The community has a role to play in tackling issues of family violence

The following piece is an op-ed on family violence by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim which was published in Berita Harian on 25 September 2018. The English translation is appended below for reference.


Masyarakat punya peranan tangani isu keganasan keluarga

BARU-BARU ini, saya hadiri satu persidangan anjuran Rumah Wanita Casa Raudha mengenai keganasan rumah tangga.

Ini mencetuskan satu siri sinopsis yang ingin saya ketengahkan di sini.

Sebagai seorang kanak-kanak, saya sering mendengar pepatah orang-orang tua “Jangan masuk campur hal orang lain”.

Bagi mereka, menolak rasa ingin tahu kanak-kanak dengan memberitahu mereka supaya jangan jaga tepi kain orang adalah lebih mudah daripada melibatkan mereka dengan urusan orang lain.

Saya selalu merasa ada sesuatu yang tidak kena dengan nasihat sebegini. Meskipun kita mahu memastikan anak kita selamat dan terhindar daripada orang yang tidak dikenali, kita juga mahu mereka menjadi baik, berhati perut dan mempunyai perasaan ihsan.

Daripada memberitahu anak kita supaya tutup mata terhadap masalah orang lain, kita perlu mengajar mereka supaya buka mulut jika ternampak perbuatan salah laku sejak kecil.

Ini penting lebih-lebih lagi sekarang ini kerana saya lihat dan dengar kes keganasan rumah tangga. Semuanya berlaku di belakang pintu tertutup.

Dan yang paling menyayat hati saya ialah apabila ia melibatkan kanak-kanak dan anggota keluarga yang terdedah kepada bahaya tersebut dan tidak berupaya melindungi diri mereka sendiri.

PENDERAAN MENYAKITKAN

Malangnya, sesetengah kanak-kanak menjadi mangsa perbuatan orang yang sepatutnya memberi mereka kasih sa yang dan perlindungan – ibu bapa dan anggota keluarga mereka.

Keganasan yang dilakukan berupa penderaan secara fizikal, pengabaian atau penderaan seksual, yang bukan saja mengakibatkan kecederaan tetapi juga menjejas emosi dan/atau psikologi kanak-kanak.

Hasil penyelidikan menunjukkan bahawa kanak-kanak tersebut menampilkan kadar kognitif yang lebih tinggi dan keadaan psikologi dan emosi yang mencabar.

Dalam beberapa kes, kita melihat generasi keluarga yang membesar dengan penderaan. Dan lingkaran itu terus berputar.

Baru-baru ini, rakan-rakan saya berkongsi dengan saya cerita sedih seorang wanita bernama Lydia (bukan nama sebenar), ibu yang begitu menyayangi anak kecilnya.

Lydia yang menjadi mangsa penderaan suaminya, terpaksa melarikan diri ke rumah perlindungan bersama anaknya itu.

Mereka tinggal di sana selama beberapa bulan, di mana beliau mendapat pekerjaan yang stabil dengan bantuan rumah perlindungan berkenaan.

Anaknya juga menyertai program sokongan bagi menangani trauma yang dialami nya akibat terdedah kepada keganasan keluarga.

Meskipun pada permukaaanya keadaan mereka sudah mula menjanjikan harapan, namun kehidupan mereka jauh daripada sempurna.

Lydia telah memfailkan perceraian dan mendapatkan hak penjagaan anaknya, tetapi suaminya terus mengganggu mereka.

Bagi Lydia dan anaknya, bekas luka emosi mereka berterusan, lama selepas luka fi zikal telah terubat.

Masalah yang melanda Lydia mungkin sudah berlalu berbanding dengan ramai mangsa penderaan.

Namun terdapat beberapa mangsa kembali kepada pendera, kadang-kadang bersama anak mereka.

Ramai daripada kita tidak faham mengapa mangsa masih sanggup menjalin hubungan yang menyakitkan hati mereka.

Alasannya, saya dimaklumkan rakan khidmat sosial saya, banyak dan berbeza sebabnya.

