, “Family violence must stop. Violence against all persons should not be condoned, regardless of nationality, marital status, gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. We have worked closely with stakeholders and looked into recommendations that were submitted as part of the Conversations on Singapore Women’s Development. We hope our proposals can help chart the way forward on how we can address issues faced by survivors and hold perpetrators accountable while ensuring they receive treatment and rehabilitation. We want to break cycles of violence so our young can grow up in safe environments and understand what respectful relationships are about. I thank the Taskforce members as well as all our community partners and concerned individuals in this space for their hard work and contributions in helping us put together these recommendations to tackle family violence in Singapore.”
11 Assoc Prof Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, co-chair of the Taskforce said, “The recommendations address key areas and gaps which need to be strengthened and addressed, for us to prevent family violence wherever we can, and to support the victim-survivors of family violence better, even as we deal firmly with perpetrators and strengthen their rehabilitation. I thank the various stakeholders who have contributed their time and expertise in helping us develop these recommendations as a Taskforce. We must now turn our attention to ensuring that the recommendations are implemented well, to ensure a safer and stronger Singapore for all.”
12 Dr Sudha Nair, Executive Director, PAVE, said, “Singapore has come a long way in terms of how we tackle family violence, from the updates to legislative frameworks and set-up of the national family violence networking system, to this set of recommendations released by the Taskforce. This report strengthens the earlier efforts to address the issues of family violence. It gives recognition to the seriousness of the problem and addresses the efforts that need to be put in place to tackle the multi-faceted issues that family violence presents with.”
13 Mr Arthur Ling, Chief Executive, Fei Yue Community Services, said “Family violence is a whole of community issue. Fei Yue is glad to be part of this effort. In particular, it is important to address family violence holistically by building healthy relationship skills, such as emotional regulation, financial literacy and conflict management, to reduce the risk of family violence occurring.”
14 Ms Georgette Tan, President, United Women Singapore, said “The release of the recommendations comes at a timely juncture, especially given the challenges brought upon by the pandemic. Family violence is a multi-faceted issue, and the solution needs to be holistic. United Women Singapore believes that the private sector plays a critical role in providing support to employees facing family violence in their organisations and we urge employers to do their part to support survivors of family violence.”
15 Mdm Zaharah Ariff, Executive Director, Casa Raudha Limited, said “Family violence is not a private matter. All Singaporeans need to be involved. Casa Raudha is happy to have contributed to this a set of recommendations, and we hope that our work can promote positive change among families and individuals facing family violence in Singapore.”
16 The Co-Chairs have submitted the recommendations to the Government on the Taskforce’s behalf. Acknowledging the receipt of the report on behalf of the Government, Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli said, “I appreciate the hard work of the Taskforce in developing a comprehensive and thoughtful set of recommendations. This is a substantive report covering the span of issues relating to family violence. The Government will study these recommendations carefully in the coming weeks, and will share its response to the report thereafter.”
17 It takes a whole-of-society effort to break cycles of violence. The Taskforce urges all Singaporeans to continue to be vigilant in looking out for signs of family violence among the community and to call the National Anti-Violence Helpline if you come across incidences of violence.
Annex D Glossary of Commonly-Used Terms