KUALA LUMPUR: During a pandemic, the safest place for anyone is his or her home. Unfortunately, for women with abusive spouses, their home is anything but a safe haven, more so during the Movement Control Order (MCO) when they were homebound day in, day out.
Last month, there was a case of a 40-year-old woman in Bangi, Selangor, who was beaten repeatedly by her jobless husband. When the police intervened, he promised to settle their differences peacefully.
Later, however, the case took a tragic turn when he hanged himself after stabbing his wife and father-in-law, who fortunately survived the attack.
According to the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), cases of physical and emotional abuse have increased after the enforcement of the MCO since March 18.
For instance, WAO received 234 calls and messages from women in distress during the third week of April, which reflected a four-fold increase compared to the average of 63 calls and messages they received on a weekly basis prior to the imposition of MCO.
WAO head of campaigns Tan Heang-Lee said among the cases they had seen recently involved a woman who was locked up in a room during the MCO by her husband who beat her up and tried to strangle her. There were also instances of women who were sexually abused and even raped by their own husbands.
“One victim sent a message via WAO’s WhatsApp helpline saying that she was very frightened as she was trapped at home with her husband who kept beating her and even tried to strangle her,” said Tan.
She said the case was referred to the Sexual, Women and Child Investigations Division (D11) at Bukit Aman for immediate action.
“The woman was saved by the police who sent her for treatment. She is now in a safe place,” Tan said, adding that WAO works closely with the police, Social Welfare Department, Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development and other agencies to smoothen operations to assist victims of domestic violence.
Bukit Aman Sexual, Women and Child Investigations Division assistant director Superintendent Siti Kamsiah Hassan told Bernama 526 investigation papers were opened in connection with domestic violence over a period of 44 days from March 18 to April 30.
However, it reflected a 15% drop in such cases as 621 investigation papers were opened over 44 days from Feb 3 to March 17 just before the MCO was enforced.
“The drop in the number of domestic violence cases reported to the police during MCO could be due to the fact that the victims were not able to have access to telephones or could not leave the house to make a police report due to the lack of public transport,” explained Siti Kamsiah.
She said based on police statistics on domestic violence in general, 45% of such cases were caused by misunderstandings over family issues, drug abuse (20%), financial problems (10%) and other factors such as drunkenness, jealousy, hot temper and tussles over property.
LIFELINE FOR VICTIMS
Several government agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are also extending a helping hand to victims of domestic abuse by providing them with counselling services and spiritual guidance.
The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development received 353 enquiries and complaints with regard to domestic violence through its Talian Kasih helpline between March 18 and April 20.
One hundred and three of the cases were referred to the district social welfare officer for further action such as helping to make a police report and placing the victim in a shelter, while the remaining cases were resolved by those manning the helpline.
The Department of Islamic Development (JAKIM), meanwhile, launched its own helpline MyCareCov19 on April 13 and as of April 27, it had received 841 calls and 136 e-mail messages.
Jakim Family, Social and Community division senior assistant director Dr Mohd Izwan Md Yusof told Bernama Radio in a recent interview that most of the calls were related to marriage and divorce issues.
“There was a case of a husband who divorced his wife during the MCO by pronouncing the talak but later he wanted to refer the case back (because the couple had reconciled). We advised him to wait for the MCO to be over so that their case can be referred back to the syariah court,” he added.
NGO Love Yourself Association founder Nur A’minahtul Mardiah Md Nor, meanwhile, has her own way of reaching out to women who are facing abuse – she uses her Twitter account to urge these women to communicate with her.
On April 17, she posted a message with the WeCare hashtag and gave three secret codes, as well as her telephone number, to make it easier for the victims to communicate and share their problems with her.
“That particular tweet was re-tweeted 11,900 times and we managed to help several victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence who didn’t know where to seek help during the MCO,” she said.
Nur A’minahtul said among the complaints she received were from a woman who was forced to become a sex slave and a wife who was abused by her drug addict husband.
Those facing emotional and physical abuse can contact the following helplines:
Talian Kasih : 15999
MyCareCov19 : 03-887 0519 / 7752 / 7528
WAO : 03-79563488 / WhatsApp : 018-988 8058
Befrienders KL : 03-7627 2929 / Skype : BefKL Skype 1