Ada yang percaya bahawa pendera boleh berubah.

Ada yang melakukannya bagi memastikan hubungan anak dengan kedua ibu bapa tidak putus.

Ada yang merasa bahawa mereka telah melakukan sesuatu yang menyumbang kepada masalah penderaan. Ada yang tidak tahu pilihan lain.

Tetapi apa yang saya pelajari juga, ada sesuatu yang disebut “lingkaran keganasan”. Ia bermula dengan fasa pertama – di mana ketegangan mula muncul. Fasa kedua menyaksikan ledakan krisis. Fasa ketiga ada lah apa yang melemahkan kebanyakan mangsa – fasa berbulan madu. Ia adalah ketika pendera kononnya mahu bertaubat.

Pendera cuba memujuk rayu dan meminta maaf. Pendera memberi jaminan kepada mangsa bahawa apa yang terjadi hanyalah sekali dan tidak mungkin berulang. Mangsa berlembut, memaafkan dan cuba melupakannya. Tetapi ketegangan kembali semula.

Sebagai sebuah masyarakat, kita perlu akur bahawa tiada sesiapa yang seharusnya didera. Kejadian penuh tragik dan lingkaraan keganasan perlu dihentikan.

Di Singapura, Sistem Rangkaian Keganasan Keluarga Kebangsaan menarik ramai rakan kongsi masyarakat bagi menangani isu keganasan keluarga secara kolektif. Kami mempunyai undang-undang, peruntukan kaunseling, tempat perlindungan krisis dan Pusat Pakar Keganasan Keluarga berasaskan komuniti dan Pusat Pakar Perlindungan Kanak-kanak.

Polis bekerja rapat dengan kementerian saya bagi menangani isu ini, bersama rakan kongsi daripada badan kehakiman, penguatkuasaan undang-undang dan perkhidmatan sosial.

Kita – sebagai jiran, rakan sekerja, rakan dan keluarga, apa yang boleh kita lakukan? Adakah kita hanya berdiri dan berpeluk tubuh? Apakah selepas kita melihat tanda tetapi tetap mengabaikannya?

Bagaimanakah kita dapat mengekalkan hati nurani yang murni apabila kita melihat ke arah lain semata-mata kerana tidak mahu “masuk campur hal orang lain”?

Polis, pekerja sosial dan pendamping hanya boleh bertindak jika setiap daripada kita berwaspada dalam mengesan dan melaporkan perbuatan penderaan.

Kita semua boleh memainkan peranan, sebagai contoh hanya dengan mengetuk pintu jiran kita apabila kita melihat sesuatu yang tidak kena atau dengan mengetepikan masa kita untuk meringankan stres pihak pengasuh.

Langkah mudah ini mengingatkan semangat gotong-royong yang pernah wujud di Singapura. Marilah kita hidupkan semula semangat kampung ini yang boleh membantu mencegah masalah penderaan daripada te rus berleluasa.

Apabila “orang lain” adalah jiran kita, rakan sekerja, sahabat dan anggota keluarga, tidak ada alasan untuk kita tutup mata.

Walaupun “orang lain” adalah orang asing bagi kita, kita mesti melakukan perkara yang betul.

Dan kita sedar “perkara yang betul” adalah “masuk campur” kerana jika tidak “orang lain” mungkin mati.

Terdapat banyak “Lydia” dalam kalangan kita.

Setiap tahun, hampir 3,000 mangsa keganasan keluarga mendapatkan perintah perlindungan di Mahkamah Keadilan Keluarga. Mungkin lebih ramai lagi yang takut tampil bagi mendapatkan pertolongan.

Marilah kita membantu mangsa dan keluarga mereka bagi memecahkan lingkaran penderaan dan pengabaian mereka dan lakukannya lebih awal. Marilah kita bertindak, hulurkan tangan dan pecahkan kesunyian terhadap keganasan keluarga – hari ini.

