Abuse victims need help during MCO

One unintended consequence of the movement control order (MCO) is the increase of violence and abuse in the home. Sadly, in an effort to save lives, one group, which mostly comprises women, will find their safety at risk.

Will the government provide emergency funds to pay for refuge centres, or hotels to house victims of domestic violence?

Will the government also support NGOs which provide essential services like counselling, safe houses and shelters for victims of violence in the home? These NGOs are facing massive financial strain because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Studies worldwide have shown that in times of crisis, like the current MCO and forced social isolation, the number of domestic violence cases will increase. This is because both the abuser and victim will be forced together, throughout the day, while confined to their homes.

There is increased stress and tension, and little chance of escape for the victims. It is a nightmare for the female victims and, in some cases, their children.

Even after the worst of the pandemic is over, many people will have lost their jobs, and with money being tight, the abusers may take out their frustrations and anger on their victims, often the wives. The economic impact of Covid-19 will then extend to domestic violence in the home.

The Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) and police have said that the number of calls from domestic violence victims have decreased since the MCO was implemented on March 18. This does not mean that the cases of abuse have reduced.

Victims find it difficult to seek help, or escape, as they are constantly being watched. The abuser has ample opportunity to exert power and control undetected. The victims’ phone calls can be monitored and their conversations overheard.

Bukit Aman principal assistant director of the Sexual, Women and Child Investigations Division (D11) Choo Lily says their work will continue during the MCO period. She wants to reassure the victims that even during the lockdown, her officers are ready to intervene, rescue the victims and act against the abusers.

Choo’s message has been reinforced by a spokesman for WAO, who tweeted to inform the public that frontline police officers are continuing their critical role, including rescue efforts.

Although the MCO stipulates that everyone must remain at home, Choo wants victims of abuse to know that the police will not prevent any victim of abuse from leaving their house to seek help.

She says people who assist victims of domestic violence to escape will not be prosecuted by police.

Both WAO and police urge family members, friends and neighbours to remain vigilant and contact the authorities if they suspect signs of domestic violence. As Choo says, it takes just one call.

The women, family and community development ministry’s Talian Kasih hotlines are still open. The numbers are the landline 15999 or WhatsApp at +60 192-615 999. Seek help if you need it.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.