By Tan Mei Kuan, Nabilah Hamudin and Khaleeja Suhaimi
The term “abuse” as defined by the Oxford dictionary is to “treat with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly”. Ipoh Echo spoke to the leading governmental departments and NGOs dedicated to the fight against abuse, especially domestic violence, in Perak, to explore their advocacy works and services as well as obtain the latest statistics and legislations.
According to the police and Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, Malaysia recorded 5796 domestic violence cases in 2016. It is an increase of 782 cases compared to 2015 where 5014 cases were reported.
Leading Domestic Violence Advocates and Service Providers in Perak
Pertubuhan Wanita Prihatin Perak (PWPP)
“It started around two years ago, when the Rohingya refugees’ case was brought to our attention. There were six of us who went to Kedah to see the victims and donated books, stationeries, clothes, food and toys. It was so heartbreaking to see,” said the President of Pertubuhan Wanita Prihatin Perak (PWPP), Datin Normah Hanum Dato’ Ibrahim.
What started off as mere realisation and the need to do something has led them to greater things. Established in 2015, PWPP has been donating basic needs to the less fortunate all over Perak. They call it ‘free market’ and the response, thus far, has been encouraging. Living up to the term “prihatin” which means to be “concerned”, they also help the homeless and the abused.
Last year, a group calling itself “Belanja Makan Ipoh” who has been providing food to the homeless, approached Datin Normah. She followed the group a few times until it dawned on her to open a dedicated place for the homeless and abused around town. In November, they managed to get a shophouse along Jalan Dato Onn Jaafar and named it Teduhan Kelana (Kelana Shelter).
Teduhan Kelana is a shelter catering for homeless and abused victims. It can accommodate up to 30 people. There are seven NGOs participating in Teduhan Kelana. They take turns, on alternate days, to organise activities at night. PWPP’s session takes place every Monday night. Meals are being sponsored by Hotel Casuarina @ Meru as part of its charity work.
The majority of the abuse cases involve married couples. Usually, the cause of it is husbands who do drugs, have lost their jobs, under a lot of stress or in the midst of waiting for a divorce. While they are caught in the maelstrom, the only ones they can vent their anger on are their wives and children.
However, most women who are caught in such situations only seek help when things get worse. They do not voice out the moment they get beaten up, as they are afraid how their husbands would react. The victims’ ages usually range from 35 onwards. So far, Teduhan Kelana has taken under their wing seven spousal abuse victims.
While Teduhan Kelana is a resource for the homeless and abused to lead a normal life, Datin Normah also wants to promote volunteerism among youths. She has invited students from Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS (UTP), Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), UniKL and others to take part. Activities involving a lot of cheerful people is one way to boost the victims’ self-esteem.
The centre is being protected by two security guards. It is open to anyone who needs a shelter, unless a person is suspected to be drunk or high on drugs. Those who opt to stay at the centre are given three months to change and find a job. If they fail to do so, PWPP will help them find one. Within one year, a total of eight persons have gotten jobs as gardeners, security guards and cleaners.
According to Datin Normah, one important reminder to prevent abuse is to identify problems at the start of a marriage. If one of them is going through stress, immediately seek counselling or attend stress and anger management classes. As the saying goes, “prevention is better than cure” and she lives by this principle.
Being a teacher, Datin Normah feels that the education system needs a change. Students are not taught to voice out and have different views on things so, subconsciously, it becomes a habit. When they grow up, they tend to bottle up their emotions and do not vocalise them.
“The awareness just isn’t there yet. But it can be changed if people around start saying something. Everybody in our community, regardless of age, position or race, needs to start playing a role. We need our caring society back. We need one another,” said Normah.
“If you hear a cry or suspect someone in the neighbourhood is being abused, go over, knock on the door and ask what’s wrong. Who knows, sometimes a simple act like this could change or even save a person’s life,” she remarked.Facebook page: https://web.facebook.com/pwppk/?_rdc=1&_rdr Address and opening hours: Rumah Teduhan Kelana, 8&9B, Jalan Dato Onn Jaafar, Kampung Jawa, 30300 Ipoh Perak. Opens every day from 7am till 7pm.
Perak Women for Women Society (PWW)
Perak Women for Women Society (PWW) is a registered, apolitical, non-profit NGO set up in 2003 to enhance the status and the lives of women in Perak regardless of race, religion or social background. Their work is to provide all means of assistance and support for women and children in the community who are victims of violence and discrimination. They also advocate mutual respect and promote gender equality in the society.
Services provided by PWW are free and confidential. They include assisting in placement of temporary shelter for women and their children in crisis through their support network of NGOs that offer home shelters; assisting victims of domestic violence and rape to seek medical, police and welfare assistance; empowering women through various skills training that could be useful for socio-economic changes; and assisting women in getting legal advice on matters concerning the rights of women and children.
In addition, PWW provides counselling (face-to-face or telephone by counsellors) and a support group for women who are single parents, victims of domestic violence and rape survivors.
To empower women to be financially independent without compromising on the care of their children, PWW organises a series of skills training workshops in sewing and handicrafts to help women earn some extra income while working from home. PWW too helps to market their products locally and through internet marketing.