Penulis Setiausaha Parlimen Kanan (Pembangunan Sosial dan Keluarga merangkap Pendidikan)

Profesor Madya Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim.

Source: Berita Harian, Singapore Press Holdings Limited.

https://www.beritaharian.sg/wacana/masyarakat-punya-peranan-tangani-isu-keganasan-keluarga

The community has a role to play in tackling issues of family violence

I recently attended a conference by Casa Raudha Women Home on domestic violence. This sparked off a series of synapses, which I’m sharing here.

As a child, I would often hear this age-old adage from my elders “Jangan masuk campur hal orang lain”.

For them, dismissing a child’s inquisitiveness by telling them not to be a busybody is easier than getting them involved in the complexities of other people’s business.

I have always felt that there was something troubling about this piece of advice. While we want to keep our children safe and away from strangers, we also want them to be kind, compassionate and empathetic. Instead of telling our children to turn a blind eye to other people’s problems, we should teach them to speak out if they see wrong being done from an early age.

This rings true even more crucially now, as I see and hear of cases of domestic violence. Most happen behind closed doors. And the ones that break my heart the most, are the ones that involve children and vulnerable family members who cannot fend for themselves.

VIOLENCE HURTS

Sadly, some children suffer at the hands of the people who are supposed to provide them with care and safety – their parents and family members. Such abuse comes in the form of physical abuse, neglect or sexual abuse, which cause not only physical harm, but emotional and/or psychological harm to the children. Research has shown that such children exhibit higher rates of cognitive, psychological and emotional challenges.

In some cases, we see generations of families growing up with abuse. And the cycle perpetuates itself.

Recently, my colleagues shared with me the heart-breaking situation of a woman, Lydia*, a doting mother of a young child. Lydia had suffered violence at the hands of her husband and fled to a shelter with her young child. They stayed there for many months, during which she secured stable employment with the shelter’s help. Her child also attended the shelter’s support programme to cope with trauma – accumulated from long-term exposure to family violence.

While their situation is starting to look hopeful on the surface, their lives are far from mended. Lydia has filed for divorce and custody of her child, but her husband continues to harass them. For Lydia and her child, their emotional scars persist, long after the physical ones are no longer visible.

Yet Lydia may already seem enlightened, compared to many other victims of abuse. There are some who decide to return to their abuser, sometimes with children in tow. Many of us do not understand why victims stay on in a relationship that hurts them.

The reasons, I have learnt from my social service colleagues, are countless, and vary from relationship to relationship. Some believe that the abuser can change. Some do it to ensure that their children have contact with both parents. Some feel that they have done something to trigger the abuse. Some know no other options.

But what I have also learnt, is that there is something called a “cycle of violence”. It starts off with the first phase – where tension starts to build. The second phase sees the explosion – the crisis. The third phase is what misleads most victims – the honeymoon phase. It’s when the abuser appears to repent. The abuser cajoles, persuades and pleads for forgiveness. The abuser assures the victim that what transpired was a one-off episode, with no chance of a sequel unfolding. The victim relents, forgives and tries to forget. Until the tension starts to build again.

As a community, we must agree that no one deserves to be abused. That this tragic, vicious cycle of violence must stop.

In Singapore, our National Family Violence Networking System ropes in many community partners to address family violence issues collectively. We have robust laws, counselling provisions, crisis shelters and community-based Family Violence Specialist Centres and Child Protection Specialist Centres. The Police work closely with my Ministry to address this issue, alongside partners from the judiciary, law enforcement and social services.

For each one of us – as neighbours, co-workers, friends and family, what can we do? Do we simply stand by and do nothing? How can we see the signs and still ignore them? How can we maintain a clear conscience when we look the other way, because we don’t want to “masuk campur hal orang lain”?

Police, social workers and befrienders can only step in if each of us is vigilant in detecting and reporting suspected abuse. We can all play our part, for example simply by knocking on our neighbour’s door when we notice something amiss or by volunteering our time to relieve caregivers of their stress. These simple acts of kindness are reminiscent of the kampong spirit that Singapore once shared. Let us bring this spirit back. It can go a long way to prevent abuse.

