SINGAPORE ‘LOW’ ON CRIME RATE, VERY HIGH ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?

When I read the article yesterday “AMAZING! AS SG POPULATION INCREASES, CRIME RATE DROPS!”, I couldn’t agree more with the author’s frustration and suspicions at such statements by the police and the govt.

I can tell you it is worst than that. Let me add another dimension that is just as alarmingly significant but seldom mentioned in order to keep the ‘ideal family unit’ that PAP tries to impose on unwilling innocent victims – domestic violence. This coincides with the recent article: http://www.divaasia.com/article/6151 that reveals the loopholes in our justice system.

You see, these 2 weeks I’ve been going hell and back with a very close friend of mine – let’s call her Alice as I want to protect her identity during this fragile and turbulent period of her life. She shared with me her devastating secret that was kept from many of us including her own family members during her fairytale marriage, or so we thought.

Before her marriage, Alice was a sweet, smiling, caring and well-mannered girl who met her future husband at University, Jason (not his real name), a smart, shy, romantic and happy guy who never dares yell at a woman and always opens the door for the opposite sex like a gentleman. We used to joke and coo loudly at Jason’s showers of gifts to Alice, and Alice’s constant verbal support and encouragement to her man. Once Alice was sick, Jason nursed her back to health with his home-cooked soups. He even stayed the night to Alice’s mother’s delight as he cuddled her to make sure she was OK. Their characters complimented each other that they married 2 years after graduation. Alice later became pregnant with their first child and thought this is it, she was living the dream of a happy family.

One day, Jason came home, with a sunken look on his face. Concerned, Alice asked what happened but Jason kept quiet. Within minutes, Alice’s heart jumped in fright at the sight of Jason’s fist punching hard at the table. Not only did Jason lose his dream job, his boss replaced him with a cheaper PRC foreigner. The nightmare began. Jason tried hard to find other jobs, but he got turned down at each interview. Alice kept going with her full time job while taking care of their child. They have no maid and she had to work full time earning $2500/mth so the child was put in daycare, her dreams of being a stay home mom postponed. She was eventually let off by her job and replaced by a Indonesian fresh graduate, her boss giving ‘poor job performance’ as an excuse despite her constantly being praised by her colleagues for her fast and sharp work.

Finances got so tight and full-time jobs scarce, that despite Jason’s degree, he reluctantly took up waiter and receptionist jobs to make ends meet, while Alice struggled between contract jobs, having been unsuccessful to land a full time position.

The financial pressure was so overwhelming that quarrels became frequent and more viscous, with each party blaming one another for their fate. Verbal abuse ensued with Alice moaning about Jason’s job status as compared to her other friends’ husbands being able to keep their white collar positions, while Jason gnashed at Alice’s incapability to keep the house in order and her constant nagging. During one of their heated arguments, Jason lifted his hand and left a tight red mark across Alice’s cheek. He also left multiple red abrasions on her hands, face and body. Shocked and confused, Alice sobbed uncontrollably and threatened to leave him. Jason felt remorseful and apologised. Alice forgave him, thinking this is just a one-off incident. Unfortunately, it was not. The beatings became frequent, each time Jason blaming Alice for his actions. One minute Alice was Jason’s precious, next she was his punchbag, but she endured for her son’s sake, giving mental excuses that this is all temporary, that Jason is facing work pressure and believing his accusations that it’s all her fault. Jason even threatened her not to tell anyone of their marital problems.

One day, after being pinched forcefully on her arm, kicked and slapped, Alice could not take it anymore. She called the police. When the police arrived, they took down their statements. Jason was initially defensive before being reduced to fear and tears after being given a stern warning. Afraid that their son would lose their father and Jason’s pleas that he will change, Alice did not apply for the Police Protection Order (PPO) as advised by the police.

Things began to be peaceful for awhile but soon Jason began his rounds of physical abuse (though not as bad as that time when the police was called in). Each time Alice tried to forgive him, the abuse got worse. The worst came when Alice finally landed in hospital. When I saw her, her young son shaken with tears while his mother sat, stunned and numb with half-opened, bruised eyes, cut lips and abrasion marks all over her body. Her unblinking eyes stared lifelessly down the endless corridor of the hospital.

It was a small argument over a household chore that turned ugly. Not only did Jason respond with a rude a middle finger at his wife because she repeatedly reminded him regarding a certain way a household chore had to be done, he spat many times at her face and cursed her, rained punches on her hands, head and eyes, choked her and kicked her abdomen. She fell to the floor at impact and hurt her head, having lost consciousness for a split second. Jason bent over to punch her ribs, wipe his spit across her face and splash water at her. Their young son cried and tried to save his mother, but is small body was violently pushed aside by his dad. Alice managed, with half-closed eyes, to dial for the police. Jason tried to stop her by throwing her phone across the room and prevented her from leaving the flat. Her pleas and cries were finally traced and the police came in time to save her. The ambulance was called in to take her to the hospital.

To add insult to injury, the police still would not arrest Jason and Jason refused to pay her hospital bills, asserting that she deserved it and he was acting out of ‘self-defence’.

According to our law, without PPO, almost all domestic abuse cases are non-arrestable. I’m sure the same does not apply if it was an outsider doing the same things. While many first world countries would arrest and jail a violent family member on the spot for domestic abuse to protect the victim, Singapore’s response to domestic abuse is still years behind, citing the priority to ‘preserve the family unit’. While commendable, it is flawed.

You see, Alice could have died that day if help did not intervene in time. Not only did the first police arrival failed to stop Jason’s abuse, our law tolerates it in the name of ‘family’. Many spouses in Singapore have died or committed suicide due to marital violence.

Alice is now staying with her immediate family and her son. Her husband goes scot-free and still remains unrepentant, blaming her for his actions and cursing her for being a ‘coward’ in seeking the court for help. She has filed for a PPO and is awaiting trial to begin before she can file for divorce since they are married for less than 3 years. Even the ordeal of going to the family court to file for PPO, to make a statement before the judge and attending court counselling have been a draining and gruelling experience for her, something she should not need to go through in order for justice to be executed.

Jason will be let off with a stern warning once the PPO is issued at court on the day. An arrest still cannot be made unless he hurts her again after the enforcement of PPO at court. It’s too late though. The scars on Alice’s and her son’s bodies and in her heart will remain, with the anguishing thought of her dream family totally destroyed, her love for the Jason that she once knew now dead and gone forever.

Alice is now a zombie. She is no longer the happy girl we once knew. The mention of Jason appearing in the same court room with her has paralysed her with fear and trembling.

While our govt boasts about Singapore’s ‘low’ crime rates, our domestic crimes are ridiculously high and goes unrecorded, so much so that even Alice’s counsellor admitted that public pressure from the victims is mounting on the SG govt to do more with swifter justice and getting rid of deliberate loopholes. Domestic abuse does not just happen in marriages, but also to children, the elderly and other innocent family members. Parents abusing their children after a frustrating day at work, children abusing other siblings or their maids after a shitty day in school etc.

Unsurprisingly, domestic abuse is progressively prevalent in the face of rising unemployment, higher stress levels, higher living costs, and unbalanced work-life. Thanks PAP, for making Singapore a more dangerous place inside and outside the home.

I urge all victims to make a stand and say ‘NO MORE’ to abuse. For the sake of saving your lives and ours, bring your perpetrators to justice (even though this can be emotionally conflicting) and VOTE wisely in 2016.

Very Sad Friend

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