Besides organising a series of seminars every year, PWW also holds a series of personal safety workshops and conducts the ‘OK TAK OK’ – Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse programmes to school children. Plus, there are workshops on Syariah and Civil laws pertaining to family law matters such as divorce, alimony, maintenance and child custody issues.
Yip Siew Keen, the co-founder of PWW lists the signs and symptoms of abuse: withdrawn, depressed, fear of partner or fear of talking to another person, feeling emotionally numb and helpless, feeling they can’t do anything right for partner, having no confidence, etc.
“There have been many cases where women withdraw their report due to fear. Women must empower themselves with the knowledge of what to do should one be in any abusive relationship, be it physical, emotional, mental, bullying or even cyber bullying. Report suspected abuse to the police, welfare officer, village head, teachers, etc. Tell someone,” Yip pointed out.
Halida Mohd Ali, the former president of PWW (2014/15) said, “Other than physical, domestic violence also comes in psychological form where the abuser calls you degrading names, deny you financial support and abuse you sexually. Some abusers even make their children hate their mother. There is also intimate-partner violence, which happens in boyfriend-girlfriend relationships (unmarried couples) which currently falls under the Penal Code. Thus JAG (Joint Action Group), which comprises of 12 women organisations in Malaysia is recommending the inclusion of intimate-partner violence as part of domestic violence.”
Passionate in matters relating to human rights and women’s issues, Halida joined PWW in 2008 after retirement and remained active till 2015. “Don’t keep silent. Don’t be ashamed. It’s your right. You can make a report and make sure to go to the general hospital and not a private hospital or clinic, as it is not recognised,” she insisted.
“Domestic violence is a chain/cycle where the guy will beat you up, feeling remorse, he’ll be nice to you and then beat you up again. The children will be misled into thinking that it’s normal to treat a partner that way. You’ve got to break that chain/cycle. It could happen to anyone, anywhere, in all social classes, races and professions, all over the world,” Halida added.Contact PWW’s Service & Information Centre for Women at the following details: Address: No 52, Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah, 31400 Ipoh, Perak. Tel: 05 546 9715 Fax: 05 541 5721 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook: Perak Women For Women Society (PWW) Website: www.pww.org.my
Perak Welfare Department
According to deputy director of Perak Welfare Department, Zakaria Ahmad, many victims are afraid to tell anyone when they are faced with violence. They always think that they are alone.
“In fact, they’re not alone. There are some options they can take. They have to call us or come to our office. We have our counsellors who can help them. This is the first option they can opt for. We provide advice, explore options or schedule a face-to-face consultation with the victims,” he said, adding that all of the services are free and confidential.
The department provides five types of counselling programmes that suit the victims. They can choose from individual, group, married, family or e-counselling (tele-counselling).
After the counselling is done, the department will normally carry out a psychological assessment test for the victims.
The department respects the victims’ rights to make decisions over their lives, and they are always there to support them, regardless of the decisions they make.
For the second option, the victims can go to ‘One Stop Crisis Centre’ (OSCC) at all government hospitals, which many women are not aware of. The OSCC, according to Zakaria, is located at the emergency room of all government hospitals.
“There, the victims can make a police report and get a medical examination – all in one place. For domestic violence cases, you’re not required to make a police report in order to get the medical care,” he said. He added that the medical services at the OSCC are free for domestic and sexual violence.
“It is advisable to go to the OSCC as soon as an injury occurs. Just bring your IC with you,” he added.
Services and assistance at the OSCC include medical treatment and examination, collection of specimens, collection of statements, counselling, shelter and legal assistance.
The third option is that the victims have to make a police report once the violence has occurred.
“If you don’t want to press charges, but would like to document the incident, you can make a ‘cover report’ instead of an ‘action report’,” he explained.
When asked on the types of abuses women go through, he explained that there are two types: physical abuse and emotional abuse.
For physical abuse, it involves assaults such as beating, slapping, burning, kicking, biting or the use of weapons. “This type of abuse can result in serious injuries or worse, death. It’s obviously against the law,” said Zakaria.
For emotional abuse, he explained that it includes insults, threats, humiliation, criticism, or threats. “No woman deserves to be battered. To all independent women, stand up for your rights and dignity,” he said.
Perak Welfare Department not only provides counselling services for domestic violence but it shelters abused children, disabled people, senior citizens, and disaster victims.
There are two shelters in Perak under the Perak Welfare Department.Office address: Level 5, Bangunan Kerajaan Negeri Perak, Jalan Panglima Bukit Gantang Wahab, 30000 Ipoh, Perak. Contact number: 05 254 5505
The Domestic Violence (Amendment) Act 2017
The Domestic Violence (Amendment) Act 2017 which was passed recently allows Emergency Protection Order (EPO) to protect domestic violence victims instantly without any need to lodge a police report or obtain one via a court hearing.
Issued within two hours after an application is heard by a welfare officer, it is valid for seven days. The service is 24/7 for victims who are in real danger and physically abused or threatened with grievous harm.
An EPO is like a restraining order as it prohibits the abuser from harming the victim or inciting third parties to harass the victim. It also prevents the abuser from coming near the victim at the shelter where she is seeking refuge. Those found guilty of breaching the EPO face up to six months in prison.
Besides that, courts can no longer order a victim to attend reconciliatory counselling with her abuser. The reconciliation proceedings can only be carried out with the consent of the victim.