When “orang lain” is our neighbour, co-worker, friend and family member, there really is no excuse for ignorance. Even if “orang lain” is a total stranger, we must do the right thing. And we know deep down that the “right thing” is to “masuk campur” if we have to. Because otherwise, “orang lain” may die.

There are many “Lydia”s in our midst. Each year, almost 3,000 family violence victims file for protection orders at the Family Justice Courts. There may be more who are afraid to seek help. Let us help these survivors and their families to break their cycles of abuse and neglect, and break them early. Let us step in, offer help and break the silence against family violence – today.

Writer Senior Parliamentary Secretary (Social and Family Development & Education)

Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim

Using policies to bridge gaps in society

As a policy officer, Shermain reviews and formulates policies within the Rehabilitation and Protection Group to help protect and support vulnerable individuals and families.


At the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s Rehabilitation and Protection Group (RPG), officers deal with the care, protection, and rehabilitation of individuals to create a safe and nurturing environment for children, young persons and families.

But while frontline officers are the more visible ones on the ground, there is a complementary group of officers working behind the scenes on the policies that help fill in gaps and needs in our society.

Shermain, a policy officer with the Rehabilitation and Protection Group, analyses data, reviews legislation, and engages stakeholders on a typical work day.

The process of coming up with a policy usually starts with identifying a gap or need. “Gaps or needs may be identified as part of a legislative or policy review. We would then seek to formulate or amend a policy to bridge this gap or address this need.” said Shermain.

She recognises that it is often difficult for her to fully understand the situation on the ground. “We work a lot with our key stakeholders in formulating policies. While we try to ensure we are as well acquainted with the operations as possible, our operations colleagues will always be more informed of the intricacies of the operations. We therefore tap a lot on their expertise to help us understand the operational needs and implications of our policies” said Shermain.

Breaking cycles of abuse, neglect, and offending is something that Shermain believes in strongly. “Working in RPG, you definitely have to be someone with a passion for people, especially for the vulnerable. If you want to be a policy officer, you should be someone with an eye for identifying gaps and needs in society, who appreciates Singapore’s societal and operating context, and sees the importance of collaboration with the different stakeholders.” said Shermain.

“Sometimes, the sheer magnitude of our policy reviews can be overwhelming,” Shermain said. “However, knowing that our work benefits people in society makes me hopeful and gives meaning to the work I do. Of course, it also helps a lot that our colleagues and bosses are super supportive, caring, and passionate.”


If you are interested to pursue a meaningful career at MSF, find out more information on our website or at Careers@Gov.

 

With unity comes strength and resilience

In celebration of World Social Work Day, Rachel, Elizabeth and Jeanne (from left to right) from the Ministry of Social and Family Development, share their story of how they helped a pair of young siblings overcome childhood trauma, and eventually reunite with their father.


Social work may be tough, but it is where you see the most positivity, strength, and resilience in life.

Anna (not her real name) had been providing foster care to a pair of young siblings, who were victims of severe childhood trauma. The children’s father, John (not his real name), who was their only kin at that point in time, was unable to care for them.

Initially, the siblings had trouble getting used to living with Anna in a structured environment. The young siblings, who were only 3 and 4 years old then, could not cope with their emotions and displayed signs of aggression due to the intense trauma that they experienced.

There were times where Anna found it challenging to guide the kids well. That was when foster care officer Jeanne stepped in to provide support for Anna and taught her about the effects of childhood trauma. Together with Jeanne, clinical psychologist Elizabeth helped Anna work through her anxieties and taught the siblings skills to stabilise their emotions.

At the same time, child protection officer Rachel worked with John to stabilise his job and living arrangements. She also worked on strengthening his parenting skills, hoping to eventually reunite John with his children. The team subsequently linked the father with a Family Service Centre to build up his support network, which he lacked.

