Letter: Avoiding Domestic Violence During the MCO

We write this as a crisis counsellor-cum-emergency responder and public health specialist. We are responding to reports that calls to Talian Kasih to report domestic abuse have increased by 57% during the MCO period.

All Malaysians are asked to stay home during the MCO period, but for some, home is a dangerous place. The people we refer to are victims of domestic violence.

The MCO is an especially dangerous time for victims of domestic violence. Being confined in their home with their abuser makes them especially vulnerable, as there is no escape. In stressful situations like these, aggressive behavior tends to escalate.

If you find yourself quarantined with your abusive partner and leaving home is not an option, here are some tips to keep yourself safe, adapted from the Domestic Violence Resource Centre in the United States.

  1. Trust your instincts; do all you can to protect yourself until you are out of danger.
  2. Create a safe room for yourself and your children, for example the bedroom. Ensure bedroom doors have strong and child-friendly locks.
  3. Make sure you stay in an area with easy exits. Do your best to not let your abusive partner stand between you and your exit. For example, if you are in the kitchen, as he storms in, try to move as close to the kitchen door as possible and move the argument into the living room or dining room (where there are no potentially dangerous weapons).
  4. Remember, do not run to where your kids are, as your partner could hurt them too. Practice with your kids about what to do when “daddy/mommy gets angry”. For example, teach them to retreat to somewhere safe, like their bedroom and lock the door.
  5. Identify safe areas of the house. Avoid being in rooms that have knives, scissors or sharp objects, such as kitchens or bathrooms. Where possible, keep sharp objects out of sight.
  6. If you can afford it, have a spare emergency cell phone hidden somewhere safe in the house.
  7. Confide in neighbors that you trust and ask them to call the police if they hear or see disturbances.
  8. Create a code word so your children, friends or family know you are in trouble and need help. For instance, if your agreed upon code word is “Mask 19”, your neighbor/family should immediately be alert and know that you are in trouble and need help when you call them and say “Please can you get me some mask 19 when you go to the pharmacy today”.
  9. Avoid wearing long jewelry or any accessories that could be used to strangle you.
  10. If violence is not avoidable, find a corner, curl up into a small ball, protect your face and wrap your arms around each side of your head with fingers entwined.

Everyone has a duty to keep everyone else safe during this period. If we see something, we should take action. Let’s keep our eyes and ears open during this period and look out for one another.

Lean Ong (crisis counsellor, psychologist and emergency responder)
Dr Khor Swee Kheng (physician & public health specialist)


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