In the months that followed, Rachel, Elizabeth and Jeanne worked closely to best support Anna, and put in extra effort and hours to reconnect the children with John more frequently. They also took time to meet the children’s school and student care personnel regularly to help them understand the children’s past traumatic experiences and how to respond to their current behaviours.

Their hard work eventually paid off. John was able to pick up good parenting habits and play the role of a committed caregiver for his children. Rachel, Elizabeth and Jeanne were pleased to see that the kids were well-fed with John cooking for them on a regular basis. Most importantly, they were glad that the kids were happy and safe.

Soon after the siblings returned to John, the team organised a get-together with the family and Anna’s family. It was a heart-warming gathering, and John acknowledged Anna’s instrumental role in providing a stable, nurturing environment for his children.

“While we were doing different things, we were all on the same page, and could be confident in making decisions with the support from our team. Learning from each other has also helped in the work that we do,” Jeanne said.

Reflecting on the journey of helping the two siblings, Elizabeth said: “We are proud to be able to ‘graduate’ them from MSF’s help. There is nothing is like going home.”

Rachel echoed the sentiment. “Many times, it is the people and the work that keep us going. We are really happy when we see children and families reunite,” she said.

A brief overview of MSF’s work 2016

Whether it is to support families, foster a more inclusive Singapore, or provide a good start for every child, MSF will continue to work to nurture a resilient and caring society that can overcome challenges together.

Here are some of what MSF has done in 2016:

msf2016-strengtheningfamilies

Families are the building blocks of our society. That’s why we believe that having strong families is key to our nation’s progress.

Find out more:
Safe and Strong Familes Pilot: http://tinyurl.com/SSFpilot
Marriage Preparation Programme: http://tinyurl.com/marriageprogrammes
Positive Parenting Programme: http://tinyurl.com/TriplePPilot
Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA): http://tinyurl.com/LPAFeeWaiver

msf2016-inclusivesociety

Building a society that supports those who come from less-advantaged backgrounds and those living with disabilities is important to us.

Find out more:
ComCare Assistance: http://tinyurl.com/ComCareAssistance
SHARE as One: http://tinyurl.com/SHAREasOne
Recommendations for 3rd Enabling Masterplan: http://tinyurl.com/Recommendations3EM

msf2016-goodstartforchildren

Our children are the nation’s future, and having a strong start in life will enable them to reach their potential in adulthood.

Find out more:
Baby Bonus scheme: http://tinyurl.com/BabyBonusScheme
KidSTART: http://tinyurl.com/KidSTARTpilot
Early Childhood Manpower Plan: http://tinyurl.com/EarlyChildhoodManpowerPlan
Amendments To The Child Development Co-Savings Act: http://tinyurl.com/AmendmentsToCDCA

Every end is a new beginning

As 2016 draws to a close, it is a good time to reflect on what has been done to give all children a good start in life, lay deep foundations to build strong homes, and strengthen the support for Singaporeans in need.

Supporting our young ones

parlsec-kids

(From visit to a pre-school earlier this month)

We want to help parents in their care-giving responsibilities, achieve the best possible outcomes for our younger generation, and foster a more inclusive environment for them to grow up in.

This year, MSF enhanced key policies and amended several laws, such as the Women’s Charter, where divorcing couples with minor children have to attend the mandatory parenting programme before they can file for divorce.

The Positive Parenting Programme (Triple P) has been expanded to 118 Primary and Secondary schools this year. The programme equips parents with skills to promote their children’s psychological, social and emotional competence, and over 80% of parents found it relevant to their parenting needs.

We’ve also launched the Safe and Strong Families (SSF) pilot programme to strengthen family-based care and community support for vulnerable children. Eligible families will receive counselling and coaching.

Making Singapore more accessible for all

parlsec-grandstand

(Checking out some of the enhanced family-friendly features at The Grandstand in August)

As a father with two kids, I know how challenging it is for parents with young kids to plan a family outing out. Families with elderly members or wheelchair-users face struggles as well.

To ensure that families enjoy positive experiences outside of the home, we provided funding to neighbourhood shopping malls to introduce or enhance their family-friendly facilities, such as family rooms and inclusive playgrounds. By this year, most of these malls have implemented their enhancements and received favourable feedback from shoppers. These malls have done a commendable job and shown their commitment and effort to make their premises safer and more convenient for different family needs.

Let’s get ready for the next leap forward

I think that my Ministry, together with our community partners, have taken small but significant steps forward. But this is really just the beginning and we do not intend to rest on our laurels.

Together, I believe we can do it even better in 2017, and make Singapore a better home for all families.

“Trusting him to the fullest”

Photo of Qixiang.JPGBy Qixiang @ MSF

Qixiang is a Senior Child Protection Officer at MSF. He works to protect and safeguard the interests of vulnerable children, to help them seek a safe and nurturing environment to grow up in. These children are assessed to be at risk of abuse or neglect – or are already victims of abuse.


One of the hardest things for anyone to do, would be to let someone into their life when they are at their lowest. Someone they can turn to, confide in and rely upon. Someone that they can trust.

And this is exactly what Qixiang was to the family.

As a Child Protection Officer (CPO), Qixiang works with families to protect vulnerable children and provide them with the best possible environment to grow up in. CPOs usually step in when there are very clear safety concerns – when children are reported or assessed to be at high risk of abuse or neglect, and external intervention is required to assist the family in looking out for the children.

Qixiang recalls a family that he worked with who had been struggling with issues of violence and alcohol abuse.

Not spared from their abusive son and worried for the safety of their three young grandchildren; the pair of elderly grandparents were frightened and initially resistant to letting in people into their lives – let alone a stranger like Qixiang.

Earning their trust to understand the situation and offer assistance was an uphill battle.

“I tried for a long time to get them to open up to me. And each time, I always made sure to be honest and sincere – and act more like a confidant rather than a position of ‘authority’.”

Eventually Qixiang’s earnest pleas got through the family, and his usually calm and composed demeanor breaks into a warm smile as he recalls the moment of ‘breakthrough’.

Gaining the clients’ trust is important as officers need to know that the families would turn to them in times of need. At the same time, relationships built on trust would allow the officers to have confidence that safety plans would be met, in the case when help is not available.

Giving credit to the revised Partnering for Safety Framework for his success; Qixiang elaborates on how a combination of the collaborative nature of the revised framework, being empathetic and very transparent with the family worked in unison.

However, there might be times when cases do not seem to be progressing, or mistakes seem to be recurring – and this can potentially be very frustrating. With how heavily dependent the job is on CPOs’ emotional and mental strength, work can take toll on its officers.

“If I know that I am not in the best position to deal with a case, I take some time off to exercise, meet with friends; self-care is very important. Taking care of your own mental health and emotional well-being before you meet with clients is key,” Qixiang shares.

Deep-seated issues within the families are also often a common factor in many of these cases. As such, working with the families can be highly challenging. Many may not be welcoming or receptive – and some may even be hostile to CPOs’ assistance.

“I try my best to calm down and reassure the clients; and then explain the rationale behind all our plans,” Qixiang says, on the way he manages the situation.

“I also always keep it at the back of my mind that nothing the clients say or do is personal. It is also very easy to judge in this line of work. I think it is important not to see them as they are – but what they could be.”

“Many of the perpetrators could also be grappling with a range of issues themselves as well that could have stemmed from when they were young. Child Protection is about giving children a better beginning, and rectifying everything right from the start”

“And this is the very role of CPOs – to see the good in the people and help them achieve it. That is what I try to do in my everyday work.”

Reaching his second year as a CPO officer in MSF in the coming month, Qixiang is full of optimism for the future.

Commenting on how the pair of elderly grandparents wrote in to thank him for looking after their three grandchildren and stated that they “confide in him 100%”, Qixiang says bashfully:

“I felt really proud when the family was eventually able to empower themselves and break out of the cycle. And also to make better decisions, not just for the children, but also for themselves.”